Friday, August 21, 2009

Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria

Hi dear friends and family! I wanted to share some photos with you, thank you again for all of your prayers and encouragement and give you a brief summary of my trip to Nigeria. There were six team members from our church here in Nashville and eight team members from Watermark Church in Dallas, TX. We had an amazing time in Nigeria and completely fell in love with the people of Ikot Ekpene. They are such a gracious people and were so welcoming of us and full of joy. In light of their circumstances, it is so evident that for many of them, "the joy of the Lord is their strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). Many of you have heard that we missed our direct flight from Atlanta to Lagos by 20 minutes, forcing us to sleep in the terminal and reroute our trip through JFK in New York and London. We traveled for about 44 hours before landing in Lagos. We spent the night in a hotel in Lagos, Nigeria, before catching another flight to the port city of Calabar. We were met in Calabar by the Minister for Religious Affairs and a few other men and given a police escort all the way to Ikot Ekpene (about a 2-hour drive). We met the mayor of Ikot and several cabinet members the next day and were provided with a group of armed guards to travel with us throughout the week (it's amazing how soon we became unphased by the machine guns and AK47s the guards carried with them :)) They were very nice soldiers and we felt well-protected even though we saw nothing that would have made us fearful. We started VBS on Tuesday morning and you can imagine our amazement when 1,164 children showed up on the very first day - talk about logistical chaos. It was definitely a crazy morning as we tried to get that many kids to a classroom with a teacher, but God is good and we were able to talk to all of those kids about what it means to be lost in sin. We talked all week about walking in the LIGHT, with each letter representing a specific concept each day. L-Lost in Sin, I-Investigating the Truth, G-Grace Undeserved, H-Honoring God and T-Telling others about Christ. We had more and more children each day, with almost 1500 by the last day - all hearing the gospel in their class on Thursday. I was amazed at how well they have memorized Scripture, how much they know in their heads about the Bible. Our hope and prayer for them is that we were able to help them truly understand Christ's love for them and believe that only he can save them from their sin. We spent some time at a medical outreach center and at a government orphanage. It was a heartbreaking experience to see these children abandoned by society and living in poverty. There were no toys or book or grass to play in - they have been on my mind and in my prayers so much since I met them. I have to trust in God's sovereignty as I work through my feelings about those sweet children. We were able to attend a church service at Fellowship Bible Church, Nigeria and attend a graduation ceremony for the first graduating class from Africa Theological Seminary - it was so cool to be at the place we have been supporting through our church here in Nashville! One cool story that speaks to how God is using Aniefiok (the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Nigeria, President of Africa Theological Seminary and our host for the trip and dear friend) and his family in Nigeria: We met a Nigerian man on the flight from Lagos to Atlanta on his way home to Baltimore. When we told him we had been in Ikot Ekpene, he replied, "Oh, there is a very, very good seminary in that town." It was sad to leave our new friends, but I was soooooooo excited to get back home to my babies and my wonderful husband and family.

Esther, Promise and Blessing
3 Sweet Children Living at the Orphanage
Older Girls at the Orphanage

Sweet little boy named Blessing

Pastor Aniefiok and his family:
Judy, James, Stephen and Samuel

The girls on the team (and Judy) in our traditional African dress that a wonderful seamstress made for all of us to wear on Sunday

Sweet Kids at Vacation Bible School

A street in Ikot Ekpene

The orphanage is the greenish buiding in the back

A shot of the school where we held our VBS every day

Site of Fellowship Bible Church, Nigeria and
the Africa Theological Seminary

A sweet, adorable little girl I met at VBS

One of my classes making their silly face for the camera

Another class, more silly faces.....

The kids gathering for big group worship at VBS

Some of the boys in one of my classes - they LOVE taking pictures

1 comment:

Summer said...

leslie--i'm just so thankful you had this opportunity! ryan was so sweet to send us email updates while you were gone. i prayed for you and can't wait til we can talk and i can here more! love you!!