Last night Neal and I got dressed up (African style) and went out. We looked pretty good! On the way to our destination, I commented that it was kind of like we were on a date. It was a date. A date with about 3000 other Nigeriennes. It was an evangelistic meeting with a ministry from Burkina Faso, and was organized in conjunction with the churches in Niger. Here’s just a small part of the crowd.
Many that came were Christians, many were Muslims, and many came out of curiosity.
It wasn’t really possible to get a full crowd shot without rushing up on the platform, and as tempted as I was to do that, it may have gotten me arrested – or at least tackled.
We arrived to our very own Pastor Nelson leading the praise – as only he can do. And they had those speakers turned up loud. I should know because we were sitting right in front of them. After all the preliminary stuff and announcements, the Evangelist arrived. First came the military escort vehicle, and then his vehicle. All of the military police surrounded him as he walked to the front row and took his place. He’s the man in the suit.
What you may not see are all of the ‘bodyguards’. Here’s a better shot.
We were fortunate to sit on the front row so had a birds eye view. Well, maybe not birds eye, but we had a view. It was almost fascinating to watch these soldiers fan out in formation as the man of God arrived. This guy and his ‘gear’ was standing about 6 feet in front of me.
Now it’s pretty standard protocol that you never take pictures of police, military or government buildings. That’s seriously frowned on around here. So even though seeing the military police is pretty par for the course for us- as we see them around the city most days, I don’t have many pictures of them. (I’ve sneaked a few here and there but that’s a secret). Here, however, everyone had cameras, so I decided to join in the fun and snap away.
The preaching was being done in 3 languages, unfortunately none of the languages we speak. So we asked our trusty friend and master interpreter, Habibu, to sit with us and help us out. Anyone who know’s Habibu, knows that he’s always happy to help out. Clearly.
However, when the entourage arrived, Habibu looked anything but pleased. There was even some eye rolling going on. Then he started counting all of the soldiers out loud. And pointing. We had to tell him to stop pointing. He thought it was serious overkill.
That got me thinking….I’m watching everything going on. All of our senses are involved. It was hot, dusty, very loud and lots of interesting stuff to look at. The only thing missing was taste. But then I realized the dust in the air we were breathing had that covered too.
I understood where Habibu was coming from. In our ministry, we sort of frown on big titles and positions that make one’s chest expand. So he could not understand why the man of God needed all this protection.
And I was still thinking. Here we are in Niger. A nation where the vast majority of the people claim Islam as their religion. And here they were. PROTECTING a Christian event. An event where hundreds were giving their lives to Christ! I can almost guarantee that every one of those soldiers was Muslim. But they were committed to protect the man of God, and really, all those attending. And they themselves, as ‘soldier like’ as they remained, were also hearing the Gospel. There is no way they could turn off their ears. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was loud.
Earlier today I was reading in Mark about the camel and the needle and things being impossible. The disciples asked a question. “How then can anyone be saved?” Jesus replies, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
People are being saved in a place that once looked impossible for Salvation to penetrate. These are Muslim ladies rushing to the front for salvation.
The government, in a nation that espouses everything Islam, is protecting massive evangelistic campaigns.
Hundreds ran to the front to receive Jesus. I saw it with my eyes.
It’s an amazing time to be in Niger. We have been here for 20 years and have had the privilege to see the growth. To see the Gospel expand. To see the local church rise up in authority and boldness, breaking down denominational barriers.
When we arrived in 1998, we were told that there were probably about 3000 Christians. Today, there are several hundred thousand of us.
And those were the thoughts I was having last night as I proudly watched ‘The Church’ in Niger very successfully host a mass evangelistic campaign.
The best is yet to come.
PS. If you’d like to see a video of people rushing to the front for salvation, check out my Facebook page – Danette Goodmanson Childs