Woke up to a siren, thinking it was an ice cream truck. Julie had been up for a couple hours and all of a sudden heard me say “Is that the ice cream truck?” Of course, that sent her in a laughing fit lol Here in Nigeria, people put sirens and lights on their cars so they can get through traffic quicker, which would be illegal back home.
We ate breakfast and when Sam, our driver, and Patience, our host came, that was our cue to get ready for the day. We were going to the motor city where the mechanics work. Here, mechanics are looked down upon, but so needed and important. The area was busy and full of hustling! We walked through the busy atmosphere of workers hauling tool boxes, clunking of tools, goats, chickens, and of course, the cars. There was this little area where we all collected and the local workers all gathered, despite the ridicule they get from their coworkers for attending a time of worship and teaching about Jesus in the heart of the workplace. Some played drums, guards, and a pot that made base sounds. It was so neat hearing the sounds of worship in a place that was considered a rough place. We all shared encouragement because they could feel like they arnt valued due to even their families looking down upon their occupation. When I shared, I admitted that I didnt know much at all about cars so all of them were needed and appreciated because not everyone can do what they do. We got to chat with some of the guys, then headed back to the van. Overlooking the motor city, was a church that Sam said he went to.
The jail was next on the agenda where we learned some sad information. They don’t feed those in the jail so they are completely dependent on getting food from their families, friends, etc. Sometimes the guards will steal and eat it though, so even then it’s not a guarantee those there will get it. We walked into the jail and sat down on a cement ledge and all those there gathered around. Pastor John, who visits them often, spoke to them. We introduced ourselves and then another speaker, Christian, who was from California, shared a message. The ladies in the group prayed with the only lady in the jail, Pastor Marc prayed with one group of guys, and Christian prayed with the other group. We handed out “biscuits” (they taste like graham crackers) and “minerals” (Coke). The guys then showed us the jail cells. They led us down this dark, damp hall where their cells were. The cells were the size of maybe a king size bed, but more long and skinny instead of square, with a thin mat on the floor. Thirteen men slept in one of those cells. The man showing us around the jail shared a smile even though the circumstances weren’t the best at all. In his hand, he held a Bible, which explained how he could be so happy.
God showed up and later that day, we found out that the lady in the jail was released! That doesn’t happen that often since many don’t even know their family member is even in jail due to lack of ability to notify people. It was crazy because we just prayed for her release since she was falsely accused. In Africa, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be thrown into jail. When a crime is committed, they grab everyone who was around in the area and you are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Total opposite of how it is in America where everyone gets a fair trial. Sometimes people falsely accuse you of things if they don’t like you, and you are thrown in jail with no way to pay for their release. Sometimes the person will even pay the judge to keep them in jail. It is very corrupt in Nigeria.
After visiting the jail, we went to the prison to deliver bags of food and met with the warden. The warden was a Christian and an ordained minister. The warden had a great relationship with Pastor John of City Ministries (Patience’s husband) and let Pastor John in the prison whenever he wanted. He supported City Ministries and even let us in! Yes, our wild and crazy group! lol He led us into his office, which was rather cozy for being in a prison. We all sat on the couches as he shared about himself and the prison. The way he talked about the prisoners on death row, you could tell he had compassion for them. There were over 900 prisoners and almost 200 of them were scheduled to be executed. They would be executed by hanging or injection at the exact time their crime took place. Some could have even have been falsely accused due to the corrupt process. He then led us out into the courtyard where we were scanned with metal detectors. The men were scattered around and clothes were sprawled out on the grass to dry in the sun, since it was a nice day. All those there stared at us with sad eyes as we passed. We walked the the corner section where the women were kept. The women slowly came out to greet us and we all sat on benches. The ladies all handed out instruments- little drums, guards with rocks tied around them, and tambourines. They sang a song in Hossa and we all danced and clapped while they sang. Sang in a prison. Worshipped in a prison. Danced in a prison. Smiles stretched upon all our faces in the midst of a place of devastation. When God shows up, He brings joy. After we sang and danced, we shared our stories and encouragement with them and they shared their stories with us. Janet shared that she was bringing water out to her uncle when a fight broke out and someone was killed. They swooped her up, along with all who were present. That was 15 years ago. She is still waiting her release for the false accusation. She had the biggest smile and the most joy of all who were there though! You would never know. I recognized her from the last time I was at the prison. For 3 years her trial was on hold due to COVID so City Ministries is now able to once again fight and pay for her release. Pray that she will be free again. She is such a sweet women.
