NIAMEY, Niger — On Nov. 30, the Southern Baptist Convention launched the weeklong 2003 International Missions Emphasis to boost congregational and individual offerings to the board. The International Mission Board – SBC’s wing for foreign missions, relies on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for half of its annual financial support.
To supplement the $133 million offering challenge, the Baptist Press – SBC’s media wing – began releasing a special series on international missions fields, new and old, to supplement the missions emphasis, entitled, “That All Peoples May Know Him: Follow God’s Purpose.”
The Nov. 4th highlight was placed on a missionary family in Niamey Niger, who endured 7 years of persecution to share the gospel with the unreached. The Loftices moved to Niger in 1996 to preach to one of the largest unreached peoples in West Africa, the Hausa.
More than often, the Loftices faced severe persecution from the people; On one occasion, someone left a dead, bleeding chicken on their doorstep as a symbol they were not wanted and were cursed. On another day, the electric company shut down their power, saying, "We don't need a church here -- now leave."
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," said Susan Loftice. "When you don't have contact with other Christians it makes it really hard."
Her husband, Mike nodded 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.
"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."
Mike and Susan are not the only ones to face such persecution. Their 11 year old son, Brian explained about the physical persecution he received while growing up.
"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,” said Brian.
Ellen, their oldest child, currently attends college overseas in the U.S. Looking back at her parent’s struggles, she said she understood why they had to endure the pain.
"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?"
Despite such hardships, God comforted the family with eight converts. These men accepted Christ despite losing support from their village and families.
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."