Counted Worthy 39
“Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for His Name!”
"I Was Not Myself!"
(Mary:) Hi! I'm so excited to be able to share my story with you. It's a little different, in that in this particular case I wasn't being persecuted for my faith, but rather was singled out because of the tribe I belonged to. It was a time of inter-tribal fighting in our country.
I lived in a small, rural village in West Africa. We lived simple but happy lives, because we had been converted by a dear and faithful missionary couple who had come to our area. They didn't live in our village, but were faithful to travel around to the surrounding areas from where they were and establish little churches in each village, and I and my family came to know Jesus' love, and in turn how to share it with others.
Africa has never been a peaceful continent, and there are often wars and tribal conflicts-it's just so sad. One day I will return to my land and help to turn it right side up for Jesus-but that's off the subject. My Christian name was Mary, so you can call me that. I was just 16 at the time, and fairly new to the faith, but I was already witnessing to others, and our little church was growing.
There were tensions in the area, but we didn't expect things to get to the state that they did. Within a very short while we started hearing horrible stories of villages being attacked, and of those who were perpetrating this evil. We started holding daily prayer vigils for the protection of our village, as well as our loved ones. It was a difficult time for us, because the stories were starting to get closer to home and we never knew when it would hit us. But we held on strong to our faith, and I can see now the powerful effect that prayer had in keeping the Lord's children in our village safe.
I was out in the field-which was somewhat removed from our village-when I heard noises in the bush. I carefully went to check it out, and stumbled upon a group of soldiers. There were only a couple of dozen at the most, but they were armed with guns and crude weapons, and we would have been no match for them. They were quietly biding their time until night, when I figured they planned to strike.
My first reaction was a very fearful one, I'm sorry to say, but all the stories I had heard came rushing to me-the stories of torture, rape, and killing. These were not peaceful people, and they were bent on destruction. I figured that, being alone and away from where anyone could help me, I didn't stand a chance. The Enemy tried to overpower me with fear at that point, and if I had yielded to that fear, the Lord would not have been able to use me as He did to turn the tide of evil that was about to come upon my small village.
Their captain came over to me and grabbed me, with obvious intentions. I prayed desperately for Jesus to fill me with His peace, and at that moment I felt as if something poured right through me. A feeling of comfort, warmth, and peace overwhelmed me. It must have been obvious to this man, who roughly dragged me to the side. I felt as though I wasn't my own person at that time, but that I was being possessed by a heavenly being who spoke through me and guided my actions.
I looked into this man's eyes, and I could see tenderness that I didn't expect to find there. He was taken aback by my peaceful nature and by the fact that I wasn't afraid. He looked very surprised as he looked at me. I took this as an opportunity to speak to him, though I couldn't know how he would react. The words that came through my mouth were definitely put there by someone else; they were simple, but cut straight to this man's heart.
“Jesus loves you,” I found myself saying. “He wants you to be His child, and He wants to forgive you and help you. I see loneliness and fear in your eyes, and I know Who can fill that emptiness. I found Jesus and He worked for me. There is a better way to solve the problems than through war and killing.” By this time I was crying, not for myself, but for him-crying because of the pain and torment I knew he was in.
What I said wasn't so big and earthshaking in itself, but I think he saw something spiritual in me. In fact, I know he did. He didn't see me, but he saw his departed wife as he looked into my face (this I found out later, only when I came to Heaven). He was overcome with emotion, and slumped down on the ground and started weeping. I, still not feeling myself, knelt down beside him, laid my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him. A few minutes later, he was himself asking for forgiveness, from his wife and from her God.
I didn't quite understand it at the time, but I saw the full picture when I came to Heaven, and I was so happy to have been used to touch this dear man in that way. I found out that his wife had died in childbirth some years before. She was a new Christian at the time, and was trying to talk to her husband about her faith, but he scorned and mocked her, which greatly saddened her. When she died, he hardened his heart, and became even more bitter and resentful, blaming her God, Jesus, for his troubles.
It was a beautiful moment, as we both knelt there crying. We were far enough removed from the rest of the soldiers that we were undisturbed, though I'm sure the soldiers wondered what was happening, why I wasn't screaming, or why there wasn't more commotion, so they started coming over to see what was happening, and were so surprised at what they saw!
The captain stood up, looked at the soldiers, and said, “We're moving along. We all need a break. Go home to your families, and I will contact you about further duties.” And that was it. They dispersed and left, without hardly a word or look in my direction. These men must have been happy to go home, or somehow were under the influence of God's Spirit that was very strong in that moment. The man looked back at me, and said, “Go home to your family. You will not be harmed.” And that was it!
I honestly didn't realize what had happened. I knew it was miraculous, because I felt I had hardly done anything, except that I knew something or someone had taken over my actions and words for those few moments, and something profound had touched this man's heart. I knew for sure it wasn't me.
I felt that no one would believe my story if I related it to them, so I decided to keep it quiet for some time. I just went home, and continued with my duties, full of wonder at what God had done. Not only had He delivered me from what could have been an awful experience, but our whole village was spared, by God's grace.
That wasn't the end of the tumult in our country, but God spared the little area we were in, and the fighting became less and less violent and further removed. I found out when I came to Heaven that after this, the man decided to go back to his family and to stop fighting. He moved his whole family into hiding; they crossed borders into another country and lived peacefully, although in difficult circumstances. I was so thankful to have been used as an instrument to bring this dear man into His Kingdom, and to save my village.
So that is my simple story, which I hope is an encouragement to you-how Jesus can overcome fear in an instant and use you to be a vessel of His love, even to your most bitter enemy-it's nothing short of miraculous!
Copyright © 2005 by The Family International
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