Abra Sakpa (Ah-Bruh; Sock-Pah) is a Togolese woman living in the village of Agou in South Togo. She is married to Boniface (Bony-Fahs) Sakpa. Together, they have 3 biological children. They live in a parsonage in the rear of the church where Boniface is the pastor. In this home, they have also taken in 8 children from the village. These children, for various reasons, have been dropped off to live with Boniface and Abra. It is common in Togo, as in many other countries, to "give" your children away to someone else who seems to be in a position to better care for them. The Sakpas have not turned the children away. In fact, these children are so much a part of their family that when asked how many children they have, both of them will answer "11" without hesitation.
Her joy in life is visible in that radiant smile that she never seems to be without, but her life has not always been light hearted and happy. Abra does not have a very high education. In Togo, women do not usually go very far in school if they go to school at all. The duties of a Togolese woman start at a young age and there is much expected of her. She rises early and fetches water, she cleans, she gets the children ready for school, she makes breakfast, she sends the kids to school, she goes to market and/or to the fields to work. At the end of the work day, she returns home to receive the kids from school, to make dinner, to clean some more, to take care of the kids, to get the kids ready for bed, etc. etc. etc. She is constantly doing and hardly ever resting.
On top of being busy, a Togolese woman - as a wife - is expected to be a mother. To not have children is to endure great shame. It is much like the stigma of barenness in the Bible; to be married without children is to bear great shame. While Abra and Boniface did not suffer the shame of infertility - they suffered something nearly as great; the death of a child.
With her 3 children older now, Abra was returning to her involvement in the church leading women's ministries. As she was getting back into the swing of teaching, she discovered she was pregnant yet again. She faced an unfamiliar feeling; disappointment in the unexpected. How was she going to teach women with another child on the way? She did not like the feelings she was experiencing but could not help feeling that this was poor timing to be having another child. 9 months later, she had a very hard labor and Philip was born. Early life was hard for them both. Eventually Philip died. Abra now became familiar with deep anguish.
"IS THIS PUNISHMENT ON ME because i was not happy about the pregnancy?"
At the same time, there was a woman Abra knew who had been promiscuous. Her child had had many health issues, yet he lived. The child of the woman with the scarlet letter was allowed to live while the wife of the pastor had to bury her little baby boy. How was that fair? Abra's heart was broken - she was confused. Yet God is gracious and glorious and good. Abra wrestled with her feelings and emotions and eventually accepted that what had happened had a purposed. She began to teach again.
While she began teaching children at a young age, Abra's passion is to reach women. Every Sunday Abra goes to a village about 30 minutes from her home to teach them the Bible. Since the education system is so poor in Togo, the resources she uses to teach are very basic; her Bible, a song book, and a set of coloring book pages from a Bible story coloring book. Each picture represents a story of the Bible and Abra prepares each week and then teaches the women using her Bible and the pages. 6 women in this village have come to accept Christ as their Savior through this ministry!
3 days a week, Abra also teaches pastor's wives how to study the Bible for themselves so that they may reach women also. She is a leader among them and many of them refer to her as their spiritual mother. During her own study with ABWE missionary, Beky Poteat, Abra saw a void in her life. As she grew in her understanding of the Bible, that void grew smaller. The growth she experienced stirred up a desire in her to teach other women to study the Bible for themselves. Now, Abra's greatest dream is to see the women of Togo reaching other women for Christ. She quoted to me 2 Timothy 2:2 when I asked her about this vision:
All she desires to see is Togo redeemed. Multiplication is everything to her. When the women she teaches are teaching others to teach others to teach others, she is confident that the Word of God can be transmitted to the farthest corners of Togo that she alone is powerless to touch. After all, Jesus did tell his disciples to go into all the world preaching the Gospel while making disciples.