When Edosa was a teenager, her polygamist father died, leaving behind three wives and 15 children. Edosa’s Muslim mother soon remarried and, after giving birth to two children with her new husband, forced Edosa out of the house. With no place to live, she moved in with an uncle who allowed her to stay on condition that she work as his full-time housemaid.
Edosa had been attending school while living at home, but she no longer had the money to pay school fees. “I was just sitting in the house all the time,” she said, “not doing anything but weeping as I did my chores.” And her life was about to get even more difficult.
While living with her uncle, 19-year-old Edosa heard the gospel during a visit to a church. After coming to faith in Christ, she was beaten by her aunt and again kicked out of the house.
Trapped and Discouraged
Edosa’s story is typical for young Christians in Benin, a small nation bordering Nigeria to the west. Benin is the birthplace of voodoo, and many in the northern part of the country view Christianity as a threat to their traditional beliefs. While 30% of Beninese are Christians, the majority practise traditional religions or are Muslims. And Christians, like Edosa, are commonly persecuted by their families and communities.
After being kicked out a second time, Edosa lived on the streets for months before a Muslim woman offered her a place in her home and a job as a house cleaner. Her new employer initially allowed her to attend church, but that changed as Edosa became more involved in the Christian community. Eventually, she had to sneak out of the house to attend church, and when she returned, her employers beat her.
Edosa had been promised 20,000 West African francs (around $45) a month. But instead of paying Edosa the agreed-upon wages, the Muslim woman often mocked Edosa. “She would say, ‘Go to Jesus; he will give you food,’” Edosa recalled. “‘Go to Jesus; he will give you money for breakfast. Go to Jesus’.”
After working for seven years without receiving the pay she was owed, Edosa began to waver in faith. “When the ill-treatment became worse,” she explained, “I was discouraged. I didn’t want the Lord or anybody to talk to me. I was weakened by the sorrow and by the difficulties.”
Over time, she even questioned whether becoming a Christian was worth the persecution that came with it. “Where is Jesus?” she asked herself. “I have chosen to follow him, but he hasn’t come to save me.”
In the course of her anguish, Edosa began to read God’s Word with her pastor’s wife, who provided encouragement and served as her mentor in the faith. “She told me to stand fast,” Edosa said, “that Jesus is still at work in my life.”
Learning Skills, Seeking Justice
While continuing to work as a house cleaner for the Muslim woman, Edosa enrolled in a tailoring programme. Her employer disapproved of her tailoring classes, concerned that Edosa was gaining skills in order to quit her job as a house cleaner. When it was time for Edosa to take her final exams for certification as a registered seamstress, her boss cursed her and told her she would never succeed. But Edosa said that with the Lord’s help, she passed the course.
After completing the programme, Edosa’s boss became increasingly harsh. When she refused to give Edosa her birth certificate, which she needed in order to become formally registered as a tailor, Edosa took her to court. It took only two court appearances to resolve her situation. The prosecutor became so angry at Edosa’s employer during one hearing that he threatened to send her to prison for failing to pay Edosa’s salary and withholding her birth certificate.
Still, Edosa chose to show grace to her Muslim employer and use the court hearing as an opportunity to bear witness to Christ. “I don’t want the money,” Edosa told the judge. “I want my certificate. What I have is better than the money. I have Jesus in my heart, and the money does not matter to me.” The judge ordered the woman to give Edosa her birth certificate.
Angered by the ruling, the Muslim woman beat Edosa after they were outside the courthouse. Finally, however, she grudgingly gave Edosa her birth certificate. Then, she too kicked Edosa out of her house.
Homeless for a third time, Edosa lived on the streets until the sewing academy let her sleep in one of its workshops. But the recurring homelessness caused further discouragement, and Edosa began to isolate herself from others.
When the wife of Edosa’s pastor told front-line workers about her, the workers tried to reach Edosa for more information. After they repeatedly failed to reach her, the pastor’s wife encouraged Edosa to answer her phone.
When she did, she learned that the front-line workers were providing her with a sewing machine and tools, a motorcycle to help her get to church, and a rented building where she could live and work.
Edosa was overwhelmed by the support she received from the global body of Christ. “When I saw everything belonged to me,” she said, “I didn’t know what to say. I started crying. I was very, very happy, and I am grateful to God.”
A Testimony of Provision
A small tailoring operation has developed into a thriving business for Edosa, and she now employs five young women as apprentices. As her business has grown, she has taken the opportunity to tell others about how God has worked in her life.
One day, her former boss parked in front of the shop and just sat there. When Edosa went out to greet her, the woman did not get out of the car or acknowledge her. Still, for Edosa, that moment was a testimony of the Lord’s ability to provide for and defend his people, especially against those who persecute believers because of their faith in Christ. “Now my life has been restored,” Edosa said.
Edosa requested prayer for her brothers and sisters, “that the Lord may open the eyes of those who are still blind and in darkness.” And she also expressed her deep gratitude to the global body of Christ.
“I will ask [Christians around the world] not to be tired of praying,” she said, “of supporting orphans, widows and the persecuted … who are suffering like I suffered. My faith has come back. I now believe that the Lord can rescue. I just had to be patient.”