Kenya: Your letters restore Damaris' soul
After Damaris' husband was killed for his faith in 2012, Open Doors ran a letter-writing campaign to enable supporters to write to and encourage the young widow. See how God has used your letters to restore Damaris' soul.
"I had no strength to go to the mortuary"
Damaris married Jackson Kioko on 28 April, 2012. "We had a very colourful wedding. People testified that they had never seen such a great wedding because it had God's favour," says Damaris. But just a week later, Jackson was murdered.
He and his good friend Dr Ben Jum, had gone out to minister and evangelise as usual. But Damaris later found out that an angry mob had lured the two men into a trap. They killed the evangelists and set their bodies on fire.
"Jackson was really a man of God," shares Damaris. "He was a very caring man, very loving and very prayerful... I had no strength to go to the mortuary (to identify him). I was very helpless, I could not even stand."
The impact of grief
After Jackson's funeral, Damaris struggled with the reality of his death and endured many sleepless nights. "I've never before faced such a difficult situation in my life. I could do nothing. I could not even pray. I just existed.
"I felt God had forsaken me. 'How could God allow this to happen to me?' I wondered if I was really born-again. People would try to talk to me, but I mostly could not concentrate on what they tried to tell me."
Thankfully, one friend was able to remind Damaris of God's hope and love for her, and she remembered that she was a child of God. "That's when I started gaining strength.... I read the Bible a lot. Every verse I read spoke to me. Although I was crushed in my spirit and very down, God was very close to me."
But people eventually moved on, and Damaris felt even more isolated. "You go through a time you feel everybody has rejected you. You feel that the whole world is against you."
It was exactly at this time that the Lord made a way for Open Doors to visit.
"I felt loved once again"
"Open Doors worker, Hadassa* came and prayed with me and brought me a card," says Damaris. "You know, I did not know her or where she had come from. But I realised there were people who were concerned about me - the body of Christ. After we prayed together, she gave me a card and said they will continue praying for me. It really strengthened me.
"After some time, she came back again with so many letters! People were encouraging me and telling me they were praying for me. That started building my faith again. Receiving those letters was the first time I could smile or laugh again. Until then I had felt very gloomy. After this visit I started praying again. I thought, 'If people are praying for me, why can't I?'
"I continued receiving the letters from people all over the world. People sent letters from Germany, Norway, Canada, India... I said, 'This is God, because these are people I do not know, yet they are so concerned that they would send letters. I felt loved once again. Bitterness started melting away. I thank God for these people."
Today, when Damaris looks at pictures of Jackson, the pain is not as intense as it used to be. "I still have the memory that comes afresh to me, but it's not as painful." Damaris is continuing a ministry Jackson had encouraged her in: working to spread the gospel through music.
"I felt that God has been so great to me. So I am working on a CD. You know, there is a music you can sing for refreshing people, just for enjoyment. But there is other music you can sing that ministers to the soul. That is the music I want to make. I have written songs encouraging people to not give up, to continue serving God. I want to encourage people going through fire to stand firm and serve God, and He will help them to heal others."
"Thank you... Continue this with the same heart to other people"
"I would like to thank each and every one who took the time to write letters to me. Thank you so much for your letters. Thank you so much for your prayers. I feel that we are in the same family, even if we have not met.
"Every time I read those letters, tears come to my eyes because they minister to me. Through those letters I have been very much encouraged. They have kind of motivated me to continue in the faith and continue to serve God even more than I did before. Thank you so much, may God bless you.
"How I wish you would continue this with the same heart to other people who are in hardship, because when you are in hardship you cannot stand on your own. Just know they are very encouraging and they uplift a soul that has been crushed. You may not be seen, you may not be known, but just know that God will reward you hundredfold."
You can strengthen other Christians facing persecution through letters and messages of support, see our letter-writing webpage for more information.
- Thank God for Damaris' inspiring heart and persistent faith in the face of great challenges
- That she would continue to be comforted by God
- That the music she produces would help to bless others and teach them about God
- For those who wrote to Damaris, that they would know the comfort they have helped to bring.
*Name changed for security reasons