OC missionaries recently shared this story of their colleagues who are keeping faith in a time of difficulty.
Seeing the streets of Dakar flooded with thousands of street kids broke the heart of Jacob*, a Brazilian worker in West Africa. Jacob, a father himself, hated seeing kids forced to beg at the bidding of their marabous (religious trainers). If these children did not panhandle at least $1 a day, they were beaten.
Addressing this injustice, Jacob built a camp-style facility with clean rooms, a kitchen, and classroom where children could live without this oppression. Soon the new facility was filled with 20 kids who were experiencing a life they had never dreamed possible.
Zilda*, a single-mom from Brazil, responded to the call of being “dorm mother” to these children, living onsite. She treated these new children as her own.
Tragedy struck in November 2012. Police swept in and arrested Zilda and Jacob on charges of “corruption of minors.” The corruption was teaching the children about Jesus. Forced to sign admissions they did not understand, Zilda and Jacob were transferred promptly to overpopulated cells in the State Prison. Here they were confined to await trial.
The Brazilian community rallied to support Jacob and Zilda. Jacob’s wife rented an apartment close to the prison, so she could bring her diabetic husband the food he needed. Around the world, as Christians heard about them, groups of concerned believers began interceding for them.
Jacob and Zilda did not let their imprisonment discourage them. Inside the prison, Jacob was emboldened to witness about his faith in Jesus. Jacob says, “I was already in prison. What more could they do to me!” And many came to faith in Christ. He showed the Jesus film every day and handed out scores of Bibles. At the same time he showed practical love by daily washing the bathrooms before dawn. “That was my ‘alone time’ to worship my Lord,” he explains.
The Lord answered prayers, after five months in prison Jacob and Zilda were granted freedom to await their trial outside the prison. They continue to report to authorities every month yet they remained unconfined. That was in April 2013, and they are still waiting for a trial date.
Both Jacob and Zilda lives have changed as a result of their imprisonment, all for the glory of the Father. Since her release Zilda visits the prison once a week, witnessing to her former cellmates. Jacob and his wife lead a small team of Brazilians who continue to work with West African street kids.
Police officially removed all the children from the dorm and moved them to “more appropriate” facilities. That was a sad day for Jacob and Zilda, but Jacob smiles when he says he knows those kids are taking with them a treasure in their hearts that they’ll share wherever they go.
Please pray for Jacob and Zilda as they await their trial.
OC missionaries Ted and Claudia provide member care for Latin American missionaries serving in Northern and Western Africa.
*Name have been changed for security