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Christians provide dental work to Berber people in North West Africa

Editor’s note: The names that appear in the story have been changed to protect the safety of those involved.

It’s not against the law to be Christian in Northwest Africa. It’s only a crime for those who call the country home to become professing believer.

“The strange thing about their constitution is that they can’t become one,” Team Leader of the Northwest Africa mission trip Tim Holiday said. “They’re persecuted if they convert. It’s a shame for their family, so they can’t tell them.”

The Berber people of North West Africa mostly practice the Muslim religion, and any preaching of other religions – such as Christianity – is strictly forbidden by the country’s constitution.

So how do Christians reach the unreached people group? They offer the community something of which it is desperately in need: dental work.

“For this particular (trip), we average about 10 people every time we go – at least one dentist, some hygienists and then some support people,” Holiday said. “That’s really a foot in the door for us to go and, of course, do social work with them – some much needed dental work. It allows us to go back many times and build relationships with the Berber people.

Holiday and a team of nine other individuals travelled to North West Africa this past April.

“We saw around 230 people – of course that extends out into the extended family,” Holiday said. “Mom, dad and the kids come. We get to pray with a lot of people. We do that in various ways. We’re not really supposed to proselytize openly with them unless they ask. OF course, that’s what we hope they do. We hope they want to seek more.  So 230 people were in the chairs, but lots more people were really affected by it.”

While the team is at work, they must be intentional in their conversations and travels – as they’re lives are at risk.

“We’re under surveillance everywhere we go. We have the secret police following us, watching us,” Holiday said. “Ironically, we have government permission to do what we do as a dental team. And it’s always been a cover for us to get in and out of the country. If anyone questions what we do, we can’t say we’re a Christian group. We’ve always told them we’re a dental team, and they welcome us in.”

Despite the never-ending threat, God still provides a place of solace for believers. 

"We actually got to go to a place where believers gather – up in the mountains. It’s a secret place. It overlooks the village," Holiday said. "It’s up high; it’s secure. We got to go worship with a believer. IT will probably be the only time it happens with him – that a group of people are able to be with him in his place, where he can openly praise and worship. He’s been persecuted. He went to jail. They threw him in prison for several months."