Rejection. It cuts deep. We are overlooked for that promotion. Our friend is invited to a special event, but we are not. We feel like an outsider among people we have been associated with for years. We can find ourselves in these situations for personal reasons or they can be a result of our faith in Christ. Either way, all of us have experienced the feeling of rejection to some degree at one time or another.
Ezekiel understood what rejection was. He sat across the conference room table with earnestness. The tribal markings under each eye spoke of the strong ethnic loyalty among his tribal group in Nigeria. The passion in his voice belied the many hardships he had faced over the years.
A committed Nigerian pastor, Ezekiel came to discuss how we could work together to provide his ministry with a new Christian radio station. (See January’s Project Highlight) The challenge? This station will be located in the heart of Boko Haram territory. Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group which is fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government and replace it with an Islamic state. Creating havoc in Africa’s most populous country, they have committed abductions, assassinations, and bombings.
Ezekiel understands only too well the battle around him and the rejection that comes as a result, “We are already fighting a fierce battle now with many challenging attacks from the devil using Islam and many different kinds of strongholds to stop us. Sometimes we are reported to local authorities that summon us for questioning… Some of our disciples have to keep their faith a secret to avoid conflict with the Sharia Law which spells death for backsliders from Islam. Yet we have put our trust in Jesus who called us, we believe he is faithful and will grant us huge victory in this spiritual battle.”
Ezekiel shared this story:
Markus and I travelled down the River Niger from Yauri crossing over to Gebe. When we arrived in the cool evening, we mounted up our screen to show the Jesus Film. There was an overwhelming turn up [sic] of audience all over the place.
After two hours of the Jesus Film, we did the altar call giving people the opportunity to accept the love of God. What we got in response was shouts and rain of dust and sand which they were pouring on us. As we packed up our equipment and headed to the river where we had parked our boat, they followed us with stones. One of the stones fell on the power generator that I was carrying on my head. I thanked God I was carrying something on my head, otherwise I would have been badly injured. Then another stone fell on Markus’ arm and he yelled in pain. I whispered, “So, be patient!”
Many more rushed at us with more stones, and I thought we were in real trouble. We arrived at the river bank and tried to load up our equipment, but many more stones were thrown at us. At that moment a thought came to me. I should pretend to attack them because it is night, and they may assume I have some dangerous weapon which they do not know about. As I did this, they were terrified and dispersed. We then hurriedly loaded the boat and pushed off safely with only few injuries from the stones.
Our vision of the radio station will help us not in small measure to target the Muslim populace here in one of the Sharia zones of Nigeria. While the threat of stones can wound our bodies, nothing can damage the vision of making disciples and our determination to be God’s servants in spreading the sparks of discipleship across Africa.
Their message was rejected, and so were they. What made Ezekiel strong in the face of this utter rejection? It is the same truth that keeps all of us going. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world1 and called us for His purpose.2 We need not fear what man may think of or do to us.3 As we understand who we are in Christ, it emboldens us to not be ashamed of who we are and the message He calls us to share.
We are working with Ezekiel to help make this station a reality. Pray for Ezekiel that God would protect him and continue to give him the courage to spread the Good News, despite the rejection! There are souls that need to hear and, prayerfully, souls that will yet respond.
By Erica Simone
1Eph. 1:4, 2Eph. 1:11, 3Heb. 13:6