Wurin Alheri is CFM’s permanent site, just outside Jos. The name means “place of kindness,” which we thought was appropriate, given the unkindness in the world. Our first task was to build a low fence along the road boundary of the land, about 800 metres. We made our own cement blocks. The other three perimeters have no wall. We still occupied our rented facilities in Bukuru, and team members would go to and fro each day. On one occasion our team members were caught in a battle between our two neighbouring communities, the townships on either side of our land. A solider was caught in the middle and would surely have been killed. Our team rescued him and were able to get him out in their truck. They came to the office to tell us, as though it’s all in a day’s work. We built our first main block of four flats and staff members began to move in. After the ambush described in the previous chapter, Ruth joined me, and we moved into one of these flats. We now live there, also with Daniel, our youngest son. Our son John and his wife Michaela (Kay) and their two small children live in the flat above us. They joined CFM in Nigeria in 2016.
For some time we had been concerned about the vulnerability of our staff living on the site. In recent years there have been major battles between Fulani cattle herders and local farmers in northern Nigeria. I attempt to describe the nature of this conflict in the next chapter. Wurin Alheri was the exact centre of this conflict in Nigeria at the time we began building the site, stuck right between the Muslim Fulani township of Bisichi and the Christian farmer township of Du. Du is where the Jos South local government area ends, and Bisichi is where the Barkin Ladi local government area begins. The nature of this battle has taken us a long time to understand, and it has also taken us a long time to learn how to help. The Fulani vs. farmer conflict has taken many thousands of lives in Nigeria in recent years, and still rages at the present time. Our attention was for some years on the more pressing Boko Haram issues. But when our staff moved on to the site, we had to do something, since they had no armed protection and no police presence.
Our relationships with the Du community have been good, since we earlier negotiated to buy the land from them as the traditional landowners of the region. Since that time, one of the chiefs of Du has served as a staff member of CFM, always helping out around the Wurin Alheri site. We went to the Fulani township of Bisichi on the other side of our site and met with the Muslim leader and some of the other leaders. They received us with warm hospitality which was genuine. We spoke together about how we could counter the logjam of violence with a different way of rebuilding relationships.
The story here is pretty typical. The main instigators of violence are outsiders. These criminal elements come and take advantage of the aggrieved youth, recruiting them into brutal violence. The army major stationed in Bisichi visits us regularly and tells us that certain people, on both sides of the dispute, profit from the fighting. They are like politicians, using division for their own purposes. They rule through creating chaos. It’s not a new story. The world elite do this. This is a major obstacle to overcome in building peace. These stratagems need to be exposed so people know how they are being used and understand a better life can be had by working as a whole community. It is more simple exposing these at a local level. When we deal with the same issues on a global level, people are much more resistant to hearing about vested interests, hiding behind phrases like, “It’s just another stupid conspiracy theory.” Change on a global level is more difficult, for the public to see how we are being used. We are divided so corrupt interests can keep us blind and rule us. This is the rule of greed, as opposed to God’s rule of sabbath restoration.
We spoke with the Bisichi Muslim leaders about serving the youth with a computer training centre that would draw youth from both sides together to learn. The leaders were thrilled and gave us their second mosque in Bisichi as CFM’s centre. This was a big risk then because Boko Haram was a very dangerous threat to such collaboration. I am just highlighting the risks Muslims took to build peace and, as I said earlier, almost all Muslims in the country would have been in this camp given the opportunity. As we left the Muslim leader’s house that day we walked back past their main mosque. We could hear children inside chanting the Quran. From my background, this is an eerie sound. But we heard it with new ears that day. We had just visited with one of their grandmothers and saw her love for the children. They were giving the children all that they had to try to educate them for their future, just as our parents did for us. Listening to these children sitting in dust brought tears to my heart. “We must help them to have the best, like we have had it ourselves,” I thought.
