Karim commanded plenty of respect around northern Ghana. Villagers admired his faithful adherence to the Quranic traditions handed down by their Muslim ancestors for nearly 400 years. He was successful for a young itinerant preacher, but he had his sights set on more.
The Dagomba people group, Karim’s own people, were a powerful majority Muslim tribe in northern Ghana. Illiteracy, however, was as high as 95% in rural Dagomba villages. Karim wanted to reach these illiterate people with the truth.
So he joined a night literacy class to learn how to read, write, and teach the tribal language of Dagbani. That’s where everything changed for Karim.
The class is an ongoing outreach of an ANM partner in the region. When he completed the class, Karim received a Dagbani New Testament. As Karim read it in his own language, Jesus began to touch his heart. Eventually, after a long period of questioning and study, our partner’s ministry team led Karim to faith in Jesus. Later, our partner helped him attend two years of Bible school.
Christians—whether nominal or practicing—make up at least 20% of the Dagomba population, but Islam and Animism form the true core of the tribe’s religious identity. They see Christianity—and Christians—as an abomination to Allah, so Karim suffered greatly as a result of his newfound faith in Christ. His family and clan persecuted him. Karim’s farm was set on fire on more than one occasion. Neighbors stole his sheep and goats.
Finally, one day a group of angry young Muslim men met him as he returned home from his farm. They threatened to kill Karim there at the entrance to his house. Their knives, clubs, and other weapons showed they were serious. He immediately prayed, “God, please help me!” Suddenly there was a loud clap of thunder with lightning chasing it just overhead. Most people in Karim’s culture believe that to be struck by lightning is a sign of God’s judgment on unconfessed sin. The young men were so frightened that they ran away and never assaulted Karim again. They resorted to attacking him from a distance by calling on occult powers to curse and kill him. But Karim never gave up, and he never gave in to the threats against him.
Ten years later
Today Karim is a 35-year-old pastor and church planter, accomplishing his original mission of reaching his illiterate tribal fellows with the truth—except now it is the truth of Christ. Over the past ten years he has planted 11 organized churches and established 27 other preaching points where the Dagomba people hear the gospel proclaimed. He has led hundreds of Muslims to Christ. His holistic approach to ministry includes church planting, discipleship, literacy programs, the Jesus Film, camps for kids, and a sports outreach.
Psalm 54:1–4 sums up his testimony and his passion:
O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves. Selah
Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life. (ESV)
Photo by Center of Good News (2012)