Lessons from Nigeria
I wanted to start the talk today by saying a massive thankyou. For me personally, without the support of PACC, I personally would have never had the opportunity of my life.
Way back in 2000, I was a new-ish elder, and was given the task of supporting our missionaries in the field - Richard and Anne. They had been in the field for 18 years, and the church commissioned me to visit them (with Jen's permission), and they paid for half my air-fare from Paris down to N'Djamena to visit with them. It was the first visit from a supporting church!
Of course, for me, my christian journey without my opportunity to serve our missionaries, Rich, Anne and Bethany, and with Hands at Work: Well - I wouldn't be who I am now.
Many of you knew me BA - before Africa - and it has changed me in many ways. I was broken in many, many ways - and very tough to be in a church with. (Many would say that I still am!) But that, I have learned, is the truth of all of us.
But God wove PACC and Africa together somehow, and I owe a massive debt of gratitude to this church for Howard and Elizabeth Wilson's service that so entranced me as a teenager.
My testimony has been that God has called a nerdy, introverted, winaholic without much of a clue about the social world, to serve him in a local church for 47 years and counting - the same church that I first said to God - “I'm in” at 9 years old - and to have the privilege of learning from, and serving in Africa, over the last 18 years.
Two calls - one gradual and static in Caringah, then Kirrawee, one sudden and dynamic. Both have been so essential to my Christian Life. I am reminded about a book by Eugene Petersen - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I am so thankful that God saw in that 9 year old nerd someone that he could love forever, and someone that, eventually, miraculously, could follow in the Jesus Way for nearly 50 years, and be far more excited now, than Jen and I ever have been, because for nearly 30 of those 47 years, we have been a two, not one, and she has also been woven into my story. Incredible! And he wove me into a beautiful community, one that excites me more now than ever before. I am triply blessed.
And that is how I want to start this morning. On one hand, it is a story about Africa - about vulnerable children, about desperate poverty, and injustice. About missionaries who need supporting 1000s of km from the comforts of Australia, from their families, from the opportunities that COULD have been theirs to succeed in plenty of other areas of life that pay MUCH better. Both of these things to me are very, very worthy causes.
But really, those very worthy causes, have at stages been idols around my neck as well as perfumed offerings. This is just so important that I want to say it again wider: The worthiest causes in the world can be the biggest idols in the world. And those who are the most passionate, find it easiest to fall for this idolatry.
If ever any of the causes get bigger to me than God: If my prayer is - help me Jesus, so I can serve the vulnerable children of Africa better, then however Holy that prayer sounds, for me the red lights are flashing. So for James - that is going to be a huge temptation. To have Jesus as your helper - the enabler who can mean that you go deep with Hands at Work - that is dangerous ground.
My first lesson really comes before even the Bible verse: My heart, like John Calvin said 400 years ago, is an idol factory. And doesn’t say, Clinton, for you, going to Africa is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It also doesn’t say, Clinton, for you, Jenny is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He doesn’t say Clinton, for you, Serving PACC is the Way the Truth and the Life. As it says in Isaac Watts memorable words: All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
Underneath everything, always, must be a foundation that cannot be shaken. That foundation is Jesus. Nothing else can support the weight of my eternal destiny without falling into idolatry. Jesus must mean more. That is the hard truth!
Turn in your Bibles to .
Jesus, the Way to the Father
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
I want to be able to tell you about Africa, the children, the heroes, the circumstances. But unless you hear this first, you will be wasting your time - and you might just be wasting your life as well:
We know that our final resting place as Christians, if we place our trust in Jesus, then we end up in God's presence, and ultimately the Bible speaks about an earth and a heaven joined back together with all the evil, brokenness and injustice healed, reversed and replaced with Shalom, His Peace, and His Kingdom. As Sam Gamgee said in "The Return of the King" - is everything sad going to come untrue?
Well JRR Tolkien had it right when he spoke those words through Samwise.
I often forget in the middle of life's joys, work, hassles and tragedies forget that everything sad is going to come untrue when I meet my Heavenly Father.
But here is the thing that I would never have understood without Africa: I would, I think, have been content to acknowledge Jesus as the Truth, but I would have been sadly missing out regarding him being the WAY, and being the LIFE.
So my goal this morning is to try to communicate some of the wonder of the discovery that Jesus isn't only my Truth, but He is My WAY, and My LIFE. My heartfelt yearning for each of you is that you will discover Jesus as your Truth - that you will indeed have a heavenly Father, whose rooms have been prepared especially for you! That is God's love for you - - For God so loved the world - that we should not perish! That is very good news!
