I am riding in the back of a VW van through the bumpy dirty streets of Lagos at the very beginning of a 6-week mission here in Nigeria, jouncing around over potholes and dodging the motorbikes and traffic that zooms by us. We are on our way to church.
Iíve never been to Nigeria before, and donít really know what to expect. From the email scams and horror stories that I have heard so much of, I fully expect a dark and sinister city full of con men, beggars and thieves, but I have found a city that is actually quite different than that.
The crowded streets and alleys are narrow and in rough condition, and the sides of the streets are jammed with kiosks selling everything imaginable. People are walking everywhere, the dust and dirt filters through the air, and the smell of humanity and the crowd of the marketplace presses upon you. The feeling I get is not one of sinister darkness, but of people.
People, people, people. There is a fullness in the air of the presence of humanity. Even until late in the night, the streets are crowded. Motorbikes are buzzing back and forth, cars are beeping their way through traffic, and walking back and forth or hanging out by the sides of the roads are masses of people. Lagos is a city of flesh and blood. It is the predominant element in this city, more than of glass and steel, asphalt and stone, or any other element Ė Lagos is a city of people.
One of the most outstanding things that Iíve noticed are the women with the beautiful dresses they wear. Brightly colored with African designs, they wear these full-length dresses wrapped around them with a matching headdress wrapped around their heads. They are gorgeous and can be seen on every street. And as many as I have seen, I have yet to see two women with the same dress. They add syncopated accents of bright color to the drab line of wooden stalls and dirty streets.
The other thing that stands out is how the women carry loads of goods piled high on top of their heads. Iíve seen pictures of this in National Geographic, but here I can see them for myself walking around carrying all sorts of burdens balanced precariously and yet securely like a tall hat. I can tell that some of these burdens are heavy, and yet they carry them with no visible strain. It must be some kind of art that is passed to the children, because it seems to be so difficult, and yet done so effortlessly.
Iíve only been here a few days, so I havenít seen much of the city yet and I canít tell if my first impressions will hold as I visit more areas of Nigeria. Up to now, all I have seen is an unending grid of narrow streets and dirt alleys laid out in a hodgepodge of directions lined with a continuous line of miniature shops that are cobbled together with boards and sticks to form what can only be described as a flea market where everything from meats and vegetables to batteries, electrical gadgets, plumbing parts, candy, cigarettes, and anything else you can imagine is sold. And thatís all in the first block! It is a cornucopia of a market place that runs down every street and breathes the life of this city.
I would like to see the downtown area of Lagos. (They say that there really is one somewhere in the midst of all this.) All I have seen, however, is the unending carpet of these narrow streets and alleyways teeming with people, traffic, dirt and potholes. There is no structure or focus to get your bearings from Ė just an unending tangle of alleyways stretching in every direction. Even the major streets are not much more than alleys that are just a few feet wider. I feel a bit disoriented in this landscape that seems to have no beginning and no end. I just hope that my spiritual experience here will not be that way.
To visit Nigeria, you have to have a Host who is responsible for you. Security is a serious issue, and they donít need any loose cannons running around. I canít just show up and wander around wherever I want, so I have a series of hostsóone for each section of Nigeria.
Pastor Daniel will accompany me throughout the whole trip from church to church until I am finished. He attended several of my services in Nairobi last year, and has been asking for me to come to Nigeria and do the same thing we did in Kenya. He is not only full of energy and zeal to serve the Lord, but of faith to believe God for great things, and is willing to work tirelessly to see revival come to his country.
The first church I will minister to is led by Pastor Victor and his wife Dolly who are native Nigerians but who spent several years in Israel as the heads of a Bible College there. God sent them back to Lagos, and like true servants, they turned down other lucrative offers in order to start a church in Nigeria.
God has seen them through one challenge at a time, but their faith in what God has planned for their lives is as strong as their zeal and spirits. So strong, in fact, that I pause to wonder what they need me for. These warm and friendly people are so full of zeal for God that I feel humbled to be around them.
After a quick stop at their home after coming from the airport, we are immediately off to the first service Ė a Midnight Prayer meeting that will last until 4 or 5 am. Iím not sure when it ended because I didnít last anywhere near that long. I have had only a few hours sleep in the last 3 days, so they tucked me away on a couch in the office until morning. We will have another service tomorrow night and then again Sunday morning, a break on Monday and a final service on Tuesday. Boy, these people believe in church!
They tell me that the messages that the Lord has given me so far have been amazingly prophetic for them. They are excited because these messages are exactly what the Lord has been already dealing with their church about. How did I know? Well, thatís just it Ė I never know. I just deliver what the Lord gives me, and He is always right on target. But, secretly, I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank God for His wonderful gift of the leading of the Holy Ghost!
By Sunday afternoon, Iíve preached 3 messages here and I have one more to go on Tuesday night. These have all been great services, but we havenít hit that miracle-breaking service yet -- you know, the kind of service where the heavens break wide open, the Spirit of God pours out all over the whole church in buckets, and the whole church is plastered on the floor under the power of God. Yeah, that kind of service.
Thereís a brokenness that has to happen in the hearts and souls of the congregation in order to receive that kind of outpouring from God. Thatís how it always starts. I preach Revival, and in order to bring a revival, a church first has to be brought to a realization of how much they need one. That is difficult enough, but then you have to bring them to the next step of wanting a revival so bad that they canít stand it anymore.
The last step is bringing them to a point that allows the Holy Ghost conviction to break their hearts for all the lost souls that are on their way to Hell. That is the hardest step of all because that can only happen deep in their hearts. But thatís where they have to come to before God will break open the heavens and pour out a revival on them. They have to break.
I can preach all the steps to revival, but I canít take them over that last hurdle Ė only God can do that Ė but Iím sure trying as hard as I can. The messages that have poured out of me so far have been strong -- so strong, in fact, that if I had preached those messages in the churches in America, they would have thrown me out the front door. But here, they canít get it strong enough. They want more. They are starving for God, and nothing else matters to them.
Thatís why I know God is going to send a revival here.
Today, tomorrow, next week Ė I donít know when, but itís coming. I can see it as clear as the morning sun. My job is to just keep preaching the message God has given me, then stand back and watch the Almighty God do what He does best.
Tuesday may be such a service. I told Pastor Daniel that before we are through with this 6-week crusade, he will witness that kind of service several times, and when it happens, he will be able to hear the snap when their hearts break before God.
He is excited, but I am even more excited than he is because I know that it is through this fire in Africa that the heat will be felt all the way back home in America, and maybe, just maybe, we will realize what we have lost, fall to our knees in conviction, and repent.
In a very large way, I am here in Africa to reach America.