As I said, the next few days were exciting and powerful. Sunday morning we divided the team into smaller teams and they ministered in several different village churches. Sunday afternoon we went out to do our first open-air village crusade. We went to the village of Karoussa – almost an hour’s drive into the bush. Karoussa is a village of maybe 2 thousand people. Our plan was to arrive by 5pm and go door to door witnessing and inviting people to that evening’s rally. Describing a village in Niger is difficult, even to one who has visited an undeveloped nation. The houses are made of mud or thatch. There is no electricity. Water is obtained by pulling it up in a hand made rubber ‘bucket’. Even though many of our team members had been on multiple mission trips, I don’t think any of them were totally prepared for what they experienced.
One thing that was amazing to everyone though, is that even though this nation is Islamic by the number in it that claim to be Muslims (95 – 99%), it is democratic and proclaims religious freedom. This means that we had a legal right to go door to door to preach the Gospel. And that’s exactly what we did.
We divided the team in 2’s and 3s and each group went a different direction with a church member from that village, and an interpreter. Trae and Tanika both helped with that. The responses of the people were varied, but they were almost always open and willing to hear what we had to say. One way that you are sure to grab the attention of a Muslim is to ask them the commonly used question when witnessing, “If you were to die tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?” The answer is always ‘no’. That is one thing a Muslim never has is assurance of salvation (unless he dies in Jihad). The follow up question is simply “would you like to know?” Some were prayed with to receive salvation right then. All were invited to the upcoming meetings.
We sent our worship team ahead to set up the generator, lights and instruments. They began playing when we arrived. That was a huge crowd draw. Village entertainment is severely lacking and though we knew our purpose wasn’t just to entertain, it sure was an effective tool. We were set up in the ‘town square’ aka large open area in the center of the village. It was near the main mosque, and so as not to offend, we started our meeting at 7:10, right after Muslim prayers. Some of the men left the mosque,walked a few steps, and sat down for our meeting. After some great praise music, the team did a wonderful job of presenting the Gospel, from creation to the miracles of Jesus, to salvation. One is quick to learn that attention spans among the uneducated are very short so you have to keep it fresh to keep attention. (I don’t say that to be offensive, just to state the sad fact that Niger is the most uneducated nation in the world). Team Word of Life did just that. They used stories and drama, and each team member was ready with their part of the story. At the end, Cole, the team leader, gave an opportunity to receive the greatest miracle of all – salvation. The crowd was gathered in a semi-circle and the open area in the middle continued to get smaller and smaller as people worked to get closer. Many hands were raised when the opportunity for salvation was given. A general prayer for the sick was prayed and Cole then asked people to do what they couldn’t before and if there was a change to come and give a testimony. The response was slow at first, but then a man came forward and was very excited. He explained that his leg was healed. He began doing squats and said that before he was not able to do that. It was pretty cool. Then several people followed, giving testimonies of their healings – many with leg/foot/knee problems. God was confirming His Word with signs following – just like He said He would!
Although the next two days were similar, they each their own ‘feel’. Our format was the same, and many were saved, healed and challenged. The 2nd night, in the village of Gangara we estimate about 800-1000 people came to the rally. When the prayer of faith was prayed for healing and people were asked to come forward and give testimony, there seemed to be some confusion and people started flooding forward for prayer. Tobi brought to me an old woman (hunched over and very wrinkled) and said she needed prayer for her knees, that they were ‘paining her’. I told Tobi to go ahead and pray for her. He hesitated at first but then I told him I would help him. So he bent over and put his hands on both of her knees and repeated out loud what I prayed. He then began to ask her (speaking in Hausa of course) if they were better. She said they were getting better. He prayed again. Then he told her to start moving her legs – demonstrating by kicking out his own in kind of a marching pattern. She did and then appeared on her face a bright smile as she said the pain was gone. I told her to go forward to testify. I explained to Cole that Tobi had prayed for her. She told Cole what happened and when he asked her who healed her, (expecting of course for her to say God), she pointed to Tobi and said, “He did”. After that, everyone wanted Tobi to pray for them. We had to explain that it wasn’t he that did the healing, but that it was God through him. Cole continued to pray for the people that were coming forward, many receiving healing, and then referred them to the pastor we have in that village. It was a powerful night.
It’s rainy season in Niger so there is a bit of a risk planning outdoor meetings during this time. The first day as we were traveling to the village, a bank of storm clouds was in front of us, then seemed to travel around to the side and behind. No rain. The 2nd day, it poured rain right as we were preparing to leave. When we arrived at the turn off into the bush from the main road, there was a barrier up and we were told the road was closed because of the rain (It’s not a great road). We were in 4 vehicles, and pondered what to do. We turned around and were going to attempt a different way through the bush when the police called us back and said they would let us through! It was slow going and I’m sure our team would have referred to the trip as ‘adventurous’… But we made it and would you believe it that when we arrived though there had been a torrential downpour earlier, there was hardly a sign of rain. There was a bit of concern about the thundercloud that appeared directly above us, but God had brought us this far and the rally would go on! The 3rd night we were not bothered at all with weather.
We have been in Niger long enough to know that the motives of people are easily swayed by their great need. But among those whose hearts may not be just right are those who are genuinely touched by the Holy Spirit and are ready to be discipled as new believers. We believe that these crusade meetings have produced lasting fruit as God confirmed His Word. This is a perfect example of the purpose and power of the various giftings in the body of Christ. This team worked hard for almost a year, invested time and money, prepared dramas, and came in prayed up and ready for God to move through them in a great way in a short time. He did. Then they returned home. Now comes our part. We’re here to continue what they started – to disciple the new fruit. That is accomplished by training leaders and pastors who will train the new believers to go out bring in more harvest. The cycle will continue as we all do our part.
Thank you to Pastor Lenoir and Joe and Team Word of Life. Mission accomplished. Thank your for your investment into the precious souls of Niger. We know it was a challenging, stretching time, but one that we believe produced growth in your own lives as you gave of yourselves. Thank you for your investment in our family personally. We are grateful for what you have done, and we give God the glory.