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Mariama’s Story

by Kristin Niehof with Cal and Jamie Hofland
Our Shared MInistry

This story is about one woman’s physical and spiritual healing. But it is also much bigger. It is the story of God working in the lives of people in West Africa and around the world.

Cal and Jamie Hofland serve with Christian Reformed World Missions among a predominately Muslim tribe in Guinea, West Africa. Three years ago a woman named Mariama wandered into their yard.

For 20 years Mariama had suffered from a disfiguring tumor on her face. The community shunned her, believing the tumor was the result of a curse. But the Hoflands thought Mariama’s condition might be treatable. They contacted Mercy Ships, a Christian nonprofit organization that operates hospital ships.

Arranging for the treatment took a year. Among other things, they had to persuade the village elders to let Mariama seek healing. This was not easy, since many people, including her brother, thought the curse couldn’t be removed.

Seeking Healing

In January 2006, Jamie Hofland and Cheryl de Jong, who also works in Guinea as a CRWM missionary, took Mariama to a Mercy Ship in Monrovia, Liberia (see story in the May 2006 Banner). Again, there were obstacles: Mariama feared the staircase, the doctors, and the X-ray machine.

When the time for surgery arrived, Mariama was terrified. She thought that if she let the medical team put her to sleep she would never wake up. Jamie had joined in Mariama’s pre-surgery fast and promised not to eat until the procedure was over and they could eat together. This motivated Mariama to take a huge step of faith and proceed with the operation.

After the tumor was removed, Mariama returned to her community jubilant and triumphant. She was “a person” again, allowed to attend community events and welcomed at the local market.

But soon new tumors began to develop. As the cancer progressed and ate away at Mariama’s face and neck, Jamie began to visit her every day to feed her, change her bandages, and wash her clothes.

Mariama had become a demanding person, embittered by years of being ostracized. Now her ugly wound added to the ugliness she felt inside. For Jamie, loving the unlovable meant truly seeing the beauty of Jesus in “the least of these” (Matt. 25: 40).

One Saturday in early December, Jamie prayed over Mariama and her house. She commanded the evil that was tormenting Mariama to leave. That night Mariama’s wound opened and she lost so much blood she almost died. The spiritual battle had intensified.

The following Monday, Mariama turned her back on some other missionaries who had come to read Scripture to her. As Jamie was changing her bandages the next day, Mariama apologized and explained that whenever someone read to her from “that book” she had excruciating pain and was tormented by terrible dreams.

Jamie told her that the dreams were from Satan, and only Jesus could take them away.

A Turning Point

That Thursday, Mariama bravely asked one of the missionaries to read from the Pular New Testament. Grabbing his arm, she sat directly in front of him, her wound oozing onto the ground by his feet. “Keep reading!” she would say, determined to have victory over the darkness and fear.

After hearing a passage in Revelation about Jesus standing at the door and knocking, she beat her chest and said, “Jesus is knocking at my heart, and I want to follow him.”

Another turning point came a few days later when Mariama sat with her head in Jamie’s lap, crying from intense pain. As Jamie gently stroked her head and sang to her, the moans turned into a prayer as Mariama called out, “Oh Jesus, God’s Messiah, please take away the pain. Just a little!” In a few minutes, the pain was gone. All of it.

From that time on, Mariama only found relief in hearing the Scriptures. Jamie would read to her from the Pular New Testament for hours every day. Often other villagers would come by to listen.

One day in late December, when she was so weak that she could barely walk, Mariama took Jamie to the hut of a Koranic teacher in the village, insisting that since he taught the children “he needs to know about Jesus and this book!” At the end of the visit, the teacher asked for a copy of the Scriptures.

For the last three days of her life, Mariama could not get out of bed and did not want to eat; she only wanted to listen to Scripture. On the night of Jan. 6, 2007, she went home to her Lord in peace.

The Story Continues

Despite Mariama’s life as an outcast, and what would appear to be her tragic death, God is using her story to work in the hearts of people in her community and beyond.

Neighbor women who had been listening as Jamie read to Mariama asked permission from their leaders for Jamie to continue teaching them from “the book.” She now meets with them several times a week.

They told her that the Koranic teacher now reads to them from the same book. The Hoflands visited a class and found that he had been reading from a Pular copy of the book of Genesis. Large numbers of the newly completed Pular New Testament are scheduled to become available this spring.

Mariama’s life and death also touched the hearts of people around the world who faithfully prayed for her and her community.

The story continues to open doors to share the gospel. Many in Mariama’s village live in constant fear of death. The fact that when Mariama was dying she was not afraid has shaken the villagers’ beliefs and made them curious about her inexplicable peace.

Yes, Mariama’s story is much bigger than just the story of her life—and because of God’s amazing grace, the end has yet to be written.

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