A young disciple

Published 10:26 pm Wednesday, November 13, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

I learned to serve and worship the Lord in Allen Chapel African American Episcopal Church in Americus, Ga. My sisters and I memorized the words of the doxology, the call to worship, the decalogue and the Apostles’ Creed because we often heard the worship leader direct the order of service. At 8 years of age, I could have led the service if I were asked to do it.

If all it takes to lead someone in worship is to repeat the prayers and scriptures verbatim, I thought I could do that. It was a decade beyond 8 years old that I really came to understand that repeating the words “I believe” in the Apostles’ Creed meant nothing if I did not truly know in whom I believed.

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The month of November has a special significance to my faith journey. In November 1997, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. One night in a revival service, literally on my knees at the altar, I surrendered. While I was praying for God to take away the pain of a recent break-up, a minister knelt before me and asked me if I knew Jesus. I told him, “Yes.” He looked me in the eyes and said, “Do you believe Jesus is Who He says He is?” I remembered the words of the Apostles’ Creed. Then the minister said, “You can put your faith in Jesus. You can trust Jesus. He is Jesus.” I felt the most overwhelming feeling of warmth and peace. In a moment, I went from feeling the ache of a heart that was violently broken to a place of serenity in the next. I experienced the Lord’s nearness to the brokenhearted in a way that revealed to me that Jesus loves me not because the Bible tells me so but because I felt Him.

Young people are resilient. When we are young, we have a will to press forward, because it is part of growing up. When difficulty comes our way, that inner press helps to pull us out of a mess. Young people who believe in themselves have mastered how to transform sheer will into exemplary courage and ability. We see this demonstrated in young athletes like Simone Biles, and we applaud them for it. But I tell you that there are youth that deserve our praise for their courage for much more. In regards to the challenges that young people face today, I consider it quite notable when a young person professes their faith. Although it may seem that a young woman or young man willing to die or give up their freedom as a statement of their faith in Jesus Christ is reserved for Bible stories, these young women and men exist today.

Where are the courageous young women like Esther and young men like Daniel of our time? I recently learned of one brave young woman that you should know.

Leah Sharibu was kidnapped in February 2018 in a raid at her school by Boko Haram — a deadly Nigerian terror group with ties to ISIS. She was abducted along with 108 Nigerian girls. In June of this year, Christian Broadcasting Network reported that Leah was still being held captive because she would not deny Jesus Christ and convert to Islam. Out of over 100 young people confronted with a decision for faith, one stood.

I learned of her last week during my Bible Study Fellowship class at First Baptist Church Main Street. I have been praying for her ever since. I am reminded of the faith of Daniel and how his stand for God changed the hearts of kings and leaders. I believe Leah’s courage in the face of this fiery trial will also manifest miracles of changed hearts if it has not already.

Leah is not alone. There are many young people who are persecuted for their faith. They may not all know the same degree of persecution, but they all have met the same resolve. Stand with them. Cry out not only for their strength to endure but for their courage not to be in vain. It is my prayer that the young boys and girls you are raising in your home will be affected by the stories of these young disciples around the world. For there is a great power in the confession of faith of a young believer. We know this because Jesus was once a youth that changed the world.


QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.