Mission Moments: Nigeria
Motorcycles, opposition, miracles, and a church
When Pastor Chris Joseph arrived in Adamawa State in Nigeria’s notorious northeast, he found a ban against motorcycle travel. The long-time Climbing For Christ member and ministry partner was returning to the Koma Hills along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon for the seventh time. He set out for Adamawa State from his home Rivers State in the south early on Monday, Sept. 7.
“Due to the activities of Boko Haram and incessant armed robbery attacks, we passed the night in Jalingo, Taraba State,” Chris said. “We proceeded to Adamawa State at 5 a.m. Tuesday and we arrived in Yola at 7:30 a.m. I boarded a cab to Karlarhi for onward movement to Tantile (Koma village) via motorcycle.
“To my greatest chagrin I met no motorcyclist in Karlarhi and the village was unusually quiet.”
Chris learned from a young man that a ban had been placed “on motorcycle movement in order to curtail the activities of Boko Haram. He lamented the ban on motorcycles has subjected the rural dwellers to untold hardship. He finally told me that he had trekked for more than three hours to reach to Karlarhi.
“On my part, I could gaze the Koma Hills, but to get there was the problem.”
A waterfall flows from the Koma Hills.
Pastor Chris said he “relied on the Holy Spirit to show me what to do next.” He approached one of the few commercial drivers working in Karlarhi. Because of the motorcycle ban, he said drivers were taking “undue advantage” of the situation.
Normally, he would pay N500 (five-hundred naira or US$2.51) to go by motorcycle into the Koma Hills. The driver demanded four times as much (two-thousand naira or US$10.05).
“His failure to shift ground made me look for a place to sit and wait for a miracle,” Chris said. “After about 30 minutes or so, God performed a miracle. One of the commercial drivers was to carry his close friend to Nassarawo (3.5 kilometers from Tantile). He beckoned me join him to Nassarawo so I could trek from there to Tantile. I obliged, but asked him how much he would collect. He asked me to disclose my identity and I told him that I am a missionary. He told me that anything I am led to give him is OK by him.
“He drove us to Nassarawo, where his friend alighted from the vehicle. When I was about to alight from the car, I told the driver that I don’t know who can direct me to Tantile. He told me it was a straight route. He later changed his mind and drove me to Tantile. On reaching Tantile (Chief Moses’ house) I gave the driver N500 (five-hundred naira), which he gladly received. I said a big ‘God bless you’ to him and he echoed ‘Amen!’ ”
There is nothing easy or comfortable about doing ministry in the remote reaches of Nigeria. After his ordeal in getting to the Koma Hills, Chris spent a sleepless night in a leaky room.
Chris arriving in the Koma Hills.
“My first night in the Koma Hills was characterized by a heavy downpour,” Chris recalled. “The (guest) room – without a lock (on the door) – offered to me had roof leakages, which allowed rain access to the room. It was disturbing as I kept moving from one angle of the house to the other so as to avoid being drenched. Thank God the following day broke.”
That day was “earmarked for a meeting with the villagers around 6 p.m.”
“A newly posted pastor met me and after exchanging pleasantries, he asked why we have not set up a church on the Koma Hills after spending almost four years of missionary work there,” Chris said. “I replied to him that it will be done at God’s appointed time. Before he left, I solicited his assistance in mobilizing the people for me. He obliged.
“I personally moved around the village inviting people for the evening meeting. People were excited seeing me, but many wondered why the ‘white men’ have not been accompanying me again. I simply told them that the ‘white men’ extended their greetings to them and by next year, God willing, they may come to the Koma Hills. They wished my statement will become a reality.”
Climbing For Christ members from outside of Nigeria have not visited the Koma Hills since Mission: Nigeria 2011. That was Pastor Chris’s second trip among the Koma, a people group he introduced C4C to in 2011.
The Atlantika Mountains are a place where numerous people groups are “scarcely affected by the modern world and deeply trapped in the fearful world of spirits and ancestors,” according to Operation World. Many of the people in this mountainous region are unreached. Many among the Koma, a people who are primarily subsistence farmers, believe in a god who exists in the skull of a dead mother or grandmother. The skull is kept as a family idol and considered a link to the spirit world.
Seventy percent of the estimated 53,500 Koma people living in Nigeria follow folk religions. The majority of those unbelievers live in mountainous areas.
Animist practices (until recently twin babies were considered evil and buried alive along with the mother) have continued despite the presence of some churches. “Most of the few churches (around the Koma Hills) are not Bible based,” Pastor Chris reported.
“It seems Koma people fell in love with the Jesus film as many people, including Chief Moses, asked if I came to show the Jesus film again,” said Chris, who shared the film with about 200 people in February. “Besides, some asked me when we intended to set up a church. I told them that will be done at God’s appointed time.”
The concept of time is different throughout the Majority World so when Chris said he would meet with people at 6 p.m. they showed up at 8. And only after a church bell was rung.
“The meeting had almost 30 people in attendance, including the pastor,” Chris said. “It was a question-and-answer session on Christianity, marriage, leadership, divine healing and the like. Answers were provided by me with the help of the Holy Spirit.
“The meeting later snowballed into a marriage seminar. The Koma people wanted to know if it was proper for a Christian to be a polygamist. I told them that it was sinful to engage in both pre-marital and extra-marital affairs. They wanted to know how they can enjoy their marriages.
“As the program became more interesting and the clock, on the other hand, was ticking into the late night, I brought their questions to a halt and encouraged them to be ardent believers in Christ rather being mere church goers. The pastor commended us for the great job done on the Koma Hills and prayed for God to take me back to Port Harcourt safely.”
Chris returned safely after hiring two drivers from Tantile to Karlarhi to Yola and taking two buses from Adamawa to Benue to Rivers state.
PRAY: About the possibility of establishing a church as a base for C4C to work out of in the Koma Hills. Land would cost less than US$100 to purchase. A building estimate will be done on the next trip. Lift the direction of ministry in Nigeria, especially in areas where Christians are making in-roads, but facing a race for souls (“Islamic organizations have their camps in Koma, where they work hard to convert as many as possible,” Nigeria’s Sunday Trust newspaper reported in 2011). Faith-based violence, particularly in Nigeria’s northeast, also poses a problem to ministry.
GIVE: To support the work of Pastor Chris’s Lives Aglow Ministries, including US$600 for annual rent for his church due in October. Send contributions to Climbing For Christ, c/o Mission: Nigeria, P.O. Box 16290, Rochester, NY 14616-0290 USA. Or CLICK HERE to give via PayPal. In Canada, send donations to The Great Commission Foundation, #3 – 1335 Trans Canada Way SE, Medicine Hat, AB T1B 1J1, marked “Climbing For Christ CANADA.” Or give online at http://tgcfcanada.org/donate (marked “Climbing For Christ CANADA” ).
GO: Another Evangelic Expedition to Nigeria will be sent when God’s people answer His call. Email info@ClimbingForChrist.org for a mission application.