I have left the capital of Nigeria behind and have traveled 6 hours north to Kanu State. Kanu is our last stop in civilization, a small ball of confusion of traffic, dirt, and people, just before we head into the bush country.
This is definitely not tourist country. Take my advice Ė if you are coming here, donít bring your wife, because if you do, she will be heading home on the next flight out.
But as primitive as the facilities are in this city, they are palatial in contrast to what it is like in the village where we are going. This area is so primitive that we are warned to stock up on food and water before we go there.
Three hours into the backcountry brings us to a mud-walled village called Kayarda. You wonít find Kayarda on a map, and unless you know how to negotiate the dirt trails through dense bush, you could never find your way here. This is National Geographic come to life, the Africa that you see in pictures. It is a rush of a sensory experience for me.
As we pull into the village, I see a woman drawing up a bucket of water from a hand-dug well while chickens and goats run around pecking at the dirt and garbage for scraps. Around the corner, a half dozen woman are pounding out rice with huge mallets in bowls that are two feet in diameter and three feet high. These bowls have been carved out the trunks of trees, and the look and feel of these scooped-out tree trunks tells me that these same bowls have been used for generations, possibly for a hundred years, and these women are doing the same thing that their ancestors have done for a thousand years. I feel like I am stepping into another dimension in time.
The houses are made of handmade mud bricks made from the same red mud that we are walking on. Roofs are made of grass, not the usual rusted corrugated iron that you see in the towns, and there are no doors or windows, only holes in the walls. Privacy is relative because this is an isolated community where most facilities are held in common. There is little sense of modesty amongst these people, and there are many times when I have to avert my eyes, but believe it or not, you get to a point where it doesnít bother you anymore. (Yeah, try telling that to my wife!)
The Housa tribe occupies this entire northern area, which is deep in Muslim controlled territory. We are treading in the devilís home turf and he thinks we are trespassing, so every step has to be taken carefully. I am told that as long as I donít touch their women or their religion, Iíll be okay. Iím not stupid enough to ask it out loud, but I have to wonder what happens if I do.
Today will be a naming ceremony for the newborn baby of the pastor here. People are coming from villages all around and they are using this as a perfect excuse to allow me to preach the Gospel. The Muslims may grumble, but they can hardly stop such a common tradition as a christening.
The Muslims have destroyed two of their churches, and they persecute the Christians here at every turn. They are slowly trying to rebuild their church, but so far they have only been able to get the walls up. Even so, the Muslim authorities have spray-painted a ďStopĒ sign on the wall. But the Christians will not stop.
While we are waiting for services to start, Pastor Paul takes me around to see the conditions of the homes of the Christians here. They are living in deplorable, primitive conditions made worse by the constant efforts of their Muslim neighbors to make life miserable for them. Their stories are terrible, and I can feel the olí Texas inside me rise up; but this is Nigeria, not Texas, and there is nothing I can do.
I have a much longer report written by Pastor Paul with pictures that describes in detail what these people are going through and I will send it along later and also post it on our website when I get back in November. It will break your heart, make you angry, and hopefully spur you to help this Man of God who I can only describe as a bona fide hero.
Pastor Paul has come here a year ago to answer the call of God as a missionary. He has boldly stood down the Muslim powers and defied their persecution in spite of the fact that they have the police on their side to shut down anything the Christians try to build. He has brought the Word of God to them with a boldness that is encouraging, but it is his love for the souls of these people, Muslims and idol worshippers included, that is really inspiring.
Not only does he preach the Word, but he also keeps a box full of medicines here to treat everyone that comes to him, both Muslim and Christian. Your heart would break if you could see the pitifully scant resources he has to offer to a constant stream of sick and diseased people.
This is the frontline in a war for the destiny of Nigeria. While the Muslims are saddled with a religion of fear, the Gospel has a power that they know threatens their existence, and they are scared. They retaliate by bribing people with money, jobs, homes, and wives, anything to keep people from converting to Christianity, and by using the Muslim-controlled government to stop anything the Christians try to do or build.
If bribery wonít work, the Muslims resort to force. Paul has taken me to the spot where their first church was pulled down in the middle of the night. He has marched up to their leaders and told them that if they try that again, that God will strike them dead or blind. He sincerely believes that God will back him up in this and defend them so that it can be seen who the real Almighty God is. When you listen to the sharp boldness of faith and conviction in his voice, it is easy to believe him. Iíll tell you one thing, I sure wouldnít want to be the guy who decided to put him to the test. This is the kind of place where God shows Himself strong in defense of His people.
Nevertheless, the violence can get bloody out here. Kanu State is under Sharia Law. If you donít know what that is, look it up. It is a bloody, feudal demonic justice that defies common sensibilities and displays the true brutal nature of Islam. There are thousands of blind and armless cripples roaming the streets of Lagos that have been victims of this ungodly set of Muslim laws.
This brutality, fueled by a deep-seated fear of the power they can sense in the Gospel, spills over into vigilante violence against Christians. Last week in this same area we are preaching in, 200 Christians were murdered and their churches and homes burned to the ground. The death toll has numbered close to 2,000 in the last two years alone, and a couple of years before that, there were 4,000 Christians killed here.
Nice place, huh? And here I am in the middle of all this.
But none of this deters these believers. They have been persecuted, beaten, have had their children taken away, and have even faced death, but they will not deny their Savior Jesus Christ. They are simple people with an uncommon faith in their Savior, but they are heroes in the eyes of God.
It will take time, but men like Pastor Paul will not give in. He has surrendered all that life could have given him and chosen to live on faith alone, always desperate for pennies to buy medicine and food to give these people, and has literally laid his life on the line of defense for the Gospel. He may end up paying the ultimate price for his bold stand before it is all said and done, but that does not even cause him to pause in his pursuit to establish the Kingdom of God in this place of darkness.
All I can do is stand in the midst of these people and watch. There is a large part of me that wants desperately to stay and fight this battle with him. I can smell the smoke of battle and can feel the fervor of war here and, boy, am I pumped! But all I can do is preach a message in the town square and help him with some money. When I get back to Minna, I will purchase enough Bibles in their language to let the Word of God strengthen them. It will cost about $500 for Bibles and at least $100 for medicines, but I would gladly spend 10 times that amount. This is war, and these are the soldiers on the front lines.
I was going to tell you about how the service went and how we visited the king, but this is long enough for today. There is also the report from Pastor Paul that tells the story here in much greater depth, but I will give that to you in the next installment.