Today's entry is part of a sermon a friend of mine, Dr. Ronald B. Rice of West Side Presbyterian Church in Seattle, preached recently. It is the story of Binta, one that I also wrote about in my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, an eight-volume series about these relationships in Nigeria. Rice takes the story further than I did. So, without further ado, please "listen" to my friend Ron:
How does God communicate with us? Does he still speak to us through dreams and visions, like he did to Peter, or send angels, like he did to Cornelius?
About a dozen years ago, I met a young woman in Nigeria with an incredible story. I was so amazed that I set up my video camera and asked her to look into the camera and tell her story. Binta Faruk Jalingo was from a royal Fulani family and of course a Muslim, as almost all Fulanis are. Her father was a retired high ranking military officer. She was a university graduate and a television producer with the national television network. She was married with 1 year old twin sons. She hated Christians, and generally did what she could to make life miserable for them.
One night as she and her husband slept, suddenly a bright light appeared in the bedroom, and a mighty wind swirled around and blew the pictures off the wall and threw everything on the shelves to the floor. Of course they were terrified. Her husband got up, got some folk Muslim charms and put them on hot charcoal he got from the kitchen to make smoke and drive the evil spirits away. Then a voice came like thunder, “You have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, go and be a Tabitha to my people.” She asked her husband if he could understand what the voice was saying, but he said he didn’t hear a thing. He accused her of belonging to a secret cult and kicked her out of the bedroom to sleep in the guest room.
The same thing happened the next night and again 3 nights later. Each time was an invitation “to come and serve.” She told her husband that she would be disobeying God if she did not heed his voice, and would rather die than disobey God. She told him she was going to become a Christian and was going to go to church the next Sunday. She said she would only follow Islam again if her husband could take away what Jesus Christ had given her. But she said that was impossible, because no one could take away the joy and peace that had flooded her heart. On Saturday she went out and bought a Bible and on Sunday got in her car and drove to the nearby Baptist church. When she got home, her husband beat her and struggled to tear up the Bible. She told him the danger of tearing the Bible, that he could do anything to her, but not with the Bible. He stomped out the house.
On Monday her husband called her father who arrived late Tuesday evening. As she went out to greet him, he started beating her so severely that she lost consciousness, and they finally had to take her to the hospital. On the third night in the hospital, about 2:00 in the morning, she felt someone touching her feet, and woke to see a figure standing at the foot of her bed, with a face shining like the sun, so bright she couldn’t see his face. She screamed for help and when the nurse came she told her what she had seen. The nurse said it must have been Jesus, and to not be afraid, and if he came again to ask him what he wanted from her.
Sure enough a couple of hours later, he appeared again, touched her feet and woke her up, and said, “Be bold, for this is temporary; you will overcome the temptation.” When she got out of the hospital, her husband gave her a divorce letter, kicked her out and she never saw her twin babies again.
Binta’s father and some Islamic fanatics took her to a house and chained her feet and hands. Two days later they freed her hands, but left her feet chained for seven more days, threatening to kill her if she went to church again. Her mother’s brother came to reconcile her to her father, but her father picked up a gun and fired at her. She flinched at the sight of the gun which overturned her chair and she fell to the floor, while the bullets hit the wall.
Next her father was able to have her thrown into prison on false accusations, where she sat for six months without trial or bail. In the 7th month she was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment. She fasted and prayed for 3 days and a month later she received a pardon from the president of Nigeria. She told me more stories of her persecution and some amazing narrow escapes and how God had protected her.
In the prison she heard the voice again in the night, calling her to be a Tabitha. Tabitha or her Greek name Dorcas, was the woman in chapter 9 of Acts who had died, and she was the reason Peter had come to Joppa, where he had this vison of the unclean animals. Tabitha had a ministry to widows and Binta realized God was calling her to establish a safe refuge for former Muslim women who had been kicked out of their homes and marriages after they became Christians. I gave her some money to help her buy property in a safe Christian area not far from Jos. If you Google her name you’ll find at least a dozen websites that have picked up her story, which is amazingly courageous and bold, as Jesus told her to be in the hospital, because her life is constantly at risk and most Muslim background believers (MBB) certainly don’t want their names on the Internet. At last report she is married to a pastor, raising a family and running her Tabitha refuge.