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East Africa: Planting the seeds of faith

01 March 2017

It is hard to be a farmer in the Muslim-majority regions of East Africa. It is hard to be a Christian as well. But thanks to the gifts and prayers of longterm Open Doors supporters in the UK and Ireland, including thousands of Secret Child sponsors, many Christians are learning how to support their families, increase their independence and maintain their dignity.

In these predominantly rural, subsistence farming communities, Christians struggle with poverty and exclusion. Violence and persecution have left many widows and orphans, and followers of Jesus have to stay under the radar. But despite the danger and the hardship, beneath the surface, change is growing. With God's help and your support, these believers are planting the seeds of faith, and beginning to see a harvest. See how your support is transforming lives in this short film:

'MANY ARE SECRETLY COMING TO FAITH'

In a small border town, surrounded by beautiful mountains, Ruth* and Fabian* have opened a school. This was once a predominantly Christian area, but today the town is dominated by mosques and minarets. Indeed, to tell you the name of this place would put the Christians there in peril.

Ruth and Fabian came to this town from the nation's capital, in response to a call from God to bring the gospel to rural communities.

"We learned that many children were not in school because their parents couldn't afford it," says Fabian. "We desperately wanted to help but had no resources." The couple attended an Open Doors training course, and Open Doors gave them some money so they could buy land and build a school.

Today they have 32 pupils, eight of whom are orphans. One of them - a six-year-old boy with learning difficulties - was previously forced to work on a farm. They also run a growing church. "Many are secretly coming to faith," Fabian explains.

"We have gone through a lot of challenges," says Ruth, "but we have learned that the Lord is faithful to His promise to never leave or forsake us. He is faithful to bring it to accomplishment."

'WE SEE GOD'S HAND'

In many areas of persecution, Christians without skills or an education are vulnerable to exploitation and pressure to deny their faith. Open Doors' Social and Economic Development (SED) programme not only provides persecuted believers with crucial literacy, numeracy and work skills, it also gives them self-sufficiency, dignity and hope.

Wilson* was a struggling alcoholic, with a string of failed relationships, scraping a living as a casual labourer. Then he became a Christian and met Doreen* at a small church for believers from Muslim backgrounds. Doreen had been ostracised by her community for converting to Christianity. She and Wilson fell in love and, helped by an Open Doors SED course, they started to save a little.

Open Doors helped Wilson to start farming tomatoes and eggplant. In 2015 he expanded into planting ginger and garlic. Soon Doreen and Wilson were able to afford to get married.

"We eat from the land and see God's hand. The community that knew me as a drunk now sees the changes and understands that they came because of Christ and Him alone," Wilson says.

FARMING GOD'S WAY

Growing up as a Muslim, Matthew* made the radical decision to follow Christ. But he had some misguided ideas. "I thought being a Christian meant only praying and worshipping God in church," he says. He gave up his business. "My family suffered. We hardly ever ate more than one meal a day."

Then Matthew attended an Open Doors course. "I understood that worshipping God also means working and helping the poor and the weak... I stopped dividing life into sacred and secular."

He returned home, rolled up his sleeves and started working. "We started developing a culture of saving. I also went to the local church and started sharing what I learned."

Matthew started an Open Doors Self Help Group - small groups of people who decide to save together and pool their savings. After six months, they choose how to use the money they have saved to benefit each other. Often these groups become village saving and loans associations that allow members to borrow money to help them start or grow a business. "Today we have eleven members in three groups," says Matthew, "and as a result of the income generated and the tithes and offerings coming in, we have been able to appoint a full-time pastor and two evangelists."

Matthew was also helped by an Open Doors seminar called 'Farming God's Way', which brings together biblical principles, management skills and modern farming practices to help subsistence farmers escape poverty.

"With the methods we learned, we produced three times more maize than usual," says Matthew. "Now my food stores are full, and my family eats nutritious meals."

He has bought some bee hives, which produce 68 kilos of honey a year, and intends to start cattle breeding and milk production. Matthew's farm has become a model for others to follow and has even appeared on TV!

"On that day we were able to tell everyone that we gained our understanding from the Bible.

"We are very thankful for your support. Thanks to you, my family benefitted, my church benefitted and my larger community benefitted," Matthew concluded.

Stand with your church family in sub-Saharan Africa

None of these life-changing projects would be possible without the long-term support and prayers of people like you. Here are three ways you can stand with your church in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Pray. Use the prayer points below.
  • Give. Every £34 could provide training to two persecuted Christians in the region to help them generate their own income and restore their dignity.
  • Speak out. Why not show the video of these projects to your church or small group, and ask them to pray for our brothers and sisters in sub-Saharan Africa?

*names changed for security reasons

Please pray:

  • For blessing, protection and provision for Ruth and Fabian, Wilson and Doreen, and Matthew
  • That God would bless their businesses and ministries
  • For the children in Ruth and Fabian's school, that God would help them to learn and grow
  • For provision for more projects like these to support more of our brothers and sisters in sub-Saharan Africa.