Woman chooses Christ despite persecution
Like the majority of her fellow villagers, Rose previously identified with African tribal religions. To do otherwise in this group-oriented culture would yield negative consequences.
“If you become a believer and leave the African tribal religions, you’re isolated,” explains Nancy Gilmer, whose church has worked with this people group in Senegal, West Africa, for the past five years. “Nobody has anything to do with you—they shun you, they make fun of you.”
Gilmer, a master’s student at Southwestern Seminary, met Rose during her first visit to Senegal in April 2013, and Gilmer has been praying for her ever since—that she would choose Christ despite the consequences she would likely face. During her most recent visit this September, Gilmer learned that her prayers had been answered. Rose told her, “I’m ready to follow Jesus.”
Gilmer’s church, the First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, adopted Rose’s people group in 2012. Since then, the church, under the leadership of Bart Barber (who is also a trustee for Southwestern Seminary), has sent mission teams to this West African nation multiple times each year to provide these people their first opportunity to hear the Gospel. Gilmer has been part of many of these teams, and during each trip, she has seen Rose come closer to making a decision to follow Christ.
Rose first expressed a desire to become a Christian in the summer of 2016. Unfortunately, when Gilmer inquired about her theology, Rose indicated a lack of understanding of the Gospel.
When Gilmer returned in September 2017, however, Rose was in a different place spiritually. She finally understood the Gospel—the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and God’s love-induced offer of eternal life to all who believe in Him. She said to Gilmer, “I’m ready to follow Jesus.”
Bearing in mind the persecution Rose would face from fellow villagers, Gilmer tested Rose by responding, “If you’re ready to follow Jesus, you need to be baptized.” Considering the consequences of such a public action, Rose became hesitant about her decision. But following an afternoon of prayer and contemplation, Rose said to Gilmer, “I’m ready to be baptized regardless.”
Gilmer tested her again: “So what’s going to happen when people isolate you?” Rose answered, “I have Jesus; it doesn’t matter.”
During her baptism under a bridge outside the village, two fishermen taunted Rose for following “the white man’s religion,” especially considering the missionaries would return home soon, presumably leaving her isolated from other believers. The man baptizing Rose used this as an opportunity to test her decision one final time.
“What are you going to do in response to this?” he asked. Rose’s answer proved once-and-for-all the validity of her faith.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I have Jesus, and I want to be baptized.”
The man baptized her. Gilmer stood beside her in the water, holding Rose’s hand.
Seeing Rose get baptized after five years of prayer and evangelism was “a blessing beyond blessing,” Gilmer says. Despite the persecution Rose faced and will continue to face, she has confidently entered into a relationship with the Almighty God, her sins have been forgiven, the Holy Spirit now indwells her, and heaven awaits her.
“I’ve been involved in ministry since I was in college, and this is by far the most exciting ministry that I have been able to be a part of; that God has allowed me to witness,” Gilmer says of her church’s work in Senegal. “It just blows me away to see what He’s doing in West Africa, because the Holy Spirit is moving there in a mighty way.”