It sounds almost like a fairy tale …
Born To Slaves
Born to slaves in secrecy under the threat of murder, his beginning was inauspicious, fraught with danger, and lacking promise.
His courageous parents — enslaved in a foreign country — hid him from those who sought to kill him. But their covert attempts to conceal their baby would be effective for only so long. Trying to hide him from the authorities in their own house was becoming more and more precarious.
When he was three months old, his mother was forced to hide him in a river — where so many of the young children of their people had already been drowned.
A Providential Rescue
Providentially, the baby was not killed, but instead, he was integrated into the royal family of the king who had enslaved his parents’ people, the family of the king who had ordered his death.
The king’s daughter raised him as her own son, and he received the finest education of his day. Over the next forty years, he lived in opulence and comfort. The wisdom he received from his teachers turned him into a powerful speaker. His accomplishments were many and memorable.
Renouncing His Affiliation With The King’s Family
But when he was forty years old, he renounced his affiliation with the king’s family — giving up wealth and ease — and allied himself with his parents’ people, who were still enslaved by the king. Once he had left the king’s household, he saw with his own eyes the burdens his people were enduring. Anger rose up within him, and he defended one of his countrymen from being assaulted by a taskmaster, ultimately killing and burying the perpetrator of the assault.
The next day, he tried to intervene in a fight between two of his compatriots, but he found that his actions the previous day were not as private as he thought they had been. One of the people who was part of today’s fight asked if he was going to kill him as he had killed the taskmaster. This frightened him, and when the king heard about what he had done and tried to kill him, he fled to a faraway land.
Forty Years Later
Forty years later, Moses was married with a family, still living in that far-off country of Midian. He was a shepherd, tending his father-in-law’s flocks. His years in Pharaoh’s house and the short time he spent with the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt seemed like an eternity ago. The events were a distant memory — hidden somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind. He rarely thought of those days any more.
But God had not forgotten the plight of the people of Israel. Their cries for help and rescue from slavery reached His ears. And He remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — that although the people of Israel would be slaves for 400 years in a land not their own, He would rescue them and give them the land of Canaan.
One day, Moses led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb. There he saw a flame of fire burning in a bush, but the bush was not consumed.
The Call of Moses
Fascinated, Moses turned aside to see the bush. But as he approached, the voice of God spoke to him from the bush: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob … I have seen the affliction of my people … I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”1
Moses responded to God’s call five separate times, but the first four times, the heart of his response was the same: “I’m not …”
- “I’m not worthy or anyone special. I’m not a leader.” (“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”)
- “I’m not credible” (“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”)
- “I’m not believable” (“… they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.'”)
- “I’m not eloquent” (“… I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”)
- In his fifth response, Moses was matter-of-fact: “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
Marilyn Owusu-Sekyere was born in Ghana, West Africa as the youngest of five siblings. Her family emigrated to the United States when she was two years old. Living on Staten Island in New York, they attended International Christian Center.
When a new lead pastor came during Marilyn’s teenage years, the church’s commitment to reach the lost, both in their local area and across the world, increased. Short-term missions trips were a hallmark of that growing commitment.
When Marilyn was seventeen, the new pastor led a missions trip to the Dominican Republic. As a teenager, she was excited by the prospect of travel outside of Staten Island and the United States and wanted to go. But she was silent and kept her interest to herself.
The next year, another trip to the Dominican Republic was announced. When Marilyn heard the announcement, she said under her breath, “I want to go.” Unbeknownst to her, the pastor’s wife — sitting in the row in front of her — overheard Marilyn. Later, she brought an application for the trip to Marilyn and encouraged her to complete it.
Marilyn said, “People like me don’t do that.” The pastor’s wife said, “No, I heard you. and God heard you.”
So Marilyn went, and it was on that short-term missions trip — to the Dominican Republic — that Marilyn first heard God call her to be a missionary.
“I’m Not …”
When Marilyn heard God tell her that he would send her to a people enslaved by sin, like Moses, she responded with “I’m not …”
- “I’m not a man.”
- “I’m not married.”
- “I’m not white.”
She thought that all missionaries were men, married, and white because she had never seen someone like her — a single, African American woman — come to her church as a missionary.
She didn’t think she was capable or worthy of doing this “crazy thing” God had put on her heart.
She figured she had heard God incorrectly.
“Send Someone Else …”
And so, she told God: “I’ll just keep going on short-term missions trips. And I’ll help send others.” Like Moses, she in effect said, “please send someone else.”
Three years and nine additional short-term missions trips later, Marilyn surrendered to the call God placed on her life and began to prepare to be a missionary.
More than one of those short-term trips was taken to the Dominican Republic, so it was natural for Marilyn to believe that God was calling her to the Dominican Republic. But the Lord had different plans.
A Vision of West African Children
While fasting and praying one day, God gave her a vision. She saw African children crying and two missionaries smiling and staring at her. While looking at the children in her vision, she heard the Holy Spirit say to her, “These are the children that will never experience my love if you don’t go.” At that moment, instead of responding by saying, “Send someone else …,” she said, “God, send me!”
Later, a missionary couple — Phil and Robin Malcolm, Assemblies of God missionaries to Togo — came to the church to speak with her pastor. Her pastor told them about Marilyn, and the missionaries later contacted her by phone. The Malcolms were deeply involved in training children’s ministry leaders, developing creative, affordable, and culturally-appropriate curriculum and resources for children, and working to help churches find solutions for providing physical space for children’s ministry.
While on the phone that first time, Marilyn told the Malcolm’s she would pray for them. Phil asked if he could pray for Marilyn over the phone. As he was praying for her, God said to Marilyn, “These are your missionaries.” Marilyn had never seen them face-to-face, but when she later Facetimed with them, she realized that they were the missionaries in her vision!
