One of the major impacts of the recent Ebola outbreak on the Susu Project was on the education of our children. Last year, we did not get any student missionaries to homeschool our children. Though we work in French-speaking Guinea, we come from English-speaking Sierra Leone, so we have been teaching our children in English.
Our church-planting project is in the discipling stage, which demands a lot of time and attention. If we do not guard our family time, our family suffers. As we prepared for furlough, Isatta was very busy with the administration and finances of the school. I was also busy training our lay evangelists, helping them understand church organization and leadership. With all these activities taking place, we had no time to teach our children, and we began to worry about their education. We remembered the Bible stories of Eli and Samuel who were so occupied with the Lord’s work that they paid too little attention to their children.
We called a family meeting and apologized to our children and explained that student missionaries were not being allowed into Guinea to teach them. We unanimously agreed that we should have a family prayer week and asked God for a teacher. After our week of family prayer, we began to call friends and explain our problem to them.
A week later, we received a call from a friend in Conakry. He gave me a number, and I called it. “This is Mohamed,” the man answered.
“This guy is a Muslim,” I whispered to Isatta, covering the mouthpiece.
“Let’s give him a try,” she said. “God may be guiding us to him, and He doesn’t make mistakes.”
I invited Mohamed to come and meet with us. “I don’t have money to pay my way there,” he said.
“Go to the Fria parking station,” I told him. “Tell any driver there that you need a ride to Uncle Fred or the Adventists. They will bring you to my house, and I will pay them.” The next day he made it safely to our house. When he entered our courtyard, he said, “I am impressed by how many people in this town know you.”
That evening, we offered Mohamed the tutoring job, and he accepted. We asked him to share a room with our eldest son Fred Jr. until we find an apartment for him. Isatta and I began to pray for him during our private prayer time. We also prayed about the impact he would have on our children. We asked God to let our family make an impression on him instead of him making an impression on us.
During Mohamed’s first two weeks with us, we noticed that he was very overt about doing his five daily prayers. It seemed to be his way of telling us that he was a devout Muslim and that we could not change him.
In our Muslim area of Guinea, Seventh-day Adventists are like open books in their neighborhoods and communities. Whether we like it or not, people watch our every move, closely observing how we live out the faith we profess. Mohamed was observing our family interactions, our religious activities and our relations with neighbors and church members.
It has been the custom of the Susu Project team members to have family worship and then team worship morning and evening. For the first two weeks of Mohamed’s work with us, he stayed in his room when we had morning and evening family worship. We didn’t put any pressure on him to join us. Then one morning during worship, he came out and joined us. He didn’t participate in our singing or praying; he just watched. He did this for another two weeks. Then one day he commented to my wife, “I like the way your family worships. Everyone has respect for God. You pray while kneeling, and your children do not disturb each other in worship. I like the reverence you show to God. You don’t find that in my home.” The definition of Islam, “Submission to the will of Allah,” is engraved in the fiber of all Islamic rites. Growing up with my Muslim grandmother, I learned that in the mosque, silence was required at all times, even when just sitting and waiting for prayers to start. Especially for children, stillness is the highest reverence one can show for God. Respect for elders and authority figures is also engraved in West African culture.
As Mohamed watched us give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord every morning and evening, he began to struggle with a sense of conviction. His inner unrest made him want to avoid us, so he stopped attending our worships and spent more time reading the Quran, doing his five daily prayers and going to the mosque, which is just a stone’s throw from our house. We told our children to avoid any religious arguments with Mohamed and just give him time. After each of his tutoring sessions with our children, we prayed for his conversion.
To be continued.