‘I Want to Serve God Before I Die’
THE STORY OF MAMIE FREE
IN 1990 civil war erupted in Liberia. As the fighting intensified, Mamie, a 12-year-old Krahn girl, and her family were trapped in their house in Monrovia, the capital. “We heard an explosion next door,” says Mamie. “A missile had slammed into the neighbor’s house and set it on fire. Flames leaped at our house and ignited it too.” Amid heavy fighting, Mamie, her mother, and her mother’s younger brother fled.
“Suddenly, something hit me,” recalls Mamie.
“My mother then asked, ‘What’s wrong?’”
“Something hit me! I think it’s a bullet,” I replied.
Mamie fell to the ground in agony and prayed: “Please hear me, God. I think I’m about to die, but I want to serve you before I die.” Then she fell unconscious.
Taking Mamie for dead, neighbors wanted to bury her at a nearby beach. Her mother, however, insisted that she be taken to the local hospital. Sadly, the hospital was ill equipped to handle the influx of wounded men, women, and children. Mamie’s uncle, who had also been wounded, died that night, but Mamie survived, paralyzed from the waist down.
She continued to bleed internally and to suffer extreme pain. Four months later the doctors finally took X-rays to locate the bullet. It was lodged between her heart and her lungs. An operation would be very risky, so Mamie’s mother took her to a traditional herbalist. “He cut me with a razor blade,” recalls Mamie, “after which he put his mouth to the wound and tried to suck out the bullet. ‘This is it,’ he said, taking a bullet from his mouth. We paid him and left.”
But the man had lied. Further X-rays revealed that the bullet was still there. So Mamie and her mother returned to the herbalist, who convinced them that it would take another nine months before the X-rays would register the removal. They returned home and patiently waited. In the meantime, Mamie took various medications to help her cope with the pain. More X-rays were taken nine months later. The bullet was still there. The herbalist fled.
The bullet had now been in Mamie’s body for 18 months. A relative took her to a female witch doctor. Instead of helping, she said that either Mamie or her mother would die on a certain day. Mamie was now 13 years old. “I just cried and cried,” Mamie says. “However, when the designated date arrived, no one died.”
An uncle then took Mamie to a church leader who claimed to have had a vision indicating that Mamie’s paralysis was caused by a magic spell, not by a bullet. He promised that if Mamie followed his prescribed rituals, she would walk again in one week. Mamie explains: “I took many holy baths with ocean water, I fasted, and I rolled on the ground every night at midnight for what must have amounted to many hours. But all these efforts proved futile, and my condition stayed the same.”
Eventually, though, more medical facilities began functioning, and Mamie was at long last able to get the bullet removed. She had suffered more than two years of unrelenting pain. “After the surgery,” she recalls, “the pain all but went away, and breathing became much easier. Although I remained partially paralyzed, I could stand with the aid of a walker.”
Mamie Meets Jehovah’s Witnesses
A few weeks after the operation, Mamie’s mother met two of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Knowing that her daughter enjoyed reading the Bible, she invited the Witnesses to her home. Mamie immediately accepted a Bible study. After several months, however, she returned to the hospital and lost contact with the Witnesses.
Still, Mamie’s thirst for Bible knowledge remained. So when a religious leader from a church offered to help her, she accepted the offer. During a Sunday school class, a fellow student asked the teacher, “Is Jesus equal to God?”
“Yes,” the teacher said. “They are equal. But Jesus is not equally equal to God.”
‘Not equally equal?’ Mamie thought. ‘That does not make sense. Something is wrong here.’ Not satisfied that she was learning Bible truth, Mamie eventually stopped associating with that church.
In 1996 violence again broke out in Monrovia. Mamie lost two more family members, and her home was set on fire a second time. A few months later, two Witnesses met Mamie while they were in the house-to-house ministry. Mamie resumed her Bible study. When she attended her first meeting, she was surprised to see that everyone—including the congregation elders—helped to clean the Kingdom Hall. Later that year, she was thrilled to attend one of the “Messengers of Godly Peace” District Conventions, the first large gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses she had ever attended.
“I was most impressed,” says Mamie. “The Witnesses had genuine love for one another, even though they were from different tribes. And everything was well organized.”
Realizing Her Desire to Serve God
In 1998 renewed fighting forced Mamie and her mother to flee to neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, where they took up residence in the Peace Town Refugee Camp along with some 6,000 other Liberians. Mamie continued her study of the Bible with the Witnesses and made rapid progress. Soon, she wanted to share her faith with others. So that she could engage in the public ministry, her spiritual brothers and sisters helped her along in her wheelchair. In this way Mamie was able to give a fine witness to many other refugees.
Even though her physical limitations made it hard for her to get to the Kingdom Hall, which was located four miles [6 km] away from where she lived, Mamie attended all the meetings. On May 14, 2000, she traveled more than 120 miles [190 km] to attend a special assembly day and to symbolize her dedication to God by water baptism. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Before many teary eyes, Mamie was carried into a creek, where she was immersed. Her face beamed as she rose from the water.
Now in a refugee camp in Ghana, Mamie’s goal is to become a regular pioneer, or full-time evangelizer. Her mother too has commenced a study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and is now sharing with others what she has learned. Both eagerly look forward to the time promised in God’s Word when “the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.”—Isaiah 35:5-7.
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The bullet that was removed from Mamie’s body
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Mamie being carried into a creek to be baptized
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Conducting a Bible study with her mother, Emma