In May 2019, Marilyn was approved and appointed as an Assemblies of God missionary associate to Togo — to work at what was known as the Togo Basecamp, a community of global workers who would gather together with the intent to:
- engage in ministry;
- grow in leadership skills;
- come to know Africa and its people;
- explore how their ministry gifts and interests can be used to reach Africa for Jesus; and,
- confirm God’s call on their lives.
For the next two years, Phil and Robin would mentor Marilyn, counsel her, and encourage her through her itineration process (the season in which Assemblies of God raise prayer and financial support) — in effect, mobilizing her to begin her service in West Africa.
A CHANGE IN PLANS: CÔTE D’IVOIRE
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the Togo Basecamp was closed and Marilyn’s assignment was changed to the Basecamp in Daloa, Côte d’Ivoire, two countries to the west of Togo. Marilyn arrived in Daloa in February 2021.
During the next two years, Marilyn:
- served alongside several missionary colleagues;
- built relationships with many local residents of Daloa;
- progressed in learning the French language;
- helped to conduct evangelistic crusades through which many received salvation and were healed;
- participated in a number of children’s ministries events;
- taught English at the Bible school in Daloa to help prepare Ivoirian pastors who felt called to be missionaries to English-speaking countries (Marilyn has a master’s degree in English);
- partnered with the missionary team and local believers to launch a Bible club for children and youth aged 3-15 in their neighborhood;
- evangelized in numerous schools through One Hope
- worked with Africa Oasis to bring water filters to a community plagued for years by water-borne illnesses under the auspices of the Assemblies of God church in the village (which immediately lends credibility to the church in the eyes of the villagers — including its elders and unbelievers living there);
- raised $20,000 to build five children’s church structures that were in desperate need of meeting places for their children;
- participated in the construction of numerous church and ministry center structures (known as tabernacles)
- ministered at a youth camp where 30 teens rededicated their lives to the Lord;
- and worked with Samaritan’s Purse to distribute Christmas gifts to over 240 orphans.
Marilyn has recently returned from Côte d’Ivoire for a six-month season of reporting back to her friends and supporters on her ministry, with plans to return to West Africa this summer for the beginning of a new two-year term as an Assemblies of God missionary associate, while she pursues ministerial ordination with the Assemblies of God.
When she returns to Côte d’Ivoire, she will continue her service, focusing primarily on work with youth and children and mobilization of new missionaries to Africa (she will be leading the mobilization team for West Africa). And so the one who originally said, “Send someone else” has come full circle and will be following in her original mentors’ footsteps to mobilize others to join her on African soil!
What’s Your Story?
Marilyn’s story may be similar to yours. You may sense a stirring from the Lord to serve Him in a way which is yet foreign to you. But you don’t think you’re worthy. Or you don’t think you’re qualified.
Moses also didn’t think he was worthy. He also didn’t think he was qualified. He thought he wasn’t eloquent. But in reality, Acts 7:22 tells us that he was “mighty in his words and works.” The question wasn’t really if Moses was worthy or qualified, because God is the one who calls us and prepares us for the role to which He calls us. It is He who makes us sufficient for the task to which He calls us.2
As Marilyn said in a recent newsletter,
“We think the Lord only uses certain people — in certain ways — but we forget that we serve a very creative God who is not limited by what we may think are our shortcomings … the Lord still calls and uses us no matter where we are, what we look like, and even what we think our abilities are.”
When asked in an interview what she would say to someone who feels called to missions but doesn’t think they are qualified, Marilyn responded, “He can use you. I don’t care where you’re from, what community you’re from, what people have said over your life — He wants to use you. Take the jump. It’s scary. It doesn’t look familiar. But if you have trusted in your heart and you’ve felt that stirring, don’t try to quiet it. Don’t try to push it down or suppress it.
“He wants to use you. There are people you can reach that no one else can reach. He can use your story, and He’s using it on purpose … I want you to know that you’re a part of God’s plan. He’s known you from the beginning and the people that you will reach for the gospel of Jesus Christ — He’s using you specifically for that … your “Yes” is attached to the salvation of somebody else that you haven’t met yet.”
So instead of responding, “I’m not …” to God’s call, let’s say “Yes!”
How To Join Marilyn In Reaching West Africa For Jesus
If you’ve read our pillar articles (which can be reached through the tabs at the top of the site if you are using a desktop or the three-bar/”hamburger” menu if you are using a mobile device), you know that our conviction is that all believers should be part of a team seeking to reach the unreached. Some will go, some will pray, some will provide financial support, some will provide logistical support — but all are called to give their lives to reach the nations.
By joining Marilyn’s team, you can play a part in spreading the gospel in West Africa. Here are four ways you can be a part of Marilyn’s team:
- You can pray for Marilyn on an ongoing basis. The best way to stay informed of their prayer needs is by signing up for her newsletter.
- You can support Marilyn financially by signing up to support her on a monthly basis or by contributing a one-time gift.
- You can consider physically joining Marilyn to aid the work in Côte d’Ivoire. To find out about opportunities to serve the Lord in Côte d’Ivoire, visit the Wide Open Missions website. If you are interested but are not certain, we are confident that Marilyn would love to speak with you about God’s call on your life.
- If you are a pastor or missions leader in your church, we would encourage you to get in touch with Marilyn to see how she might be able to encourage your people for the cause of missions in Côte d’Ivoire and also to find out how you can be of service to her. Contact information for Marilyn can be found on her Assemblies of God missionary directory page.
COUNTRIES IN THIS ARTICLE: Côte d’Ivoire
1 Exodus 3
2 2 Corinthians 3:6-7