Vacation Bible School was our next stop. We would be telling Bible stories and leading crafts for the 212 kids awaiting us. The journey to the orphanage was a bumpy one. Sometimes we would make noises as the SUV bounced us and Patience would apologize after each bump. It was a sincere “sorry” too, even though it wasn’t her fault. She is such a sweet women and such a joy to be around! We developed such a beautiful bond with her and Sam during our drives. When we pulled into the long drive that led to the destination, some kids chased after us dragging old shoes on strings that bounced down the dirt road full of potholes. We waved to them and they kept running with faces filled with expectation of what was going to happen. The kids were all so excited to see us pull in. As soon as we stopped, we prayed, thanking God for letting us arrive safe. We then opened our door to find the kids ready to carry our bags for us. They were all smiles! It was like a parade as we all walked up to the rooms we would teach them. I taught our first lesson about Daniel and the lions den. I had 10 of the kids on their hands and knees acting like lions roaring. Another kid acted out the king, along with a Daniel. As I shared the story, the kids acted it out. They got a kick out of the presentation. We also had a coloring page for them after the story. The girls led the craft and showed the kids how to make lions out of pipe cleaners once the bags were used up to make lion puppets. We had 5 groups of kids that would visit each station. The next day, we switched stations and Cathy and I led the craft. Once the craft was complete, we would lead them in the song, “Jesus loves me” with the motions. The kids are still singing it to this day, Patience informed me! On the third day of VBS, Cathy gave the lesson and the girls led the craft once again.
One of the neatest things happened at VBS! Three years ago, I met a little girl. Her name was Abigail. I most likely mentioned her the last time I went in my blog. SHE WAS THERE! As I was going around helping the kids with their crafts, I looked into her eyes with a recognition. She looked back like she had the same feeling. I found the photo I had on my phone from last time and showed her. At first, she looked at it kinda confused because she probably was like, that’s me, but how did you get that. It was a photo of her hanging on me as we took a selfie together. She was filled with energy back then and would always want to be held. That’s when a huge smile came across her face. She was a little more timid this time and I asked her, “Do you remember?” and after that she always found me and wanted to hold my hand until I had to leave. It was such a neat experience to see her again and see how much she’d grown and changed. She had two other friends who she was close to and it was great to see that she had girls who she could spend time with.
Like I mentioned before, our rides back to the bunkhouse were always entertaining. The two girls and I were riding in the back seat when Madison and I decided to have a chugging contest with our waters. They supplied us with bottled waters so we wouldn’t get sick while we were there. There was about the same amount of water in each one. We chugged that water and when I hear Madison say she was finished, I looked over and my huge cheeks burst and water went everywhere. Luckily, Patience was leaning forward in front of me, or she would have gotten a shower. We went into a laughing fit but something good came out of it- it cooled me off! Our drives also consisted of singing worship songs. I had some songs downloaded from Spotify so we were singing along. In Africa, they have something similar to Spotify called Discover.
In Nigeria, Muslims and those from the feared Fulani tribe (mostly made up of Muslims), are converting to Christianity. The Fulani tribe is feared so much because they kill for no reason. Most of them own cows to travel across land with no homes. City ministries just made a translation of the Bible into their language and delivering the Bibles to them. More and more are finding God through the pages of the Bible. Also, many muslims are finding God through vivid dreams. A couple converts shared that they experienced Jesus in dreams and they were so real, they ended up choosing to follow Jesus, deciding to run away from their families in fear that they would be killed by them if they stayed. We had the opportunity to visit a couple secret conversion centers where the new converts can be housed, fed, taught the Bible, and have a safe place to hide for a year. They need a sponsor to be able to stay at the conversion centers, which is equivalent to $300 a year to cover all the housing and food costs. To us, that’s nothing. That’s one trip to the grocery store these days. Some at the conversion centers had scars from being beaten for deciding tho follow Jesus. One man left his 2 wives and kids to follow Jesus. We weren’t allowed to take photos or videos of the centers so they wouldn’t be discovered. Many churches are too scared to take care of the new converts because muslim spies will find them and burn down their churches. That’s why there is such a need to care for the new converts. They leave EVERYTHING to be a Christian. They were so inspiring.
