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Refugees in South Africa overcome fear to seek faith

IMB missionaries David and Julie Yngsdal meet with their friends, David and Zawadi, to study the Bible.

In a pitch-black room, David and Julie Yngsdal sat down to study the Bible with David and Zawadi, a refugee couple. The Yngsdals serve with the IMB among refugee communities in Durban, South Africa.

“I know many, many [refugees] who want to become Christians, but they are too afraid,” Zawadi told the Yngsdals.

Fear wasn’t the motivator for the couples’ studying the Bible in the dark. South Africa has an ongoing electricity generation crisis that results in daily planned power cuts.

“This temporary darkness wasn’t going to stop us, as Zawadi, who was recently living in the spiritual darkness of Islam, has chosen for herself to seek the light of love, forgiveness and eternal hope,” David and Julie shared in a newsletter.

Zawadi’s decision to follow Christ brought great joy to her husband David, who prayed for his wife’s salvation for 10 years.

“Their entire miraculous story is one of God’s evident hand at work, and it is a matter for prayer, even now, as she still faces immense persecution from the Muslim community who suspect her conversion,” the Yngsdals said. “We praise the Lord because Zawadi is no longer afraid of the ‘dark.’”

David attends a refugee church in the city, but as the Yngsdals studied the Bible with him, they found he didn’t understand what it meant to repent and believe. The Yngsdals said David and Zawadi are eager for answers to their spiritual questions. Their church, like many in Durban, does not teach basic discipleship.

Most churches are simply interested in holding “a good and entertaining weekly worship experience,” the Yngsdals said, “yet their people leave each week spiritually starved, and therefore, without the supernatural strength vital to live a changed life and be a witnessing light to their communities.”

The Yngsdals said hearing Zawadi say many people were interested in becoming Christians confirmed that God is working in mighty ways among the Muslim refugee community in Durban.

Before COVID-19 lockdowns, the Yngsdals discipled three refugees in the community. Since the lockdown, two widows asked David and Julie for Bibles and have started reading them to their children.

“The Qur’an actually teaches the Muslim people that they should read the Injil [the Gospels of Jesus] for ‘therein you find life.’ But the Qur’an also teaches them that Allah is pleased if one is killed who converts from Islam to Christianity,” the Yngsdals wrote.

“Please pray as these Muslim widows read the Gospels, that God will so move in their hearts and give them faith and courage to believe and look past their earthly fears. [Pray] they will desire to leave the hopeless darkness of unbelief to find the love, forgiveness and eternal hope that can only be found in the light of the world – Jesus Christ.”

The Yngsdals ask for prayer for:

  • Zawadi and David to find work to support their family.
  • Zawadi as she prepares for baptism.
  • Protection against persecution.