Nigeria is a very important country. As the most populated country on the continent, 1 in 7 Africans live in Nigeria. Lagos is a sprawling city with a huge population – unofficial but realistic estimates suggest 1 in 6 Nigerians live in Lagos (something like 15-17 million). Just outside Lagos is a place called Redemption Camp. I tend to be low key in my reaction to things I see, but this place is mind-boggling. Owned by the largest denomination in Nigeria, Redemption Camp is like a city in itself. I saw three banks, a university, a high school, hundreds of houses built by church members on plots of land given to them by the church. The pastor’s mansion is palatial, and the “reclaiming” of forested land seems to be incessant. At the centre is the church structure. I measured the capacity of the part we occupied then multiplied it out to full capacity – 490,000! Apparently they get over half a million every month for the all night prayer meeting. But that is not big enough. Just behind it they are constructing a new structure, this one much bigger, stretching out 2km along one side. They claim, with some support, to have hosted the largest gathering of humanity there last year – 2.3 million!
GoFest08 never intended to fill the place. High levels of anointing and breakthrough prayer, healing and blessing meetings may attract massive crowds, but world missions events tend not to. Disappointingly the 8-10 thousand hoped for did not materialize. Roughly a thousand came together, and during the days I started to hear of the tensions and issues between student ministries. It’s a sad reality that wherever the church is, division seems to be near at hand. Hopefully the open dialogue and honest sharing of the leaders during the days of GoFest will help to heal some of the issues that are present. I was impressed that they were willing to talk openly – I know of many cultures where sweeping issues under the rug is the preferred approach!
My input from the front consisted of four sessions. The first two were workshop sessions. I had a good sized group of about 80 attend both days. I mistakenly assumed that the same title on two days meant that they would be able to select two of the many workshops being held at the same time. I discovered as I stood up to move to my group on day two that this would be the same group! Missions work is a lot about flexibility! Still, I hope the session was helpful as we reviewed the ten issues to consider in relation to successfully handling God’s calling on our lives as young people. My goal was to help equip fervent students so that they will be able to make it into their later years, still pressing on for Christ. On the second day we focused in on two key areas that have to be thought through carefully – mentoring relationships and sexual purity.
On Saturday and Sunday I shared in plenary sessions (to everyone). This went well, and received positive feedback, despite the stomach issues that hit me on Friday. I really enjoyed the food in Nigeria, but obviously something reacted because by Saturday morning I was relying totally on prayer and Loperamide (Imodium) to get me through! Thankfully it worked out and I was able to preach without needing to run off the platform at any point (which was good because there was nowhere to run in that part of the camp!) Sunday morning I was put on 2 hours earlier than planned, with just ten minutes warning, but at least I knew it would be the same crowd!
These events are not just about speaking to crowds. They are also a lot about one-on-one conversations. Sharing with a brother who is considering going to seminary, but also has a ministry that could take up all his time. Listening to someone share about the pain of abuse and the agony of carrying that bitterness. Encouraging a young man with a passion for missions mobilization. There is a tendency in some places to get a passion for something and start your own ministry (it’s both attractive and easier to be a leader than a follower!) Hopefully these conversations were strategic. I also enjoyed interacting with other speakers – all involved in very strategic ministries around Nigeria and worldwide.
Next time I’ll share some prayer requests that flow out of this event in Nigeria. Thank you for praying for my involvement, let’s pray on together for God to work in and through this significant Christian population in the months and years ahead.