The population of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is 98% Muslim and yet we were called upon to give our signature conference, “Returning to Joy, When the Pain is Too Deep.” Standing room only was the scene I saw before me as I taught on the last day of the conference.
During one of the “practice sessions” where people divide into groups, one of the men came to me and spoke through our interpreter. He said that there was a little Muslim girl who was 8 years old who had been standing secretly at the doorway of the conference during the week. Her mother and older sister wanted to know if they could bring her in for prayer after everyone was gone. Being Muslim, they could not take the risk of coming in publically.
The church was dark and only the people from our team were present. A chair was brought in for 8 year old Salima to sit in so our team could pray with her. Knowing that she had been hiding outside at the back of the church gave me the impression that she was listening to the interpreter’s words as the conference was taught. As we asked how we could best pray for Salima we learned that when she was just a baby she had contracted a cerebral form of malaria and although she was no longer ill, it had left her with no hearing.
You may wonder why she had been standing outside our conference even though she couldn’t hear the words. Well, there was often a lot of activity. The people acted out stories from the Magdalena film with singing and dancing and a drama they created. They drew pictures, practiced joy by seeing pictures and tossing yarn balls and we passed out candy. All those reasons added up to enough of a visual experience to peek the curiosity of a child, but mostly I want to believe that it was the presence of the Holy Spirit that drew the heart of a little girl to come and see.
Learning more of her story, we found out that Salima’s mother had brought her to the village where we were presenting to stay at the home of her grandparents. As it was closer to the city, she hoped she would be able to get better medical care for her little girl. She left Salima with her grandparents for two weeks until she could return with her oldest daughter to stay with them also.
But then the unthinkable happened. Salima wandered away from her grandparents’ home and got lost. She was lost for two whole weeks. Finally, the police found her miles away roaming the streets of the city. Of course you may be thinking what we were as we all know the realm of possibilities of what may have happened to her in a third world country where the molestation and rape of children is tolerated. Silently I prayed, “Dear God, what has happened to this child?”
She sat in the plastic chair completely dazed and had a fearful look on her face. And why not? She had been lost, could not hear, and about 15 Americans stood around her. Many of us prayed for her and our interpreter Judy Mwangema spoke the words so Salima’s mother and sister could hear. We prayed for her healing in all areas, mind soul and spirit.
As we were ready to leave, it occurred to one of our team that we were carrying the “Wordless Book.” This is the Gospel told through colors for children or oral learners. We asked if we might share it with the mother and daughter and they agreed.
My brain tends to be cynical at times, so I thought, they might just be showing courtesy to us because we had prayed for them. But no matter, what an opportunity! The Wordless Book was shared and the Gospel was given. Then it was time to ask them if they would like to pray to receive Christ. I wasn’t sure they would be THAT courteous.
But they weren’t just being nice. Tearfully and with lowered eyes and heads they nodded “yes” they would like to pray. And they did. In their language they repeated every single word. They said phrases like, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God, and He is the only true God.” Excuse my shock, but please understand that Muslims are not allowed to pray the name of Jesus without great risk of punishment. Adding to that the fact that they were women only brought more risk. When the prayer was finished they were beaming. I looked at Salima and the glazed look of fear and distance was gone. She was smiling a huge smile.
In your prayers, will you please thank the Lord for the new members to our Kingdom family? Will you ask Him to protect and grow them and make sure they get a Bible? The Tanzanian man who brought them to us is going to be staying in touch with them as they will need protection and discipleship. When we are all in heaven we will introduce you to them. But then, you may already recognize them….
Ah. One more thing. As we were preparing to go I stood some distance from the little girl, making sure she couldn’t see me. I called her name. “Salima. Salima.” I said softly.
She turned her head toward me, smiled a big smile, and nodded at me.