It was the summer of 1987 and Samson, a Muslim, had just graduated high school and unbeknown to him, life was about to change in miraculous ways when a young girl called Veronica, introduced herself to him.
Veronica came from a devout Christian family and was part of the local Christian union, which was the ‘talk of the town’ as Samson explains: “We used to think the Scripture Union were the only faithful Christians in Nigeria. They were very dedicated, very Christ-like in everything they did.
“We respected them so much and said if you come from any other religion, don’t try to get a man or woman from their circle. But then one came my way.”
Veronica invited Samson to church and told him about Jesus. What developed was, in Samson’s eyes, a “holy, sacred friendship,” however, in the eyes of their parents, it was more a matter of forbidden love. “Me being a Muslim and she being a Christian was terrifying for them,” Samson shares.
Veronica adds: “It was so difficult because at first my mum was not happy, everybody was angry, asking ‘How can this be?’ There was a lot of fighting and arguments, but we kept on seeing each other.”
Surprisingly, it was Samson’s sister who tried to build a bridge between the families by going to Veronica’s family and saying: “If they love each other, I will fight for them.”
The church was also concerned about Veronica’s desire to marry a non-believer and it became a divisive issue with their pastor committing to fast and pray about their marriage.
Samson recalls him declaring: “The Lord says, ‘Leave them alone.’ He is behind this.” Sadly, for the couple, being left alone translated to being cast out and abandoned by the church.
However, eventually, the message of the gospel took root in his heart, and Samson professed faith in Jesus.
Since then, he’s attended Bible school and taken university courses in theology. He has led church plants and served as a pastor himself. Now parents to four adult children, they are preparing for the next chapter of their lives.
The couple plan to relocate to Thailand in late 2021 and will join a Faithful Witness team in a village that has little exposure to the gospel. Their two daughters, Eunice and Anne, will accompany them.
Eunice is 20 and has a passion for baking and dancing. She is studying international management and will continue her education remotely from Thailand. “Personally, I feel excited about it,” she says. “We are ready for new discovery and adventure; new beginnings in our lives as Christians and as members of SIM.”
Anne is 18 and the youngest (or as Samson refers to her, ‘the Benjamin’ of the house). She’s in her first year of university and wants to study communication and translation.
“I loved as a kid that my parents always talked about mission in their prayers. I’m now seeing it happen and I’m so happy and excited,” she says.
Samson and Veronica have jobs with an international school and between work and home life, they make time for Thai language learning as they try to raise funds for relocation, although this is proving difficult.
Veronica admits: “It’s challenging because you’ve been the one giving before and now you’re asking for help.”
But Samson stays positive and adds: “I’m not discouraged. I’m confident and tell my wife every day that the Lord knows what he’s doing. If he started it, he’s going to perfect it.”
And this perfecting is evident in how God is caring for details of the couple’s ministry in Thailand. The SIM team’s desire is to use sport as an outreach opportunity and Samson is an avid athlete, with table tennis, badminton, and volleyball among his favourites sports.
The family will receive a warm send-off from their Muslim relatives who recognise that something bigger is unfolding, says Samson: “They finally see that the Lord is behind it. It’s not at all by our power.”
While Covid and other lingering obstacles may seem overwhelming, Veronica and Samson are familiar with waiting on the Lord and submitting everything to him in prayer. And when doubt creeps in, they need only go back to the beginning to see God’s kindness on display.
By Amy Bareham Chapman