作者: Gbenga Owa
LIVING AT THE FOOT OF THE HILLS
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty”. Mother Teressa
The grassy mountain range of Mambilla Plateau drowsily sprawled out in undulating and majestic long rows south east of Taraba State. The mile post indicated that Jalingo was 25 km away. The wavy picturesque rocks clothed in green savanna vegetation with average 1800 meter high mountain tops faded into the clear blue sky. They stretch out romantically on the brinks of the north eastern borders of Nigeria with Cameroon. I grew up in Jos, where hills are common sights, but never have I set my eyes on such sprawling beauty of nature. I wondered how much we lose as a nation to undeveloped tourist sites due to overdependence on oil.
The driver of the two-door Toyota Corolla Sedan swiftly swerved dangerously to avoid a pothole momentarily dimming the excitement of this scenic wonder. He often would meander in frequent zig-zags across the deplorable road evading pot holes. I held my breath as I tightened my grip on the front door handle since there was no functional seat belt. The driver had earlier informed us that he had to remove the seat belt hook since the unpainted taxi customarily squeezes in two passengers on the front passenger seat, while four adults are sardine packed at the back. I then realized that we were like ‘executive missionaries’ since we paid extra to have the Car to ourselves for the two hour journey from Yola Airport to Jalingo.
My anxiety in this mission trip was for Mrs. Mary Aduwak, a senior public officer with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the only female in the team since we were headed for villages sandwiched between one of those mountains. I glanced back to the seat just to check. Her calmness assured me she is coping well with the rough ride. We had left Abuja that morning Friday the 11th June 2010 determined that we were going to join Missionaries in a remote, out of the world village called Kasakuru in Taraba State to worship with them and share in their afflictions of Christ. Dan Lar, a veteran in these type of trips assured me that there is nothing to worry about. In any case, whatever we will encounter is nothing compared to what the missionaries living in the rough terrains within these mountains experience daily. We arrived Jalingo at 4.30 pm to meet our host, Pastor Godfrey Nelson, Mission Director of CREMO ministry was already waiting for us at the taxi pack where the driver dropped us. We hugged and greeted warmly, grateful to the Lord we made it in one piece, he took us to a guest house where we spent the night.
Saturday morning, June 12, 2010, we were ready for the second phase of our trip into the interior; we hired a rugged looking Pickup truck with an open back that took us to the mission field. Dan, Nelson and I sat at the back. The ride was bumpy, with frequent shocks and jolts’ threatening to throw us off board as what you have is more of foot path widened by occasional use of trucks. Frequent floods have eroded the already dislodged earth surface. We drove hazardously across a river, bumped on stones, meandering between forests and farmlands, tore through muddy valleys that threatened to capsize the truck as we held tightly on the iron railings of the open truck. Local Fulani women selling fura de nunu (a greyish paste of God knows what and raw cow milk) watched while children waved, the truck ruthlessly tore relentlessly and deeply into the bush, closer to the mountains and away from civilization. It is like riding the path of time backwards into the dark ages with its attendant ignorance, away from all trappings of technology, into the arms of raw nature, animals, farmlands, brooks and streams, into the wilds occasionally interjected by clustered Hamlets.
We arrived at Kasakuru exactly one hour after takeoff from Jalingo. My head dizzy, eyes blurred with a sickening nausea from the turbulent trip. I sat for five minutes to get some composure and strength. Kasakuru is a typical Nigerian village, with poverty shouting on the faces of villagers. The Mumuye brethren welcomed us heartily. Pastor Mathew Manfo and his wife, both converts as a result of the ministry, Patrick, Jasper Oduka, the headmaster of the primary school established by CREMO, a missionary outfit working among the Mumuyes, Musa , the Missionary Assistant. Pastor Nelson introduced us and informed them we are partners with them concerning the work of the ministry. The children were in their school uniforms and in class waiting for us. They sang songs, read poems, chorused bible stories. Mrs. Aduwak addressed them in Hausa giving them encouragement and hope and we held meetings with few community people. The Youth leader of the community thanked us for taking the trouble to visit them, he encouraged us to do what we can to improve the lot of the people.
