Our Neighbor, Tanti

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Over the past six years, I have befriended Mrs. Kieta (Tanti), an Ivorian lady who is married to a Malinke Muslim. Normally, this would automatically make her a Muslim, because in this culture a woman traditionally does not have a religion. If she is not married, she is obligated to practice the religion of her father. Thus, many families insist that their daughters marry men of the same faith. However, as Western cultural influence grows, this obligation is beginning to lose its grip on the Islamic community in Guinea, and we are seeing more and more inter-faith marriages.

Tanti comes from an inter-faith family. Her mother is Christian, and her father is Muslim. Her father never forced her to go the mosque when she was a child. So all her life she practiced Catholicism. When she married Mr. Kieta, he allowed her to continue in her faith. They moved to Guinea from Ivory Coast few years after their wedding and had two girls, now in their early and mid twenties. They moved to our neighborhood in Fria when Mr. Kieta got a job at the aluminum factory here. Tanti would attend the Catholic Church infrequently.

Seven years ago, in one of our team worships, we decided to each choose a neighbor to pray for and to visit. Cathy Coleman chose Tanti and began a friendship with her. When the Coleman family returned to the States, Cathy entrusted Tanti to Mrs. Tooray (Aunty Baby), who is gifted in friendship evangelism. Soon Auntie Baby became like their adopted daughter, thus opening the Kieta family to friendships with our entire team.

Pretty soon, we noticed that trouble was brewing in the Kieta home. Mr. Kieta’s family began pressuring him to forbid Tanti from going to Christian churches because, according to custom, a woman should practice her husband’s religion. If she refused to obey, they said they would have no alternative but to find him a second wife. Tanti thought they were bluffing, and she trusted her husband not to betray her, so she continued going to the Catholic church.

The family made good their threat and married Mr. Kieta to a second wife. He set her up in another house and began spending most of his time with her, visiting Tanti only occasionally. Tanti’s relationship with her husband quickly fell apart. Not being strong in her Catholic faith, she stopped attending church, hoping this show of respect for her husband would draw them closer together, but it was no use. Desperate to get her husband back for the sake of her daughters, she consulted witch doctors. All was in vain, and her husband continued to drift farther from her.

The second wife got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy. This was a huge blow to Tanti. In Malinke culture, male children are the pride of the family, and the fact that Tanti had birthed only daughters was one of the reasons why her husband agreed to take a second wife.

When the new wife gave birth to a second son, Tanti and her daughters were shut out. Mr. Kieta no longer supported or visited them, and Tanti cried for days at a time. One morning after our team worship, Aunty Baby and I stopped by to visit Tanti, and we found her weeping as if her heart would break. “I am half a woman. My love is gone. I have nothing to live for anymore,” she cried. Two days later, she was admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure. That was the first of a long series of health problems for her.

We talked with Tanti and asked her to try Jesus again, this time in a more faithful way. We prayed and studied the Bible with her at our houses, because she feared her husband’s response if we met at her house.

Then one day, Tanti invited us to her house to pray. The entire team went there and prayed with her. I asked her why she was no longer afraid of her husband, and she replied, “I don’t care anymore. My life is already in ruins. From now on, I will pray to my God without fear.” We gave her some Bible promises, encouraging her to take hold of them with faith and an open heart. In desperation, she accepted.

Tanti started attending our church on Sabbaths. As we continued studying the Bible with her, we noticed that she was applying what she learned to her life. One day she told us she would no longer go to the market to sell on Sabbaths. As she applied practical Christianity in her home, this once bitter and vengeful woman became more loving. She worked hard to support her daughters, and we had the privilege to help her with some money to enlarge her business. With her change of heart, Mr. Kieta began spending more time with her. Praise God, Tanti is now slowly healing her family, and her husband supports her Adventist faith. They have moved back to Conakry, and we have put her in touch with our church there, where she continues to attend with her girls and study the Bible. She requests prayer that her husband would also come to know the truth.

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