Week 5: The Least of These and Being vs. Doing

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Sannu, friends!

I hope this blog post finds you well! I wanted to write to update you about my past week back in Jos, following the Kano trip. Since returning to Jos, I have had several incredible opportunities for medical and community/ministry outreach, and I can’t wait to share with you about the lessons I have been learning in this time!

First, I began shadowing at Faith Alive last week, and it has been an incredible experience overall. It is an entirely free hospital, but also incorporates social and educational measures to encourage empowerment and liberation from poverty. Attached to the hospital compound is a variety of vocational training centers, counseling sites, and transition housing for those in need of a place to stay. I highly, highly recommend checking out their website (faithalivenigeria.org)! Shadowing in the hospital in Faith Alive was an absolutely incredible experience. As a facility that is run entirely on donations and without access to many of the “essentials” of care found in the United States, Faith Alive still manages to provide inpatient and outpatient care, specialist consultations (ophthalmology, OBGYN, psychiatry, etc.), and surgery completely free of charge to all patients. While shadowing at Faith Alive, I had the opportunity to meet the founder, Dr. Chris Oogoegbunem Ischei. He is an incredible man filled with a passion for providing medical care for underserved populations in order to show the love of Christ. While shadowing at Faith Alive so far, I had the opportunity to shadow (and even assist) in surgery, as well as learn from a family medicine doctor and a pediatrician as they consulted with patients. I was so incredibly impressed with Dr. Chris’ vision and story of God’s faithfulness to fulfill the dream of Faith Alive, and I absolutely cannot wait to spend more time shadowing there!

Assisting in surgery at Faith Alive and a photo with Faith Alive’s founder, Dr. Chris!

Last week, I also got the opportunity to tour Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), a government-funded public hospital. It was valuable to compare this hospital to the other mission hospitals and free clinics I have visited so far. JUTH has far more resources, facilities, and patients than the other facilities I have shadowed at so far in Nigeria. Comparatively, they are able to provide a much higher level of care to patients. However, the hospital is not without its problems, as strikes and high costs often make it inaccessible to many patients. While touring JUTH, I was reminded also of the need to continue praying for the ongoing crisis in villages outside of Jos, which recently made international news. Even though the maximal period of violence was several weeks ago, JUTH still saw severely injured patients arriving for care last week. Please, dear friends, be praying for peace and healing in Plateau State.

Also last week was the Fourth of July! Even though I wasn’t home in the US, myself and the other American missionaries made sure to celebrate with food, a homemade slip and slide, and homemade sparklers (which thankfully did not light anything or anyone on fire). It was a slightly surreal experience to play the national anthem and other patriotic songs in Nigeria, and to celebrate with Nigerians, a Brit, and a German as well as with my fellow countrymen! But nonetheless it was a wonderful time of celebration and community.

This week, I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore other ministries that are ongoing in Jos that do not involve medical care. I was able to visit several orphanages associated with City Ministries, an organization in Jos. It was wonderful to see how this organization seeks to protect and invest in the lives of vulnerable children, and to help grow them into skilled, educated adults who love the Lord. Of particular impact to me personally was the Girls’ Transition Home in Bassa, a home for girls in the equivalent of middle and high school. The home at Bassa houses about forty girls, who work together to farm (with a goal of complete self-sustainability), cook, and care for each other. In talking with the missionary whose ministry focus is this home, I was absolutely blown away to hear the ways in which God is answering prayer and providing for these girls. From everything to financial provision to buy the current site of the home to ridding the farmland of an invasive worm to provision to start a secondary school (high school) for the girls, God has proven Himself faithful.

I also had the opportunity to visit Open Doors, a school and vocational training center for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. The disabled are a highly neglected and marginalized section of society in Nigeria, so it was absolutely wonderful to see this ministry and its emphasis on empowering these individuals. I had the opportunity to observe and participate in the physical therapy provided to those students in need of it, as well as to talk with some of the staff about their work. I was amazed by the workers’ dedication to serve these students, as they quoted Scripture about serving these children as they would Christ.

This week was also my second time participating in the street boys’ outreach. The formal title for the particular children this outreach targets is the almajiri. The almajiri system is an incredibly broken and oppressive system present throughout northern Nigeria and in Jos that makes beggars out of Muslim boys as young as four or five years old. I recommend checking out these articles to learn more about it (https://m.guardian.ng/new/the-almajiri-abused-neglectedhttp://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/01/07/nigeria.children.radicalization/index.html).

This week, the outreach showed an animated film about stealing and forgiveness that incorporated a gospel message in Hausa. It was so rewarding to see that the boys began to engage with the film, and were able to vocalize lessons that they learned such as that stealing is bad and being honest is good. Perhaps most exciting was that one of the boys indicated to a leader that he was interested in following Jesus. My friends, please be lifting this precious boy up! Conversion from Islam to Christianity is so incredibly challenging here, so please just pray that God will continue to draw this child to Himself and that no intimidation or harassment would keep him from seeking Jesus.

This past week and a half has been an incredible time of learning about the ministries present here in Jos as well as learning several lessons the Lord has been revealing to me. Over the course of several conversations and some time spent in thinking, I have been pondering over the question “Where would Jesus work if He was a physician?” My friends, I think that my time spent here in Nigeria has impressed on me that He would not work among the wealthy, or where there is easy access to medical care. Rather, I think Jesus would work among those without access to medical care, be they the poor in a country with poor health infrastructure, or even among the poor and uninsured in developed countries like the United States. My friends, what an opportunity there is to love and to show value for those who are marginalized and in need by providing medical care. While I have read Matthew 25:31-40 many times, the Lord has shown me in a new way how I can show love to the “least of these” by dedicating my time and whatever skills He has blessed me with to pour into those who are marginalized, poor, and needy.

Second, something the Lord has been teaching me (although I am hesitant to learn) is that He is glorified by our obedience, even when our plans for ministry do not work as we would like. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Nigeria thus far, in retrospect I can see many moments earlier in my time here where I could have done more ministry had I known about it. Looking now to the remaining weeks I have in Nigeria, it is so easy for me to feel disappointed that I have will not be able to do all the ministry I have wanted to do. Yet the Lord is teaching me that ministering and representing Him does not equate to accomplishing all of the ministry tasks I have on my to-do list. Rather, He is glorified by my obedience to follow Him here to Nigeria and by my efforts to show the love of Christ to those I encounter while I am here. While ministry does involve real service (and I don’t intend to discount that ministry should be active and intentional), I think that the Western cultural mindset which is obsessive about task management and accomplishment often hinders us as ministers. It is so easy to judge the value of ministry (or our personal faith journey) by the milestones or tasks we accomplish. But ministry and faith are not about a series of check marks and trying to do “enough” good deeds to feel satisfied at the end of the day. Rather, both ministry and faith are irretrievably tied to dwelling in the Lord and seeking to obey and honor Him. Faith and ministry are as much (perhaps even more) about being as they are about doing. While this is a challenging lesson to learn for a type-A perfectionist, I am hoping that it may be encouraging to you as well.

To summarize, friends: God is faithful. He is working in the hearts of these precious people in Nigeria. I absolutely love it here, and while I cannot wait to see you all back home, I know I will be leaving part of my heart here. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had thus far and the lessons I am learning along the way. And I am so very thankful for all of you, for your prayers and your support! As I mentioned earlier, please just be praying for peace in Nigeria and in the Middle Belt region in light of the recent violence as well as for the street boy who is seeking Jesus. Blessings, dear friends!

Sai anjima!

Julianna

“‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’” John 15:4-5

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