But it is not the whole story. Jesus is the WAY and the LIFE. As John reports to us in . I am come that you might have LIFE, Life lived to the FULL!
What I want you to see from this passage, is where the emphasis lies: Jesus wants to do two things in this passage: He wants to do the simple thing - to assure his disciples that they need not be afraid or troubled - that their destination is assured. God is not making us compete to get into a limited resource. "There is more than enough room in my Father's Home". But the second thing is bigger, I think.
"You know the WAY to where I am going. Thomas says 'we don't know the way', and Jesus says something so profound that it will take me till the end of my life to learn its truths. - I am the WAY. Jesus not only locks in the final destination, but He becomes our Journey. We are his Followers now. We don't find our own path, and then at the end, he plucks us from wherever we have wandered (even if we throw some money in the hat, and perhaps spend a bit of our time praying and doing things to win his approval) - he dusts us off and delivers us to his Father! It might happen that way a lot, but that isn't what he wants for us.
What he wants for us is nothing less than HIS WAY. How big is that? It is massive. It redefines the Christian Life. It gives the Gospels the central position that they always ought to have had in our Scriptures. Because in the Gospels - we see in the stories there what it means to walk in the Jesus Way.
Let me share with you a little about how this trip to Nigeria has helped me learn about the Jesus Way.
Firstly, I am hugely indebted to everyone who prayed for me. Some of you have really dug deep in prayer on my behalf, mostly helping me soften my heart so I could be taught. So for those people, thank you so much, these are my truths really, only, because of your works of intercession on my behalf.
Africa - a Huge Continent.
These next few slides are just placeholders, helping you to locate where things are happening. People have said that this has helped a little in the past, so at the risk of too much data, here is a globe of the world, with Africa front and centre. Africa's huge mass balances almost exactly the massive Pacific Ocean on the other side of the world.
Nigeria is at the end of the White line. 6 hours flying to the North gets you to London. 6 hours flying to the South gets you to Johannesburg. So basically Africa is as high as the Pacific is Wide. Pretty big, eh!
But for us at PACC, we have so much involvement here!
We have two arrows in black for where Rich and Anne have served in Chad, just probably 3 days driving from Lagos.
We have in purple the city of Goma. This is one of the most broken cities on earth - the focus point for 7 million deaths in the past 23 years. You can't get more broken than that. Yet just four months ago, volunteers spent weeks and weeks trying to find a single orphaned girl who had been lost in the mountains in the north-west of Goma. And we found her. Finding that single girl, is part of the Jesus Way.
In Orange we have Zambia and Congo - with Joy and Darryl for 11 years, Howard and Elizabeth for 28 years, Doc Porter and his family serving at a hospital in Congo for a lot of years, and Bethany in Zambia and two different parts of the DRC for over 30 years.
Also in Zambia, Jared spent a number of months there in Luanshya and also up in Zimbabwe and down in South Africa and Swaziland.
Then we have had Leyton serve up in Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as down in South Africa.
And for the last year and for the foreseeable future, we will have Kara, and James. Who knows where James will end up?
But what a heritage we have! How blessed we are as a church, that so many have been called!! Way back from the time that Eric Lesleighter was a part of our church when he was a young man, ever since we have left our beautiful footprints right across the continent.
It isn't just my journey that wouldn't be complete without Africa. It is everyone in this room that has been affected - even if you haven't been there yourself.
28 people from PACC have been to Africa.
16 for at least a year. 12 more up to 3 months.
We truly do belong to two continents, and have 67 years of nearly continuous service. I think perhaps just 2 years in the last 67 we haven't had someone actively serving - supported or commended from this little church. In two months we will have 7 - the most ever on the continent - except for short term missions.
Africa, and the Shire, our two great callings as a church!
Imagine turning the previous map sideways. This is how Nigeria was described to me when I was there: if you turn Africa on its side you can see that it looks like a gun. The bullet shoots out from South Africa, but the trigger for the gun, is Nigeria, and Lagos is the finger on the trigger.
Lagos, is indeed a powerful city. It is one tenth the size of the Sydney basin, 2/3 the size of London, but by the end of 2018 it will have over 24 million people housed within its bounds - the size of Australia in 1/10 the size of Sydney.
