A report on our mission outreach to the people of the Niger Delta, Nigeria in December 2013.
OUR EYES HAVE BEEN OPENED!
I was recently a part of a small team from Mission 4 Vision that travelled to the Niger Delta in Western Africa. Travelling with us were Dr. Donovan and his wife Shirley who run the New Foundations Medical charity which has been working with the people of the Niger Delta for 10 years now.
We were based in the small town of Enekorah along the Niger River. There are no real roads here. Everything must be reached by foot or by boat. Electricity came by generator and rain water served for washing. New Foundations set up a medical clinic there which has been serving the local populace for the past 10 years. Initially it was just Dr Donovan testing, diagnosing and treating people whenever they could make it out. Over the years however they have been able to take on and train more and more locals to carry out this ongoing essential work for the community. Everything is done in the Name of Jesus and to the glory of God.
During the camp we had a welcome visit by the local town committee. They made the observation that before the clinic had come, infant mortality ran at 90% in Enekorah. However after 10 years of the clinic's existence, that same measure has now fallen to 15%, a staggering indication of how beneficial the clinic has been. Vaccination programmes, health education, clean facilities, functioning equipment and trained medical care has improved the lives of these people many times over. Even whilst we were there, 3 babies were born within the clinic!
The priority for Mission 4 Vision was to set up its first ever permanent Vision Centre in the area. Usually the ministry flies in optical teams who conduct clinics in remote areas, checking refraction and dispensing glasses whilst preaching the gospel at the same time. Whilst this is of huge benefit it cannot compete with a permanent Vision Centre that will meet eye care needs all the year round. Having secured a suitable building at a place called Esanma, solar panels were put up to provide electricity whilst an examination room, laboratory and dispensing room were fully kitted out. Boots the Chemists had recently donated a whole array of eye care equipment that Mission 4 Vision had been able to ship out to the Niger Delta. These will prove invaluable to the communities in the Delta where no real eye care exists.
Alongside the equipping of the Vision Centre local people need to be trained to use the equipment and serve the ongoing needs of the people. Tom our optometrist spent much time with Shakespeare one of the local New Foundations workers, training him in eye care. This is of course a huge task. Tom took years at University learning such skills which he is now trying to pass on to Shakespeare in a matter of days and weeks. Shakespeare used to be part of an abduction gang, roaming the Delta to kidnap and extort. Now after meeting with the Lord he is a changed individual, using his life to the glory of God. Last year he came with us to the mission in Kitgum, Uganda to learn the basics. Next year he is due to spend much time in the Congo with another optometrist learning the skills that will be so necessary. Please pray that his training will be both comprehensive and successful.
As part of the training we conducted clinics in some remote areas up the river. We visited the village of Ekameta which is only reachable 6 months of the year whilst the river levels are high. Much of the journey was through small creeks snaking their way through the surrounding swamps and jungle. The previous year this community had been deluged by floods that overran many houses and buildings. Many only escaped by breaking through ceiling panels and living in roof space above for a number of days. Fortunately New Foundations had been on hand with their boat to distribute food aid to those in real need. We saw around 100 people and dispensed many glasses. The gospel was proclaimed and the Name of Jesus exalted.
My main purpose during the mission was to run the pastor's conference in one of the local towns. As you can imagine, transportation is very difficult in a place with no real roads. Still pastors walked from the surrounding villages and we had a great time together. Nobody really goes there so their exposure to Christian teaching usually centres on what their Overseer sends them. More often than not this will be something connected with the health and prosperity gospel that is so prevalent within Nigeria.
We spent a number of days together. Due to my background in the Word of Faith movement I am able to address many of the issues these pastors wrestle with but often have no answers to. As we went through the scriptures on various issues you could literally see the scales falling from their eyes. No-one had ever explained such things to them before. They just accepted what their Overseers told them was the truth. We had many extremely useful question and answer sessions. One of the pastors told me, "Our eyes have been opened!" And he was deadly serious. They really got it. My heart was rejoicing within me! Imagine how many people these pastors will then influence when they go back to their individual churches. Only eternity will show what fruit will spring from this all too short time with these precious people. I pray that it would be much.
Please pray for these men out on the front line in the Niger Delta. Not only are they faced by an onslaught of false teaching emanating from the big churches in Warri, Lagos and Port Harcourt; they are also surrounded by pseudo Christian cults such as the White Garment Church that has many followers in these remote places. Ritual abuse, legalistic bondage and even child sacrifice are not unheard of. Followers dress in flowing white robes, beat their drums and often engage in brutal 'deliverance' sessions. These 'churches' are very much against what we are doing and we must pray that God's grace would be upon His true shepherds to lead people out from such spiritual and emotional bondage.
At the end of the conference we were able to leave a book with the pastors containing much of what they had just heard. It is a compilation of a number of sermons I give to pastors in such situations that has proven to be a blessing to them. It's one thing to hear something new in a conference. It's quite another thing to be able to read about it later and check it out with the Word of God for yourself!
Ian Squire of Mission 4 Vision has put together a short video clip of the trip. It lasts for 5 minutes 40 seconds. It can be viewed here:
Please pray for future missions. We're looking to visit the Congo and perhaps return to Northern Uganda soon as well. Pray the Lord will direct our steps and provide the necessary finance to continue this great work. All who attend these missions are self-funded volunteers. It's amazing what God can do through those who are willing to be used by Him. Mission 4 Vision is a small charity yet has great scope. Perhaps consider them when thinking where to give your next offering. They have minimal overheads (no salaries) and touch thousands of lives for the Kingdom. Their website can be found here:
Grace to you all!