Living on a prayer

One Namibian OM worker operates a prayer house—and does so much more.

When people ask OM Namibia Field Leader Josh Kruger what ministries OM has around the country, he tells them that, among other ministries, they have a woman in Okangwati who prays with children.

“But that doesn’t explain the relationship she has with the kids,” Josh says.

The woman in question, Uatjaa Zilliox, and her husband, Philippe, have opened their home freely to the children of their community in northwestern Namibia, where the presence of tribes such as the Himba bring ancestral worship and witchcraft. Prayer is the central focus of their ministry—even when Philippe is traveling for his job as a tour guide, which takes him away from home for up to six months per year, Uatjaa continues to pray with the children who visit—but their influence in the children’s lives goes beyond the time they spend in prayer.

The children who come to pray, mostly young boys in the community, often stay for hours at a time, praying and fasting. At times, students have chosen to spend their weekends praying with Uatjaa instead of going home.

Uatjaa’s journey to the ministry she has now didn’t begin easily. A difficult question stood in the way from the moment she moved to Okangwati with Philippe on a word from the Lord that Philippe was to serve as a missionary in that community: “Why?” Uatjaa herself had no idea what she would do there. One thing she knew: she wouldn’t move along any path God did not lead her down.

“I told the Lord, ‘I won’t do anything you don’t tell me to do,’” she says.

Committed to being guiding by God, Uatjaa’s time in Okangwati started slowly. It wasn’t until a local school teacher approached her that she got her first opportunity to serve, by leading Bible readings for students. She agreed, on the condition that she could take the children up a nearby mountain to pray.

The mountain was not without its significance—locals believed the spirits of deceased ancestors resided on it. In the face of such belief, Uatjaa says, prayer is not only a powerful tool, but essential.

The day of prayer that followed—a revival that brought students and teachers alike into God’s presence—fueled what has now become Uatjaa’s well-known prayer ministry in Okangwati. The mountain has served as a location for multiple prayer retreats, and Uatjaa says local boys will venture up to pray in solitude.

But the Zilliox house remains the hub for her work in the area. More than just a prayer house, its doors are open for anyone who needs help. Philippe and Uatjaa disciple the children who come through in all areas of life; they always give food or a bed when a child asks, but they also give the children responsibilities, such as cleaning the house or preparing meals. The children come from various backgrounds; some have fathers who are witchdoctors. Uatjaa says it is positive role models that the children—especially boys—need the most; a reality made more urgent by Philippe’s absence for much of the year. By herself, Uatjaa is in ministry 24 hours a day—and it’s not always easy.

“Sometimes the kids can give you a hard time,” she says, "but it’s also the kids you’re ministering to.” She says that the constant interaction she has with the local children remind her that this is God’s purpose for her—the reason why she and Philippe were called to Okangwati.

The difference Uatjaa is making in the children’s lives is tangible. Now some of their parents are beginning to come with them to see the woman who has brought about such drastic change in their lives. Uatjaa is ready to show them not a woman but a Saviour.

 

By Andrew Fendrich