I recently had the chance to meet with HeartCry missionary Elis. We met near her home to minister to a group of refugees, and during that time she told me about how God had recently used her to lead someone to Christ and about the ensuing persecution she has faced.
Many years ago, when Elis’ family first found out about her faith in Christ, they beat her and would not allow her to leave the house. They also starved her, not giving her anything to eat or drink, hoping she would recant her faith and come back to Islam. God enabled Elis to endure those early trials, but similar things continue to happen.
Elis recently went home to visit her family at Eid ul Fitr. Even after coming to faith in Christ, believers from a Muslim background continue this yearly event in order to maintain their relationships with their families. Elis continues to do so, as well, but there remains a lot of tension in her family due to her faith in Christ, even after more than 20 years.
When she recently returned to her home village, she found out that a family friend was in the hospital dying of cervical cancer. So, Elis went to the hospital and sat with her for several days, ministering to her physical needs, telling her about Jesus Christ, and reading to her from the Scriptures. This woman, then, certain that she would soon die, requested to be taken home so she could die in her home with her family.
Elis went to her house before she arrived and cleaned it thoroughly, even washing bed sheets and linens that most people would have thrown away in disgust. Then, after she arrived home, her family had gathered with local imams (Muslim leaders) in order to be with her until the end. At the end of her life, though, with her last breath she cried out to the Lord Jesus to save her soul and then passed away (something similar happened through Elis’ ministry to a dying man a few months ago).
This outraged the woman’s family and the imams, and the news quickly spread to Elis’ family. During this time, Elis had been praying on the second floor of her sister’s home, praying in fact that God would strengthen the dying woman until the end, giving her saving faith in the Lord Jesus. At that moment, in anger her sister came into Elis’ room and dragged her down the stairs by her hair. At the bottom of the stairs, her brother in law was waiting and he kneed her in the face. Then, after calling her a dog and other profanities, they tried to drag her to the mosque by her hair. But, she pleaded with them not to shame their family in such a way in front of the entire village.
They then let go of her hair, but said they were taking her to a mental hospital because they thought she was crazy. She responded by saying that surely she would be checked by mental health professionals and it would be obvious that she was not crazy if they did so. Elis, then, quickly collected her belongings and returned home by bus.
Elis related this incident visibly saddened by what had taken place with her family. Her grief is no doubt much greater than even what she has shown. She has prayed for her family for more than 20 years; she has ministered to them over and over again, even being the one who took care of both her mother and brother when they passed away. She has never returned evil for evil, but has always responded to their evil and hatred for Christ with patient and enduring love. I know that the grief over her loved ones hardened to the Gospel, violently reacting to its progress, must be an almost unbearable burden at times.
But, Elis’ sadness changed when she spoke about the power of God’s word. She said that she is constantly amazed at how God’s word works with such power in people’s lives. A dying woman who had lived her whole life blinded by Islam’s veil was given eyes to see at the very end. That is a work of the living God that He accomplished through the faithful proclamation of His word, and that is something that fills Elis’ heart with joy and thanksgiving.
The apostle Paul once described himself as sorrowful yet always rejoicing. Elis’ story is a great illustration of how and why the two can both exist in someone’s life.