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Some of you may remember, I went to Nigeria with the LIFT Discipleship program as their photographer. The LIFT director wrote this upon our return home and I though it was a good setup of what I’ll be writing about eventually. We experienced some pretty unusual things for a short-term vision/mission trip:
Jos, Nigeria: November 21 – December 2, 2008.
After eating turkey and stuffing and having a wonderful worship service of giving thanks for all the Lord has done and shown our group for the first week in Nigeria, we awoke the following morning to see the horizon darkened with smoke and hear riotous chaos and gunshots. The results of the local political elections in Jos were the fuel to another wave of religious violence to the epicenter of the Muslim/Christian animosity in Nigeria. Muslim youth initiated another time of terror for Jos, similar to an outbreak in 2004, and its darkest waste of human life back in 2001 just days before 9/11. Although this crisis received very little international attention compared to the terrorist attack in India, it was no less of a tragedy with an unofficial count of over 400 deaths, many more injured, and many homes and businesses burned. We could see many people fleeing from the senseless violence trying to find safe shelter after their houses and neighborhoods were burned.
After a week of helping in various orphanages, our itinerary for ministry changed from assisting with medical outreach to a village an hour away to the refuge camp that formed across the lake in front of where we were staying. Over 1,500 demoralized and fearful people, many of them now widows and orphans, found refuge at the United Nations campus that is now being used for Drug Enforcement Training for Nigeria. Our LIFT (Leaders in Further Training) team of 19 students and staff joined the Pro Health International medical staff to treat both physical and psychological trauma that resulted from the terror and killings that happened on the other side of the city.
What was intended for evil and destruction, the Lord faithfully turned to good. The team of over 40 Christians worked long hours to serve both the Muslim and Christian victims by providing medical treatments, medications, minor surgeries, HIV/AIDS education, prayer and evangelism, and other capacities. College students kept the children occupied with games and songs complete with hand motions as there was much waiting in long food lines three times a day. New shoes and shirts were distributed and a hundreds of children participated in multiple mini games of soccer and basketball. About 30 widows received a monetary gift to help with their transition back to life after the riots.
Through only God’s hand allowing access, we joined with Peter Sorenson’s African Prison Ministry and again, Pro Health International to spend a day in the Jos prison showing God’s love through medical care, prayer, and evangelism. There is no better demonstration of the freedom Christ brings from the chains of sin than with inmates condemned to death row who know Jesus yet walking in the joy and hope He brings.
Much was done in a very short time to provide relief to people in desperation. Over the last five years my focus has been long-term sustainable community development and transformation for effective ministry among the poor. The Lord has humbled me once again to show me the vital importance of using 5 loaves and 2 fishes to bring immediate physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual relief to people broken and hurting. I can honestly say that just as Jesus purposed 12 heaping baskets of fish and chips to increase the faith of each of His previously doubting disciples, we also saw how He could use any of us if we just give Him all we have and trust Him to multiply it. This is the kind of math no school can teach us – only that learned by being His disciple. My prayer as we left the broken and charred neighborhoods of Jos is that we would grow in faith from the bounty of His fruit that we witnessed and that Jesus would again provide full baskets in the lives of those left still having to put their lives back together with the help of the local churches and ministries. Despite the onslaught of waves of evil in this world, God’s love always prevails, overcomes, and sustains. It is the Rock that cannot be moved and the Kingdom that continually advances to replace this broken world of sin.
We learned so much from our dear Christian brothers and sisters from Nigeria as we worked alongside them and observed their passion for Christ, patience amidst trials, overflowing generosity, and service to the needy. Thank you Ardills, Iko, Esther, Juliet, Paul, Josephine, Ajan, Tony, the rest of the Pro Health Team and all the staff who have given themselves to work tirelessly with the many orphans at the Gidan Bege (House of Hope) homes.
As I look out on the cold snowy landscape here in Speculator, remembering all God has done these past two weeks across the Atlantic in the most populous African nation, I will conclude with this last thought from our theme song (Let Us Adore) that has been so relevant this whole semester, especially in Nigeria.
“HE IS OUR GOD – THERE IS NO ONE ELSE!”
–Tim Trezise, LIFT Director