The book of Acts 14:22 says
“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God.
All through the bible and especially in the New Testament Christians are enjoined to the Fellowship of suffering which Christ Himself showed by example. The scriptures reveals three types of troubles for those who chose to follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. The first is discipline, judgment and rebuke from the Lord.
Secondly, there is test, trials, persecution, suffering and finally, temptation or attacks from Satan.
In book of 1Peter 4:12-13 says
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy”. When we are faced with trials in the course of following the Lord we must let the words from the Holy Scripture cheer us.
As I have earlier stated, I did not conceive in my wildest childhood thought that terrible persecution awaited Mario after her decision to follow Christ. Maybe I was too young or ignorant not to realize ahead of time that Moslem don’t become Christians easily without going through serious trouble. If ever I had thought about it then, it wasn’t to the point of what I saw her going through in her short Christian life. I too felt a little of the heat that came with her trials, for, somehow, many saw her conversion directly tied to her friendship with me, but like the three Hebrew children in Babylon we refused to bow down to any idol.
In the First week of her repentance we occupied ourselves with constant study of the bible secretly during the break hour for fear of the Moslem students who might raise false alarm. Brother Peter was visiting often to find out about her, he did this with more care to avoid anyone suspecting he was coming for other reasons. I was greatly amazed at the level of her spiritual growth within the first one month in spite of her limited knowledge of the scriptures. The spirit of the Lord was intensely working in her beyond my human comprehension. She had shared with me on many occasion what dreams she has been having ever since after her salvation experience.
One morning after our first lesson she whispered to me a dream she had the previous night.
“Last night I dreamt that the sky opened and there was a terrible earthquake, everyone was confused and they ran helter skelter” I kept quiet watching her steadily.
“There were accidents here and there and I saw soldiers moving about heavily armed, and in the middle of it, I woke up sweating heavily”
“Hmm, you must have dream about the rapture”
“What is rapture?”
“You see, the bible records that a time will come when Jesus will appear suddenly in the sky to take away His saints from the earth, after that, there will be much trouble on the earth”
“When will the time be?”
“It is not specifically stated in the bible but Christ warns true Christians to be ever ready”
“Hmm, that’s very serious oo”
“Yes, the race to Heaven is a battle for life”.
I put my hand on her shoulder and looking into her face with a smile, I said;
“Mario, you are lucky to be blessed with this dream, I desire to have such dreams but it has never occurred to me, not even once”.
Beyond my fears, God had raised her so fast through dreams and revelations that, sometimes, I secretly coverted her spiritual gifts. I was about a year older than her as a born again Christian and was used by God for her conversion but Mario had grown so knit with the Holy Spirit that I wished I had such privilege. I later convinced myself that all that blessings from the Lord was to quicken her in preparation for the troubles she encountered later. The Lord is not the author of confusion; He does not raise a man without providing him with adequate support and grace to face any challenge. To every one of us there is a measure of grace he gives to help us carry on until we successfully arrived at the pearly gate. I think that the problem is with our inability to depend constantly on these available divine resources.
When Saul encountered the Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus, he got converted and his name was subsequently changed to Paul.
He had numerous encounters with the Lord which many of the disciples who had been with Jesus did not experience. His personal encounters were in preparation for what he was to go through in the course of fulfilling his God ordained ministry. In the same manner I found that Mario’s quick growth under the direct tutelage of Holy Spirit was for the same purpose. She even became to me a source of inspiration and strength in difficult time. The first test for both of our faith came one afternoon during our usual secret bible study. We had strolled together to the old building near the school farm and sat in a quiet corner ready to start searching the bible when suddenly there appeared the head girl behind the building. She had been observing our regular presence at that spot and wanted to find out the reason behind the regular secret meetings. She was a Moslem girl and demanded to know what we were doing.
“What are you too plotting?” She queried, I kept mute but Mario answered and said;
“What do you mean by nothing, tell me what you are doing here or I shall beat the hell out of both of you”.
She looked steadily at my hand and stared me terribly eye.
“Ziporah, so you are trying to convert Mario to your religion, eeh!”
“I’m, eemm” I stammered not knowing exactly what to say to her.
“Ba ta yin kwomai” (she is doing nothing);
Mario intervened speaking to her in Hausa.
“Then what is she doing with that bible in her hand?”
In anger she raised the cane in her hand and hit me terribly on the ankle, she had aimed at my head but I made a defense with my hand. She tried to hit me again but missed.
“Kneel down there!” She shouted in an infuriated feminine voice of an over empowered school girl.
I quickly knelt down, she stepped forward to hit me again but suddenly changed her mind.
“Ok, both of you follow me, when you get to the principal you’ll explain better”.
“Aunty pleeeaase” I tried to plead.
“I say follow me!” She shouted charging at me, I stepped back holding my hands pleadingly.
“Stupid girl, they have warned you many times but you won’t hear”.
I knew that going to principal meant serious trouble for me, I could be expelled after some punishment because I had been warned severally in the past. I was afraid, to say the least but I prayed quietly in my heart. Mario appeared unperturbed by the whole turn of event. She had made up her mind for the gravest danger when she took the decision to follow Christ and it showed in the calm mood she put up.
“Don’t worry Zipo, don’t be afraid’ she said to me, squeezing my palm affectionately. Even at that, my heart was still pounding against my chest.
The principal punished both of us but me in particular and sent a report to my father and Mario’s uncle.
I was severely beaten at home for this but it was nothing to compare with what Mario went through in the hands of her uncle. It opened doors to more persecution as it brought us to a close watch by the school authority and Mario’s uncle who set up spies to watch her every move. Rather than tame Mario’s appetite for the gospel the incidence made her more defiant and willing to practice openly what she had been doing in the secret. She stopped wearing her hijab and attending Islamic lessons. She did not attend Christian religion lessons either but told me strongly that she was never again going to study the Koran. These opened up new trouble. Her uncle became very mad and furious; he had to trace our house and made fearful threats to my family.
My father was terribly frightened by his action and I bore the brunt of his anger.
For about one week Mario was not allowed to come to school nor was she seen outside on the streets. For this period I feared for her greatly, I knew that she was going through difficult and painful torture. I could not dare to visit their house for fear of more troubles and physical assault by now livid uncle. I waited anxiously until after one week when she returned to school on Monday. I did not need to be told what she went through for the period; she was emaciated with scars all over her body.
Mario was a shadow of herself but her spirit shone radiantly inside her aching body. I saw in her eyes the resolution to die if need be for the faith she had found. I could not imagine where that strong courage came from, I knew that I myself had not such determination that Mario had. In a spirit that showed no iota of regret or hatred she told me what she had gone through for that whole week.
“Zipo, I’m going to run away from my uncle’s place”
“I know they will plan to kill me”
“My uncle and his friends”
“So where are you planning to go?”
“I don’t know, but I must get away. That my uncle is very heartless and my parents will support him to do anything with me”
“God will not let them” I tried to assure her.
“Do you know that for days he locked me up in a room and tried to poison me after starving me for three days”, she continued.
I was stunned and didn’t know what to say to her, but I had to say something. I was afraid she had become discouraged and was going to give up now.
“Mario are you angry with me for causing you all this trouble” I asked studying her to know.
“Haba! Zipp, I’m so happy you preached to me and I cannot go back now….true!”
“Do you know that I have started reading the bible on my own now?”
Woow! That’s very good” I encouraged her.
Brother Peter had made a present of a small New Testament bible to her the moment I told him about her conversion. She revealed to me that most of the time spent in her uncle’s confinement was spent reading the bible and trying to pray in simplest way she could. She also said that although she spent days without food, she never felt hunger.