Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 3 — The ‘Where’

Ok.  So I haven’t blogged as much as I expected to.  BUT I have gotten lots of other things done.  Namely completing the children and youth ministry curriculum I had been writing.  Done.  Checked off the list.  That’s big.

Our time here in Benin City has been quite amazing.  We’re really having a lot of fun.  And lest anyone think we are ‘suffering for the Gospel’ on this here mission trip, let me set you straight.  First of all, we are receiving royal treatment by our hosts Archbishop Margaret Idahosa and Bishop Feb & Rev. Laurie Idahosa.  And they’re not even here!  They have an incredible staff here running things.  We are blessed!

This is the building we’re staying in.

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Here Neal and Tobi are discussing on our front porch…not sure what about.

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This is our first room – which is lovely.  But our hosts decided it wasn’t big enough for us so they relocated us to an even nicer room.  I don’t have pictures of the new place yet, but I will take some.

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Tobi has his own quarters next to us… He’s busy ‘doing’ school at the moment.

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This is the lobby of our ‘house’.  Our first room is the one on the left.  Tobi next to us.  We are now occupying the 3rd door .  There are 3 more rooms next to us.
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We are eating 3 meals every day.  And the only thing that I do with regard to those meals is nothing.  That’s right.  Nothing.  Not only do I not have to plan them, I have nothing to do with their preparation.  All I do is walk about 100 yards when the proverbial bell is rung.  We have been eating some wonderful African food.  Love it all.  There is nothing that we’ve eaten that we haven’t loved.  Seriously.  And clean up?  We get up from the table and say thank you.  We don’t even clear our own plates!  Tobi is generally a pretty grateful kid, but I’ve taken it upon myself to remind him of what a blessing this all is – and how easy it would be to begin taking it for granted.  He agreed on all counts.  It won’t be until we arrive home that we’ll see if he’s been spoiled.  When we finish a meal will he just walk away from the table?   For that matter – will I remember to prepare the meal?  Jury’s out on that….

Neal and Tobi enjoying ebba.

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Fingers are the preferred utensils for this meal…

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Now lets go for a walk around this beautiful compound, shall we?

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The main house.

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It really is beautiful.

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From a distance.

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Neal hangin’ with Jesus.

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Just thought this was a cute picture of Tobi.

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Nativity

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Tobi with Moses maybe?

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Now that’s a palm tree!

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Really big tree.  Gotta LOVE the tropics.

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Still on the compound.  It has it’s own mini-jungle.

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Did you know that’s how pineapple grows?

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Small…

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Medium…

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Large… Watch out Dole!

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Banana!

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Mango – not ready yet.

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Lemon – I think…

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Small papaya tree.

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Big papaya tree.  I think Neal is shaking it down. Or maybe holding it up.

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Not sure.

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Another not sure.  But it’s pretty amazing.

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As you can see, this is a very beautiful and very large compound.  An added bonus is that I have been able to run here.  Let me ramble a bit about that.  I’m not exactly sure what qualifies one as a runner.  But I pretty sure I’m not one.  However I have developed a kind of love / hate relationship with running.   I should also be clear though that I don’t really ‘run’.  I jog.  Slowly.  In Niger running is a very hot, dry and dirty undertaking.  And finding a place to comfortably run in clothes that are acceptable and comfortable at the same time…lets just say it’s a challenge.  So imagine my surprise when our first morning here I saw one of the staff walking around the driveway.  In runner’s attire.  I brought my workout DVD, assuming there wouldn’t really be a suitable place for running.  I asked around and found that yes, running here would be totally appropriate.  So that evening – off I went.  If I haven’t been clear – I don’t love running.  However – this run was heavenly!  I was still panting and sweaty. The humidity is unbelievable.   But I wasn’t full of red dirt.  The ‘track’ is the paved driveway around the main house.  I’ve been told it’s 1/4 mile in length.  Based on what I know my pace to be, I’m hoping that it is a bit longer than that.  But nevermind.  It’s a lovely pace to run.  As of today I’ve worked up to 10 laps. Then I walk 5.   Tobi runs with me every morning before he starts his school and is up to 6 laps.  Neal has of course asked Tobi why he is letting his mother outrun him…  But really,  what more can I ask for?  A paved and shaded running track, ‘O Happy Day’ pumping into my ears, mini-squirrels running around,  beautiful landscaping and the smell of beautiful flowers at every turn.  No wonder I couldn’t stop at 9 laps today!

Here’s our ‘track’.  This is a staged picture, but you get the idea.

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The sun was setting as we finished our walk around the compound.  You can see it in the distance.

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Here it is up close and personal.

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Next up will be WHAT we are doing.

But if you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re having FUN!

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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!!