Miracles Meetings in Maradi: Part 2

And so the meetings began.  We were in for some amazing stuff.  As I said, we had no idea how many people would come, but we were hoping for ‘a lot’.  As usual, God did above and beyond.  People came by the hundreds.  They came by the thousands.

But it wasn’t without opposition.     Anytime the Kingdom of Light penetrates the Kingdom of Darkness, there will be opposition.

The first night was amazing.  People came early – of course there were TONS of children, since they were the ones that were targeted with the tickets.  The tickets had a two-fold purpose.  The most important reason was for contact information so after the event the local pastors could follow up.  The plan was for each person to fill out the information and at the entrance that portion of the ticket would be turned in, while the attendee kept the other half for the prize drawing later in the evening.  That was the plan anyway.  But that’s not how it went down….

Here’s Neal talking with the police – explaining that we wanted the people to arrive in an organized way – through the gate.  They are explaining to him that that would not be possible.  All of these people had arrived early – before the gates were officially opened.

So we went to Plan B.   In order for us to get the tickets of those that had already come through the gate, we had to have our security guys and our pastors go through the crowds and collect them one by one.  It wasn’t too difficult, as everyone wanted to be sure they were included.

The JSMI team was ready and the program began.  The Gospel was clearly presented by several members of the team.  They all preached with passion and while they were speaking, video was being shown on a big screen.  In spite of the constant noise and commotion, it appeared that many people were listening intently.

John Smithwick is preaching here about the crucifixion and Pastor Benji is interpreting.

While he was preaching, some of those in attendance were not happy with the Gospel being so strongly preached and they began throwing stones.  One of the stones hit Pastor Benji right between the eyes.  Blood was everywhere, but that didn’t stop the message.  Another pastor jumped right up to interepret while we attended to Pastor Benji.

Through our years in Niger we’ve faced various obstacle and challenges – both personally and in ministry.  Every single time we come out the winner.  So it makes me realize just how stupid the devil really is to keep it coming.  Doesn’t he get it?  This kind of opposition just makes us that much more determined.  What we saw take place was nothing less than an outpouring of God’s love for His people.  The atmosphere was anything but reverent.  But in spite of that, he saved and healed that night, and during the 3 nights after that first one.  We witnessed it first hand.

Before this night, this little boy could only crawl on his hands, dragging his legs behind him.  Jesus healed him!  Here John is holding him up after he ran back and forth on the platform a few times.

Here is video of this 8 year old boy who before tonight could not walk.  Praise God!!!  Pastor Nelson is interpreting.

When we arrived the 2nd night, a few of our security guys had a young boy in tow and brought him to Neal, explaining that this was the boy that used the slingshot and hit the interpreter.  They wanted to know if they should turn him in to the police.  We knew that if the police got ahold of him he would be severely beaten. So we talked to him and at first he denied his involvement.  His name was Mohammed and he was 12 years old.  I sent Tobi to go and talk with him and Tobi just said ‘he’s a nice boy’.    We told him that Jesus loved him and wanted to forgive him if he wanted forgiveness.  He said he did.  Then Neal told him that what was left was for him to ask forgiveness from Pastor Benji, and if Benji forgave him, he was free to go.

Here is Neal talking with him.

Here is Pastor Benji explaining why he is forgiving him.

After this, Mohammed returned to every meeting and during the day whenever we went to the field to prepare things, he was always there, ready to greet us.  We don’t know for sure, but we can pretty safely assume that someone influenced Mohammed to do what he did – maybe even paid him.  We believe his life was truly impacted.  What the devil meant for evil, God threw back in his face!

The rocks continued to fly that night and even I was pelted with one of them.  It was a small thing, but every time I felt that bruise over the next week or two, it made me think of the countless believers in the world today that are seriously persecuted for their faith.  So that was kind of an honor.

