Open Doors partners visit Esther, whose husband Pastor Isaac was killed in a violent attack last year.
With Islamic militant violence growing in sub-Saharan Africa, you may often hear stories of persecution and attacks in the region. That isn’t where the story ends, of course. That’s why it’s a privilege today to share the story of what happened after the attack that changed Esther’s life in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In November 2021, the body of Esther’s husband, Pastor Isaac Muhindo Baraka, was discovered hanging from a tree. In his region, in North Kivu province in the east of DRC, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have increased in recent times. The ADF is a violent group that have recently pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State – they are continuing to attack civilians in DRC and neighbouring countries, despite attempts by the DRC government to quash the violence.
"I felt deep pain that one cannot bear." Esther
Local Christians suspect Pastor Isaac was targeted because of his efforts to tell the community about Jesus. Though 95 per cent of the country’s population are Christian, evangelists are still often most vulnerable to violent attacks by ADF and similar groups.
“I felt deep pain that one cannot bear,” says Esther. “I could not think straight.”
When Pastor Isaac was killed, Esther was heavily pregnant. “The news sent me into premature labour,” she says. She was rushed straight to the hospital, and was giving birth while her husband was being buried. “I could not be part of the burial. It was hard to accept at first.”
Their oldest son, Samuel, was able to attend. “He saw how his father was lowered into the grave,” Esther says. “To him, papa is sleeping. That is what he sometimes says when he sees his father's picture. He keeps telling me, 'Daddy is sleeping. He has gone to heaven'. For me the shock was too much, but I thank God the children are doing well… God gives strength."
After the incident, a team of Open Doors partners visited Esther. She was surprised and delighted that Christians who didn’t know her had come to support her, and that believers around the world were praying.
"I am really happy to see that we are in unity in Christ - thank you for doing us this good." Esther
“I am really happy, especially happy to see that we are in unity in Christ and we will continue to support each other in the faith,” says Esther. “I know I will not lack anything because my brothers and sisters are there. They will continue to help us and pray for us. Thank you for doing us this good. May God bless you!"
As well as praying with Esther and providing fellowship, the local Open Doors partners brought Esther some money, food (rice, beans, oil, sugar, milk and salt) and other household necessities. Without her husband, it’s hard for Esther to earn money while looking after her children. She used to be primary school teacher, but can’t work while caring for her three children and for Isaac’s 12-year-old sister.
Throughout the terrible difficulties Esther faces, she is comforted by the promise in Scripture that she does not need to be afraid, and that Jesus is ‘with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20).
“I know He is with us and will not leave us. And there is a hymn we sing in my church: 'Do not forget me, Saviour. When You visit the others, do not leave me. Do not forget me, Saviour. Hear me! When You answer the others, do not forget me!’.
“With the brothers who come to console us, we have the hope that God is with us, and will continue with us till the end,” Esther says. “Continue to pray for us that God will sustain us in faith so that we may raise our children in His ways."
Learn more about DRC and other countries on the Open Doors World Watch List 2022 top 50 with your free Top 50 booklet - find detailed information, testimonies and prayer requests to help connect you to your persecuted church family.