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A Missionary’s Mission & Obedience: An Interview

1 Corinthians 7:22–  For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

The following is an interview with Dannie Hawley. She is a Missionary overseas in Africa. This fascinating and at times, startling story filled with the LORD’s vision, Mission, and wisdom -will truly ignite the fires of Christianity while reading about Dannie’s life. Sit back now and relax while reading this interview which took place “via email” obviously due to the demographics and time issues. Dannie has replied and all of her responses are in her “own words.” Dannie also is a published author; you will see the link below for her book for those of you who might be interested. She’s currently working on a follow up book, however- no date or set time as of this writing. Now, let’s get on with the interview of this fascinating and modern-day Biblical woman of our times!

God Bless.

CD: Dannie, on behalf of The Bottom-Line Ministries and myself, I’d like to thank you for taking on this interview. I know that so many will be blessed reading your story. I know I was from the moment I met you and have been blessed since. I know you are a Christian and a great woman of faith. It is that faith that has carried you through the tenacious moments in your life, especially in your current role.  -So having said that, would you please give us a brief introduction of who you are and what your current role is today.

DH: On May 5, I will celebrate40 years as a missionary on the foreign field. For the past 33 years I served in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. In 1991, a Swiss nurse and I established a medical clinic in a large and very remote jungle village. I lived and served there for nine years. Three and a half years into those nine years, I became totally blind. Through the grace of God Who strengthened me, I continued serving the sick for another five and a half years before following the Lord’s direction to move across country.

Since that move in 2000, I live in a sprawling, under-developed city of 400,000 people. We have no street signs, curbs or sidewalks and only four main paved streets crisscrossing the city center. For the past sixteen-and-a-half years, I’ve served as the project director for the Samaritan House Children’s Center.

CD: You lost your vision and yet you continue in your role. Can you tell us if there are any challenges you face or have faced because of your loss of sight?

DH: First, I remained at my jungle post—snakes, scorpions and all—because I believed with my whole heart it was what the Lord asked of me, and because He confirmed that through my colleagues at the Clinic. Let me declare the truth of the Word I live daily, CD. In all circumstances, the grace of the Lord is sufficient, whether on a personal or professional level of need. On a personal level -Of course, living in the jungle posed a lot more dangers for a blind person than the seriously under-developed urban city, but for all situations, a sudden noise I can’t identify brings the most fear. Snakes? In-house robbers? We’ve had both multiple times.

I think the one thing I miss the most in being totally blind is interacting with the children. I still do as much as I am able, but I do not see their faces, etc. so cannot really anticipate their actions in a way that allows proper play with them.

On the professional level- I worried my blindness would make me miss some important clue to a patient’s condition. As a blind person, my medical textbooks proved useless in helping me sort out the more complicated cases.

I spoke with the Lord in the very beginning, declaring I would stay and treat patients, but if I ever felt my blindness hindered proper care of anyone’s medical issue, I would leave Africa. Only once did this become an issue. I just could not figure out what was wrong with a dying teenage boy. The usual possibilities and treatments all failed. Finally, I left the clinic and headed for my prayer chair in our home. I was so stressed, I thought I needed to relax before I could even present my petition to the Lord on behalf of the boy.

To relax, I put a random cassette from a large album I had near my chair—the Internal Medicine Review from a Georgia medical school–in my recorder.

Well, as only our mighty Lord can do, the teaching on the cassette was exactly the one that explained what was happening with the patient. The instructor said it was a trick question on the Internal Medicine Certifying Boards. Not only did the teaching clearly outline the medical problem, but as much of a miracle was that we had the treatment right there on our medicine shelves—in our remote jungle clinic.

The life of the boy was saved. He was the son of a powerful marabou in the Muslim community. He said to me “I give you my son because you gave him life again.” A wonderful opportunity to explain the Lord Jesus saved him, not me.

Such episodes proved both the call to remain even though blind, but also confirmed God would supply my every need.

 CD: Amazing witness for the LORD Dani! Amen. What is the greatest moment in your career?

DH: This is a tough one- I’ve had some really amazing moments over these forty years. If pressed to select just one, it would have to be the emotional healing of a three-year-old girl.

In our African country, the husband has his own room and bed. Each wife has her own room and bed. All of the children sleep in the room of their mother. A baby sleeps in the bed of her mother until she is weaned between two or three, or until the next infant comes along. Aicha still slept in her mother’s bed at age three.

For weeks, the little girl slept pressed against her sick mother. That’s where Aicha was when her mother died. Immediately, the light left the three-year-old’s eyes. To the grieving youngster, her own life had also come to an end. Aicha and her brother, age 7, joined our Samaritan House Children’s Center (SHCC) gang for the main meal each day. Aicha just stared straight ahead, never engaging with anyone, even the kids sitting on the bench next to her. Many days, the child stood before us, gripping small pieces of meat in each tiny fist. I smiled and spoke softly to her, but she did not return my smile. She just stared at me, her eyes so lifeless.

