by Esther Schaeffer, serving with The Alliance in Burkina Faso’s second largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso
Mariyam is a runaway. She is among an increasing number of teenage girls in our city (and region) who have fled their rural homes or been sent by their families to find work in urban areas.
After Mariyam failed her 10th-grade school exam, she and a friend took off for the big city. The two were in search of fun, excitement, money—freedom from their parents and the obligations in this society that include entering early arranged marriages.
Yet Mariyam had experienced nothing but hardship and many tears since leaving home. She had borne two children, suffering the broken promises of men who stayed for a short time and then left. One man took their child (fathers and their families have all rights concerning children in this culture); Maryiam had not seen either since.
Then illness set in. Unable to work at the local bar, Mariyam had no money for medicine or food for her and her other child, a son. She was forced to beg.
“You Need to Go to Church!”
Mariyam was sitting outside her home begging one day when a woman swathed in a black veil—identifying her allegiance to our region’s majority religion—walked by. The woman blurted these surprising words: “You need to go to a church; they pray for people, and they will be able to help you!”And Mariyam began to cry.
A few days after their first encounter, the same woman told Mariyam, “Get to a church; they will pray for you. I used to be a Christian, but I married into another religion. I know the power of the Christians’ prayers. Go to a church. They will help you.” Mariyam again wept.
After twice hearing the woman’s advice, Mariyam began experiencing terrible nightmares. Demons came to her she later recalled, telling her not to go to the church.
“Don’t be afraid!” the same woman told Mariyam a third time. “You will get the help you need at the church.”
After suffering great emotional turmoil, Mariyam—thin, sickly, and penniless—walked with her young son to the nearest church, Belleville Alliance. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and the building was full of women listening as I shared a Bible lesson.
As Mariyam listened to the story about Jesus and His power to free people from sin and darkness, she again began to weep. When she asked Christ to be her Savior that day, the pastor immediately prayed with Mariyam and assigned a woman in the church to take her home.
He also told Mariyam about the church’s daily programs so she could come to hear God’s Word and grow in her faith.
As Mariyam hopped on the back of the motorbike with one of our church women—her young son sandwiched between them grinning—Mariyam again wept. But these were the tears of someone who has finally arrived home after a long, hard journey.
Postscript: I saw Mariyam last week, and the physical change in her is remarkable. She has gained weight, is happy, and her son also is doing well (he recently received an excellent grade in school). She now has a temporary job, and the church is helping her to secure a more permanent position. Women in the church, including the pastor’s wife, are coming alongside Mariyam to disciple her. I am confident she will continue to be encouraged and strengthened in her faith through this Body of believers.
Read “Pray for Burkina Faso’s Persecuted Widows” to see another of the many ways Alliance people serve the most marginalized in this physically and spiritually impoverished nation.