Later in 2014 Ruth joined us in Nigeria. This is when our 15 years of frequently being apart as we crisscrossed from England to Nigeria to Australia came to an end. Then we started CFM’s second computer centre, in Bisichi’s second mosque. It had an immediate impact. Youth from both communities, Muslim, and Christian, joined in. At our first graduation the local army commanding officer, keeping peace in the Barkin Ladi local government area, spoke. He said, “Those who give you guns don’t love you. Their children are in safe places, abroad, studying. They want you to fight for them. The people who give you free training in a computer centre are the ones who love you. This is your future. If everyone built centres like this the army would be off the streets, back in the barracks. We would no longer be needed.” He said all this with tears in his eyes and in his voice. The children lined up outside, some of them only in dusty underpants. We handed out schoolbooks and writing material and mathematical instrument sets, which they loved. The violence in the township stopped. The tanks and armoured vehicles left the area. Fulani and Hausa Muslim school children came to Wurin Alheri to donate and plant mango trees together with the children living on our site, whose fathers had been murdered by Boko Haram. The trees signifying our growing fruitful relationships. One of the elders asked for 100 copies of a book we printed in their Hausa language showing how Jesus is the Christ, using the major portions of the biblical texts Muslims like the most. He distributed this book in households where Christians could never visit.
We visited local villages almost destroyed in Fulani conflict not far from Wurin Alheri. In some places we teamed up with the local government education department to help rebuild local schools. We handed out thousands of exercise books for children. These are hard places to visit. They are the places worst hit by our global economic system. They are totally marginalised, as is the case for so many millions. Children normally sing heartily when you visit them, but here it was lacklustre: their hair was tinged with red, evidence of malnutrition. The region had been devastated by the violence. They asked us why we would care about them? Why would we come out of our way to visit them, down long dirt roads? In each place we went to like this we would find one person or a married couple living there as missionaries serving the people. These are Nigerian missionaries. The Lord has his people! He is the best missions director. They are in so many places, unsung, unknown, saying God sent them there to care for others. It reminds us of Jesus’ saying, “There are many that are last now, that shall be first. And there are many that are first now, that shall be last.” Sobering. We want to reach regions like this with medical care: hundreds of thousands of people on our doorstep. When the medical industry isn’t tailored for this, how can we do it?
As we were building Wurin Alheri we wanted every building to be simple and to serve people every day. The chapel was the first building to go up after our main staff apartment block. We walled in the area under the balcony inside the chapel and made rooms for children. CFM had previously opened a crisis-care home for children in 2014, in a rented facility close to our bible college at Bukuru. With the chapel completed in 2016, we moved 40 children from this facility to Wurin Alheri. Eighty more children arrived from Borno State, one of the regions devastated by Boko Haram. These had lost their fathers and other family members in attacks and their towns had been destroyed. More children came. Then we opened a second home in a town about one hour from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. Here we have 100 children. These facilities are not orphanages, but crisis-care homes. The children remain closely linked with their extended family. CFM serves as a family support, a go-between to help them rebuild by relieving families of some of the load, while they recover from devastation. If some of their relative’s children can be educated, it gives more hope for the future of these regions. Today we have 300 children in our two crisis-care homes. The staff team do an excellent job, 24 hours a day. We have the best leaders of whom we are very proud. We also work closely with our local government social welfare departments, with dear friends there who care much for the welfare of children and families. We work with global agencies as well, who help support some of the costs of running the homes. Together we work to maintain the best standards for the children and are extremely thankful to the Lord for his watching over this work every day.
If we didn’t reach out to serve these children, they would face great risk where they were. We try to serve children in their home situation, but often this is impossible and that is why we need crisis homes. One of our girls thought her whole family was killed when Boko Haram hit their town. Many people were murdered, all farms were destroyed, animals taken, and most of their township was burnt to the ground. The girl was separated from her mother in the fighting and her mother was driven into the mountains, where many of those already weak died of exposure and hunger. The girl’s six siblings were killed. But her mother survived and six months later met up with her daughter with us.
