The young disciple Yakubu’s body was returned to his hometown of Pulima after he’d crashed in a ditch and been thrown from his motorbike. Yakubu was the only known Christian in the Muslim town of Pulima, in Ghana’s upper-west region, with a population of around a thousand people.,,
YLI’s Coach, Solomon Zaato had been discipling Yakubu since he had come to Christ in 2005. Because of intense persecution, Yakubu’s passionate effort toward sharing the love of Jesus with his people was frustrating and slow going. Solomon had told me of his concern that Yakubu’s zeal for the gospel was going to get him in serious trouble. Yakubu’s life was cut short, but by a senseless accident rather than persecution.
I was preparing for my trip to Ghana last month when I heard that Yakubu had tragically died. He and the rest of the disciples had been weighing on my heart; I was supposed to meet him at the YLI discipleship training not far from Pulima and had been very excited to get to know him.
I traveled to Ghana and we went on with the discipleship training for 15 young people outside of Pulima, many of whom had known and loved Yakubu. During the course of our discussion, the young leaders unanimously agreed upon the biggest cultural barrier that keeps Muslims and traditional idol worshipers from coming to Christ. Among Yakubu’s Sisaala people, how a person is treated when they die is in many ways more important than how they’re treated while alive. Muslims and idol worshipers resist the gospel because they can’t let go of their traditional burial rites.
The young disciples discussed how they could overcome this difficult cultural barrier so their friends, neighbors, and family could also come to know Jesus personally and be released from fear, sin, hopelessness, and death. As often happens when I find myself in the midst of these incredible cultural conversations, I had no answers. But they don’t need my “answers”! The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures guide them as God has guided His people since Adam.
As the conversation moved to Yakubu, I sensed God moving. The young leaders described how Yakubu’s Muslim family flat-out refused to release his body for a Christian burial, insisting on a Muslim burial.
The young Christians then told me how they reached out to the family, not with theological arguments but in love and empathy for their shared loss. I sensed the Spirit even more strongly. They designed a burial and memorial service that honored Christ, but was also comfortable for the Muslim family.
Not only that, but the Christians lowered themselves and served Yakubu’s Muslim community at the feast that always accompanies their funerals. Then in the midst of our conversation revelation occurred!
One young person got everyone’s attention and said, “We in different churches need to bury our doctrinal differences so we can show love to our Muslim and idol worshipping neighbors.”
Love is the strategy, we were reminded on that 105-degree afternoon. Love is what can overcome the greatest barriers between us and the lost. It’s not our technology, education level, persuasiveness, or strategies. Just love for God and for the lost, broken, and hurting.
I’ve learned recently that Yakubu’s older sister gave her life to Christ. Yakubu, in his frustration, may have thought that his life was bearing little fruit; but in true Sisaala tradition, the impact of his life after death will far surpass his short 25 years on earth.