Recently, I had a chance to visit a remote Nigerian village with a Baptist missionary. This missionary, Pastor Ron, has been spreading the Gospel for the past eight years to people deep in the bush. Trucking to our destination, we drove over rivers, creeks, and around pot holes that my wife's mini cooper could have fit in. As we approached the village, my new friend pointed to an old fallen down tree near the road. He said, "Pastor Kevin, many people in the village considered that particular tree to be their God. When it fell down they said God had just moved to another object." As we drove into the village, I had the strange feeling that I was somehow on a Hollywood movie set. I saw mud huts, thatched roofs, and the witch doctor's residence. I half ways expected Gilligan or the Skipper to appear. Realizing I was not on a set, I found myself simply in a remote part of Nigeria among people who were unfamiliar with white men. The children were curious to see and touch us. Whenever Ron and I walked around the village we would have fifty to one hundred small kids surrounding us. For those of you who know me well, you understand that when I have access to kids I like to tease them. Accordingly, I chased them around and they screamed; however, when I turned the other way they would come back for more.
Pastor Ron was proud to show me their new church. The building supplies totaled one thousand dollars and were funded by folks back in the Midwest. The village community in turn donated the building lot and provided the manual labor. The only person who had to be more excited over the church that day other than me was Pastor Ron and Jesus. I was more excited after discovering that the Nigerian pastor was well trained.
When we left the church and went to the chief's hut, the number of kids glued to us increased. Along the way, Ron pointed out the witch doctor's hut. Pastor Ron said the witch doctor had previously blown sand dust into his eyes while casting a spell on him. In hearing this, I have decided to keep that old boy off my pastoral call schedule. As we entered the chief's hut, we were required to remove our shoes. It is one thing to remove one's shoes when entering a nice home, but unusual when entering a dirt-floored hut. The sixty-year old chief wanted to talk to Ron about establishing a school in his village. He also admired my wristwatch; however, I said, "Chief, I need to come home with this watch as it was a gift from my wife, Beth." I think he was okay with my response, as my watch and I made it out of the village together. The chief is someone you do not really want to offend. In fact, Ron stopped taking his thirteen year daughter to the village, as the chief wanted to marry her.
As you can tell from this column, I am learning of an interesting culture in this new land. This is a place where Christianity and Islam are competing side-by-side for pagan converts. All of us need to pray for the fine work of missionaries, such as Pastor Ron.