WHEN I was nine years old, I stopped growing. That was 34 years ago in Côte d’Ivoire, and even today I stand only three feet (1 m) tall. At the time that my condition became apparent, my parents encouraged me to work hard so that I would not constantly think about my appearance. I set up a fruit stand in front of our house and kept the display neat. That attracted many customers.
Of course, working hard did not change everything. I was still very short, and I had to struggle with even simple things in life, such as the height of store counters. Everything seemed to be designed for people almost twice my height. I felt sorry for myself, but that changed when I was 14 years old.
One day, two women—Jehovah’s Witnesses—purchased fruit, and then they started a Bible study with me. Soon I realized that coming to know Jehovah and his purpose was more important than my physical situation. That did me good. Psalm 73:28 became my favorite scripture. The first part of that passage in the Bible states: “Drawing near to God is good for me.”
Quite abruptly our family moved to Burkina Faso, and my life changed dramatically. Back in our neighborhood in Côte d’Ivoire, I had been a familiar sight beside the fruit stand. But in our new surroundings, I was a stranger and, to many, a strange sight. People stared at me. I reacted by staying indoors for weeks at a time. Then I remembered how good it had been for me to draw near to Jehovah. I wrote to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses and was visited by the right person—Nani, a missionary on a motor scooter.
The sandy roads in our neighborhood were always slippery, and in the rainy season, muddy. Nani tumbled from her scooter countless times while coming to study with me, but she was undaunted. Then she offered to take me to the meetings. I realized that this meant venturing out of the house and enduring people’s stares. Furthermore, having me on the back of the motor scooter would add extra weight to a scooter that was already difficult to steer. Nevertheless, I agreed, aware of the second part of my favorite scripture: “I have made the Sovereign Lord Jehovah my refuge.”
Nani and I sometimes toppled into the mud, but it was worth it to get to the meetings. What a contrast the loving smiles I received inside the Kingdom Hall were to the stares I got outside! Nine months later, I was baptized.
“To declare all your works” is the third part of my favorite scripture. I knew that the ministry would be my biggest challenge. I still remember the first time I went preaching from house to house. Children and grown-ups alike stared at me, followed me, and imitated how I walked. That really hurt, but I continually reminded myself that they needed the Paradise just as much as I did; so I persisted.
To make things easier, I got a hand-pedaled tricycle. My service partner pushed me uphill and then jumped on the tricycle as we gained momentum going downhill. The ministry, a challenge at first, became a source of great joy, so much so that in 1998, I enrolled as a regular pioneer.
I conducted many Bible studies, and four of those persons were baptized. In addition, one of my own sisters also accepted the truth! Hearing how others progressed often buoyed me up just when I needed it. One day while suffering from a bout of malaria, I received a letter from Côte d’Ivoire. I had started a doorstep Bible study with a university student in Burkina Faso and had turned it over to a brother. The student later moved to Côte d’Ivoire. How happy I was to learn that he had become an unbaptized publisher!
How do I support myself? An organization that aids the disabled offered to teach me sewing. One instructor noticed my work habits and said: “We should teach you to make soap.” They did. I make laundry and household soap at home. People like my soap and recommend it to others. I deliver it myself, using a three-wheeled motor scooter.
Sadly, in 2004, pain caused by my deformed spinal column had increased to the point that it was only reasonable for me to stop pioneering. Nevertheless, I still have a full share in the ministry.
People say that I am known for my contagious smile. I have every reason to be happy because drawing near to God has been good for me.—As told by Sarah Maiga.