Image above: Mellina and Hadija
Hadija was born into a Muslim family in a small Ugandan fishing town on the shores of Lake Victoria. Aged five, she began secretly attending church, stirred by the singing she heard coming from the church near her home.
When her father found out he warned her to stop, promising to beat her should she disobey. She chose to endure the weekly beatings rather than stop attending church.
When Hadija was seven her world was shaken when her mother died and her father quickly relocated to live with his new wife. As young as she was, Hadija bravely searched for another church and continued attending Sunday school.
Filled with peace and joy
“I became saved in the church there,” she shared. “That day when I received Jesus I became full of joy. I was very happy and felt peace in my heart.”
When he discovered where Hadija had been on Sundays, her father threatened her with 10 strokes of a cane and no food each time she went to church. Hadija endured the abuse and hunger rather than give up the joy she had found.
“Whenever I would go to church my stepmother would tell my father about it and he would beat me…I would come from school and he would tell my stepmother not to give me food until I stopped going to the church.”
Hadija’s requests to the pastor for food following the Sunday services brought her situation to the attention of church members. Mellina, a congregation member reached out to Hadija. “I was intrigued and befriended the young girl and gave her food as we talked.”
“I soon came to understand the danger the little girl was facing. I knew Hadija would be beaten when she returned from church, so I began walking her home. I would stay nearby watching even though I could not stop it. It broke my heart to hear the child crying in pain as she was caned.”
She rescued me…
One Sunday in December 2012, when Hadija’s screams of terror betrayed the escalating violence, Mellina intervened and rescued Hadija. “Her father beat her so badly that she still bears scars on her arm. Consumed with anger, he threatened her with a knife and shouted threats to burn down the church for ‘misleading his child.’”
Mellina rushed into the house, grabbed her, and they ran away. “I was very frightened that day. I left with Mellina when she came for me. She rescued me,” Hadija explained.
“I hid her for a few days while her father looked for her. I thought he would kill us both when he found out where we were staying. Instead, he came and declared that she was dead to him. ‘From now on you are no longer my child! I have denounced you!’ he shouted at her and spat on the ground to confirm his curse.”
Mellina reported the matter to the police. They did not pursue Hadija’s father, but granted permission for Mellina to become Hadija’s guardian.
Hadija’s father, a known alcoholic, is now ill and bedridden. After several months, Mellina and Hadija visited him and found his anger had cooled. He asked that Mellina continue looking after Hadija.
Please pray for my father
“When I remember how he mistreated me, I still feel bad, but when I tell Jesus about all the pain in my heart I start to feel better,” Hadija said. “Please pray that he would stop drinking alcohol and remember that I am his daughter.”
Mellina is now trying to process the official adoption papers but is struggling financially. She makes a small income from gardening but it is very hard to make ends meet.
Currently in class 3 at school, Hadija wants to become a midwife. “I want to help women deliver babies safely. Please pray that I may have wisdom and everything I need for my studies. I pray that I never leave Jesus.”
“I want to tell young people that Jesus is good,” she continued. “I want to tell them that because Jesus is so good, we should please Him and preach the Gospel to other people.”
She also has a message for others who are being mistreated or have been abandoned because they believe in Jesus: “I want to tell them to believe in Jesus and not give up. Also, I pray that they will find someone like Mellina who encourages me to pray to Jesus.”
“Thank you for coming to see us,” she told an Open Doors worker, with a big smile. “Now I know that we are not unknown to the Lord! You have encouraged and blessed our hearts.”
This article will feature in our Frontline Faith – Africa 2016 magazine, sign up here to receive it in late April 2016.
• Pray for the process of adoption to go smoothly.
• Pray for Mellina’s training opportunities offered by Open Doors and a job to provide for their needs.
• Pray for Hadija’s father, that he will come to know Jesus as Lord.