Go – do something!
5.30 am We’re back on our bus travelling in the dark through the still sleeping city of Ogbomosho. I’ve only had four hours’ sleep again because I spent too long talking to Lars about all that had gone on. I wonder how long I’m going to be able to cope with this lack of sleep. 6.00 am – breakfast. It’s slowly becoming a routine. However, I feel a bit like a prisoner. Our hotel is surrounded by barbed wire and there are security gates like a prison. The Governor’s house is surrounded by high walls topped with broken glass. There are always guards with machine guns standing outside. On the campaign field, our area is cordoned off and we always have a police escort when we travel to and from the hotel, the Governor’s house and the field. When we drive back from the campaign in the evening, there are sometimes ten dark four-wheel-drive vehicles ahead of us, some of them with a blue light, and the column is closed by a truck with soldiers on the loading platform. I suppose a president feels like that, too. I don’t want to think about the fact that it is for our safety. That makes me a bit nervous.
In the 30-minute morning meeting we sat outside under a tarpaulin roof and prayed aloud as the sun rose. It was a good answer to the morning call of the muezzin from a nearby mosque. Today Reinhard spoke without a Bible verse. I noticed that this was a particularly hot topic for him. We are to go. Regardless of how holy or suitable we feel – off we go! I found it very motivating. However, we have already done so much – concerts, youth services, street work … and nothing much happened.
At the Fire Conference Daniel preached first. He spoke about Gideon’s calling and how he hid in fear; God challenged him to strike out against the enemies. The fighter in me was aroused. But the sun was also up. So far it had always been overcast and pleasant, but now the sun was shining straight onto my left side. I wondered if I was going to get a suntan on one side only. It was hot and sultry and I felt myself getting sleepier with every passing minute. I fought it and tried to concentrate. When I looked around, I saw that others had already lost the battle. A little black usher who reminded me of a senior nurse in a German hospital went through the rows, prodding and admonishing those who had fallen asleep. It was a relief to know that Africans are also only human.
Then it was Peter van den Berg’s turn. He leapt forward a couple of centuries to Jonathan and his thirst for action. I think it’s really good that the preachers take so many passages from the Old Testament and link them to truths from the New Testament. I have never read as much in the OT as in the past three days.
Then it was back to the hotel, write my diary, drive to the Governor’s house for a meal, drive back to the hotel, afternoon nap.
5 pm Drive to the campaign site. Routine. I realised that I was all keyed up and was thankful that Thomas offered to show us the technical equipment behind the scenes. The trucks and trailers are arranged in a square behind the stage. They contain generators, video and technical rooms and materials stores, and in one there are mattresses to sleep on. In the middle is an empty space, where some of the technical team cook and eat.
We met Winni Wentland. He’s been working with CfaN in Africa for 31 years and is an old hand. He and his family lived in Lagos for 16 years and he has a tale or two to tell. He told us about dictators, Christian persecutions and the justified fear that Nigeria could become an Islamic state. During that time, the Christians learned how to pray and call out to God. That was the late 1980s, early 1990s. Afterwards, revival began. He told us about church fellowships with up to two million members. About lay evangelists who preach in public buses, with people being converted before they get off. He talked about a healing movement connected with that and about a church site that measures 20 x 30 kilometres. On that site three million Christians meet for one week every year to pray and listen to God’s word. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the logistics. After all, the people have to eat and go to the toilet. I prayed that we can learn to pray in Germany without Christian persecution.
With a black usher, we made our way through the crowd that had gathered in the middle of the field. We were able to take photos from a small but 10-metre high hydraulic lift (known as a “cherry-picker”). When I was up there, the basket shook in the wind and I felt immensely happy. Almost half the town was there – 250,000 people – listening to the gospel. We were surrounded by black people. Whole families were sitting on blankets. Children were reading the Bible with LED torches. Thousands of people were sitting on walls on the edge of the field and listening attentively. Today, I didn’t get a lot of what was happening on stage. The meeting passed me by. I did not go back to my chair in our cordoned-off area until the end of the meeting.
Two old oil drums full of amulets and other things from the worlds of superstition and black magic were burned. The people had brought the things from home and now danced around the burning oil drums. Daniel proclaimed that the evil forces had no more power over those present and their relatives. The crowd formed a chain and two black hands took hold of my hand. On my right, Lars; on my left, two black people. Daniel named every idol by name and sent it packing. We backed it up each time with a thunderous “Amen” from our human chain. I shouted along with the rest.
Then things shifted smoothly to prayer for sick people. After every illness, an “Amen”. I have made a place in my heart for these people and am as thrilled as they are when people who have been blind, lame or dumb and those affected by other illnesses stream forward. Over and over again a group of people in the crowd started to dance and praise God. Shortly afterwards, two or three people separated off from the group and, with home-made crutches held above their heads, went forward to give their testimonies. Real turmoil and tremendous joy. The people were thrilled and celebrated the change in their lives. I did, too. When we got back on the bus to go for our evening meal, we were in a party mood.
In the night I found a little brown and white frog beneath our toilet. It quickly scuttled out of sight behind the waste pipe, where I could not reach it. I wonder if, knowing this, I’ll be able to take a shower tomorrow.