WHEN I was nine years old, I stopped growing. Today at age 43, I am only one meter (three feet) tall. When my parents realized that I would not get any taller, they encouraged me to work hard so that I would not constantly think about my height. To keep busy, 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 who were Jehovah’s Witnesses bought some fruit and then offered me a Bible study. Soon I realized that coming to know Jehovah and his purpose was more important than my height. That helped me a lot. Psalm 73:28 became my favorite scripture. The first part of that verse says: “Drawing near to God is good for me.”

Our family suddenly moved from Côte d’Ivoire to Burkina Faso, and my life changed a lot. In our old neighborhood, people were used to seeing me next to the fruit stand. But in our new neighborhood, I was a stranger, and to many, I looked strange. People stared at me, so I stayed indoors for many weeks. 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 they sent the right person. Nani, a missionary, came to visit me on a motor scooter.

The sandy roads in our neighborhood were always slippery, and in the rainy season, muddy. Nani fell from her scooter many times when coming to study with me, but she did not give up. One day, she offered to take me to the meetings. I realized that this meant leaving my house and enduring people’s stares. In addition, having me on the back of the motor scooter would add extra  weight to a scooter that was already difficult to steer. Even so, I agreed, remembering the second part of my favorite scripture: “I have made the Sovereign Lord Jehovah my refuge.”

Nani and I sometimes fell into the mud, but because we loved the meetings, we did not care. What a difference there was between the loving smiles I saw inside the Kingdom Hall and 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. Both children and adults stared at me, followed me, and made fun of the way I walked. That really hurt me, but when I reminded myself that they needed the Paradise just as much as I did, I was able to endure.

To make things easier, I got a hand-pedaled tricycle. My service partner pushed me uphill and then jumped on the tricycle as we sped downhill. Although the ministry was a challenge at first, it soon made me very happy, so much so that in 1998, I became a regular pioneer.

I conducted many Bible studies, and four of those students were baptized. In addition, one of my own sisters also accepted the truth! Hearing how others progressed often encouraged me just when I needed it. One day while suffering from malaria, I got 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. I was happy to hear that he had become an unbaptized publisher!

How do I support myself? An organization that helps the disabled offered to teach me sewing. One instructor noticed my work habits and said, “We should teach you to make soap.” And so they did. I now 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, I had to stop pioneering because of severe pain in my back. But I still go out in the ministry regularly.

People say that I am known for my smile. I have every reason to be happy because drawing near to God has been good for me.—As told by Sarah Maiga.