NIGER, West Africa (BP)–Missionary Sharon Hessling visits her “mother” regularly –- cries with Ameera* when life is hard and celebrates with her in good times. This bond between mother and daughter does not pass from the womb, however, but from the heart.
“I have felt from the beginning that being related to this family has been a God-directed thing,” she says.
Sharon and her husband Warren serve as strategy coordinators for the Tuareg people of West Africa. They began praying even before they arrived that God would lead them into relationships He wanted for them.
The initial meeting with Ameera came when came Sharon sought her help in learning the Tuareg’s Tamashek language. The two quickly formed a friendship. After Sharon helped her through an illness, Ameera accepted Sharon as her daughter, and so has the rest of the family as they’ve gotten to know her. But like any family, effort is required.
“It is a heavy responsibility that comes with being accepted as part of the family,” Sharon says.
And, the relationship has been tested. A couple of years ago, a family member accepted Christ and the rest of the family was not happy with Sharon because they knew her beliefs had an influence. Sharon persisted, however, and the bond has grown stronger. Since then, Sharon has continued to share with Ameera and though she doesn’t yet believe, the missionary is hopeful.
Sharon recalls one particular day when her language ability didn’t allow her to share all that was in her heart. “I remember tears coming to my eyes as I told her there’s so much more in me that I want to tell you but I can’t, and tears running down my cheeks, and she was touched by that.”
*Name changed for security reasons.