[Ask a teen girl to present this first-person report.]
I grew up in a religious family in western Nigeria. When I was 16, my aunt asked my parents to allow me to live with her. She promised to pay my school fees and see that I continued my education. This is not uncommon in my culture; often a relative who has no children will adopt a niece or nephew to live with them.
I enrolled in school and settled into my new life. I lived with my aunt for two years, then one day word came that my mother had died. With sadness, I returned home for her funeral and burial.
My family lives in a compound house, a cluster of separate hut-like rooms built inside a wall. Each person over a certain age has their own room within the wall. When I arrived home, I discovered that my father had rented out one of our compound rooms to two young men. As I greeted them I learned that they were Christians. I was curious why my father would rent rooms to Christians, since we were not Christians. But as I chatted with the young men, I found them most pleasant and courteous
I learned that they were deeply religious—and that they held some of the same religious ideas my family held. They invited me to pray and worship with them. I was interested to know more about Christianity, so I went to one of their meetings. I had no intention of becoming a Christian, but I was curious about what they taught.
I knew that my father would object if he knew I was going to these meetings, so I went without asking for his permission. I didn’t attend every meeting, but I went when I could, and was at the meetings when the men introduced the Sabbath. This was an entirely new idea to me, for I thought that every Christian went to church on Sunday. The lay evangelists explained that God had set aside Saturday, the seventh day, as holy time.
The more I listened, the more interested I became. I began taking Bible studies with the local pastor, but was careful not to let anyone know what I was doing.
We studied about the Sabbath until I understood it, then the pastor introduced the teaching of Jesus’ second coming. I had always thought that Jesus was just a prophet, nothing more. But suddenly I realized that He is God, and He is coming back to take His followers to heaven! I was so touched by what I was learning that I decided to become a Christian and follow Jesus forever.
That’s when problems started. I no longer wanted to go to our family’s traditional place of worship and pray. Sometimes I prayed at home with my father, but even then I prayed secretly to Jesus. My father noticed these changes and asked me what was happening.
“Why are you not praying anymore?” he asked. “Have you joined these men’s religion?” I told him I wanted to become a Christian.
“If you stop praying and stop going to our house of prayer, then you should stop going to school, too. I will not pay your school fees.” I knew that my father meant what he was saying, and I became frightened. I had two more years of high school, and I couldn’t finish without my father’s help. But I also knew that I didn’t want to wait until I finished school to become a Christian.
My father told my school principal that I had become a Christian, and the principal watched me closely. Normally we students pray two by two before leaving school each day. I didn’t pray in the traditional way we had been taught, so the principal threatened and beat me. Still I refused.
Finally I had to stay home from school. I stayed at home praying and reading my Bible. Father refused to give me food, so I ate with the lay evangelists. I prayed that God would open a way for me to return to school.
The pastor with whom I had been studying was planning a baptism, and I wanted to be part of it. I did not tell my father of the plans, but somehow he learned about the baptism and forbade me to leave the house that day. I was really sad that I had missed my own baptism. Then I learned that the pastor was going to hold another baptism the next day. I decided to go before my father could stop me. It was a weekday, a day no one would expect a baptism. So I slipped out of the house and hurried to the river. I reached the water before anyone else arrived and begged the pastor to baptize me quickly. Then I changed my clothes so my father would not know what I had done.
One of the lay evangelists told the pastor that my father had refused to pay for my education. The pastor asked the lay evangelist to get my father to write a letter giving permission for someone else to pay my school fees. The missionary suggested that we fast and pray before he asked my father about the letter. For three days we fasted and prayed, then the lay evangelist approached my father. He explained that Adventists have a good boarding school where I could finish my education if he would agree to send me there. Miraculously my father agreed to let me go.
I was so happy! But I was still worried about my school fees. I knew that I could never afford to pay, and surely my father would not pay. Then I learned that the local conference would pay my school fees so I could finish high school.
My younger brother sometimes communicates with me, and I tell him about God. My prayer is that he and my father will listen to God’s voice and answer when He calls.
Your mission offerings support lay evangelists such as the two young men who led me to Jesus. The offerings support the school I am attending and make it possible for me to complete my education. Thank you for sharing with those you have never met.
* not her real name