In the delta region of Nigeria in the 1870s, the majority of the people were slaves. As Christianity began to spread here, the village chiefs did all they could to keep their slaves from following this new religion. If slaves did become Christians, the chiefs tried to force them to go against their beliefs. They made them work on Sundays or eat meat sacrificed to other gods.

One of the chiefs, called "Captain Hart," was especially cruel. His wife hated Christians. He ordered Joshua, one of his slaves who was a Christian, to eat meat from a pagan sacrifice. When Joshua refused, Captain Hart punished him for his disobedience. The chief's men threw him high into the air and let him fall to the ground. They did this again and again until his body was bruised and broken. His spirit, however, was not broken.

They argued with him, pleaded with him, and threatened him. Joshua said, "If my master requires me to work for him, I will do my best no matter how hard the work. But if he requires me to eat things sacrificed to gods, I will never do it."

So Joshua was sentenced to death. They tied his hands and feet, put him in a canoe, and paddled out into the river to drown him. As they went, Joshua prayed, "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

Captain Hart shouted at Joshua, "Are you praying again?" Then he grabbed Joshua and threw him into the water. When Joshua came to the surface, the chief's men pulled him into the canoe. Captain Hart gave him one more chance to renounce his faith and save his life.

Joshua chose to cling to his faith, so the chiefs threw him back into the water. When his body rose, they struck him on the head with their paddles and pierced his body with a sharp pole until he died.

In 1876, five slaves refused to take part in pagan sacrifices because they were Christians. As a result, their chief put them in chains and forced them to live in the forest for months.

One of them said, "It is impossible for me to return to the old ways of paganism. Jesus has put a padlock on my heart, and he has kept the key!"

Two years after that, another slave died of hunger because he would not eat meat which had been offered as a sacrifice. Others were tied to stakes on the ground and left for the ants to eat. Finally the chiefs decided to scatter the Christian slaves, separating them from each other and from their place of worship. This only helped to spread Christianity!

After Captain Hart's wife died, he changed. He let his slaves worship as they wished. Before his death, he threw his own fetishes in the river and received baptism.

Other things were happening about this time on the other side of Africa, in Kenya. David Koi's church sent him to a church center near Kilifi as a Bible teacher. A group of former slaves who had settled at Fulodoyo asked David to come to their village to teach them. David had barely begun his work in Kilifi, so he asked his church. They agreed that he should leave to go to the settlement of former slaves.

In 1883, several slave owners came to David's home. David suspected that they were up to no good, but he treated there with Christian courtesy. As they entered his home, David said, "Let's pray together." He knelt and prayed for God to bless these visitors and to guide their conversation together.

The slave owners began to question him about the former slaves who were living there at Fulodoyo. David Koi explained, "I don't encourage slaves to try to escape from their owners. Those who do come here are free to do their own work and care for their own gardens."

The men glared suspiciously as David continued. "My only work here is to teach the Bible. The church has sent me, and these people pay me nothing. I am here only to help them.

Now the men were becoming angry. They said to each other, "We can't believe that a man who has such training and ability is here only to help these former slaves. He's trying to deceive us."

"What do you teach these people?" one of them demanded.

"I teach the people the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it's told to us in the Bible.'' David began to tell the slave owners how he himself knew Jesus and had faith in him.

This was too much for the slave owners. If people began to believe such things, slavery would soon be destroyed, they thought. They decided to do something to frighten their own slaves so badly they would never try to escape.

Some of the slave owners rushed outside and dug a hole deep enough for a man to stand upright in it. Into this hole they put David so only his head and shoulders were visible above the ground. Then they beheaded him.

 

From: They loved their enemies by Marian Hostetler, pag. 33-36, 1988, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pa, USA

 

 

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