It is the largest city in Africa, with 3 or 4 million more than Cairo.
Here is Nigeria itself - a huge country of 190 million people - the fastest growing in Africa - as big as the next 2 countries put together (Egypt and Ethiopia):
I am outlining Nigeria, and you can see for instance, how close are Rich and Anne Hoyt to Nigeria.
In orange I have the dotted lines representing old Hands communities that have closed down (due to violence and corruption),and the two cities where we currently work - Lagos on the coast, and Ibadan about 130km inland.
Zooming in to Lagos itself
We have old communities where we used to support at Ago Okota, and at Badia - closed down because of corruption, and two communities that I saw at Ilaje. - Eagles Wings and Temitope.
We are looking to move into a new community at Makoko, as well as a dream to move back into Badia.
But we have a team of people that help us serve the vulnerable children here. They have an office fairly close to the geographic centre of Lagos (not in the CBD - that is well to the South, on the coast), in a place called Mushin.
You can see the office located on the middle floor here:
The Outlook is shown here - near to sunset. The pollution is pretty bad. We sometimes found it hard to find the sun, even though there was no cloud. And only once or twice did we see a star, or not be able to stare at the sun.
But here is our team of four.
Firstly, on the right we have Dan. He is part of the team that come up from South Africa every few months to help, for perhaps 2-6 weeks at a time. This team is called the Regional Support Team, and Australia has a representative on that team - Busie Jones, who is married to Stephen. Other volunteers sometimes go up also to encourage and equip. But it is a long way away, and you can tell by the gun metaphor, and by the kids rhymes, that Nigeria considers itself a special case - 'We are Nigerians, we are the Giants of Africa' - to know that there are going to be issues. Corruption is a huge issue, sexual violence is a huge issue, as is violence and illiteracy. 65-70% of the population live in slums, and when you go to the most disadvantaged of those slums - that is where you find our communities.
We have Taiwo on the left, who we call our field co-ordinator in Lagos. He has been with us a long time now, and after a tough corruption issue a few years ago, was the only one left, along with Toyin, who is next to him. His job is to know all the careworkers, teachers, cooks, as well as the caregivers and, of course the vulnerable children they protect.
Toyin started as a bookkeeper, but when the work nearly closed down (which we heard from George - when he came and spoke to us about 3 years ago here at PACC), she became the Service Centre Co-ordinator, with all of the responsibilities. It had to be because of trust issues, that the account had to be in her personal name.
The responsibility sits heavily upon her, and she is subject to lots of pressures, but to hear her story is to hear a core of honesty that far surpasses my feeble honesty. It is as though she feels she needs to be ultra-clean because she knows that the team and communities must swim in black corruption. She is incredible.
Two new people in the past two years are Matthew - who is the field co-ordinator up in Aputuku in the city of Ibadan. His father is a pastor, and Matthew was spotted by Dan - on the right - who was praying for someone to invest in. We could stop right there and talk about mentoring and investing in others lives - that was a massive lesson for me - but not right now.
He was 'the worst teacher in Africa' when they found him. You know, in lots of ways, I can relate to was not a good leader, but Mr Wilson, among others, invested in my life, along with my mum and other friends, and ones like Tim, as well as learning from the amazing members of PACC.
It is my experience that no-one is self-made. we are community made, and we ought not to forget it. Matthew’s Mentoring is my 1st Lesson.
Who are you mentoring? Whose life are you investing in? I want to be like Dan, and find more Matthews to invest in.
Lesson #1 - We must be investing in others - it is the Jesus Way.
Finally we have Vivian. She is from Toyin’s church, and when the call went out to help in the office with book-keeping, Vivian volunteered to help. She is brilliant - accurate and a great worker, and keeps asking hard questions of those who have responsibility for purchasing on behalf of our children. But she also comes from the Igbo tribe, - different from the dominant Hausa tribe. This brings with it lots of cultural issues. The Igbo aren’t hierarchical, and are dominantly christian, unlike the other tribes which can vary, and they fought a 2 and a half year war of independence. A lot of Igbo still feel marginalised in Lagos.
Pray for Vivian, as there is a big lesson to be learned from her. The church is called to be fellowship of differents. Rejoice that we have a relatively diverse church, in terms of heritage and christian basis. The Sutherland Shire isn’t the most multi-cultural area of Sydney, but the early church was known by its diversity, and it was the richer for it. It is part of the Jesus Way, to reach outward, not just geographically, but culturally. Think of Jesus calling the women from Samaria, and from Syrophoenicia, and accepting Mary Magdalene as well as others thrown on the scrapheap. We are not to turn from these people, and i am so glad that Vivian is part of our team over there.