Some children come to us with bullet wounds. In recent weeks (August 2020) we have had 46 new children join us from terrorised villages in southern Kaduna. This is part of the Fulani vs. farmer conflict. A CFM trained missionary who works in the region speaks of the hatred on both sides: “all armed to the teeth.” This region is in urgent need of biblical peacebuilding. CFM has begun training peace building missionaries for that area. CFM’s bible college graduates are committed to regions like this despite the danger. The children now at CFM’s crisis-care home from southern Kaduna have gone through years of conflict, with one loss after the other, but have survived. They receive trauma care at CFM, but the best healing care is the love from staff and friends they make. In time, the place is filled with laughter and playing. They are the best-behaved children we have known, not because they are cowered by their experiences but because, knowing destitution, they understand the value of the care and education they are receiving and are determined to make the most of the opportunity, not just for themselves but for their whole extended family.
We had to build classrooms for these children on our site. The West Flanders Province, Belgium, Government helped with some rooms and the Australian High Commission in Nigeria helped with some. The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria visited with his deputy in 2016, looked at the work and visited the computer centre in the mosque nearby. They ate lunch in our flat. They loved to be part of the giving, to be doing something good. We enjoyed meeting them and thanked them for the support. The Australian government doesn’t help Africa anymore. Apparently, they need more money for the latest weaponry they must buy from America to maintain most favoured nation status relations. This is sad for many reasons.
Some say the West has given enough, but the West is a net receiver from Africa, by a longshot. It has never been a net aid giver. The wealth it extracts from the continent is far more than it gives back, especially today: in corrupt business deals, and massive interest payments on loans, where the loan principal has often been stolen and returned to Western banks (with “bank discretion for the client” of course;) and in resource extraction that often contributes to regional wars. The mining of cobalt, coltan, tantalum and other rare minerals in the Congo, oil, gold, diamonds, gemstones, and other rare minerals in Nigeria are just some of many examples, where terrorism and wars, extreme poverty, and widespread death, are the silent background providing the world with resources for digital goods and other products. China also conducts extensive timber and mining operations, robbing the environment and people. Foreign companies avoid paying proper market prices for resources. Proper prices would rebuild the local regions. Why don’t modern business-philanthropists address these issues, not just with lip-service and good intentions? Our Western economies are dependent on the exploitation of millions of people. It is the West that receives aid from Africa.
We continued building classrooms with the gifts of friends. Children began to fill our schools, which operate in different parts of the nation. Almost all our children have been impacted by terrorism in one way or another. Our number of school children grew to over 1,300, needing a large staff team. People sometimes speak of “sustainability.” But no nation runs sustainable education for its citizens. It has to be heavily subsided or it stops. How much more for those coming through terrorism? It is not possible to give such people, from the villages I described above, an education, without gratuitous support that is constant. Ongoing, month-in, month-out support to pay the teachers who maintain good standards is essential. If not, then aid doesn’t work. Aid must develop and stay with the task till it is done. It isn’t completed by building structures, but by building the people daily. If we don’t build people, the children we leave behind will be the next terrorist organisation. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr again: “If we don’t move into our future together, we don’t have a future.” How true! The riots in America show this today. The wealth of the richest 1% must be brought to serve, not to exploit the population. It is largely stolen wealth.
Missions agencies and friends also helped CFM to build its discipleship centre at Wurin Alheri. As stated earlier, “disciples” in this context means those who have recently come to Christ but are in danger from persecution and need shelter while they grow. Most of these were previously from the Muslim faith. Some people ask how this works out with our Muslim neighbours, so here are a few stories. The disciples may come young and can be immature while they grow. One became angry at CFM and wouldn’t submit to simple discipline, so he reported us to the head of the mosques in Bukuru, the heads of the police and the military, near our rented facilities. The police chief summoned three of our CFM leaders to answer serious allegations. When our leaders arrived, they found three Muslim elders from the local community defending CFM, vigorously, for one hour. This included the head Imam of a large Muslim community. They concluded by saying that “there is no compulsion in religion” (quoting from the Quran). They said any person has the right to choose their faith. They added that CFM has the right to disciple any convert to Christ and should be encouraged to do so. As I said earlier, self-correction rather than finger pointing was becoming our new culture.
