Our time spent serving in Nigeria was nothing less than eye-opening. I was amazed at how the people we encountered could see God acting in their lives every day. Although they have very little, they seem to be far happier than many of us are even on a good day.
Despite being blessed with so much, we are always seeking more, never to be satisfied, and we wonder how to find true happiness. It showed me how much we take our privilege for granted. If one day, our internet access gives out, we become frustrated as if the world is ending, while in Nigeria, and in many other parts of the world, people wonder where their next meal will come, and yet they are able to trust in the Lord to fill them with joy. Sometimes it takes separation from our comfort zone--when we are unable to be self-sufficient—in order to see God’s grace.
Joy in Simplicity
There was one day where we were going to spend some time with the kids, so we decided to surprise them with balloons. All of us blew up about 100 balloons and then began to take them outside. We watched as all the kids instantly became overjoyed by the surprise, their faces lighting up—even the adults were joyful at the sight. It was the perfect example of joy in simplicity.
“That’s why I praise Him in the morning; that’s why I praise Him in the noontime; that’s why I praise Him in the evening; that’s why I praise Him all the time.”
As my second trip to Nigeria, I came in with expectations—Although I knew that I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help myself. I reflected on how transformational my first Nigeria trip was (in 2014), and how I kept repeating that I left my heart behind, and needed to go back. But as always, God had a different plan…
From the time we arrived in Nigeria, we saw that things were different. The evil one had a stronghold that was ready for battle, but what he didn’t know is that those with us were more than those against us. Nonetheless, it was a furious battle. The evil one attacked us with roadblocks, illnesses, and difficulties.
We armed ourselves with morning quiet times (glorious pep talks), continuous prayers and praises, delving into our bible studies, and fiery prayer meetings. We were armed with His presence, molded by His hands, and led by His Spirit. But greatest of all, He allowed us to share in the glory of His sufferings, so that we could be glorified with His resurrection, and be filled by His Holy Spirit. Each day was a battle, full of His victory and miracles.
Having too many miracles to share, I want to focus on only one that showed how graceful He is to us. How His presence is with us, how powerful prayers are, able to make miracles.
As always, we tried to prepare our services for the day, asking Him to open doors for us. But this day was a bit different, because we were leaving the villages and heading to the city to serve at the University of Calabar. There was a bit of hesitation in the air, illness already has one of us in bed all day, a couple of us were not feel very well, we were unsure of how transportation would work, and most importantly, we didn’t have any of the required documents to get into the university.
We had our quiet time, prayers, picked out our prayer warriors for the day, packed different flyers to handout, and then departed to the University of Calabar. Upon out arrival, we were stopped by security officers who explained that we need an approved letter to enter. While they explained the process to get this letter, we all prayed for God to work and open doors for us. After much discussion, they reject us from entering, and were left at the gate to figure out where to go next and how to get the letter—despair was fast approaching.
While looking around and seeing how many people were going in and coming out of this gate, I reach into my pocket and found a few of the flyers. This was the moment of truth for me. Either hand those flyers out, or stand there until something else happens. I started thinking about how judged I would be if I stood outside a university back home and passed out Jesus flyers. I took a deep breath and kept silently praying “God, please work through Your Spirit.”
Cast the Net on the Right Side (John 21:6)
I grabbed a handful of flyers and started passing them out to people walking in and out telling them “Jesus loves you.” I made it halfway through my stack of flyers without anyone making eye contact with me. A second missionary joined me and we worked together. Disappointment was surely around the corner—this was a bad idea.
My prayer “God please work through Your Spirit” was now being said stronger than ever. Then finally, He smiled down on us through a young man who looked at me and asked “What are you doing here?” The small, budding discussion with him gathered a few people around us. Then somehow, within seconds our entire group was flooded by hundreds of people asking questions and seeking the Truth.
I had no idea where all these people came from. We couldn’t keep up with the constant flow of people. I took a few seconds to look around and couldn’t help but picture Peter when he went fishing all night, catching nothing, then Jesus telling Him to cast his net on the right side, and catching so many fish that they needed help to gather the fish because the boat began to sink.
Then I recalled… we were discussing that story the night before. I cracked a smile, turned around, and handed out a flyer. “Good morning, sir! Jesus loves you!”
For those who have never served with us on a mission trip, it can be hard to understand what the experience of serving on a mission trip is like. It is a unique experience where God truly humbles us to see that mission work isn't about "converting nonbelievers," but to share Christ's love with everyone around us, and as a result, being personally transformed by His love.
Although nothing can quite replace the experience of personally serving on a mission trip, we want to give you a taste of the experience, and share the testimonies and stories of our missionaries who recently returned from their mission trip to Nigeria.
For the next 7 weeks, we'll be sharing a series called "Meet the Missionary" to introduce you to our Nigeria missionaries each Monday, and share their first-hand experiences while serving in Nigeria. Through their stories, you'll get a taste of how they experienced Christ through different situations, challenges, and people.