Lesson #2 - We must aim for diversity, it is the Jesus’ Way.
So that is our team: The goal of each Service Centre Office is support from three to ten separate communities. these Community Based Organisations (gathered from local surrounding churches) have a Scriptural Mandate to care for orphaned and vulnerable children as well as widows. We see this for three reasons:
The Father claims to be the Father of the Fatherless and the husband of the widow in and pens His responsibilities. Because He is my dad, I follow after him in doing the same.
James directly claims that True Religion is based on caring for both these groups - . - Caring for orphans and widows and keeping yourself from being stained by the world. You don’t have to think long about Australia before you realise that we have very vulnerable refugees right in our midst.
We see Jesus as the ultimate example. He it is who encourages the children - - Let the children come, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. He teaches this through many parables, seeking the lost and helpless, even at great cost. In fact one parable encourages us to help especially when it costs, in .
Lesson #3 - We reach out to the vulnerable, because it is the Jesus Way. For us, vulnerability can look very different. But we are the church, and we have the same mandate for the same three reasons to find the vulnerable, wherever they are, and to serve them.
The community here, you can see from the picture is called ‘Eagles Wings’. it is a beautiful name, a quote from that you can look up later on. In order that our kids can ‘soar on Eagles’ Wings’, we have three basic requirements, that Hands believe are basic human rights that belong to every person that has been made in the image of God.
An Education. this is considered to be of utmost importance in Nigeria. In fact, it is one of the issues that we have in Nigeria, that Education gets too much importance, to the detriment of other issues. But the people of Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, are incredibly energetic and upward looking. and for most of the people, that mobility has at its heart education. ************* you can see the classes here. **********
And here are the teachers of Eagles Wings. Mrs Michaels, Mrs Joseph, Mr Chris, and Mrs Abiudou in the front.
When Busie Jones told us a year ago of a new community in Nigeria - Temitope - I was so excited because it was specifically for children too young for school. I have a photo here of Temitope and its young children, and you can see that they have already employed a community teacher called Tayo, to teach them.
We also have a community that isn’t based on a school, in Ibadan north of Lagos. Here we pay instead for the children to go to a government school. I have a picture of a very shy girl, Kitina. Here she is at school, but I will talk about her in another way in a few minutes. ******
Here is our tragedy. Here at Eagles Wings there is a little girl named Tomisa. She is six. She started at school last year because we begged her aunty for her and her big sister Mary to be able to come to the school. When their parents died in Benin, the girls were sent away as slaves to work for their mother’s sister. Tomisa was useless as a 5 year old, so she was allowed to go to school. But not Mary. The auntie’s boys are allowed to go to school, but Mary’s job is to do work for the family. No education, no childhood. We tried to speak again to the aunty, but she was already at the Catholic church, but she knew that we were around, and was unwilling to see us. Little Mary is made in the image of God, and so she has basic rights that are being denied her. Can you pray for Mary? It is not her real name, so if you would like to pray for her, please see me later, and join me in praying for her. we have lawyers ready for her. You know that the Aunty won’t even allow us to feed Mary? ******
Our Daily Bread. The Lord’s prayer speaks about our daily needs, supplied by God as sufficient against that day. Honestly, we have very little idea of what this really means. I know in my lowest times, when our family funds have been at their minimum, even when my mum was staying up at night making Scout Scarves for 10 c each to try to get more money in for the family: Even then we had abundantly more than these little ones have. Because of the fish diet, all the children get a little fish, which being rich in protein has lots of benefits. But poor fisher families often cannot afford rice and so we still have significant malnourishment in this community from lack of calories.
Here is one photo from each of our three communities: ****** Dupe is our cook in Eagles Wings, and does a wonderful job, even though every wet season it is a struggle just to keep the food out of the 40cm of water that floods through for three months of the year, and making sure that the beans that are supplied are not little rocks that will break little teeth. *****
And here is our cooks - Morupa and Miriam up in rural Nigeria. They are muslim ladies that have been motivated to help feed our 83 children up there. I spent an hour with Morupa, learning her story, and getting permission to pray over her in Jesus’ name for her husbands work and for her 5 children. How amazing is that! Please pray for both Morupa and Miriam and their children.*****
And these are the little ones at Temitope, who many of you in this room support. There is significant sickness in the community. This little one I had to help to eat her meal (actually not one of my worst jobs!!!!), but ********** we also visited a little girl Amitha, who was too sick to come for several days, and whose aunty didn’t seem too concerned when we visited. When you are just two years old in Temitope, very often you fall off the scale of importance. Malnourishment by neglect is a huge issue in this community, so please pray for the careworkers as they lead the community by example in how to care for their children!
