“She’s so depressed! She’s irrational and violent! She is going crazy! Our brother was like this right before he ran away!”
It was 1990 in West Africa, and Bintou Traore’s youngest sister, Maimouna, was out of her mind. Years before, her brother, Karim, suffered something similar. Bintou’s parents sought help from witch doctors and Muslim holy men, but her brother only became worse. In a fit of anxiety, he disappeared and was never found.
Desperate for help, Bintou recalled the stories of Jesus’ healings that her older Christian sister, Natou, had told her. Bintou had no desire to leave her Muslim roots, but maybe Natou could help. When Bintou contacted Natou, she insisted Bintou bring Maimouna to her home right away. It was a 250-mile bus ride.
“Maimouna insulted other passengers and spit on them,” Bintou said. “I tried to calm her down by giving her a Bible a co-worker had given me, but she threw it out the window. I began to pray to a God I did not know. Upon arriving at Natou’s home, she immediately took us to her pastor. Maimouna was like a wild beast. With unnatural strength, she tried to escape; she laughed demonically as we tried to engage her in conversation. Her eyes pierced through us with hate.
“Maimouna and I were housed at the church, and the pastor organized times of fasting and prayer with his congregation. My sister improved. I saw the power of God at work when Maimouna was delivered from 10 evil spirits. The demons no longer controlled her life. This miraculous change convinced me to accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Baptism came immediately. Four months later, a peaceful Maimouna did the same.”
Before Bintou’s conversion she was married to an important Muslim businessman in the Ivory Coast and had two healthy children. She was a professional seamstress and operated a notable sewing school that supplied specialized clothing to buyers. She returned home excited and feeling more alive than ever before. However, she faced intense resistance as she practiced her new faith. Family members brought Muslim hermits, believed to have supernatural powers, to pray for her. A respected mentor offered her wealth and new business partners if she would recant her belief in Jesus. Friends told her she was cursed for leaving Islam. Her husband began to beat her, threw away her personal belongings, and told her to return to Islam or leave. The thriving sewing school fell apart and she had to shut it down. Then her beloved father died.
She had young children and no income, but she knew she had to make a choice. The Lord led her to Deuteronomy 13:4: “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.” God had removed all her crutches, and in total surrender, she cried out to him, “Lord, here I am, have your way with my life!” She and her children moved out of their home in 1993, and God supplied all their needs.
Years before, when Natou became a Christian, Bintou told her, “It is not necessary for me to become a Christian since I don’t hurt anyone.” Now, she couldn’t live without him.
VISION AND MINISTRY
A year later, the dreams started.
“In the first dream, I was in a meeting of God’s servants,” Bintou recalled. “They were working among our African neighbors. Another dream followed. I was going from church to church awakening Christian women to minister among their neighbors. I saw a meeting place. Women appeared to be safe, and were learning practical skills. I had a burden for women’s salvation, so these dreams became confirmations. They formed my vision for the SARA International Movement. I was overwhelmed by what the Lord wanted me to do, but I gave it to him and never felt the weight of this work. I became an instrument in his hands.”
Bintou named the movement “SARA” after Abraham’s wife, whom God promised to make the mother of nations in Genesis 17:16. Bintou was totally convinced that God had called her to this same destiny.“We want to help fulfill this prophecy to bring forth spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah in all nations as God opens the door.”
The Lord used an influential West African partner of ANM to introduce her to prominent Christian leaders in the region. This gave her credibility, respect, and recognition within her male-dominated culture. Pastors and leaders of Protestant and Evangelical churches began to contact her to come and speak to their congregations.
She assembled a team of strong Christians and began traveling throughout West Africa. They spoke about the spiritual needs of their neighbors—especially women and girls. Today, the SARA movement is affecting lives in 14 West African countries.
In addition to speaking to women around the region, the SARA Movement creates places for meetings and training. These Sara Centers provide safe environments and even living quarters for those in need. Staffed with SARA team members, they provide vocational training, Bible teaching, and enjoyable activities and fellowship for the women and girls. Every woman and girl who comes to the SARA Centers must learn to support themselves and develop a new network of friends. Bintou has been able to pass on her sewing skills in these centers.
The first SARA center opened in Niamey, Niger in 2005. The following year a second center opened in Conakry, Guinea. A third one is planned to open soon in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, that will also serve as the international headquarters of all the centers.
Beginning in 2007, SARA Movement International has sponsored a large conference every two years in different nations. Last year in Chad, 500 women came to hear, learn, and find faith in Jesus. These precious women then return to their countries refreshed and encouraged. With renewed passion and anointing that only comes from God, they continue to be used by him to share the Good News with their neighbors, bringing forth more and more spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah. The next conference will be in Benin in August, 2019.
“By God’s grace,” Bintou said, “the movement is growing. I have never regretted, not even once, having given my life to Jesus Christ and following him in ministry. Nothing is too difficult for Jesus!”