Sunday is the day of worship, and we were not let down. We attended the churches in downtown Gusau - St. Stevens and Christ Cathedral, the main diocesan church. Both churches are located on the same property as the church school, a plot of land that is approximately one half to three quarters of an acre.
I was woken at 5 am by the dawn call to prayer in Arabic from all the neighboring mosques:
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar: God is great,
I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but God;
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God;
Hasten to prayer, hasten to prayer.
Prayer is better than sleep, prayer is better than sleep.
The call goes out 5 times a day, the last after dark, it is a regular reminder that Zamfara State like the other the northern states of Nigeria is overwhelmingly Muslim.
After breakfast, we were taken to the Cathedral Church of Christ the King. The Cathedral compound consists of the Cathedral itself, several buildings including 2 smaller churches, one Igbo speaking, the other Yoruba. I preached, through an interpreter, at St. Stephen's, the Yoruba church.
After the sermon, I was hustled over to the Cathedral in time to hear the end of the Bishop's sermon. After Bishop John's sermon each of us brought greetings and explained the purpose of our mission. After our greetings the service continued for at least another hour, while various offerings were taken up.
Lunch, rest, supper and back to the Cathedral to discuss with the board of the Diocese our mission to build Grace International School. We were very encouraged by the evident enthusiasm for the project and the thoughtful comments and insights that were shared by the Diocesan leaders.
Why this project is important for the Christians of the diocese?
Like parents every where,these folk wish to provide a quality education for their children, in an environment free of the religious tensions that prevail in the society. These tensions are exacerbated by the fact that even in the public schools, all students including non-Muslims, are required to study the Qur'an.
Grace International School will accept qualified students from every background, thus providing an environment that fosters understanding between Christians and Muslims. We learned from a visit to St. Michael s Academy, the Diocesan school of the Kaduna Anglican Diocese that many educated Muslims send their children there because of its high educational standards.
Bob and I attended Christ Cathedral church where Bishop John preached, The cathedral is attended mostly by people of Igbo decent. Our service started at 9:30, and lasted approximately three hours. Bishop John's sermon was almost an hour in length, on the subject of making time to hear God's word, one of my favorite topics and one on which I have also preached at St. Peter's in Connecticut.
A description of the energy in the sanctuary is all but impossible. It must be witnessed. This was by far the largest, most energetic church service I have ever attended in my life. For someone who regularly attends the spoken service (no music) in his own parish, this was something I have never seen or experienced and simply moved me. God was most definitely in the house, as the saying goes!!
Hilarious givers. (Our English word hilarious is derived from the Greek word hilarion; translated in 2 Corinthians 9:7 ascheerful "God loves a cheerful giver."
The video at the link above shows dance and music during the offertory. The passing of the basket is a very big deal at Nigerian church services, which Bob had told me before the service, but needs to be witnessed in order to be fully understood. They really gave joyfully, Wow!!!
Grace International School building committee
After returning from church, we all rested a bit. We returned to the church at 5:00 for a meeting with the school building committee - those interested in building the primary and secondary school. This was a very fruitful meeting. We explained our purpose in gathering data to build the school, and listened as the building committee described their vision to us. It was really a wonderful meeting, and as tired as the Americans were, I think we all communicated nicely. We left the meeting to return to Bishop John's house for dinner feeling very satisfied by the enthusiasm of the Diocese for our mission.