Abuja, Nigeria, January 3-10
I arrived in Abuja at 5:00 A.M. This was a tougher than the average set of flights. Abuja is a city of five million. It is the second city of Nigeria and is the political capital. It is a sort of an artificial city, as it was carved out of countryside beginning in the early 80s as a brand-new city. This was done so as to create an alternative to Lagos, the financial capital of Nigeria. This was probably a good idea because Lagos is a massive city and is very chaotic. Second, Lagos is in the southwest corner of this large country and a more central capital like Abuja is a wise idea. A key thing about Nigeria has to be kept in mind; This is not a united country, religiously. The north of the country is predominantly Hausa in culture and language and Muslim in religion. The south of the country is predominantly Yoruba or Igbo in culture and language and Christian in religion. Abuja lies near the divide between the two and therefore it is a religiously divided city. The two do not mix well here in Nigeria. I am met by Shadrach Obasa. Shadrach, with his wife, leads a family of five churches here in the central and northern parts of Nigeria. They call it the Northern Block. We have been friends for 15 years, since my first visit to Lagos. The church here in Lagos is about 230. It has grown much since my first visit 12 years ago with my daughter, Kate. Most of the churches here in this part of Nigeria have been growing. Because Abuja is a more prosperous city, the church is financially stable and able to support a few plantings. They recently hired a campus minister. Other churches include Kiduna and Jos. This is a country of 180 million plus inhabitants. It is the most populous country in Africa and is quite crowded. Imagine a country about 25% larger than Texas with 180 million people. Now you get Nigeria. My main work here is as a teacher for the annual leadership conference in northern Nigeria. There are about 50 men and women here, desiring to be more effective leaders for the church in this dangerous part of Nigeria. I visit the site where the church meets. There are threats painted on all of the buildings by Muslim radicals, warning the church to leave within 24 hours or else. The church had to put up barriers, hire permanent security and have armed guards at all of their meetings. On Friday, I teach an eight-hour class on the book of Revelation. This is a very religious country. There is a church on every corner, and two or three on some corners. However, most of the churches here teach the prosperity gospel. Believers also hear many false teachings about end-times, making a class on Revelation important. Teaching about remaining faithful despite persecution is particularly relevant here as well. Worship in Nigeria is very lively. Singing involves dancing and many drums. It is hard to explain the level of emotion in the worship. It makes the kind of worship I am used to seem almost boring by comparison. On Saturday, I teach a class on Daniel for the leadership conference. The context of the book is the Jews suffering terrible persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes. This seems more relevant here where there is so much persecution of the church. In the evening, I get to spend time with the leaders from the various churches in central Nigeria who came to the conference. The faith of these men and women is a great inspiration to me. In the evening, I meet with the leaders of the satellite churches: Ibieneye and Ebunoluwa Taylor Harry from Kaduna, Tunde and Josee Omiwole from Jos, Antony and Juliette Echimie from Lokoja and Ayodeji Akure from Olahenka. They have so many questions about how to help their small churches. I ask what they need from us. The answer is that they need for shepherds or elders to visit their churches. They need books, as their members love to read, and they have almost no material. They need financial support. If anyone reading this can help with one of these needs, please consider coming to Nigeria or helping someone else to do so.
Jos, Nigeria, January 7-8
The journey to Jos is five hours by car on pretty questionable roads. Jos is to the northeast from Abuja, on the Nigerian plateau. It is at about 4000 feet, so the weather here is quite pleasant, getting into the upper 50s at night and about 80 during the day. The population of this city is 1.5 million. Jos is right on the dividing line between Muslim and Christian Nigeria, which makes this a place of great conflict. Formerly, it was mainly Christian and Animist, but Muslims have pushed in in the last 30 years or so, setting up repeated rounds of bloodshed, with brutal massacres being not uncommon. Fault lies on both sides. While traveling here and while in the city I have an armed soldier at all times, as it is not safe for Westerners here. The church here has 30+ members. It is led by Tunde and Josee Omiwole. Fortunately, for such a small group, they are able to have full time leadership. They have great vision for the work of God here. On Monday evening, I give a lesson to the leadership group from Acts 20 on Paul’s commission to the Ephesian elders. They have so many questions, as the amount of Bible teaching here is not great. I am so proud of this group for taking a stand for Jesus in this city where this is not a very safe thing to do. On Tuesday, I tour the city a bit, visiting an animal park which is really a zoo and a cultural museum. In talking with Tunde, I learn of a brother in a northern city who is the head of police in a state in the far north of Nigeria. This is the center of gravity of the troubles with Boko Haram. He has been sharing his faith there and now has 22 people studying the Bible, many of whom are close to becoming Christians. How amazing is that? Unfortunately, he is being transferred to a different post, so the church here is trying to figure out how to take care of the nascent church. In the evening I teach for the church on From Shadow to Reality. There are about 30 in attendance, including a couple of visitors. Church starts at 5:30 because it is not safe to be on the streets after 8:00, so midweek needs to end by about 7:15. Tomorrow we return to Abuja. In Abuja, I taught one more time of From Shadow to Reality. There are about 150 at the meeting. I will miss this faithful group of Christians.