This past Saturday and Sunday I was in Uyo, Nigeria, near the headquarters and seminary of the Lutheran Church in Nigeria (LCN). My good friend, Archbishop Christian O. Ekong, invited me to take part in this moment of joy to mark the 75th anniversary of their church, which began in 1936 with the arrival of the first Lutheran missionaries. In those days they called Nigeria “the white man’s grave,” because tropical diseases and other dangers took the lives of a number of mission workers. Some of their resting places are still very near the LCN headquarters.
The services were held in “Luther Hall,” a huge, open-air “cathedral” which seats thousands for worship. I had the honour of preaching on Saturday for the festival service that day. It was lengthy!
Then came Sunday, which brought likely the longest service I ever attended in my life. Worship began by 10 a.m., and we were just leaving the church before 4 p.m. There was no stopping for lunch, either! Several thousand attended the Sunday communion. Offerings are received multiple times during the service, and each time it can take 30-40 minutes, because all worshipers come forward, pew by pew, many walking rhythmically or even dancing.
This is the rainy season. Torrential rains cause multiple power outages, though the hotels very often turn on their generators immediately so you don’t go without power for long. At the end of Sunday’s marathon service, with heavy rain falling on the metal roof of the cathedral, you could scarcely hear the pastors’ voices, even when they shouted loudly and used microphones.
The rainy season makes some roads almost impassable; others become bumpy, and your spine really feels it, as mine did when I was seated in the rear of a van right over the wheel well. Along the roadside are people’s homes, often sporting a table in the front of the house where they sell food, electronics, or any other items to help their income. People carry enormous loads of fruits, grains, and even building materials on their heads as they walk along.
The young people at the Lutheran gathering on Sunday made quite the impression. Many of them belong to organized groups with their own uniforms and put on marches for church festival days. So many of them are incredibly polite and friendly, sometimes running up to a Canadian visitor like me, anxious to carry my briefcase, other times bowing or asking for the favour of having our picture taken together.
I’ll write a bit more in the coming days once I have collected my thoughts a bit. I’m now on the long trek back home, waiting for a flight here in Lagos, the former capital, which will take me to Amsterdam … then another to Toronto … then another to Winnipeg.
I sincerely hope you will pause and thank the Lord for the growth He’s given our friends in Nigeria these 75 years. Their synod is now bigger than ours! I hope also you will pray today and often for the witness God wants us to give to Christ in our beloved Canada, and in the communities, neighbourhoods and workplaces where He allows us to live.
Sincere greetings from Nigeria,
Robert Bugbee, President