The villagers live in complete isolation from civilization with no good road and no social amenities, no health care in whatever form, the only school in the vicinity is the Missionary school- a Primary school and the only building we saw built with blocks and zinc roof, the others are huts with thatched roof. When the school authorities introduced school fees of N100 per term, half of the children were withdrawn from school. They wake up at about 1 am to get water from the stream before dawn when the cattle will have their own fill. The small block segmented into three classes is both the school and the Church without benches. They travel for hours to Jalingo just to find a mill that will grind corn maize and millet, to make tuwo for their families. This is where disciples are made for Christ among the villagers. They are traditionally idol worshippers. Few who moved out embraced Islam. Thank God, the word of God is beginning to bear fruit among these clusters of Mumuye communities.
My team is a representative of a chapter of Mission Supporters League, a ministry that partners with missionaries across the globe by providing finance, moral encouragement and prayer support for mission endeavours. Our strategy is to ‘adopt’ a mission work and make meaningful impact through the partnership. We adopted the work of CREMO in Kasakuru in April 2010. Since then, we have deployed N350, 000 to fix a roof blown off by the wind, pay stipends to the missionaries and purchased chairs and desks for the school/Church at Kasakuru. We also went armed with food supplies.
We spent the night at the headquarters of the mission base, called Gongon Malik. Here, CREMO built a secondary school which is catering for the needs of the Mumuye children mostly relying on supplies from NYSC as teachers. We joined the Sunday worship service, on the 13th June where we shared the word. The joy with which God is worshipped with no musical instrument but drums is so touching. We headed back to Yola Sunday where we spent the night at the Federal University of Technology Guest House.
I believe that the spread of the gospel is facilitated through this kind of structured intervention. This brings about a development of the community which in turn acts a s a catalyst to social change. This empowers missionaries and gives them a voice within the community; it is a demonstration of the love of God which opens up the heart of the people to receive the gospel. We were all sober on our return trip. There is a need for us to fill our hearts with compassion for the lost and the poor of the earth. It was St Augustine who said: “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others”. You can only realize your true potential when you focus your energy on purpose bigger than yourself and one that transcends space and time-eternity. One that has a bearing on the salvation of those who have not heard the gospel.
Within the next four years, MSL through our committed team of about ten members will embark on a structured program of intervention that will positively affect the lives of all the dwellers of Kasakuru. We want to provide water for the community, buy grinding machine, if we can improve on the facilities for worship and education and empower the Missionaries. We request that you consider this model as a practical approach to spending your lives and resources for ventures that last and transcend the earth. This is a sure way to lay up for yourself treasures in heaven. You may not be able to move into the interior as a Missionary if you are not called but you can sure support a Missionary near you. This way, glory goes to God because we are instruments in his hands to bring hope and healing to the nations of the world. It is Barack Obama who once said:
“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because its only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential”
Missionary work of this sort is not philanthropy. It is service to God, the aim is to penetrate the people locked out of civilization with the message of the Cross and plant Churches so they can enjoy the blessing of the covenant. This is the calling of the Church, not missionaries. It is service to God, it is ministry. Just as David served his generation by the will of God (Acts 13: 36) so are we called to serve our generation guided and prompted by the purposes of God. The heartbeat of God is the salvation of souls. If our generation does not profit from the fruits of the positional and economic upliftment that God blessed us with, then the toil of God and his blessing on us is a wasted one. To lock yourself in the tiny world of your immediate experience cheapens your real worth; you can connect with a larger experience-reaching out to communities unreached.
We returned to Abuja Monday morning back to our respective work. The memories of the people dwelling at the foot of the hills linger on, stamped by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Pastor Nelson found a reception point from his base to call telling us how the missionaries felt more loved and cared for by the visit.
There are 170 chapters of MSL spread across Nigeria teaming up with Missionaries to support them. IT’S A NOBLE WORK YOU CAN BE A PART OF. We appreciate those who could not go with us but supported the ministry financially.