I am writing from inside a secure compound in Eket where the Rev. P. S. lives when she is in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which is located in the south central region of Nigeria and is a city central to the established Free Methodist Church in the country. We have armed security police stationed inside our compound, two for each of two twelve hour shifts for the six days we will be here. Whenever we travel they accompany us. For people whose lives are quite sheltered relative to much of the world it feels surreal.
In a context where threats have been made and danger allegedly lurks about, especially for one of our Superintendents who has been targeted recently for kidnap and bodily harm, we feel “unjustly” safe. That is, our safety itself reflects the huge disparity between some of us and others of us in the Body of Christ, not to mention the potential members of that Body no less cherished than we are. We might rightly ask why we should enjoy such obvious safety measures when so many do not? We do pray that the many will be as safe, perhaps somehow safer, than we are. For we do not contend not against flesh and blood but against darker powers whose defeat comes from a different sort of arsenal.
In recent days we have heard about a church north of where we are now, where members of a militant group are waging war against followers of Jesus. Two years ago our FM Church was one of several that was bombed and mostly destroyed, thankfully during the night when no one was there. The only ones left after this attack were the pastor and his family. I asked why they didn’t flee. He said because God had called him to that place. Quite simply, he would fulfill this call, whatever the consequences. So they picked up the pieces as best they could, and let people know that the church was still alive and at work. Over the last year and a half, the five has become 40-50, and almost every week new people show up.
I asked whether the hostility has lessened. He reported that it continued. When I then asked why he thought the church was alive again and growing, he gave God the glory and said there are miracles happening. People suffer with sickness and people from church pray and often the sick are healed. The radicals are killing and burning, while the equally radical followers of Christ are receiving, praying for, and healing the broken and sick.
I imagine that our brothers and sisters there are being protected by guards of another kind enlisted by a higher authority, and enjoying a security more solid than we are. We are grateful for all of the ways our Father protects us children, and especially humbled even to be a couple hundred miles from those serving so fearlessly on the front lines.
Later this week, when we have conference, and wherever else we do “church” gatherings, may what we do connect in powerful ways with the true signs and wonders actually occurring simultaneously here and there demonstrating the Kingdom not of, but destined to transform, this world. Amen!