I have told friends who don’t believe in God that if they lived in Nigeria for a while, they would. During the almost four weeks I was in Nigeria last year I thanked God daily for getting my mom, sister and I through the day (especially if we went out) and I never took for granted that something that I do here daily (cross a street) is more risky and challenging where I was staying in Nigeria. Imagine a grown woman like me holding her mom’s hand to cross the street…gosh! And even if you’re in a car you”re not necessarily safe from bad drivers trying to break the rules and leapfrog over you in the opposite direction to where they should be going. Maybe if I had a driver and a car instead of walking everywhere or taking taxi rides inside decrepit taxis with doors that might fall off any minute, I’d have a different story. I did not dare ride on the back of an okada (motorcycles); I nearly suffered a heart attack watching others braver than I weave through the traffic on the back of one!).
Not everyone’s experience of Nigeria is like mine but I know I would need to live there for at least a year before I’d consider going anywhere outside of my grandma’s neighbourhood by myself. I just don’t feel safe or confident on my own. So yes, my dependence on God increases in Nigeria. I guess it’s a good thing that there’s a church on nearly every street corner there!
My dad attended an Anglican church when he lived in Nigeria. I’m not sure what church my mom attended but it was an evangelical church. In Canada, they settled in a Baptist church. For nearly 20 years we went to the same Baptist church. It was a small church (65-80 people at an average Sunday service); after all those years it felt very comfortable and homey. It was a multicultural church in that people attending the church represented a large number of nationalities, but due to the small numbers there were usually only two or three people representing a nationality. We were the only Nigerian members in that church. The majority of the congregation was Canadian and the pastors over the years were Canadian too.
The church got new leadership a few years back and I must confess I disliked the new pastor from day -1 (when he came to visit the church and preach a sermon, before he was officially hired). Unfortunately my impression of him didn’t change over the years (I did pray about it) and I was not feeling the way I should about attending church or my pastor. My attendance declined and when I did attend I’d spend the time reading my bible or mentally arguing with his sermon instead of taking it in. I never felt like he was reaching me, and of course you could argue that I wasn’t receptive to him.
There was a mass exodus (apropos, non?) of church members over the last two years (due to the pastor) and last year, I joined them. I decided to try the Pentecostal church that my parents had switched to earlier after visiting a few other churches. I had been hearing about this particular church for years but Pentecostals have a reputation for speaking in tongues, dancing in church and being freer than I was used to. Also, after over 19 years in one church it’s hard to just switch. I went to the new church after I got back from Nigeria and it was massive, a very big change from my old church. I felt disconnected and unsure if this was the right place for me to be. The pastor seems nice (I have not met him one on one) but the most curious thing to me is how much more emotional I am at this church.
Like many churches this Pentecostal church has an altar call where they invite people who want to receive prayer to come forward. In my old church, I never went to the front of church for anything like this but I felt led to at this church and I went (maybe the larger crowd gave me confidence?). It was cool to have the pastor pray over me. When I saw a father bring his son up and tell the pastor about his son’s hearing and other problems (he was wearing hearing aids), the faith I witnessed in both the father and the pastor made me cry. So the other alarming thing is that I cry in church now: not every Sunday, and I never know what will trigger my tears, but the only guarantee is I won’t have kleenex when I need it and I’ll be using my sleeves to catch the tears. One Sunday it was the testimony of a guy who was getting baptized and telling us to embrace our freedom of religion because in his home country he didn’t have that. Another time I cried hearing a woman share her own struggle for physical healing. This doesn’t mean the new church has worked wonders necessarily, and I think maybe my 19 years at the other church were molding slowly into the woman I’m becoming spiritually in this church, someone who feels songs and words spoken deep within her.
I have a long way to go. Sometimes when I mention God on this blog, I feel like those movie stars or musicians who say “I’d like to thank God” when they win an award because there are so many areas where I slack. I am guilty of leaning on God when the going gets tough, when I need help. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, as long as I don’t forget to give express appreciation and give credit to Whom it is due when things are going well. It’s a constant struggle to reflect godly qualities but as I connect more with this church I know it’ll happen.
And although I attended a Baptist church for almost 20 years, I never got baptized. I’m thinking about it now!
Two questions for you:
- Do you believe in God?
- What kind of church do you go to?