As believers gather worldwide to intercede on November 6 and 13, 2016, the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, remember Burkina Faso’s grief-stricken widows whose families reject them when they choose to follow Christ.
“One of the hardest types of persecution believers in Burkina Faso face is the shunning by family and friends,” says Esther Schaeffer, an Alliance worker serving in the West African nation.
“Unless you live in this culture, it is hard to truly appreciate the social implications of believing something different,” wrote Dr. Dan Nesselroade in his Alliance Life article “A Power All Its Own.” Dr. Dan served a number of years with The Alliance in Mali, West Africa.
“Honor and shame figure prominently in any major decision here,” he said, “and it is common for Jesus followers to be completely ostracized, excommunicated if you will.” In a North American context this would be similar to risking your family, job, and insurance coverage to publicly take Christ’s name.
“Burkina’s widows who follow Christ feel this persecution profoundly,” Esther emphasizes. Recently, one of the widows her team serves recounted how her children were refused family assistance. Relatives with means would help pay school fees and found jobs for others relatives’ children but not hers.
Eating meals together in the shared family courtyard is a way of life in Burkina, but Christians are not allowed to eat with the others, Esther says. “One woman who lives in a shared courtyard setting told me that each time she attended church, she would come home to find her food stolen, her cooking pots strewn across the yard, or her clean clothes in the mud.”
A Heavy Toll
The decision to follow Christ also is a hard choice for women who face widowhood. Mary* has attended Esther’s Bible study and had recently indicated interest in Jesus. Esther asked her one day why she was holding back in accepting Him as her Savior.
“My husband is very ill,” Mary responded. “If I change to this new road, the Jesus road, my family will not help us. If my husband dies, they will kick us out of the family courtyard. I could handle it, but I have four young children—I can’t risk their lives.
“The cost of following Christ is too great for me even though I know what you are teaching is the truth.”
“Although this woman believed she couldn’t choose to follow Jesus,” Esther notes, “many others have, and they are suffering the consequences.”
How You Can Pray
- Pray for Burkina Faso’s widows, that the Lord will be their comforter and sustainer and give them courage; pray that faithful believers will inspire those who are struggling.
- Intercede for Esther’s team members as they encourage widows who have made the tough decision to follow Christ and support them in practical ways.
Read “Made in God’s Image,” a Q&A with the leadership couple for the North and Central Asia Region. They discuss nonwestern collective cultures, which includes West African societies, where denying the majority religion can jeopardize the family’s community standing—a major barrier to people becoming Christians.