Hadija has an extraordinary testimony of faith for an 11-year-old girl.
She was born into a Muslim family in a small Ugandan fishing town on the north-eastern shores of Lake Victoria. Moved by the singing and teaching she heard from a church near her home, Hadija began secretly attending services as a five-year-old. When her father found out he warned her to stop, promising to beat her should she disobey. She wouldn’t stop and so endured weekly beatings.
When Hadija was seven her mother died. Soon after, her polygamous father relocated to a town in western Uganda to live with his newest wife. As young as she was, Hadija bravely searched for another church and continued attending Sunday school.
“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. The pastor told me that Jesus wants me to preach His Word and it is my wish to become a preacher when I grow up.”
Upon discovering where Hadija had been disappearing to on Sundays, her step-mother scolded her and warned against it, but Hadija persisted. Her father threatened her with ten strokes of a cane and no food each time she went to church, but Hadija endured the abuse and hunger rather than give up the joy she had found in the house of God.
“Whenever I would go to church my step-mother would tell my father about it and he would beat me and tell her not to give me food. Even during the week, I would come from school and he would tell my step-mother not to give me food until I stopped going to the church.”
MELLINA STEPS IN
Hadija’s requests to the pastor for food following the Sunday services brought her situation to the attention of church members. Fellow church-goer, Mellina (33), reached out to Hadija.
“I was intrigued and befriended the young girl and gave her food as we talked,” Mellina shared. “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.”
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.’ I rushed into the house, grabbed her, and we ran,” remembered Mellina.
“I was very frightened that day. I left with Mellina when she came for me. She rescued me,” Hadija explains.
“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 take legal action against Hadija’s father, but granted permission for Mellina to become Hadija’s guardian.
Hadija’s father is an alcoholic, now ill and bedridden. After several months, Mellina and Hadija visited him. His anger had cooled; he acknowledged his ill health and requested that Mellina continue looking after Hadija.
“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,” said Hadija. “Please pray that he would stop drinking alcohol and remember that I am his daughter.”
A NEW FAMILY AND A NEW START
Mellina is now trying to process the official adoption papers but is struggling to support Hadija and finance the adoption. She makes a small income from working in people’s gardens with which she can fund their upkeep and Hadija’s school fees. But it is very hard to make ends meet.
Hadija wants to become a midwife when she is older. “I want to help women deliver babies safely. Please pray that I may have wisdom in my studies so that I can become a nurse. I also pray I will have everything I need for my studies. I pray that I never leave Jesus because I see that without Him people are tormented by Satan.”
“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.”