Exceedingly Abundantly Above All that we Asked: Adventures in Nigeria 2019
Tonight's blog post is a special report from Jesus Kids Team Leader Lee Anne LaPlue, who just returned from a trip to the Jesus Kids Orphanage in Nigeria. The team accomplished many things on the trip, and we are excited to share this with you!
“In my weakness Lord, I look to you.” The simple phrase reverberated through my heart but escaped my lips only as a whisper. As I lay under my mosquito net covering, anticipating the next few days when a team of eight more Americans would join me here in West Africa on a “mission trip” that I was supposedly “leading,” I was struck by the immensity of grace that I was depending upon to cover me and my team for the next couple of weeks. I wondered, too, at the absurdity of the grace that I, and my team, had already received. The visa process had not been easy, nor had the ticket purchasing. But God was continuing to clear the way for the
team to join Him out on the waters of uncertainty. I’m shocked at the faith that the team displayed, choosing to join God in an adventure across the ocean without knowing a) how the trip would be financed, b) what the daily itinerary entailed, or c) how to convince their families that going with God to a country that contains terrorist groups was actually the safest choice. Perhaps life’s greatest adventures are those that require the greatest amount of faith.
As the team prepared for the journey and indeed throughout the whole trip, we had the opportunity to depend upon God fully for several things, knowing that if He didn’t show up, we would be in a real bind. Good thing He promises to always show up. Thanks to the guidance of an awesome curriculum called Helping without Hurting in Short Term Missions, the team had developed a focus for the trip of learning from, fellowshipping with, and encouraging fellow believers involved in disability ministry in Nigeria. The only problem with that plan was that there was no specific plan for execution. So, we prayed that God would create opportunities for that learning, fellowshipping, and encouraging. The other problem was that we didn’t see any opportunity to encourage disability ministry in the Nigerian church, because as far as we could tell, no Nigerian church in Oyo State was doing disability ministry. We were stumped. Good thing, too, because that pushed us to pray. On November 25th, we began praying seriously that God would stir up hearts in a church there in western Nigeria to begin reaching out to people with disabilities, even as Jesus did. The following Sunday I received a call from my friend, Tosin, in Nigeria. “You’ll never believe what my pastor spoke on this morning. I’ve never heard a sermon like this in Nigeria. He spoke on disability and the church!” Whhhhhaaaaaaaat. You mean He really DOES answer prayer??? The church, Vine Branch, was convicted of the need to begin ministering to those with special needs; they just didn’t know how. Paul says in Ephesians that God prepares good works in advance for us to do. Four weeks before definitely counts as “in advance.”
So, let me tell you about God’s faithfulness on this trip. (By the way, seems to me that we see His faithfulness most when we walk in faith instead of fear. I mean, what if Moses was too scared to approach Pharaoh, or Martha too scared to open the tomb? Might they have missed out on seeing His faithfulness, too?)
1. Travel in and of itself was a miracle. Whoever bought those tickets (ehem….yours truly) did a terrible job and sent travelers all over the planet, but still they arrived safe and sound in Lagos, Nigeria. His grace is sufficient.
2. Meetings concerning the construction project for Jesus Kids were productive—miscommunications ironed out and plans for the future advanced. A visit to the construction site left me ecstatic at the quality of work and the faithfulness of God.
3. The Luke 14 Party on December 29th was a smashing success. The entire party was thrown together in about a week by a fabulous group of friends. Then again, God was preparing all these things in advance. We didn’t know where the funding would come from, where the volunteers would come from, or where the guests with disabilities would come from. So, we prayed. And God, who is faithful, did it. So many unexpected Nigerian donors stepped up, offering cash for transporting guests, food, cake, and more. Volunteers came from far and wide with hearts to serve as Christ served. And the guests! Wow. It must have been Jesus who went Himself out into the highways and byways to compel them to come in, because I don’t see that we had the time to! But boy did they show up. 300 people in total. They rode horses, drove golf carts, got manicures and facials, ate delicious food, and danced their sorrows away. These special guests, who had endured a lifetime of shame and struggle due to their disability, were carried to the Lord’s party table that day.
4. God arranged beautiful opportunities for us to fellowship with His image-bearers there in Ibadan. An evening of hearing testimonies from the founders of Jesus Kids Home for the Disabled, numerous opportunities to hear about the faithfulness of God at the American Christian Academy (our hosts), trips to a couple villages where we learned of encouraging missionary work being organized by local brothers and sisters. Each day, we saw God grant opportunities to learn, fellowship, and encourage—just what we had prayed for.
5. After a divine meeting with the pastor of Vine Branch and an invitation to speak to the church on Sunday morning, God stirred the hearts of over 50 members to respond to the call to begin ministering to people with disabilities. No doubt He has immeasurable blessings waiting for that church. (Please pray for this ministry!!)
6. And then there is Jesus Kids—a group of children cared for by an awe-inspiring woman of God, a carefully chosen group of staff, and a gracious, compassionate heavenly Father, all of whom have stolen my heart. Every moment spent with these children living with significant disabilities and past hardships, was invaluable. Our hearts overflowed with joy as we sang praises together, laughed together, played together, swam together. Matthew had the chance to get some great footage and pictures to bolster public relations, and Nancy got to teach the staff how to utilize Excel to keep better records. We got to pass on some well-loved assistive equipment and devices to enhance the lives of the kids. And we shared plenty of tears when the time came for goodbyes.
This brief summary of the events feels insufficient. But if you could see the fulness of my heart—not just mine but everyone who experienced His goodness on this trip…. Perhaps the fullness of joy mirrors the depth of dependence felt before and throughout the trip. When I recall my weakness, my lack of plans, my inability to pull anything together, but my longing to see the glory of the Lord, I can do nothing but say “Thank you. In my weakness Lord, I looked to you. And, boy, did you look back.” Great is thy faithfulness.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21
…to be continued (by His grace)