I’ve been wanting to write this post since November. There are lots of reasons why it hasn’t been done with the most recent reason being our internet, or lack thereof. Living in a developing nation, that’s just how it is sometimes…well, much of the time. But, I’m here now. And I’m going to write.
In 2007, we were a part of the first ever mass evangelistic campaign to be held in Niger. It was held in Niamey, the capital city. Richard Roberts brought a team of ministers and doctors to minister in this historical and nation changing event. In the beginning, we had no idea how many would come, but God far exceeded our expectations. Estimates on the last night were 30,000 people! Since then, the Gospel has continued to spread. Even though Niger is still less than 1% Christian, God’s Kingdom is gaining ground. This past November, there was another crusade in Niamey. Dag-Heward Mills brought his team from Ghana and ministered to thousands. The week after that incredible event in Niamey, John Smithwick Ministries International (JSMI) came to Niger to do an evangelistic rally in Maradi. The first ever in that key city in Niger. We again got to be a part of something historical. A city-wide evangelistic rally in Maradi.
This is just a small portion of the crowd. The meeting was held in the wrestling arena.
As I’ve said before , Maradi is where we lived for our first 9 years in Niger. Except for the almost 2 years during that time that we lived in Diffa to start a church. In 2007, we moved to Niamey. Here’s a map of Niger showing the different regions. The majority of the population here is in the southern belt, known as the Sahel.
On to Maradi we go. Over Thanksgiving week, a team of 22 people came to Maradi for this unprecedented event. They actually flew into Kano, Nigeria and Neal and Pastor Nelson drove their to pick them up and bring them to Maradi. That airport is closer (and less expensive to fly into then our airport in Niamey). The trip was uneventful, and that is a very good thing and a big answer to prayer.
JSMI doesn’t advertise in a traditional way to invite people to come. The meetings are called a ‘cultural exchange’. Their team is divided into groups of about 7 and during the mornings, they go into the schools where we have obtained advance permission. This group was divided into 3 teams. With drama, clowns and singing, they present the Gospel and then they hand out ‘tickets’ to each child, inviting them to come back to the evening meeting and to bring their parents. The free ticket is not only their entry, but is used in a drawing for prizes that are given away each night.
That’s the ‘outline’ that was used. But remember – this was something that Maradi had never seen before. Ever. We literally had no idea how the Muslim city would respond. So even though we had received permission to go into the schools (public and private), after the first presentation, at the mention of the name of Jesus, they shut us down.
They are intently watching the program and loving it.
Here’s one of the teams doing their thing.
The above picture if one of the largest schools in Maradi. It was from here that we got a call from the school inspector that we could not come to the schools anymore. But the teams got such a great response and the directors wanted us to do the program in their schools. So the Inspector called back and said we could come to the schools if we agreed not to talk about Jesus. Hasimu, our pastor in charge of all the pre-planning, politely explained that the reason we were there was to talk about Jesus.
Niger is because although the majority of it’s people are Muslims, the nation is politically a religious free state. That means we have the right to preach the Gospel on the streets. So to the streets we went. Each of the 3 teams went to different locations around the city, did the program, invited people to the evening meetings and then moved to another location to repeat the process. After 3 days of this, the whole city was blanketed.
This is one of the vans the team used to get around the city.
We strategically went to locations near schools and did the program during their break times.
We would park at the designated location and all the team members walked around the streets inviting whoever was there to the night meeting, and to the drama they were going to do right then.
There’s a clown in that crowd!
The presentation on the streets.
The kids intently watching the drama which clearly demonstrated the Gospel.
With the drama finished the kids are serious about wanting their tickets.
This little guy has his ticket for the evening program.
In Niger, life is mostly lived outside. So we came into contact with lots of people. After watching the drama, this lady told me that she had just come out of mourning – her husband and son had died on the same day – 40 days earlier. She’s holding her Muslim prayer beads. Sadly, death is a common part of life here. The people desperately need Jesus.
Each team was assigned a policeman for security. This was the policeman assign to the team I was on. I was shocked that he was helping us pass out the tickets on the streets. Actually, it made me laugh. A Muslim inviting children to a Christian program. Not something we see every day!
My next post (in the next couple of days) will be about the night meetings. What happened was nothing short of miraculous. But I wanted to end this post by including a few more pictures of what some of the schools in the city of Maradi look like.
Tobi is helping hand out tickets in one of the classrooms. See how their belongings are hanging on the ‘wall’.
This is an empty classroom. All the kids are gathered for the program. The children sit in the sand and try to write in their small notebooks.
This is the school (classrooms). Makes one think twice before complaining about what our schools don’t have…
NEXT….the crowds exceeded our expectations! This is Hasimu, on of our head pastors, and the local coordinator of the event.
The story continues…