I apologize for the delay in updating you all about my Nigerian experience, but these past two weeks have been very busy and I’m just now finding the time to write about them! These past few weeks have been a wonderful time of learning new lessons from the Lord and experiencing new things, and I can’t wait to share some of them with you!
Almost two weeks ago, I had my home stay weekend with a Nigerian family. SIM partners with local families who enjoy hosting foreigners in their home to teach them about Nigerian culture. I had the opportunity to stay with a reverend and his family, which was an incredible experience. They were incredibly kind and hospitable, and I enjoyed everything from eating together to watching the World Cup to learning more about their daughter’s school. The family I stayed with was definitely a more “Western” family, as they spent several years living in the United States before returning to Nigeria. I enjoyed learning about their habits as a family, as well as experiencing their hospitality. I truly believe that Nigerians have a unique and wonderful sense of hospitality and welcoming that I had not encountered before this trip that continues to amaze me.
This past week, from June 27thto July 2nd, I was part of a ministry exposure trip to Kano, a city that is about five to six hours’ drive north of Jos. Kano is a city of six million that is approximately ninety-eight percent Muslim. It is an area which SIM wishes to expand into, as there is great need. While in Kano, I had the opportunity to take a day to tour the “Old City,” a portion of the city that is at least six hundred years old. During that day, I visited the Emir’s Palace, which is the home of the traditional ruler of the region (similar in role to the Queen of England). I also visited the Kano dye pits, which were once part of the Sahara trade routes and which are known for their indigo dye. We were able to learn about the dyeing process, which has been handed down through families for generations, as well as see the end product of the process. We also had the opportunity to visit a traditional Hausa home, which had been handed down through the family who lived there for generations. Hausa is both a language and a people group, and the Hausa people are found all throughout the northern part of Nigeria. I also visited the central market, which was a mazelike array of merchants selling a variety of goods from beads and jewelry to prayer mats, food items, and medicines. In the afternoon, we hiked to the top of Dala Hill, which provides a view of the urban sprawl of Kano city. Dala Hill was the first Kano settlement from almost one thousand years ago, although none of the original structures remain.
Throughout the tour day, I found myself encountering in a new and challenging way the realities of urban life in a predominantly Muslim city. Poverty is present in many areas of Nigeria, but it is a visceral and pronounced reality in Kano. It is a heartrending issue to confront, yet nevertheless I find myself drawn to service in an area like Kano. After the tour of the Old City, when we had free time in the afternoon, we went to a mall. I was expecting it to be very Nigerian and perhaps somewhat like the market, but it was virtually identical to an American mall. As I walked into a store that was very similar to a Costco, I remember feeling incredibly disoriented, as if I’d stepped onto another planet. It was challenging and is still challenging to wrap my mind around the extremes of poverty and wealth seen in cities like Kano.
The following day, we had a tour of the ECWA compound, in the small Christian district of Kano. There is a large and well-equipped eye hospital which sees patients from all over Nigeria. It was an impressive facility, and I enjoyed learning about the types of care they provide– there is a small maternity clinic and a general clinic in addition to the main eye hospital. Additionally, we toured Gospel Centre church and talked with the head pastor. It was a fascinating conversation that emphasized the same points as conversations I had with a few of the missionaries presently stationed in Kano– that it is a difficult field of ministry, and that Muslim ministry presents both unique challenges and unique opportunities. Following the church visit, we visited the girls’ hostel, a two-room living facility for eighty-seven Nigerian girls. Originally, ECWA missionaries who went to serve in rural communities would house their daughters at the hostel so they could attend better schools in Kano. Over time, the hostel has opened to the general public, with many girls from rural villages living there in order to receive a better education in Kano. One matron manages the entire hostel, and the girls there are independent in buying food, cooking, and doing laundry.
On Saturday, we had the opportunity to partner with Gospel Centre church in doing a medical outreach in a village about an hour outside of Kano. Due to heavy rains the night before, I and the rest of the team had to hike the last mile or more on foot. We forded a small creek and trekked through the mud, but eventually made it! At the clinic, I had the chance to assist the Nigerian physicians who were seeing patients by taking blood pressures. The medical outreach mainly served women and children, as most men were working in the fields while we were there. There were a number of people from the village we set up in and the surrounding villages, as well as some Fulani people. The Fulani are an itinerant cattle-herding people group. It was interesting to be involved in the medical clinic and to observe the common complaints being treated. I definitely enjoyed the village outreach experience, as it allowed me to see and begin to understand (to a very limited degree) what village life is like in comparison to the more urban lifestyle I have seen among Nigerians living in Jos and Kano.
Sunday was a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn about Nigerian church. We attended a portion of a Hausa-language church that meets outdoors due to having its building burned down nine years ago. It was beautiful to see the worship of such a vibrant and resilient people, who are faithful to serve God when their society pressures them not to. Additionally, we also attended a portion of Gospel Centre’s service, which was wonderful. In reflecting on both churches, I was reminded of the passionate beauty of African worship and of the sense of welcoming present in this culture. It was so encouraging to fellowship with part of the global Body of Christ, and to be reminded of the grandeur of God’s vision for the nations and His glory.
In the past few weeks, I think one of the biggest lessons God has been showing me is the value of community. For the first three weeks of my time here, I was living on a different compound than the majority of the short-termers. As an introvert, I initially wasn’t at all concerned and thought I would appreciate the time to myself. I began to feel quite lonely after a bit, and having these past two weeks (plus a change in living situation) has been an incredible reminder of the value of having community and fellowship with other believers. It was a humbling reminder that I am not an island, nor should I try to be. I am so grateful for these past two weeks as an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of God’s heart for the millions of people in northern Nigeria who are searching, yet need someone to tell them the truth. So excited to share more with you in the weeks to come!
My friends, I am so grateful for all the ways in which you are supporting me. In the next weeks, please be praying that I am faithful and sensitive to God’s leading in the ministries I find myself in. Additionally, please pray for Nigeria in light of the recent violence against Christians in Plateau state. And as always, please reach out via Facebook messenger or email if there is any way at all that I can be praying for you or your family!
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23