For months and months, all of us tried to encourage Aicha to join in the play of the other children. Even the little ones her own age could not get a response from the seemingly life-less child—a walking zombie. Aicha allowed a balloon to be tied to her wrist, but made no response at all when the little ones tried to show her how it moved when touched or with the breeze. Still, Aicha just stared straight ahead without expression.

Sudden noise like the popping of one of the other children’s balloons did make Aicha startle, so we knew she wasn’t deaf, but was she unable to speak? No one knew for sure.

Then it happened! My colleague and I turned down a corridor in our main building that had a glass door at the far end. There was Aicha, with the other little kids, cheering and jumping up and down as they shouted their morning greetings to us.

What happened? No idea. God’s love and the many prayers for the little girl had finally been answered. From that moment, Aicha’s God-given personality broke through. She continues to be an enthusiastic, bubbly person who enjoys helping others—now age 19.

CD: Again – amazing witness to the LORD! Amen.  Dannie, have you ever for one moment thought about retiring?

DH: When serving in the jungle, many, many times I thought about leaving Africa. Besides the intense spiritual war always present in such occult-filled land, my total blindness robbed me of the beauty of the jungle and the faces of people. Frankly, it was just too physically hard some days under those primitive conditions. We had no running water and only in the last couple of years did we have solar lighting. Each time I spoke of giving up, my Swiss colleague reminded me I was there because the Lord asked me to be there. Did I really want to disobey God?  I prayed for more of His grace to stay, and the Lord always provided it for me.

Once we moved across country and founded the Samaritan House Children’s Center in 2007, I never considered leaving/retiring. We had a goal to reach first. The tiny tots needed to be fed, educated and cared for through all sorts of illnesses. When they finish school and have the opportunity for employment—to care for themselves and eventually a family–then we could retire. We’re close now. I’ll be 75 on April 30, and will be happy to leave the blistering heat of Africa in a few years.

CD: What is an interesting fact about this role that would surprise the average person?

DH: I’m sorry- but I just can’t think of an answer. I’ve tried a lot to think of something, but just can’t. But if you’d asked about something that may surprise people. I’d say smart phones. They changed just about everything. The people are still very poor, but they make smart phones cheap enough for all Africans to afford.  Introducing this phone has totally destroyed any small group activities so long a part of the culture. Now, the people prefer to watch videos on their phones. It’s become a very different culture, not nearly as friendly or community minded.

CD: Cell phones seemed to have created social disconnect and wreaked havoc in the majority of the world, doesn’t surprise me at all. Do you miss being in your own country?

DH: More and more as I get older, but not so much in the early years. Back then, the primitive living was an exciting adventure. As a senior citizen, it’s less exciting and more just plain hard work. Not to mention I miss hearing English spoken in stores, on the streets, and living in the culture I grew up in. Of course, being so far from family has always been hard.

CD: Gosh Dannie -I can’t imagine how they must be. That’s why there are callings and God placed your heart there – because you couldn’t have survived otherwise. What are the starling and disparaging differences in the lives of Americans compared to those where you are.

DH: In terms of daily chores: the greatest differences come in the area of conveniences. Our African friends do everything outside the house. The house is really just for sleeping. The sauce for the meal is prepared in a pot over a charcoal stand and the pot of rice is prepared over a wood fire. Only the type of sauce varies, but almost all meals are rice and sauce. Laundry is done by hand, dried on the ground. Of interest is that Each person does his or her own laundry—even the children.

Family here means everything. No one can be married unless all extended family members have been contacted, given a small gift, and obtained permission for the marriage. If a distant uncle the couple have never met does not approve, the marriage doesn’t happen. It takes years to get permission from everyone because the family members are spread all over the country. The groom must travel to the extended family member for both sides of the marriage proposal.

That doesn’t mean the couple doesn’t live together until all permissions have been obtained. Some couples have five children before the permission to marry has been obtained. The saddest event is if the mother of the man’s five children dies before the permission is granted. He loses custody of his children who are farmed out to various relatives of their mother to raise. In terms of spiritual forces of darkness, our African friends are far beyond the understanding of most Americans. They live with spiritual forces invading their lives on a regular basis, so it’s not difficult to explain the difference between good and evil forces here.

CD: Is there ever imminent danger surrounding you?

DH: Before I answer this, I want to explain an important point. Otherwise, people may think the Africans don’t really want us here. It’s not the people, it’s the evil spirits that work in the lives of people who are trying to get us to leave. They don’t want us praying for the sick in Jesus’ name or preaching the Gospel. Demonic activity in Africa is not superstition; it’s real life. Because of the forces of darkness, we must be careful about receiving gifts from people we don’t know well. Curses are placed on beautiful carvings and other works of artisans for the purpose of killing the recipient of the gift.

On the political front, yes, we are always aware we are a moment away from emergency evacuation. There have been several uprisings over the years, but only one resulted in us actually leaving our mission station to wait it out in Mali for six weeks. That happened in 2007. Our host country’s government fell, following many nights of machine guns firing near our home. God is faithful to direct and protect us, so we are aware of the potential, but it doesn’t make us nervous to be here.

CD: Have you ever heard God’s voice in the wilderness?

