According to The Week news magazine, “The US lists Nigeria as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world.” The primary reason is active persecution by fundamentalist Islamist groups like Boko Haram.
Funny thing–this week forty years ago I traveled with two others to Nigeria as a Christian missionary. The country wasn’t any safer then. Muslim jihadists were already killing Christians . . . and also less zealous Muslims. But cholera, malaria, typhoid, Lassa fever, and other many unnamed pathogens gave West Africa the description. “The white man’s grave.”
Truly I cannot describe to you our wretched circumstances and suffering. But we missionaries had each other with whom to commiserate, right? I’m afraid not. Any talk about our challenges was viewed as divisive and indicative of a personal problem with God. Our Nigerian mission director though saw us Americans as safe to blame for everything that went wrong.
Recalling the experience, I remember the initial euphoric feelings of being young, idealistic, and full of missionary fervor. Then later feeling old, fearful, and hopeless. Persisting in that despondent condition was the faith that God honored. Despite many obstacles, God enabled me to provide clean water to 19 cities and towns and see hundreds of decisions for Christ. And God gave me a reward–the sassy, spunky, and charming girl you know as Kit as my wife and lifelong companion.
I heard a D-Day veteran who crossed Omaha beach say, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience. And I wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars.” Aside from Kit–who is better than a million dollars–that’s how I feel about Nigeria. Somehow enduring the hardest things enriches our lives in a manner good times can not.