I recently returned from Nigeria. Before I left, I checked out a guide book on Africa. Only three pages of this six hundred page book were devoted to Nigeria, a sure sign of the country’s tourist industry. I mentioned Nigeria once to a world-savvy acquaintance and he remarked that the only people who travel to Nigeria are missionaries, mercenaries, or merchants. It certainly did not make President Obama’s list of African countries to visit.
Although Nigeria isn’t on the top of most desirable tourist locations for vacationers this year, it is a key-player in Africa. And by 2050, Nigeria’s population will exceed the US population of over 310 million people. We know from the Bible that each person in Nigeria is precious in His eyes. At infinite cost to Himself, Jesus has not only opened wide the gates of paradise, but He has also prepared good works for Nigerians to walk in. Their energy, entrepreneurial spirit and faith make them admirably fitted for pioneer mission to remote spots both in Africa and beyond.
And I think we can learn something about faith from our brothers and sisters there. For many (but not all), their discipleship is shaped not by comfort and convenience, but by poverty and persecution. My host in Nigeria, Bishop Nathan Inyom, showed me a letter from a fellow Bishop down the road in the city of Maiduguri.
The letter to his fellow Bishops reported that in March 2013 eight parishioners en route to worship at the Cathedral had been beheaded. Some churches have since closed. Twenty- three out of twenty-seven churches are now under the control of the radical insurgent group Boko Haram. Ambushes and murder are not uncommon. Members often stay indoors out of fear, and yet– in an immortal phrase (I quote him)– “We are not discouraged.”
Can we in our challenges learn from our Nigerian brother and sisters in Christ and say “We are not discouraged”?