Mission Moments: Nigeria
Water for the Koma Hills
Borehole project goal: opportunity to deliver Living Water
Pastor Chris trying out the new borehole well. (Photos provided by Chris Joseph)
Pastor Chris Joseph arrived in the Koma Hills with the borehole-well drillers and found a crowd gathered at Chief Moses’ house. He assumed it was a market day and the people had gathered to drink the native beer (Burukutu).
“I asked after Chief Moses and I received the shocker of my life,” said Chris, a long-time Climbing For Christ member and ministry partner. “Chief Moses passed on (the day before) and was buried in the morning hours the day of our arrival.”
Chief Moses had died after lightning struck, injuring a group of 10 people. Gone was the man who granted us permission to carry out our Evangelic Expedition in the foothills of the Atlantika Mountains on the border of Cameroon in 2011. The brother in Christ, who had helped us with a land purchase in January [see “Putting down stakes in the Koma Hills”], had left northeastern Nigeria for glory.
“It was both shocking and confusing to me,” Chris said. “I asked the drivers to help me drop both the working materials and the workers on the site (of the borehole well) while I went in search of Chief Moses’ son and wife to express my condolences.”
The late Chief Moses. (Photo by Gary Fallesen, Mission: Nigeria 2011)
Chris traveled from Nigeria’s Christian south, where his church is located, for the Adamawa State on Monday, May 16. He arranged to use a drilling company from Benue State rather than Adamawa because they quoted a less-expensive price for the project. But upon reaching Gboko in Benue he learned the workers had not finished another project, so he would have to wait until Tuesday, May 17.
That day, they went to a motor park to hire a vehicle for the drive to Adamawa State. Due to increasing fuel prices, Chris was informed the trip would cost more.
“I was in a dilemma and I decided to email the president of Climbing For Christ, updating him of my predicament,” Chris said. “Without hesitation, he swung into action by wiring US$150 to cover the additional cost.”
The trip to the Koma Hills continued the morning of Wednesday, May 18. But, again, not without incident.
First, the driver received a phone call that his son had been hospitalized and was in urgent need of a blood transfusion. The driver called his brother-in-law to arrange a new driver. But that took a few hours. After that, the vehicle passed from one checkpoint to the next. (During Mission: Nigeria 2011, our team literally went through 100 police and military checkpoints between Rivers State and Adamawa State, a distance of about 925 kilometers/575 miles.)
“I was seriously praying for journey mercies,” Chris reported. “Suddenly, we came across the Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s checkpoint. Here we were stopped and asked to provide either receipts for the equipment (iron pipes and pump) or an ID card from the borehole drillers to confirm they were not stolen items or items meant for Boko Haram.
“The leader of the borehole drillers could not produce any (ID). This further compounded our problem.”
Chris explained to the SARS personnel about his mission, but to no avail. “They further threatened to take us to their headquarters in Jalingo, Taraba State,” Chris said. “Sensing danger, I kept pleading with them and this took us a few hours.”
And a few Nigerian naira (NGN).
After a bribe equivalent to US$5, the SARS personnel released the vehicle.
Chris traveled from Rivers State on Nigeria’s southern coast to Adamawa State in the northeast.
“We finally arrived in Yola, Adamawa State around 8:30 p.m.,” Chris said. “This made us sleep at the motor park. There at the motor park the security guard asked me to pay 300 NGN (US$1.50) for each person. It was both shocking and infuriating to me, but I finally gave him 500 NGN (US$2.50) to allow all of us to sleep in the open, cold space.”
On Thursday, May 19, the borehole driller bought some necessary additional materials in Yola, while Chris hired two taxis to drive them out of the city into the Koma Hills. They reached the Chief’s residence by late afternoon.
But Chief Moses was gone.
“Could this be the result of the delays in our journey?” Chris found himself fretting. “I wondered.
“Only God knows best.”
The drilling company went to work, immediately expressing a fear that they might encounter bedrock. Never mind that Chris had described the area when he hired them for the job.
“I sensed the devil raising his ugly head again,” Chris said.
With Chief Moses dead, where would Chris and the well diggers sleep? Chris began to pray.
“I left them in search of their accommodation,” he said. “I quickly remembered that there is a pastor’s parsonage opposite Chief Moses’ residence and no one occupies it.”
He inquired about using the empty rooms and was given permission along with some mattresses to sleep on.
“I went into all-night prayer over the issue in contention (about the bedrock),” Chris said, “and the following day (Friday, May 20) the workers quietly moved to the site ready for work.”
Chris was later informed that the drillers needed water to facilitate their work. (Ironic that a well project might be delayed by a lack of drinking water.) He went to the pastor who had helped with accommodations from the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, the denomination of Chief Moses. The pastor said he would call a gathering of the village elders after a one-hour meeting that they had scheduled.
Drilling the borehole.
Chief Moses’ funeral.
“Unknown to me, that meeting he was referring to was a Christian funeral service held in honor of Chief Moses,” Chris said. “Thank God I participated.”
“After the funeral service, I walked up to (the pastor) to remind him of our discussion. He quickly summoned the elders and I told them about the borehole project and pleaded with them to be our eyes as they used this borehole. Finally, I pleaded with them to tell their family members to bring water to the borehole drillers.
“They thanked us and promised to both be our eyes and ask their family members to supply the workers with enough water.”
One elder was selected to supervise and water was delivered to the workers.
“Suddenly and violently, Moses Junior (the Chief’s son, who also served as our translator in 2011) appeared on a motorcycle with the message that the District Head of Koma had instructed him to tell me that no work should commence. I was to accompany him to the Chief’s palace immediately. I obliged.
“On reaching the Muslim monarch’s palace, I saw stern-looking people entering his palace with their shoes or sandals removed for half a kilometer. I also removed my shoes and entered his palace.
“We all sat on the carpet in his palace with our legs folded. It was only the monarch that sat on one of the numerous seats with slippers on his feet in his palace. It was somewhat intimidating, but I remained courageous. After formal introductions, questions were thrown to me, but God gave me the wisdom to answer them.
“The District Head told me that he has sole authority over the land in Koma and that whatever business I transacted with the late village head was illegal. He asked me to pay 100,000 NGN (US$500) for the land. I told him that we are a non-profit Christian organization and the borehole project is aimed at providing clean water to the community free of charge. I further told him it will be a plus to his reign as monarch that this project came into being during his tenure as a king.”
An agreement for US$75 was reached and “I was officially permitted by the Chief to go and commence the work that was halted.”
After all of this, the borehole was successfully drilled and the pump installed.
“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” — John 4:10 (ESV)