Lesson #4 Proper Care is not inherited, it is passed on by example. Who do you know who could be shown care, in order to pass it on to those in their care? Within Hands, we have a saying for this - it is called the Domino Principle. ***** You can see here up in Aputuku. I was talking with Dan after the meal was distributed, and Taiwo and Matthew were just sitting back. Dan asked Taiwo - what do you think if Clinton and I were to do the dishes for these 83 children. Taiwo groaned and didn’t smile. Dan thought that was a great invitation for us “Ibo’s” to do what was the most menial job - the clean up.
This for me is so powerful. The Martin Buber, the famous german Theologian once commented “Great leaders need to be good at doing one thing - being led”. Dan reminded me deeply, as I often am in Africa, that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. When he washed the disciples feet he told them, just like Dan telling Taiwo - that they wouldn’t understand now what he was doing. And Peter hated that Jesus was washing his feet! Taiwo hated that Dan, who was the biggest leader of Hands that regularly visited him, doing the menial job while he sat back with Matthew. When we choose voluntarily to serve in the most humble way, what are we following? . . . . . .The Jesus Way ******
So we have education and food but in Lagos, surrounded by thousands of people in tiny little houses, where if you are under 6 you are most likely not to wear clothes at all, health and security are huge issues. ****
Here is what the area around Temitope slum looks like: *****
And this is what the careworkers have turned our carepoint into! This is the domino principle in action - showing what care for young ones looks like to parents. These are the ways that we try to demonstrate how these children can be kept safe and secure.
But it is families that need security, not just the children. ****** The little girl with me in the picture should be in this picture. After I chose to visit Kitina, that shy girl with the ringlets, I heard that they lived furthest away from the carepoint - perhaps 1.5k away - and that none of the careworkers wanted to go all that way to visit them - they were too tired. The young Taiwo and Matthew also wanted to suggest some kids to visit who were close by and could be reached with a minimum of effort in the heat of the day. But I sort of felt that this was my ‘Jesus Way’ moment. Without Dan with me, I wanted to try to show the Apatuku community that Jesus went to save the furthest community from heaven - us - because he wanted to show us that love always involves sacrifice. So we went, and Matthew came, then Taiwo came, which I was so excited about.
So all the way down I talked to them on this path >>>>> about why it is so important that we go to the most needy first. That Jesus in spoke about the Lost son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep - and that Jesus is the one who travelled for us. And we got to talk about it together on the road - through the hot part of the day. *****
But when we got there, we met in this mud hut, but a hut that had a roof. Here are Segun and Fumilayo. Segun had two horrible things happen: He lost his job when the mill closed down, leaving him with little savings and no means of support. He spent all his savings on a small farm plot that had a small house on it - just built with walls up to head height with no roof, and planting seed. He also had not farmed before.
Secondly, he had a brother who was a very bad drunk, who had made trouble with the landlord, so they have been evicted, as of four days ago. He built the walls and the frame for the roof, but couldn’t afford both food and the roof iron. So I encouraged them to use their initiative to try to help.
This is a lesson to write down: Nigerians and Australians are both very independent. And it seems that doesn’t come naturally to them to be good neighbours when it comes to things like this. So Dan and I when we debriefed talked about how the budget that they have at Aputuku has funds for emergency things like this - that we can draw upon the men of the town, buy them a few sheets of iron from the funds, and build WITH SEGUN and Fumilayo, the roof, so that they can leave with dignity and shelter intact. Dan and I surprised them with this request - it was more than they could envisage even though it was not much actual money in Naire.
For me, it hit hard: In what ways do I limit my generosity because I have some sort of ‘reasonable’ help that my natural self wants to impose. That my natural self says - that is the sort of planning that Segun OUGHT to have done. Segun ought to have kicked his no-good brother out, yet probably was showing love to him - and now is being evicted. Yet Jesus didn’t think that way. Jesus was audacious - giving everything for my sake. Like the man who had been let off a huge debt, I feel resentful when I have the chance to help someone with a much smaller debt. Lord Help Nigeria, and help me to show compassion and grace and mercy and love. Slow to anger and rich in compassion.
