A story of courage
At the heart of the word ‘courage’ are ideas of boldness, fortitude and
resolve. These three, closely-related words together provide a robust
understanding of courage. Boldness is the confidence to take a risk:
inspired courage. Fortitude is the firmness of the mind without retreat:
sustained courage. Resolve is the determination to reach the end goal:
This idea of courage is the best way to describe Zephaniah Isah,
national director of Men’s Ministry and Assembly of God pastor from
Kano, Nigeria. Affectionately known as Zeph, he and two other men
have travelled to London to take part in street evangelism and sports
outreach during the 2012 Olympic Games. They come from an area of
Nigeria that in recent history has seen Christians severely persecuted
and attacked by Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram. During the last
year, Boko Haram has been responsible for over 1,200 brutal murders
of Christians, in and around Zeph’s city. Forever met up with
Zephaniah and his two team-mates and he described the persecution
of the Nigerian church, his experience of sharing his faith in England,
and his hope for Europe.
Risk: inspired courage
“There are extreme differences [between doing] evangelism in England
and in northern Nigeria. I have been able to stand up in the streets and
preach the gospel on the streets of London, it has been a really
beautiful thing. I have heard about England being very shut off to the gospel, but I have just seen people be so receptive
and intent on listening to the Good News. I would not be able to do this in my city, because it’s too dangerous, and
currently it seems that we have to suspect almost everyone as a potential terrorist threat. Our churches have been
destroyed, our members bombed, and I just heard that yesterday 19 people were killed in a church bombing.”
Zephaniah went on to talk about the effect persecution has had on the church and Christians in Nigeria: “On one side,
the church has not been worshipping as openly as they have in the past; now some have been forced to meet inside
their homes. The positive side is [the persecution] has made believers tough – knowing the risk and still pursuing the
Lord anyway, because we know He is the truth. It has caused nominal Christians to awaken and decide deep down what
they believe. We grab our Bibles and head to church, counting the cost – hoping to return home after the service, but
knowing if we don’t we will see each other again in eternity. Over seven times I have faced death head-on, ready to die
for my faith, and seeing God save me. I know that nothing can stop me from sharing who He is.” This inspired courage,
this strength within Zephaniah, is what drives his passion for the people of Europe.
Fortitude: sustained courage
Zephaniah’s purpose for coming to London during the Olympics is simple: “We received the gospel from Europe so
many years ago. They gave us the gospel and – after hearing the statistics of how many have fallen away, and the
percentage of atheists – I knew that I had to come back.
This light that I have has been quenched here in England.
I’m thankful for the light that is burning within the
Christians of Nigeria, but it’s time to bring that light back
to the place it once belonged.” Zephaniah has seen the
sustaining work of Jesus among his people; he longs to
see the place that took the gospel to his homeland come
alive again. To be a part of bringing the gospel back to
England, Zephaniah and his friends have been handing
out written explanations of Jesus’ message to Games
visitors, talking with people on the streets of London, and
joining in some sports and football ministries.
Resolve: persevering courage
His exuberant conversations with people in London, and
his passion for the advancement of the gospel across
Europe, fill Zephaniah with hope for the vitality of Christianity among both British and Nigerian people. “No matter what
happens, Christianity cannot be stopped. The Holy Spirit is like the wind; He moves where He wants and – no matter
how hard anyone tries – He cannot be contained. This is the hope for Christianity around the world. In Nigeria, even
with the threats and demands to convert to Islam or die, Christianity is growing and spreading throughout the villages
and towns of [the north]. In Europe, even with statistics showing that people believe more in secularism, Jesus is still in
control and people are still responding with openness to the gospel. That is what continues, that is the hope that lives
Courageous believers who know the risk yet continue to pursue faith, being sustained by God to persevere to the end,
so that Jesus would be known as Lord throughout the Earth. This is Zephaniah’s story.
Forever is the project coordinating the outreach efforts of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) at the London Olympic Games.
Forever is seeking to serve the people of the UK, the Christian community of the UK, and the YWAM international
community before, during and after the 2012 Olympic Games. We will do this through a season of mission, leaving a
long-term legacy from the Games in communities across the country. Forever is a ministry of YWAM England & Wales.
Youth With A Mission is an international volunteer movement of Christians from many backgrounds, cultures and
Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world. Also known as YWAM (pronounced "WHY-
wham"), our purpose is simply to know God and to make Him known. We currently operate in more than 1,000
locations in over 180 countries, with a staff of over 18,000. We also train over 40,000 students per year worldwide.
More Than Gold (MTG) is the umbrella organisation helping the Church to engage with the opportunities offered by the
Olympic Games. MTG has brought together over 60 Christian agencies (of which Youth With A Mission is one) and
thousands of churches across the nation in partnership during the Olympic period.
To find out more this story, or anything to do with YWAM’s 2012 Olympic outreach, please contact the Forever
Communications Team on 07557 868431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.