I am currently in Nigeria, where we just finished a two day training for about forty-five pastors and church leaders. Each time I come to Nigeria, I am surprised by the way Nigerians speak about their own country - there seems to be a real lack of hope for the future. I'm surprised because Nigeria has one of the strongest economies in Africa. Also, seven of the twenty riches pastors in the world are Nigerian (although that is not necessarily an argument in Nigeria's favor as a good percentage of the money given to these pastors are from the poor who have been told to "sow a seed"!). But there is a reason for this "downcast spirit." While the world celebrates that poverty has been halved in the last twenty years, the reality is that the drop is mostly because of what has happened in China and India, as can be seen in the chart below. These countries have significantly reduced poverty not through Millennial Development Goals or aid, but rather through businesses (China - manufacturing; India - services). Unfortunately, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa has actually increased in the number of people in extreme poverty. For Nigeria, people living in extreme poverty has increased from 51 million in 1990, to 86 million in 2013.
During our training, the quote from Silvoso came back to me and I realized afresh the significance of the quote that faith and hope together can produce love.
|We are in Kaduna, and are also working in Abuja, Jos, and Lagos.|
As I listened to them share their stories, the challenges and opportunities in the Church and in the Marketplace in Nigeria, I was encouraged by their faith. Their faith shows a dependence on God that is real and deep. A faith comes when you don't have running water or electricity and yet you had it a year ago; when you see your country moving backwards rather than forwards because of corruption, religious struggles, and governmental challenges; when you believe that justice and rule of law is not equitably applied. They know how to be on their knees and look to God for the answers that seem so out of reach.
As we offered hope, and they imparted faith, a love grew in the room. The love that grew was a love of God and for each other; an appreciation of the richness within the body of Christ; a recognition of the creative potential in each person to see problems as opportunities that can be met by people using the three gifts they have been given: time, treasure, and talent.
Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. We need each other. We learn from each other when we listen to each other. And this information can become transformational when we do something with it.
These pastors left our time together with excitement and purpose. They had told us that so many youth don't want to do any type of business, but rather just wait for a job; as a result many of them are idle, as they graduate with a degree but no jobs are available. They told us about pastors who are preaching that certain labor is beneath them and they need to pray for God to give them something different, also resulting in a lot of idleness. Seeing how Jesus was a carpenter for eighteen years, how prophets were farmers, disciples were fishermen, reminded them that all work is important - it is what we were created to do - and God can use us wherever we are and bless the fruit of our hands. They are determined to go out and make a difference in their churches and denominations. Please pray for these pastors and for the country of Nigeria.