That family taught me a deep lesson.
So these are the externals - the basic needs of the family.
In the three minutes left to me, I want to tell you a final true story that still hurts: In Aputuku there is a lady - a grandma called mama Toula, who has a little girl in her care called Sonn. Sonn’s mum and dad have passed away, and into the care of this Gogo. two years ago Toula experienced a stroke, so that her right hand and leg were severely hampered. The rumour went through the town that this was not a normal injury. Gradually her mobility lessened, so that little Sonn joined our program. But another rumour happened a year ago, that a woman who tried to help Toula was killed in an accident aftwards, and that Toula was cursed by a demon. She had become by now bed-ridden, and when Dan and Toyin visited had not moved from the bed in over 1 year. Doctors would not come to her because they did not want to be cursed. No-one would take the responsibility to get her to a hospital, because they might be killed by the curse. Further, this superstition had spread to Mama Taiwo - the lady who leads our community up there - even though her husband had a stroke 5 years ago, and who is still recovering. Even Toyin has been discouraged from helping by superstition.
This is a final lesson - a lesson that there are things that not even God can help with. We know that Jesus had complete authority over natural and supernatural world, yet for these Christians - they had something that was too powerful for their God to overcome. We know, though, don’t we, that there is nothing too powerful for God to overcome. Or do we?
Paul admitted that there were still things in his too hard basket to Timothy - ‘not that I have already achieved this yet, but this I do - forgetting what is behind, and straining to what is ahead, I press hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Perfectionism is best left behind in the Christian life. Jesus knows that I still have a long way to go, that there are things that I still have in my too hard basket. What is in your basket. What is there that has been there for 30 or 40 years. In this, us older ones have a definite disadvantage, because of the tyranny of years. those defeats that Satan throws at us as the accuser. We might have strategies to make them less - mostly we have probably hardened our hearts to them, so that we go numb instead of experiencing the pain of failure. But just remember this:
That Jesus learned obedience by his suffering. The eternal God was made complete by his suffering. Even in this, there is a Jesus Way. It is to absorb the suffering, and deeply trust Him, that he will rescue us. I need to learn this lesson : I need to trust Him when my gethsemane comes. Nevertheless not my will, but yours. It is only in complete obedience that we can come through these tests. But it is clear that I must! Jesus showed me the way.
Rather than leave you there, let me tell you about a final hero: Her name is Esther. She married a man on impulse, unwisely. She had two children to him. He was HIV positive, and one of her children was born HIV positive. She also became HIV +. I have never had anyone in Africa let me know their status, even though I know at least 20 who are HIV+. That already makes her incredible. She lost her husband and her son to AIDS. She remarried 6 years later, had two children - a boy and a girl - until in 2012 she lost her father to cancer, her second husband to cancer, and her sister to a sudden illness, all within 1 year. She was alone, yet her strong testimony to me was - I am in the Lord’s Hands now - no-one else’s - and He has never let me down in the 6 years since. I had just taken her class through a 10 word saying: Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you. She recited it perfectly in front of me on her ten fingers - then said - I know that he will never leave me or forsake me.
You know, I want a faith that strong. Would you like a faith that strong? Esther’s heart was soft enough to take God at His Word - she trusted Him with her life. I can trust Him with my life too, if I will only let him. You can trust him with your life - if you will only let him.
Heavenly Father, we look back at nearly 70 years of involvement in Africa, and as we do we see the tracks of your grace, matched with our tracks from faithful friends who have dared to show us from Africa half a world away, a quality of faith and life that show us so clearly, the Way of your Son Jesus.
Father, I thank you that Jesus is the Way to you. Thankyou that you are the truth - that you are our Saviour - that all other Saviours are false. But I want to thank you that when Thomas said - How will we know the Way? You didn’t give him directions, you didn’t give him doctrine. You gave him an example. You gave Doubting Thomas a Way of following you.
Father, we have doubts, many of them. But I thank you for Toyin, I thank you for Esther, I thank you for Mr and Mrs Wil, for Rich and Anne, for those who serve us right now. But most of all, thank you Jesus for Being the Way for them, so that we can see their path, so that you can be Our Way too, and that others, seeing us, can trust that you can be Their WAY too.
Thank you Jesus - Amen.