The warmth of Nigeria

By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

In the midst of 95 degree heat and under cloudless skies, some 30,000 Lutherans gathered for a five-day annual conference in Demsa, Nigeria. Arriving in vehicles of all sizes and kinds – including pick-up trucks with families sitting on top of their belongings in the cargo bed – attendees set up temporary shelters to house them for the week.

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Bible studies, prayer, song, dance, and lively conversations – these were the center of the celebration, culminating in the final worship service which included the Installation of Archbishop Musa Filibus.

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When the Minneapolis Area Synod gathers in assembly, staff is always hoping that we can get 600 or more people to participate for a little more than 24 hours. As I told those gathered in Demsa, I couldn’t imagine 3,000 Lutherans together for a week, much less 30,000.

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Even more, the gathering was remarkable because it was held in an open field fewer than 40 miles from the 2015 Boko Haram bombing in Yola; fewer than 200 miles from 2016 church burnings and killings in the north. Many precautions are taken – I never felt afraid – but I was overwhelmed and deeply moved by the witness of these Christians, publicly singing their love of Christ in the face of persecution.

I was overwhelmed and deeply moved by the witness of these Christians, publicly singing their love of Christ in the face of persecution.

I am so pleased that I was finally able to visit our companion synod in Nigeria. When our synod delegation travelled there in 2014, my son was in high risk chemotherapy, so my first calling was with him. However, now that I’ve made this trip, it won’t be long before I start talking about the next.

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From small to significant, here are my current top ten reasons to plan the next trip:

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10. It is warm in Nigeria in February.

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9. The air travel is not too ominous (8 hours to Paris; then 7 hours to Abuja, Nigeria).

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8.  We have much to learn from our Nigerian brothers and sisters. And because English is Nigeria’s official language, such learning comes easier for sojourners from the U. S.

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7. Our hosts from the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN) are generous beyond measure.

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6. The Minneapolis Area Synod is the only ELCA synod serving as a companion synod to the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (while 19 ELCA synods relate to the Tanzanian dioceses).

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5. American guests are able to see the fruits of our synod’s missionaries there: Mary and Jonathan Preus, Gary Sande, and Brad Holt.

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4. The new archbishop has been nominated to serve as President of the Lutheran World Federation.

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3. The LCCN health services – with projects ranging from the new Demsa Hospital to malaria prevention to health education to building wells – is served by a staff that will impress you with their competence and spirit.

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2. It is amazing to become friends with such loving sisters and brothers in the faith.

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1. The inspiration from the witness of the LCCN to Jesus Christ will sustain you long after you return home.

2017-07-18T20:01:53+00:00March 7th, 2017|Categories: From the Bishop|Tags: , , , |