In February 2019, we returned to Nigeria.
It was not an easy decision, but the right one. To return to the creeks of the delta is not possible. There remains direct threats against the mission and hostage taking has continued to burgeon. As I write this we learnt today armed robbers seized the pharmacy funds and injured Anthony with a machete. Both the team, family, the Foreign Office and our own discernment found no purpose, or value in travel to the creeks.
We decided after taking advice to meet outwith the delta and to bring the team to us for a week of fellowship, reuniting and reviewing of all the activities. We had not seen each other since the evening of the kidnap and it was an emotional, yet blessed time.
Alex Tinson, a close friend of both Ian Squire and ourselves joined us. His call to teach sound doctrine, and encourage the team was so timely and the three Nigerian Trustees joined us too.
We had the plan and desire that the Mission should be totally Nigerian led in five years, yet God has undertaken in three. There is a season for all things, and we thank God for the maturity of the workers who direct the Mission
'But in Scotland once I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ's Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is; and there was in our company a godly worker who has much to do in training workers, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church, and the message that ought to be preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:
"Absolute surrender to God is the one thing."
The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how, in the workers with whom he had to deal, he finds that if they are sound on that point, even though they be backward, they are willing to be taught and helped, and they always improve; whereas others who are not sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition for obtaining God's full blessing is absolute surrender to Him.'
Absolute Surrender - Andrew Murray
What powerful words from the 1895 text of the evangelist Andrew Murray. This seems to be the emphasis in the work now. Where the laying down of self and seeking God first then others beside, all else, the medical work, the logistics of the Mission all seem to follow naturally.
Every two weeks we run a discipleship camp for the workers and on the Sunday a meal and Q&A for new believers and those who seek to know more. We want christian workers, and indeed new believers to mature into discerning men and women knowing an intimacy with God, not unthinking acolytes of a pastor who stands pronouncing from on high. Is that not the joy of a Christian's walk? That..
'He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' Micah 6:8
Alex Tinson led interactive sessions to build on the discipleship training that is ongoing, to seek to develop mature christians, evangelists and missionaries to their own people.
Shirley continues to bring material for the three Nigerian Trustees to use in teaching, the 'ancient paths' of J C Ryle, Martin Lloyd Jones and Gbile Akanni, material that is so hard to find in Africa, and so treasured when found.
Alanna continues to support and develop the eye care work with new films and training material.This has been a difficult six months with staffing and finishing the new Eye Centre. Optometry is so dependant upon technical proficiency that we want the workers to be confident , not just in the making of glasses, but also in managing the very different challenges with working away from Enekorogha, in a slightly more 'urbanised' area.
Alanna's contribution is pivotal in achieving this, wishing to nurture the spiritual growth of the team as much as the technical. Already, under her tutelage, Johnson has matured and is confident to send images and problems via whatsapp, a self directed learner and thriving.
A life saved
This young man lived with his mother , renting a room from a fetish healer. He was in severe pain from spinal TB and with lung infection too. The 'healer' demanded endless payment for bogus treatment. They travelled from the inner creeks to the clinic, out of money, desperate and virtually unable to stand.
We confirmed the diagnosis with x-ray and tests and commenced him on treatment, which will be ongoing for one year. Incensed by losing her client the fetish healer threw them out of her house. They are now living at the Mission station and in two months he has gained 10kg and his pain is greatly eased.
They are fed, loved, and minstered to in body and spirit and we pray both he and his mother will accept Jesus as their ultimate healer. We can only show the love of Christ, it is their choice of course to receive Him, but this will never prejudice our care, only serve to reinforce it.
Antenatal care is an ever increasing focus as we see over 100 pregnant patients a month. At present we have a delivery suite in the main ward, divided by a curtain.
At time of writing we are separating part of the ward and a passage way to form a 'bespoke' delivery room, bedroom and bathroom for birthing mothers. The foot print of the clinic is limited and once again we are seeing how we can redesign things to maximise space and avoid massive expenditure. Here's the work to date, not a pretty sight, but hope to show the finshed product in the next newsletter ( we love before and after shots!)
We continue to treat between 225 and 300 patients a month, with those unable to pay given completely free treatment, the rest up to a 90% subsidy from the same care in government clinics. We are so grateful we can still manage this level of charging. The devaluation of the currency a few years ago has hit the delta massively for those at the bottom of the ladder, the majority of which are those we seek to serve.
The testimony of our kidnap in the context of the past 16 years work is now published. All profits go to the Mission and we pray it gives a truthful account of the work, the call to the people of the delta and how God's Grace and provision is available, real and actual, in any trial, great or small. It is dedicated to Ian's memory but we know he would share the fundamental desire that it should prompt the reader to consider more fundamentally the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ.
It can be ordered here: Christian Focus Publications
David, Shirley, and the whole team.