DH: Many, many times I have sensed in my heart what the Lord is telling me—both in terms of guidance and encouragement. I’ve had visions that clearly explained what was happening at the various stages of this “trial of darkness”. If you mean literally heard God’s voice? Yes, I have heard God’s audible voice once in my life. However, it was not in Africa but during a few months I served in North Carolina. I’d been in missions for five years when an African American couple asked me to come to the Christian Rehab Center they ran. They wanted my help in writing the curriculum for a Bible School program they wanted to organize in Africa.

Naturally, young people, newly surrendered to Jesus coming off various addictions, are a challenge as the Lord works on their hearts. The Lord had already done a mighty work of deliverance in their lives before I moved to the Center.

During one particularly difficult time, the whole group rebelled against any and all authority. They balked at the smallest things asked of them.  The leaders called for a time of fasting and prayer to ask the Lord to help us sort it all out. Even the young people identified the problem centered on spiritual warfare. However, hours of worship and prayer together didn’t seem to make a difference. Something was missing. I’ll never forget what happened that spring night in 1989. It’s as though it just happened last night. I shared the room with another nurse.

Both of us were sound asleep when an audible voice awakened me. “Dannie. Dannie.”

I responded to my colleague, “What do you want? Is anything wrong?”

“What? No, I didn’t call you. Go back to sleep.

I dropped off right away, soon deep in sleep once again. “Dannie! Dannie!”

What do you want?” I said to my colleague. “I was sound asleep.”

“So was I. Stop waking me up. I didn’t call you!”

At that point, I felt like I’d dropped right into the story of young Samuel. Could such a thing happen in 1989 America? Normally, once awakened, I struggle to get back to sleep. Not that night. For a third time, a voice awakened me out of a profound sleep.

“Dannie! Dannie! “A little bit of a soft giggle accompanied my whispered response. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.

“Tell them, the key to spiritual warfare is obedience. The key to spiritual warfare is obedience.”

I did tell the group the following day. I can’t honestly remember if things changed right away or not. However, I will never forget the strong but lovely voice of the Father. Neither will I forget His words and share them whenever I have the chance.

CD: Oh, my goodness!  That is straight out of the Bible Dani!  That is mind blowing! Wow! Thank you for sharing that with us. What is your go to prayer or verse in a crisis?

DH: In 1994, our pastor in Switzerland prayed over us and received Isaiah 43:2 from the Lord for us. We were about to return to Africa. The pastor told us he sensed something hard was going to happen as we returned, but we should not be afraid because the Lord would be with us. I was totally blind soon after returning to our jungle post. So, this verse in Isaiah is my go-to verse in any big trial or sudden crisis that comes up.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

That said, on my struggles as a blind person living in Africa, I’m reminded daily of Psalms 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.”

CD: And finally, what words of wisdom would you share with the readers who may be suffering, going through a personal crisis, or facing challenging medical issues and life overall?

DH: The key truth to cling to with our whole heart and might is that God loves us, and He is a good Father. In every situation of life, God knows all about it. Nothing has been hidden from Him and nothing comes as a surprise. Whatever happens, God has a plan to get us through it, and God has a purpose for allowing us to go through it. It’s not by chance. God does not waste our lives, but He does use every circumstance in our lives here on Planet Earth to build our trust in Him. God knows our innermost being and what is needed to build up our faith, or to help another person build up his or hers. We are a family and God loves to see us help one another.

Most of all, it won’t last forever. Each trial has an end-date, so as one preacher said, “If you are going through something right now, just keep going! Don’t stop.”

CD: Thank you so much and May God continue to bless you abundantly.

This concludes the interview with Dannie Hawley. Extraordinary Missionary and woman of God. I hope you have enjoyed this complex and detailed story of her life and the life overall of missionaries, Bless their hearts.

Dealing With Our Fears When Letting Go Seems Impossible

About C D SWANSON

C D SWANSON is an Author of 22 plus books, freelance writer, contributor to various websites, including The Bottom Line Ministries/Faith News. She's an active member of Faithwriters- and has her online website/ministry for over 15 years. It is her greatest joy to write what’s in her heart, and thus her favorite form of expression is in her devotionals. She and her husband share a deep love of God and dote on their fur baby Mickey. Retired Director from Long Term Healthcare Industry, she continues to be an advocate for many. To check out other writings of this author you can go here:

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2 comments

  1. Wow! What an inspiring lady. The greatness of our God has grown through this testimony Camille. What a gift to read her story. Thank you.

  2. A profound story with challenges that we can’t imagine going through especially with blindness in a place where harm can come in unexpected forms and living conditions are sparse with creatures posing many dangers. A land known for spiritual darkness and people are not to be trusted due to the practice of curses being used against one another is all the more reason to create cautionary responses and mistrust. Only the Lord can break through these barriers and bring real life worth the living. He uses vessels in many forms to accomplish His purpose.
    But for the grace of God we would all in a hopeless state. Only the Lord is our Shepherd, providing and protecting us wherever we are.
    Thank you for sharing Dannie’s mission for her Lord and experiences she shared.

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