This is a picture of Naomi and her granddaughter, Nyakoma (Twi name meaning “patience”). It is pronounced N-ya-ko-ma. We do not not know Naomi’s age. We only know that she has seen many years pass her by. Our best guess is 95+ years old. This is a picture from our visit to her this past week. We’ve been processing what we learned about her, above and beyond what we already knew about her.
Naomi exudes faith in Jesus Christ. I mean to say that she has put her full trust in Jesus Christ, and you can witness her faith through her words and actions. It’s not something she says she believes, she really believes it and there is evidence of it in her life. As a young girl, through married life, getting up to mid life Naomi was part of a cult of women who practiced witchcraft, voodoo, idol worship, casting curses on people, etc. And then she heard the gospel and the Holy Spirit convicted her. She came to faith and renounced her former way of life in the occult. Her children pleaded with her to change her mind. Her children told her the Akyode people would kill her for leaving the cult. She replied “to die in this life and go to be with Jesus is better than living this life without his blessing on my life.” She did not change her mind. The women of the cult beat her severely. But she never changed her mind.
Her husband passed away many years ago. She relied on her children to provide for her. They would bring her food and give her money on the occasion she would need it. But now, because they were not Christians, and did not want to depart from their own idol worship, they disowned her. They do not care for her. She is on her own. In the past year however, one of the children who lives in Togo, sent Naomi’s grandchild to live with her and assist her with daily chores. Things like fetching water (carrying a large bowl of water from a well to the house to use for drinking and cooking), setting fire to cook food, and helping her dress herself, etc. Nyakomo is six years old.
Where is the church in this situation? Individuals help when they can. The pastor of the church she is a member of has assisted her personally from time to time. Even some individuals from other churches occasionally bring her food. But many of them are also suffering in poverty and don’t have much to give.
Naomi thanks God every time you speak to her. She thanks him that even the little help she gets from other people is a result of God answering her prayers. Through the persecution she has endured through her old age, the suffering in lack of material and food items, the loss of her children’s love, concern, and care, she thanks God. That’s faith!
We plan to begin helping her a bit. Not too much. We don’t want the church to think we’ve come to bring money to the situation so that they no longer have to care for Naomi. It’s a hard thing. Deciding what help to provide and what not to provide. But we will do something. Will you pray with us that what we do is a help to Naomi and Nyakoma, honors God, encourages the church to continue their care, and creates opportunities for us, Naomi, and the church to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of the village of Nyambong?
It was a somewhat normal day of ministry. We went to Nyambong to follow-up with some young men who participated in our baseball camp a couple of weeks ago. While we were there we decided to check in on Naomi. We didn’t have any idea where she lived but we knew with the culture here it wouldn’t take long to track her down. Everyone knows everyone here! Chris and I along with our language helper, Augustine, and Matthew headed down a small path that lead to a tiny house. The whole time I am thinking we didn’t call first! But then remembered I was in Ghana and you never call ahead to tell someone you are coming over. Augustine went to her door to greet and she graciously invited us in. Immediately stools were gathered from outside and we sat down. The first thing I noticed is that she had jewelry on…necklace, earrings and a bracelet. Not sure why that struck me except she seemed so dressed up and no where to be and had been laying down when we arrived. Her room was small. She had enough room for a bed and the stools we were sitting on. She had a few cooking items stacked on a table and a broom in the corner. The only food was some ground maze (corn) in an open bowl on the floor. There were a few clothing items hanging from the bed. The calendar on the wall was dated 2009. The one window in the room was closed so the only light was the open door. The whole scene was so surreal to me. I was literally fighting back tears. I had been in people’s houses before and I knew they didn’t have much, but today for some reason it hit me harder. Naomi has an incredible testimony of God’s saving grace in her life. She was a member of a women’s snake cult where she performed witchcraft and voodoo along with worshipping idols. She heard the gospel and it changed her life! She gave her life to Christ and her life would never be the same. She was beaten and persecuted by her friends and was told that she would be killed by her own people for her belief in Jesus. None of that mattered to Naomi. She said if she died she would be with Jesus so it would be better. Also her children turned against her when she became a believer. Having children to help you when you get older is very important here. Naomi is to the point where she cannot make money and care for herself anymore. Her legs are giving her problems and she finds it difficult to stand and walk. She says from the waist up she is strong! One of Naomi’s children though sent his small girl of 6 years old to live with her so that she could wait on her…now add one more mouth to feed. She is a beautiful girl whose name is Nyakoma which means patience. She stood in the doorway most of our visit and had her precious smile on her face the whole time. The church community has been bringing them food and the Nyakoma goes and gets water and firewood. They are getting by. It is by no means easy. Naomi could have had food and the love of her children if she had just said no to Jesus Christ. The children turning away from her really got to me too. Being away from my kids is hard but I know that they love me and would always welcome me warmly. Through all of this Naomi gives all the credit to God that she is still living and breathing. She hasn’t been able to attend church in about a month so her request was to have someone come to her and read scripture. She is in her last days and what she wants most is to hear God’s word. She gives God all the credit for everything given to her. She doesn’t have extra but she has what she needs and it comes day by day. I literally think she didn’t have a Pesewa (penny) to her name the day we visited. She truly trusts that God will take care of her every need. Makes me think…am I truly trusting God to provide for my every need?