The cost of a voice

“I lay on the floor, knees to my chest and my hands shielding my face, as my brother whipped me with a tree branch. I didn’t retaliate. Instead, I said, ‘I’m ready. You can kill me — I heard a voice and I’m not going back.’ “He stopped beating me and started crying, telling me I had been deceived. That was my first persecution after becoming a Christian.

“My entire family is Muslim. My dad taught us the ways of Islam, and my desire was to be a good Muslim like him.” N grew up in northeast Nigeria, and the fishing season was one of his fondest childhood memories. “Now I’m a fisherman of a different kind—a fisher of men,” he says.
“One day, I heard a voice in Hausa, “N–, ka tuba, ka karɓi (Yesu), ya zama mai cetonka.” (N, accept Jesus to be your Lord and be saved.)
“I thought it was Satan, so I started praying to Allah to make the voice go away. This went on for three weeks. I was devoted to living and dying as a Muslim; becoming a Christian was the worst thing I could do.
“I confided in my Christian friend Joshua, and he said, ‘Congratulations! This is the voice of God. He’s asking you to accept his Son, Jesus Christ.’ The following day he took me to a man of God who read from Rev. 3:20, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ My eyes opened, and I became a Christian.
“My Muslim friends started noticing changes in me. I felt threatened, so I left school and ran away to live with my brother in a different state. He didn’t know I had given my life to Christ.
“There I met a pastor who shared the story of Paul with me. When my elder brother discovered I was no longer a Muslim, he was angry. He wasn’t about to let me destroy our father’s good name. That was when he beat me nearly to death. Later, he called a family meeting and announced, ‘N has become an infidel!’
“I confirmed the allegations, and there was a lot of weeping and orders to recant my faith. I told the gathering I was returning to Islam, but I secretly prayed to Jesus to help me. They burned my Bible. Everybody appreciated my brother for rescuing me, but I was disturbed by my actions and had no peace. I fled to the pastor’s house. The persecution had traumatized me; I didn’t want to see or talk to my parents again.
“I attended a conference by Navigators where I found Christians learning how to understand and respect the Muslim culture to reach them with the Gospel. If these Christians were this devoted then I had a bigger mandate, having been a Muslim myself. I went back and started reaching out to my people, beginning with my brother. I now understood that the difference between them and me was how I related to them. They needed to see me loving differently.
“I enrolled to study Mass Communication, and after graduating, I started practising as a journalist. My interest is to be a media evangelist. I’m training a couple of young people, and drawing them to Jesus.
“One of the biggest challenges is that people hardly trust me, because there are several ‘fake converts’ working as Muslim spies. Once, a church refused to accept me. They had previously tried helping a convert, and it didn’t turn out well. However, the pastor received me.
“The persecution I lived through wasn’t a discouragement but a platform for God to build me up. It has helped me to rely on Jesus alone when I have a need.”

— As told to Mercy Kambura and first published in AfriGo;

• For God to keep my family safe amid persecution. Being Christian means being hunted.
• For God to draw our families to himself through us.
• For the media stories to be used to bless his people.