It was 3.00 am. I peered out of the window into inky black darkness. Despite the early start, I felt excited and somewhat apprehensive. My journey to Lagos, Nigeria, was about to begin.
Lagos is a VAST city – 21 million people. London has a mere 8.9 million. When we arrived Pastor Sam Amara met us at the airport to take us to the church. On leaving the airport we entered a sea of slow moving traffic, where he congestion was so bad it took two hours to complete the half hour journey to our destination. Tired from the flight and the journey through Lagos; we finally arrived at the church. I got out of the car to the most amazing welcome I have EVER experienced…
There was the sound of young people singing “We welcome you”. Drums, guitars and human voices welled into a wonderful chorus of sound in the darkness. As I entered the church building people ran over to me, shook my hand, welcomed me, and I felt incredibly special. It was unforgettable. Can you imagine us doing something like that in the UK?
I was part of a team of eight from Woodside Church, Bedford, who were going to serve at the Grace Festival 2019, a conference held in the Riches of Grace Church, in Lagos. David Devenish and Martin Tibbert, two elders from our church, were teaching and preaching at the conference. Other Catalyst church leaders from Liberia, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Guinea also attended the conference and it was a great privilege to get to meet these leaders, hear their stories and their current challenges.
A particular highlight was the worship, led by the church choir and a lady from our church – it was joyful, exuberant, and at full volume! On the last day of the conference, the elder leading the meeting described it as “a river of joy flowing through this place”. It was so true. I wish you could have seen everyone singing their hearts out, dancing, getting really excited and totally enjoying themselves. It was a sight I will never forget. The Nigerians know a joy in worship and a freedom we rarely experience in the UK.
Our team also had the privilege of leading several seminars. In mine, we explored how Jesus often met people while travelling throughout Israel, and changed their lives forever, using the example of His encounter with the Samaritian women to demonstrate this. I encouraged the ladies to pray for divine appointments in their locality and when they went on a journey, to bring the gospel to people they meet. One afternoon was devoted to healthcare, where a nurse in our team tested the blood pressure of the ladies attending the conference. She found five ladies with dangerously high blood pressure and one lady with diabetes! She was able to advise them to visit their doctor to get the necessary advice and medicines. It was tremendously worthwhile, blending teaching with application superbly.
We also hosted an impromptu school assembly, based around the story of building your house on the rock, not the sand, as well as helping to put on kids work during the mornings. The kids loved it, and we all joined in to sing the songs. Most importantly we prayed with many of those attending the conference both during the days and after the evening meetings.
I was struck by the great faith of those I met at the conference. The believers seemed full of faith, and were doing many practical things to share the gospel. For example, The Riches of Grace church has a Facebook TV programme, which is watched by people
in many different countries. Here are a few prayer points you can use to play your part in building God’s kingdom in West Africa:
– Pray for churches and pastors in the North of Nigeria, who are living under serious terrorist threat, violence and potential attack. For God’s protection, and peace in their hearts.
– Pray for the success of the new church plant in Benin.
– Pray for schools in Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, to have good teachers, sufficient finance, and success as they educate the children.
– Pray also for school sponsorship schemes to flourish and grow, so that many underprivileged children can have an education.