Her chocolate skin glows smooth in the lamplight, her cheeks two plums. When she laughs, our faces blush with pleasure. The room fills with the warmth of it. The brim of her eggplant-colored hat shadows her eyes, but her smile bursts forth like the sun.
Sister Emily from Nigeria joins us for Spiritual Formation group. It is only her second trip to America, and we are so pleased to welcome her to our small group.
We talk about Job and spiritual warfare and wonder if God is bragging about us too.
Emily tells us about the discipleship center that she and her husband run in Nigeria.
The older women teach the younger women how to cook and run a household. Whatever your gifts are, that’s what you share. Be it cooking, sewing, organizing the home…And we teach them how to read the scriptures.
She moves her hands emphatically as she speaks; her thick-musical accent punctuating her words. We all lean closer. Her passion for Jesus charges the air around us. We talk about many things—dreams, women’s work, the mystery of God’s ways, listening…
Emily and her husband, Brother Pius, are visiting sister churches to share about their ministry, garner support.
My husband, he goes every year. He goes everywhere. God called him to be an evangelist, God called him to be a missionary, God called him to go…wherever he goes he is at home.
Emily talks a little about the Nigerian government, how it is mostly run by Muslim law. She is respectful. But her strong voice quiets for the first time.
The Muslims are in the north, she says, and the Christians in the south. When it gets rough up there, our brothers and sisters from the north run to us. We take them in for a while (she gestures an embrace with those expressive arms of hers). They stay a while and then they go back when things calm down.
But when she says this, I felt a lump in my throat:
But our brothers and sisters who were formerly Muslims, when they come to us, they are ready to die. They are ready to die.
When I come home, I read more about Nigeria—Google it up. I read of the bloodshed that continues between Christians and Muslims. Of the corruption in the government and rich oil production. I think about Emily’s husband traveling about with the Words of Jesus in his pocket.
Wherever he goes, he is at home.
Jeffrey and I walk the dogs under the half moon. The air is crisp and cool. I show him the Big Dipper, tipping over on us.
There it is! He says. I didn’t realize it was so big.
We need to get him out in the country, I think. Away from light pollution, where we can do some real star-gazing.
But I can’t get these words out of my head: They are ready to die.
As we walk, God sends a tiny gift of light. It flashes once before my eyes and then disappears, leaving me to wonder if I imagined it.
Jeffrey, I say. I just saw the first firefly!
We turn and look together.
But that tiny light is gone.
I feel so grateful to be there with my boy…to see the first firefly of the season. But I feel sad too. Sad for my brothers and sisters all over the world who must live in fear. Then I remember something Emily said when we were talking about Job.
Not everyone will be put through the same trials as Job, she said. But each of us, on different levels, will meet different trials where we are. The devil is the same today as he was in Job’s day…when we are afraid, he is happy. But God is the same God too. God is the same God who spoke to Job. He never changes. We have to speak the blood of Jesus over that fear. Speak it out loud. We cannot be afraid.
Tonight, we pray for Sister Emily and Brother Pius. We pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in dangerous circumstances—those who are persecuted, those who conquer fear every day. Those who are ready to die.
We pray the blood of Jesus over them. And we learn from their courage.