We found out fast food in Nigeria isn’t really FAST food lol The only familiar places we passed was a Domino’s and a Coldstone. We ended up trying Nigerian french fries! We walk into the mall like building and the lights are off with a couple people sitting at the tables with no food. It looked closed, but the power must have been out, like it usually is in Nigeria. Sam ordered us fries while we waited. We waited for like a half hour. Patience said they actually peal the potatoes and cut them to make them. We shared that if Americans had to wait that long, they would get mad, complain, and storm off to leave lol The fries ended up being pretty tasty, but they were a little soggy by the time we waited to eat them with the whole group. We also tried a Nigerian meal called Suya. It was cut and looked like gyro meat, but it tasted so much better since they had a light coating of spices. It was beef with roasted onions and pieces of fat mixed in foil. I normally don’t eat a bunch of meat, but I pretty much ate the whole thing of Suya!
Another hilarious moment was when we went back to the City Ministries headquarters to say our last goodbyes to the street boys who were there and who came to VBS with us the whole week. Patience took us into her little home and we all sat down on the couches. She was so hospitable and it was a cozy, tidy area. She was drinking something out of a bottle and we asked what it was. She shared what it was, but we didn’t recognize the name. She explained that it was a kind of fruit. Cathy leaned over a little while later to ask what she said because she couldn’t hear. Patience said what it was again and Cathy thought she heard her say it was tiger milk! We all burst into another roar of laughter. TIGER MILK! We were all imagining Cathy milking a tiger! After laughing until we couldn’t breathe, we prayed over Patience and her husband, Pastor John, as they continuously do ministry with little breaks, seven days a week. Basically, the only thing they do is ministry.
As the week was closing, we found out Sam knew how to play guitar and that he listen to “westerner worship” more than his own so he knew all the songs we did! He came over to our bunkhouse with his guitar and we had a little worship night all together. We would choose out a song and he would play while we all sang along. It was such a beautiful time. I love spontaneous worship nights! At the end, Sam shared a song his friend wrote that perfectly explained all the ministry we were doing during the week! He sang it in “pigeon english” and it was SO GOOD. We all cherished that night because it was so perfect.
The morning we had to leave was a sad one as we finished packing. Patience and Martha, from the kitchen staff, shed tears. They said we were the most fun group they’ve had and weren’t just saying that. The tears proved that. Josh, the guy who ran the drug jungle, also came to pray us off, along with grabbing some spaghetti we saved him from lunch. We got to chat with everyone for a bit and Josh shared he was going to come to our church to speak about the drug jungle! He asked Julie, from our group, how the video turned out of the guys singing a song from the drug jungle church, but the video only consisted of a 2 second video of a “floating” finger. I need to help Julie with her video taking lol We all laughed lol Once everyone was present, we gathered in a group, praying over the ministries and the travels. It ended in hugs, tears, and more hugs! We loaded up and drove away waving like mad! We had plenty of time to reflect on the trip because we ran into traffic and our 5 hours drive to the Abujia airport, took us 6.5 hours. While we were going through customs, the corrupt workers wanted to buy one of the girls and the others wanted us to buy them coffee. We boarded the plane to wait at our 5 hour layover in Germany, where I crashed for a good amount of time and got a good chunk of sleep. Then we boarded our 8 hour flight across the Atlantic. When we arrived in Chicago, we discovered my luggage was missing. Julie got a text letting us know it was found and would be delivered to my house. Our tired selves finally found the bus to get us to our church van (named Bertha). We found her and loaded up everything to then drive another 2 hours to the church. Altogether, it took us 30 hours to return home, but the trip was so worth it!
Thanks for following along on our trip to Nigeria and for all the prayers/support! I hope the blog posts made you feel like you were on the trip with us, in a way. Of course, there was so much more not mentioned, but I hope you were able to grasp the experience a little more. Feel free to ask any questions that I may not have touched on that you were wondering!