I was helping interview those that were coming forward with testimonies of healing.  There was a Fulani boy with his father that came.  The ‘boy’ was 20, but didn’t speak Hausa so his father interpreted for him.  He began to explain to me that the boy hadn’t slept for 7 years.  That every time he tried to sleep, he was tormented and died.  What?  That’s what I said!  So I thought maybe I was missing something in the translation – it’s been known to happen!  So I asked one of the pastors to come and listen.  The pastor repeated back to me in Hausa the same thing.  That the boy died every time he tried to sleep, so he couldn’t sleep.  Couldn’t even nap.  In Hausa I said ‘He died?’  In English the pastor replied ‘dead’ – like that made perfect sense.  So I said do you mean like he’s passed out in a coma like state. ‘Yes, yes’.  So I realized then that he had been dealing with evil spirits.  The reason he came forward to testify on the 2nd night of the meeting was because after he went home the first night, after prayer, he slept.  The whole night.  He had even taken a nap that afternoon.  They were both beaming.  As you can see for yourself!  I asked them if they had received Jesus.  They joyfully said ‘Yes’!  I noticed that they were wearing charms around their necks, very typical of Fulani (and many people groups).  I explained that now that they had Jesus, they no longer needed the charms.  I was quite surprised when Dad reached up and immediately pulled them off.  In our experience, it often takes some time and teaching for them to be willing to give up the charms – their protection.  It was incredible!!

This man was healed of knee problems.  According to him, it had been 2 years since he had been able to bend like this.

This woman said she had had a tumor on her right arm and hadn’t been able to lift it up like this.

This man had been deaf.  Past tense!

Miracle after miracle.  Each night.  The Muslims were so upset by the meetings that they began preaching on the radio that this was all false.  First, it wasn’t God doing the healing, because He’s the one who made them sick.  Then they began reporting that the miracles were staged – except that God began healing some of them!  They couldn’t deny that.  In fact they began searching out some of the pastors – asking for prayer!

What an incredible thing this has been for Tobi to be a part of.  He has no doubt that God is our healer!!

He even got to be part of the band!

On the last day there was an additional meeting – a children’s crusade.  It was great and kids from all over the city came.  They came early.  Very early.  A boys bike and a girls bike were among the prizes that would be given away.   That’s a great gift – even for an adult!  There were clowns and dramas, the Gospel was again presented and many hands went up to receive the free gift of Jesus.  Then the sick were prayed for.

To the person who wasn’t aware of what was going on, the whole thing at first glance would look like mass chaos.  In the spiritual realm, a battle was raging. The devil was mad and the evil spirits were getting very riled up.  God was moving.

Neal took some time after the team finished praying for salvation and healing to encourage people to find a church to get plugged into.  He was also declaring over the people that we have life because of Jesus and that Jesus is our healer.  There was a group of ‘rabble rousers’ in the crowd and they began cursing him.  Can you say ‘Book of Acts?’  It was an awesome thing to be a part of!

After it was over, we went to the field the following morning to pack up/take down.  There was still a large crowd of children.  I began talking with them and they first told me that they didn’t get a gift – they didn’t win the bike.  I told them that they may not have won the bike, but that they received the greatest gift of all – Jesus.  One child quickly agreed and said ‘Yes! He’s here in my heart!’

After the team packed up and went home, we continued to hear testimonies of healings come in – from Muslims.  We heard 2 specifically who said they had spent all the money they had on doctors and witch doctors over several years – with no success.  But after coming to the rally – they were completely healed!  Isn’t this exactly what Jesus told us to do?  Lay hands on the sick and they will recover.  He also told us that these signs will follow those that believe.  If you believe, these signs can follow you also!  Praise God!

Last month at our annual ministry meeting held in Maradi, we heard testimonies from many pastors saying that there were new people coming to all of the churches because of the JSMI meetings.  Great reports!

We thank God for JSMI for obeying God and truly coming where others have not wanted to come – knowing the resistance that could be possible.  And there really was resistance.  But the power of God broke through and His message was spread throughout the entire city in a matter of 4 days.

Take that devil!!

Miracle Meetings in Maradi! Part 1

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.

Niger cities location (Maradi)
Regions in Niger

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.

The children gather at one of the schools on the first day.  

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.

These boys on the street just wanted their picture taken.

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…