What does a new Christian do when she has to choose between following Jesus and earning a living?
Harriet made her living as a religious teacher and healer in the town of Goz Beïda, Chad. Her beliefs were a blend of Islam and traditional folk religion.
Three or four evil spirits would regularly come to Harriet, providing undisclosed details: This person has this illness. This person’s brother has cursed them. This person needs this specific treatment. Harriet would then provide a traditional herbal remedy or potion to solve her clients’ problems.
And because she was well-versed in the Quran, she was qualified to instruct women in their faith.
When Harriet moved to Goz Beïda, she got to work.
A Missionary Community of Love
In Harriet’s culture, to be a Christian meant you were demon-possessed. But the Christians she met in Goz Beïda offered help, compassion, friendship and truth.
When she got sick, a Christian neighbor gave her funds for medicine.
A Chadian missionary couple brought food for Harriet’s family when she couldn’t afford any, and they hauled water for her too.
The missionary community in Goz Beïda is made up of both Chadians and westerners.
“There’s not that many of us and it’s a hard place to work,” says TEAM missionary Sam who serves in Goz Beïda with his wife, Katie. “So we might as well help one another.”
The Chadian missionaries who live in Goz Beïda are about 300 miles from home and face huge cultural differences. It’s been a difficult transition for them. But they know without a doubt that God wants them there, and they are committed to staying.
Sam, Katie and other TEAM workers focus on building relationships in town and the outlying villages. Their goal is not to reproduce a western style of Christianity but rather to serve alongside the local Chadian church.
Everyone shares a vision to see followers of Jesus in each ethnic group in their region. Each has resources to offer the other: cultural guidance, financial resources and encouragement.
They often visit neighboring villages together. And they meet and pray together.
So when one of the Chadian couples became friends with Harriet, the whole group started praying for her.
The Church in Chad needs more workers to make disciples among the least reached. Will you join this multinational effort to bring the Gospel to people like Harriet? Discover the possibilities!
Following Jesus Leads to Extreme Anxiety
Then, one of the Chadian missionaries got the chance for a frank, open conversation with Harriet. The missionary was from a Muslim background, knew the Quran well and boldly confronted Harriet about her beliefs. It was a long and intense dialogue, but Harriet wasn’t offended. In fact, it was her turning point.
She had known Christians over many years, she told the missionary. She had already experienced the love of Jesus first-hand, in multiple ways, and she had seen the truth in their lives.
She was ready to follow Jesus.
Most of the evil spirits stopped coming to Harriet right away after her decision. But one continued to harass her, causing extreme anxiety.
She worried what might happen once her community found out about her decision. They might tie her up and try to perform an exorcism on her. They might beat her. They might stone her to death.
And she worried about the safety of her children.
Anxiety filled Harriet’s days. Sometimes she sunk into a depressive spiral and couldn’t speak. But the missionary group continued to pray for Harriet, and eventually, she came to a place of peace, despite the ongoing dangers she faced.
Outed — and Threatened
Harriet managed to keep her decision a secret for two months. Then one of her adult children outed her — and the cursing and threats immediately began.
Just a few days later, relatives abducted her and demanded that she return the family money they had given her (in their eyes, she was no longer family). And if she didn’t, they threatened to return and kidnap her.
Somehow Harriet managed to pay her relatives back.
Then, at a family member’s funeral, she came close to being forcibly separated from her children. Miraculously, she found a way to hide her kids and then escape with them.
Regularly Reading Scripture
As Harriet learned to follow Christ, the missionary group realized she needed someone to lead her in one-on-one discipleship. Katie stepped into the role.
Katie and Harriet now spend hours together each week reading Scripture, discussing what they’ve read and addressing any questions Harriet might have.
Harriet is still figuring out what it looks like to live in Goz Beïda as a follower of Jesus. It’s a difficult path.
She needs to find a way to support her family.
Harriet’s known in the marketplace. Many people refuse to trade with her because of her faith decision.
“How can you build a life as a Christian, a totally new life,” asks Sam, “where she cannot do what she did before?”
‘Jesus Wipes My Tears Away’
But Harriet has experienced the truth of Jesus’ love and His power to change her own heart, and she loves and worships and follows Him.
Evil spirits once came to Harriet with secrets. Today the Holy Spirit comes to Harriet with songs, like this one:
When I am in trouble, Jesus wipes my tears away;
When my children are in trouble, Jesus wipes my tears away;
When people come and curse me, Jesus wipes my tears away.
Whenever anxiety threatens to consume her, whenever she’s afraid for her life or her children’s lives, Harriet sings the songs that God gives her about the truth of who Jesus is.
Harriet has no easy answers going forward. But she has peace.
Editor’s Note: After this story was written, Harriet’s home was surrounded by a large group of people threatening to kill Harriet if she didn’t return to her former religion. Harriet went into hiding and has since fled Goz Beïda. Please lift up this dear sister in prayer.
How Can You Pray for Harriet and New Believers Like Her?
Pray for safety and faithful endurance amid threats.
Pray that ostracized believers will find reliable sources of income.
Pray for wisdom as new believers navigate opposition from their communities.
Pray that Harriet’s faith — and that of other believers — will continue to grow.
Pray that God will give peace to new believers in the midst of persecution.