“One, two, three, …” began Temistocres Ngabona, counting the deep scars on his leg. “Four, five, six, seven, eight, ...” he continued, moving to his right arm and then to his severed thumb and mangled fingers. As he reached the ninth scar, he buried his face in his arms, overcome with emotion as he shared with Voice of the Martyrs about the attack that nearly ended his life.

Temistocres was a nominal Christian in 2011 when he married Deborah, a nominal Muslim, in a northern Tanzanian town that was a mixture of both faiths, explains Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. One day shortly after the couple’s marriage, a pastor came to their door and invited them to visit his church the following Sunday. Temistocres agreed. 

Representative Foley says that Sunday arrived with a downpour of rain, but Temistocres told his wife they should keep their commitment. During the service, God touched their hearts and both Temistocres and Deborah became fully devoted followers of Christ, says Representative Foley. 

Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that several years later, during another Sunday service, their pastor gave an impassioned sermon on the need for prayer. Convicted and compelled to respond, Temistocres decided to pray every night at the church, all night long, for six months. He and other church members would meet at the church at 9 or 10 p.m. for a prayer service, after which a few people would remain and take turns sleeping and praying through the night, says Representative Foley. 

She says the mosque less than a mile away from the church took notice of the prayer meetings.  

Though Christians can practice their faith openly in majority-Christian Tanzania, Temistocres’ town was near the Ugandan border, and radical Muslims in the area would occasionally exert their influence in the local mosque, says Representative Foley. Tanzanian believers, especially converts from Islam, sometimes experience persecution in those areas. Attacks on homes and churches are possible, and intense pressure from family members is not uncommon. 

Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that one day during a meeting at the mosque, a swarm of bees filled the building and disrupted the service. Some of the Muslims blamed the praying Christians for the insect invasion, believing the Christians had cursed the mosque. Anger in the Muslim community toward the overnight prayer group was rising to a point of violence. 

Overnight on Oct. 13, 2014, Temistocres and one other church member, a new convert from Islam named Dioniz, were praying at the church. While Temistocres was sleeping and Dioniz was praying, Temistocres thought he was having a dream, in which he was fighting with someone and a light was flashing in his face, says Representative Foley. 

But then he realized the nightmare was real; a man wearing a headlamp was swinging a large machete at his head. A group of men from the mosque had come to attack whoever was at the church.   

Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that he struggled to defend himself in his half-asleep stupor as the headlamp flashed in his eyes and the attacker swung the machete wildly. “I used my arms to block the blade; that is how they cut me,” he recalled. As his eyes adjusted to the light, Temistocres was shocked that he recognized many of the attackers.  

Then he sensed the Lord speaking to him. “I heard a voice say, ‘Take a stone!’”, he told Voice of the Martyrs.So, I found a stone and threw it.” The stone hit his assailant in the head, knocking him down. 

Radical Islamists attacked Temistocres with a machete during an overnight prayer service he was attending at his church.

Temistocres also collapsed and could not get back up. He realized his left leg was badly injured and was nearly severed just above his ankle. Another man struck him with a large knife three more times before the attackers ran off. 

Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that it was at that moment that he saw his friend Dioniz alive for the last time. The attackers had struck Dioniz in the head, and he was struggling to escape in the darkness, says Representative Foley. But Dioniz stumbled into a wall, then collapsed near the front of the church and died. 

Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs he feared the attackers might return. So he pulled himself, half crawling and half sliding, out the church door, across the ground, through a field and onto a path, where he hoped someone might find him, says Representative Foley. He believed he would die, so he cried out to God, God, forgive me! If there is any way I wronged you, forgive me and now receive my soul.’” 

Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that at about 2:30 a.m., a woman found him and brought him some water. She also called the authorities, who eventually took him to a hospital.  

Temistocres wife, Deborah, learned later that morning that her husband was critically injured and Dioniz had been killed. 

When she reached the hospital, she was shocked by his appearance. “When we looked at each other, I started crying,” she told Voice of the Martyrs, “and he also started crying.” 

To express their gratitude to the Lord, Temistocres and Deborah used funds from a successful VOM-sponsored business to build a church on their property.

Deborah was allowed to see Temistocres for only a short time, and the doctors did not give her details about his condition. But she told Voice of the Martyrs that when she left his room, she heard a voice say, “Fear not; I am with you.” 

Police later arrested one of the attackers that Temistocres had recognized, reportedly finding bloody clothes as evidence against him. 

Shortly after the suspect was arrested, people Deborah didn’t know brought food and drinks to the hospital for Temistocres, says Representative Foley. As she was about to give her husband some juice that one of the strangers brought, Deborah said she sensed the Holy Spirit telling her not to give it to him. When she asked who had brought the juice, a man ran from the room. She learned that the man was related to one of Temistocres attackers, and police later confirmed that the juice bottle contained poison. 

Deborah told Voice of the Martyrs that later, someone offered to bring them money, which she believes was likely a bribe to drop the charges, and another person offered food that they believed was tainted.  

Representative Foley says that the man arrested for the assault and murder was released for unspecified reasons, and Temistocres has seen his attackers in the city. But she says Temisocres chose to show them grace. “They are forgiven,” he told Voice of the Martyrs. “I know that they did something that they didn’t know, like Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”   

Scars are visible on the leg of Temistocres from a machete attack during an overnight prayer service at church.

After hearing of the attack, a local Voice of the Martyrs contact visited Temistocres at the hospital. Voice of the Martyrs helped pay for Temistocres medical needs, including 10 surgeries, treatment for multiple infections, and months of rehabilitation. 

“It’s a miracle that he is here today,” the local Voice of the Martyrs contact said. 

Very early in his hospitalization, Temistocres began to consider how he could thank God for preserving his life, says Representative Foley. Ultimately, he and Deborah decided to donate their land to the church as an offering of thanksgiving. 

Church members wept when they heard about the gift, but Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that family members struggled to understand why a man with such severe injuries would give away his most valuable possession.  

“My father told me, ‘I heard that you offered the plot to the pastor,’” Temistocres said. “I answered my father, ‘I didn’t give to the pastor. I gave my plot to the Lord.’” 

Temistocres, Deborah, and their three daughters.

Because Temistocres and Deborah continued to see the attackers in town, they decided to move to another area for their safety. Local Voice of the Martyrs contacts helped Temistocres launch a small poultry business.  

The business has done well, says Representative Foley. The couple used the proceeds from the business to buy a plot of land and build a church building on the property. She says the church currently has 71 members and 150 children who regularly attend. 

Temistocres is our true pastor,” one of the church’s leaders told Voice of the Martyrs. “What you see here is because of his love and his heart. We love him, and he loves us.” 

In addition to his work at the church, Temistocres told Voice of the Martyrs that he hopes to receive additional training in ministry to Muslims. He wants to show them the same kind of love that he received when a pastor first visited his home years ago, says Representative Foley. 

During a recent worship service, Temistocres tearfully thanked God directly from the pulpit. “Asante, Yesu,” he said in Swahili, meaning, “Thank you, Jesus.” 

Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs posts prayer requests for persecuted Christians and formerly persecuted Christians like Temistocres on its website at https://vomkorea.com/en/prayer/urgent/.

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