One of the most unusual things I have found in Nigeria is the tribal markings that are carved on their faces. Every tribe has their own distinct markings that are cut with a white-hot knife into the faces and chests of their children when they are 3 years old. There’s scores of different ones. Some will have two singular cuts vertically at the cheekbone; some will have two, three, or four slashes like whiskers across the cheek, while others will slash two or three cuts across the temples. As the cuts heal, they become black lines permanently etched into their face so that everyone knows what tribe you belong to. It is like branding cattle. You are branded to your tribe for life.
While we may look at this as a barbaric custom, there are strong social mores attached to this. Their idea of family extends far beyond the immediate siblings to encompass the entire lineage of relations from grandfathers to 3rd cousins. Your actions, be they good or bad, reflect upon the entire family and everyone will benefit or suffer from what each member of their extended family does. The tribal markings brand you as part of the greater tribal family, so that no matter where you go, you have a responsibility to uphold the honor of your tribe.
It’s a bit of a stretch for us to accept, but there are some strong benefits to this system. It shows a glimpse of how differently they view their society from the way we do. While we promote individualism, freedom and personal responsibility, their perspective leans more toward a social responsibility to the family group and to the tribal society.
I’m not sure about this, but I think it is one reason why most Nigerians have a strong moral base. Yeah, I know all about the con artists from Lagos that have emailed you all those internet scams, but the people on the street are not that way. I have seen extraordinary examples of honesty and integrity time and time again, and I have to believe that it is something that is ingrained into the soul of their society.
I returned from the bush country to the city of Kanu in northern Nigeria to have Sunday morning services at a local church here. They had heard from some other pastors that God has sent me to Nigeria with a special message, and they have been expecting to be “blessed”. Well, I’m not the “feel good” type of preacher, and I delivered a hard message about the church of Ephesus.
The Lord had shown me before I left Texas that the church in Nigeria was like the Church of Ephesus in Revelations 2, a seemingly good church, but one that had left its first love. You can imagine the track that the message took. But as it has been everywhere in this country, the harder I preach it, the more they rejoice. It’s as if they have been waiting for somebody to please deliver a message like this to them, and I just happened to walk right into it.
What a service! If you couldn’t feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place, then somebody needs to get you a coffin. But this is how it has been since I have arrived – the power of the Holy Ghost comes down and pierces their hearts.
I am not here to make friends; I am here to prepare them for what God is about to do in Nigeria. Revival is coming, but so is war, and there is a price to pay for every move of God. What surprises me is that they know that everything I am saying is the truth. It’s almost as if they have been waiting for God to send someone with this message. It’s hard to explain, but suffice it to say that I am knee deep in fertile ground.
After Kanu, I went to Kontagora, somewhere in the northwest. For the next six days, I am to be at a series of churches here, one after another. These are small churches, but I get the sense that great moves of God start in such small beginnings. Fire burns up.
The big churches that promise money, prosperity, miracles, and blessings are packed with people hungry for the blessings of this world, while it is in these little churches where you find a hunger for God and the things of the Spirit. Two kinds of churches; two different paths. One points to the “good life”, while the other points to the Cross.
I am reminded that in Acts chapter 10, Peter preached at one such little congregation, and that meeting opened up the dispensation to the Gentiles -- no small thing at all.
It may be a while before you hear from me again. My main communication is through the Internet, and it is either non-existent or so slow it drives me crazy. Besides, I’m preaching at so many services that it is becoming routine. You know, just the usual ol’ supernatural excitement in every service. (Yawn) Nothing out of the ordinary. <grin>