Today we will visit with three different churches/school. The first church is over an hour's drive further north than Gusau. For any of you following our journey on a map, this means we were headed towards the Sahara desert, and we could tell. Until this point, we did not have to request the air conditioning in the car, but we broke down on this trip. I suppose if you visit the Arizona desert in the middle of summer you might get a taste for how hot and arid it is, but I believe that this was hotter and drier than even Arizona at its worst.
The further north we drove, the more palpable the harshness of the landscape. How people settle and live here, I do not know. However, Zamfara State has done a wonderful job of putting in a main highway (two-lane), and running electricity to many. What was absolutely remarkable were the cell phone towers in the middle of nowhere, they are huge, brand new and in impeccable condition.
And so here we are in the northern part of Zamfara State, closer to the Sahara than I will probably ever be in my lifetime, and we had perfect cell phone reception!! Indeed, there was not even any electricity or running water in most of the villages we passed through, but the cell phone reception was perfect!
Now, what is amazing, and I mean amazing, is that the people we met not only had left their jobs and businesses to greet us, in every single case they had gone to great expense to provide gifts of food and beverages for us to eat after our meeting. We were treated as royalty in every place we went. It brought tears to my eyes to see how excited these folks were to meet us and spend some time together.
Mafara, - St. Michael's
This church was a welcome sight after a very long drive in the hot, arid temperatures. It was impressive to see the development taking place as we entered the town. As with any newer community in the USA, Mafara has new homes under construction, the center is very clean,especially by Nigerian standards.
In Marfara, the streets are relatively clean, the shops are modern looking, and the town is clearly developing in large part because the main road has been put into place and electricity brought to the town (not to mention the great cell phone coverage!!). Yet, in spite of all of that, there is still no running water. Anyone needing to use the facilities was out of luck!!
St. Michael's has about 92 members. The hospitality shown to us was wonderful. They went to great lengths to buy beverages similar to what we would see in America; Coke, Schweppes tonic water, and of course, our standby, bottled water, which we have been surviving on since we landed.
Bakura, "St. Peter's
St. Peter's only has to a small building in an as yet undeveloped portion of the village.
I got some excellent pictures and video here to give you a feel for how difficult these conditions are, and yet how African the landscape around this church is.
The people at all of these churches are fun, funny and just so proud to be practicing their faith. There is something so profound about seeing people so dedicated that puts life into a different and proper perspective.
The last church of the day was perhaps for me the most amazing. It was the smallest building, in a well settled town with perhaps the least harsh conditions of the three churches we saw today. But the energy in that small space would take your breath away.
As we entered, the choir was practicing, and every single member of that choir could enter American Idol and be a hands down winner without even proceeding to the Hollywood session! I was moved by their energy, talent and strong voice. You will be, too, when you see the video here, here and here.
The Pastor of this church is Ishaku Audi, and the church has about 100 members. I don't know how they all fit into this space when they all attend (and in these churches, the attendance rate is extremely high " one does not make these sacrifices and then stay away). This church is very far along, in that the pastor has a house (rectory of sorts), and the membership is large for the space and very dedicated. After listening to this choir, sing in both English and Hausa.
The next few days were spent visiting numerous rural Anglican churches. Bishop John's priority is to see as many churches planted in his diocese as possible. We were encouraged by the churches and the pastors and evangelists we were able to visit. Although our visits were during the week, some of the members turned out at every church. At each stop we were given a warm, enthusiastic welcome, some refreshments and greeted with some wonderful singing and dancing.