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Persecution, hardship in West Africa

EDITORS’ NOTE: During the 2003 International Missions Emphasis, Nov. 30-Dec. 7, Southern Baptists will focus on the theme, “That All Peoples May Know Him: Follow God’s Purpose.” The national goal for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $133 million, with a challenge goal of $150 million. The International Mission Board relies on the Lottie Moon offering for approximately 50 percent of its annual support. The Cooperative Program along with the Lottie Moon offering undergird Southern Baptists’ strategy for international missions, such as the ministry highlighted below in West Africa.

NIAMEY, Niger (BP)–This is a story about persecution.

No one physically dies or burns at the stake. This persecution is subtle and silent and pierces the soul.

In this story, a Texas family follows God’s call to the bush of Africa. They are banished from villages. Children throw sticks and stones at them. Sometimes market vendors refuse to sell to them — all because they are Christian.

Despite these hardships, their hearts ache for their neighbors to know Christ. They will do whatever it takes to present the Gospel and offer support to new believers (only eight after seven years of work). Sometimes support is the hardest part of their ministry. The new Christians are shunned by their families and villages and suffer much more than the Texans can ever imagine.

Welcome to the reality of ministering to some of the world’s unreached people groups. It can be a world of rejection and constant isolation mixed in with the occasional miracle in the wilderness.

The experiences you are about to read, however, are not unique. All missionaries suffer in some way or another because of their calling. This family asks not to be put on a pedestal. They want only your prayers for the thousands of missionaries who experience this same silent persecution, but whose names and stories cannot be told because of where they live.


As the hymn fades, Mike Loftice stands to start the sermon. The congregation listens intently. In this church of five, it’s best not to drift off to “lala land” — it might mean extra chores, warns one member.

“Dad’s always asking questions to make sure we are listening,” 11-year-old Brian explains. “So, make sure that you pay attention.”

Older brother, Paul, pipes in that the singing alone is enough to keep most people awake. “Dad’s the only one of us who can sing, the rest of us just croak,” the 17-year-old teases as his sister, Ellen, whacks his arm. “Oh come on — like you can sing!”

Sitting in the corner, Susan watches the horseplay. With her 19-year-old daughter at college in the United States and Paul attending boarding school, it’s been a year since everyone has been together.

She’ll replay this scene in her mind another day — a day that isn’t quite as happy. Like the day someone left a dead, bleeding chicken on their doorstep as a symbol they were not wanted and were cursed. Or the day she went to the electric company to see why the power had been off for days and workers replied, “We don’t need a church here — now leave.”

The Loftices moved to Niger, a country mostly made up of the Sahara Desert, seven years ago. They minister to one of the largest unreached people groups in West Africa, the Hausa (HOW-suh).


In order to reach the Hausa, the Loftices have lived in villages without electricity and running water. Now, they live in the “Taj Mahal.” They have water and electricity most days. With modern technology, the family watches satellite television. They have freezers to store up to three months of supplies they bring in from Niamey, a 10-hour drive.

“No matter if you live with or without conveniences, the hardest part is still the isolation from likeminded people,” Susan admits. “When you don’t have contact with other Christians it makes it really hard.”

Mike nods in agreement. Often the family feels like they are in the middle of Satan’s playground, he says. They feel the weight of evil all around. For years, the family has shared the Gospel and been rejected time after time.

One time Mike shared with a Muslim holy man. That day the imam knew the truth of Jesus Christ. His eyes welled up with tears, he looked at Mike and said, “There is no other god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Then the imam got up and walked away.

Experiences like this happen almost daily.

“It’s not only how much of our lives are being spent on these people that’s hard,” Mike says through tears. “But to see what it’s done to my family and have no results that we can see…. I mean, look what the children have given up and their persecution.”


Brian experiences more physical persecution than other family members. Around Muslim holidays, he doesn’t even bother to step outside the house. He knows that because he is a Christian, he is not wanted.

“The older guys don’t like Christians. They always throw rocks and stuff at me,” he says with a shrug. “My best friend and I just play in our yard — no big deal.”

Life in Niger has been the hardest on Ellen. Girls are not only married by the time they are 12 years old, but they also have a ton of work and no time to play. Raising a daughter in a Muslim culture means constantly watching out for leering men and guarding against marriage proposals.

Isolation does have its upside. The family spends hours playing games and just talking, creating a closeness they feel never would have happened if they had lived somewhere else.

Ellen, Paul and Brian see their parents’ struggles. “People ask why we don’t come back to the States,” Ellen says. “There are plenty of people there who know Jesus and can learn to witness, but there’s nothing for the Hausa.

“Most of them don’t even know who Jesus is…. Now tell me honestly, how can my family leave until God’s work is done?”


God is working in this barren land. Eight men have taken a stand for Christ despite being shunned from their village and families. Another village allows Mike to do Bible storytelling with them twice a week.

Sometimes it is hard to watch the new Christians persecuted. Mike explains that while his family suffers from a general nonacceptance and isolation, the Hausa Christians are left to survive on their own. Despite this, the Loftices are excited that someone is finally willing to take a stand. However, many still do not know the name Jesus Christ.

“No matter how hard it is, we know that if we leave now — they won’t hear,” Mike and Susan say. “We stay because God called us to this work.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SUNDAY SIMPLICITY, HANDS-ON MINISTRY, TEEN’S TRANSITION, YOUTHFUL CHALLENGE, HOMEBOUND and SPANNING CULTURES.