TLM Nigeria's Operations Manager shares what life is like living in a country beset by terrorist incidents and religious tensions
“We have a really wonderful church here in Minna, where I live with my wife, Doris and our three children. It’s hot today and even hotter in church! As I was worshipping God this morning I thanked Him for the privilege of serving people who have leprosy, and those who are cured, but are permanently disabled by the disease.
Security on the door
I love to come to church to praise God and hear the Word but I also find it sad because we have to have so much security on the door. There are barriers and police who carry out body checks as people come in. Many churches here even use hand-held scanners like they use for airport security. There is always the threat of attack against churches and Christians by extremists and terrorists.
Here in Nigeria, as across the Mission, we serve everyone who is affected by leprosy regardless of their religion or tribal background. But we have to be really careful in some parts of the country where we travel with The Leprosy Mission because of religious tensions. It can be dangerous for Christians here. Sometimes we take an armed escort when travelling to a particularly dangerous area, on the advice of security reports.
As I leave church my heart is still singing praises to God! Despite all the dangers, my family have been kept safe. Every week I travel from Minna to the office of TLM Nigeria in Abuja – our capital city. The road is mostly in very poor condition, there are huge potholes and craters where it hasn’t been maintained. The dust and dirt fly up as I drive and I have to weave in and out to avoid the worst of the potholes which would damage the car. It was on this road a year ago that my family and I were attacked (we shared Pius’s story in the Autumn-Winter 2016 edition of InTouch).
Praying for protection
Ahead of the drive I can feel a lurch in my stomach and plead with our dear Lord for His divine protection. The heat of the day is fading and there’s a calmness to the evening, unnervingly similar to that of last year’s incident. Although my family and I were unharmed, the incident has left us wary and more dependent on God’s power; I know that it is only by God’s grace that I will arrive safely.
Tragically violence is increasingly becoming part of normal everyday life here; even at home in Minna we are not completely safe. Our home has been robbed at gunpoint twice.
Violence and tragedy
Possessions don’t really matter though. What matters are our loved ones. My colleague, Friday, who works tirelessly for The Leprosy Mission, experienced the violence of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in 2015. His mother was killed by members of the group, along with his sister-in-law and her precious children. It was a horrendous time for Friday and his brother, who lost his whole family in the attack.
Life is far from easy here but people affected by leprosy have so much more to contend with than I do. People often live in extreme poverty, not knowing if they will eat the next day, or if they will be able to feed their children. How can you grow food if your hands and feet are deformed and disabled by leprosy? Doctors and medical care cost money, and people are usually far too poor to afford this. The worst thing though is when I see people with the worse poverty of all, being cast out by their friends, families and communities. I can seriously imagine nothing more devastating than this.
This is why The Leprosy Mission is like a lifeline. I am honoured to be part of a team giving practical help, medical care, love and acceptance to people suffering with so much.
As I depart today, back to Abuja, I will pray for safety. Leprosy Mission staff here always pray before each journey we make and thank our Lord for our safe arrival. We are entirely dependent on His grace. I am ready to go out again to serve God’s people.”
About TLM’s work in Nigeria
3,000 new cases of leprosy are reported each year. Of those, 10 per cent are children and 15 per cent already live with visible disabilities – evidence of ongoing transmission and late diagnosis.