A young man receiving vocational training in North Africa was depressed and angry – and carrying a lethal weapon.
Ahmed* was so heavy-hearted and sullen you could see it on his face the moment you looked at him, according to the leader of the local ministry offering the program.
He was intensely introverted. When he first came to the vocational training at the suggestion of a friend who had benefitted from it, Ahmed never spoke to anyone. In time he began to ask the trainers about their talk of God, His will, and His love for all people, the ministry leader said.
During a time set aside for a spiritual message at the training one night, Ahmed heard preaching on forgiveness that led to him revealing that he was carrying a weapon. The local missionary delivering the message had said, “God forgave your many sins, you have to forgive those who wronged you,” and Ahmed felt the Lord was speaking directly to him, the ministry leader said.
“He prayed, repented, cried and told his sad story,” the leader said. “He said, ‘I was carrying a weapon with me to kill my uncle after finishing the training and returning to my village. My uncle had hit my brother in the eyes until he bled, then locked him up to prevent him from going to the doctor. My brother lost his two eyes, and I was going to take revenge upon my uncle.’”
The Lord had brought him to the ministry’s vocational training so he could learn about and feel His forgiveness, Ahmed said.
“I was supposed to die, but Jesus Christ died instead of me on the cross,” he said. “So, I decided to forgive my uncle as Jesus forgave me. Thanks to God and the ministry.”
Ahmed learned haircutting and opened a barbershop in the village, the leader said.
“The young man got rid of the heaviness in his heart, and it was replaced with joy,” he said.
In Ahmed’s country, undisclosed for security reasons, women and girls are commonly demeaned and abused.
Lower-income parents often withdraw daughters from school at puberty to reduce contact with males, and when they reach adulthood, low literacy rates and discrimination make obtaining work difficult, trapping many women in abusive relationships. As many as 86 percent of married women in the country may face abuse by their husbands, and half of young women reported physical violence against them by either their brothers or fathers, according to local media.
Local ministries offer physical and psychological healing to such women, as well as vocational training, all in Christ’s name. One young woman, Rihab*, was so withdrawn when her impoverished family placed her at a local ministry’s women’s shelter that she spoke to no other residents.
The only child of an addicted father and an illiterate mother who sold trinkets at the train station, Rihab had been raped by a relative, the ministry leader said.
“The girl was traumatized; she didn’t know how to say anything about what happened to her,” the leader said. “She felt she couldn’t overcome her situation. She was so introverted, she couldn’t adapt to the girls in the shelter.”
With Christ-based counseling that emphasizes biblical precepts such as how much the Lord values all humanity, both men and women, Rihab began to recover as she learned crochet and other handcrafts to sell, the leader said.
“The shelter empowered her to integrate and be involved in the community and gave her self-confidence to know and rely on her own capabilities,” he said. “She became a role model for her colleagues and started to teach them handcrafts. Her life changed, and she is now in her last stage in the rehabilitation program.”
Rihab was saving up her income to buy a camera and a motorcycle, and she is planning to learn martial arts to defend herself against sexual or other assaults, he said.
“She is brave now and can confront her family and the man who raped her, while she is still working on developing herself,” the leader said. “She hopes to continue her education, as she had stopped when this happened to her.”
Serving the poor with an ethos of ministering to the human being as a whole, local missionaries have seen how people touched by the love of God open their hearts to the gospel – as have others after witnessing new Christians’ transformed lives, the leader said.
“We’ve been able to see other people coming to faith because they have seen the change in their relatives and neighbors – relationships have been restored between spouses, and parents dealing respectfully with their children, listening and encouraging them.”
Workers recently visited the home of a man who had drifted away from the traditonal church of his upbringing.
“I was living away from church and from God, and in the home visits the ministry workers read the Bible and prayed with me, and God touched my heart and life,” he said. “After suffering from sin and addiction, God has set me free from the sin, and now I attend the church regularly.”
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*Names changed for security reasons