A match made in heaven
By Amy Bareham Chapman | international
It was the summer of 1987 and Samson had just graduated high school. He was a Muslim. Unbeknownst to him, life was about to change in miraculous ways.
A young girl, Veronica, introduced herself to Samson. She was finishing Grade 12 and came from a devout Christian family. She was also part of the local Christian union, which was the talk of the town.
Samson explains: “We used to think the Scripture Union were the only faithful Christians in Nigeria. They were very dedicated, very Christ-like in everything they did. We respected them so much and said if you come from any other religion, don’t try to get a man or woman from their circle. But then one came my way.”
Veronica invited Samson to church and told him about Jesus. What developed was, in Samson’s eyes, a “holy, sacred friendship.” In the eyes of their parents, it was more a matter of forbidden love. “Me being a Muslim and she being a Christian was terrifying for [them],” Samson shares.
Veronica adds: “It was so difficult because at first my mum was not happy, everybody was angry, asking ‘How can this be?’ There was a lot fighting, arguments. But we actually kept on seeing each other.”
Surprisingly, it was Samson’s sister, Amudat, who tried to build a bridge between the families. He describes her as a peacemaker who never inserted herself in conflicts, but he believes God impressed something on her heart at a critical point in his life. He says, “[She] went to Veronica’s family and said, ‘If they love each other, I will fight for them.’”
The church was also concerned about Veronica’s desire to marry a nonbeliever. It became a divisive issue among the people, and their pastor committed to fast and pray about their marriage. Samson recalls him declaring: “The Lord says, ‘Leave them alone.’ He is behind this.” Sadly, for the new Mr and Mrs, being left alone translated to being cast out and abandoned by the church.
But God guarded them from bitterness, using memories of their pastor’s prayers and sermons to soften Samson. Eventually, the message of the gospel took root in his heart, and Samson professed faith in Jesus. Since then, he’s attended bible school and taken university courses in theology. He has led church plants and served as a pastor himself. Now a father of four adult children, he is preparing for the next chapter of life with his bride.
Veronica and Samson plan to relocate to Thailand in late 2021 and will join a Faithful Witness team in a village that has little exposure to the gospel. SIM’s Faithful Witness initiative places teams of multi-cultural and multi-skilled workers in communities across the world where there is no church and virtually no Christian witness. Their two daughters, Eunice and Anne, will accompany them. “We’ve always prayed as a family that when these girls finish high school, we [could] end our lives in missions,” remarks Samson.
Eunice is 20 years old with a passion for baking and dancing. She is studying international management and will continue her education remotely from Thailand. “Personally, I feel excited about it,” she says. “We are ready for new discovery and adventure, new beginnings in our lives as Christians and as members of SIM.”
Anne is 18 and the youngest (or as Samson refers to her, “the Benjamin” of the house). She’s in her first year of university and wants to study communication and translation. She remembers, “I loved as a kid that they always talked about [missions] in their prayers…I’m seeing it happen now, and I’m so happy and excited.”
Samson and Veronica currently live in Mali where they have jobs with an international school. Between work and recreational activities, they make time for Thai language learning. They’re also trying to raise funds for relocation, although this is proving difficult.
Veronica notes, “It’s challenging because you’ve been the one giving before. And now you’re asking for [help].” They have certainly made an impact in Mali, taking in six orphans from their church and raising them as their own. Any extra resources they had were put toward the education and upbringing of these children.
But Samson stays positive and adds, “I’m not discouraged. It’s just the beginning … I’m confident and tell my wife every day that something is telling me the Lord knows what he’s doing. If he started it, he’s going to perfect it.”
This perfecting is evident in God’s care for the details – like the Thailand team’s desire to use sport as an outreach opportunity. Samson just so happens to be an avid athlete; table tennis, badminton, and volleyball are his favourites. They will receive a warm send-off from their Muslim relatives who recognise that something bigger is unfolding. Samson comments, “They finally see that the Lord is behind it. It’s not at all by our power.” Even Thai food is appealing to their family, especially for the women, who enjoy creating in the kitchen.
While some of the lingering obstacles are overwhelming – COVID-19, for instance, is a logistical nightmare – Veronica and Samson have battled uncertainty before. They are familiar with waiting on the Lord and submitting all things to him in prayer. And when doubt creeps in, Samson and Veronica need only go back to the beginning to see their Savior’s kindness on display.
Once upon a time, a boy met a girl in Nigeria, and their yes to one another was an even greater yes to God.