Then the Muslim elders said to our leaders, “arrest these youth who tried to burn down your college.” Our angry disciple had rounded up local Muslim youth, but the plot didn’t gain traction. Things had changed a lot since the 2009 – 2010 community violence. At this point our leaders spoke for the first time, “No one loves these youth. The Christians don’t, the government doesn’t and you, their own elders, don’t. They don’t need to be arrested but they need fathers and mothers, mentors, help and hope. They need a community in which we care for each other. Give us access to all your youth and we will help them.” The elders were shocked and asked, “What kind of people are you? Everyone wants to arrest those who want to do them harm.” (All my training told me Muslims would not respond in this way to Christians, about arresting their own people. But both of our communities had begun to take responsibility for our crimes, not covering them because our own people were involved. We were no longer relating by the “rules of social or political religious competition,” but as neighbours.)
CFM’s leaders replied, “This is how God treats us through the cross of his Son, and he asked us to treat others the same way. Jesus told us to pass on God’s reconciling nature to others.” The elders responded, “We have never heard this gospel before.” “We had no idea this is what the cross of Christ meant.” One wrote on public Facebook the next day, “The almighty wall destroying power of the cross of Christ!” Who said Muslims don’t believe in the cross of Christ?
Another of the disciples later did a similar thing. He went to the head Imam of the community. He told him how wicked CFM is and said, “I am coming back to Islam.” The Imam asked him, “What discipline are you running from?” and told him to return to CFM and finish his studies. He came back, submitted to correction and did well at CFM. Two others ran to Bisichi, adjacent to Wurin Alheri and made all kinds of allegations against us to the Muslim leader. The Muslim leader came to our house and sat down and discussed it with us. He then returned to Bisichi and called the pastor of these two Muslim converts and asked him to collect these youth and take them back to their churches for correction. This is what I spoke of in an earlier chapter. When we have no relationships, miscreants can cause trouble, people can divide us, rumours can fly. This has changed. As the African proverb says, “Children are for all of us.” We now see all our neighbourhood youth as our joint responsibility.
Relationships like this spread during the height of the Boko Haram insurgency. One of our students went with his wife to a northern city and 200 Muslim and Christian leaders met with them. They spoke from the book of Isaiah for one hour on the kingdom of God. After this, Muslim elders, Imams, and others who claimed to have been “Boko Haram generals,” stood crying, spoke of their atrocities, and expressed how sorry they were for how they had treated the community and asked fervently for forgiveness. The Christian pastors stood and confessed their faults, in retaliating and in shunning their Muslim neighbours, in refusing to care them as people. When the meeting finally ended, they said they would gather again, for CFM to share more on the kingdom of God.
Another of our bible college students was sought out daily by a Muslim security chief of a notoriously violent community, Kafanchan, on ways to bring peace. This student was a converted Muslim who returned to Kafanchan and served those who had formerly persecuted him. The hearts of the whole community changed during a very volatile time in Nigeria, and peace came and has stayed.
One of CFM’s staff members formerly killed Christians. He had a miraculous change of heart. He first became a disciple and then attended our bible college. He now goes around the north preaching to those of all backgrounds, with miracles and he disciples thousands of believers. He leads hundreds of women who own shops in the Bukuru market. Many other disciples are youth, hopeless, in camps in and around Jos, who used very cheap and very dangerous drugs, driven there through terrorism, forgotten by many. Death is common. CFM staff members serve in these broken communities, including one staff member who was previously notorious in Barkin Lardi for his behaviour: nicknamed “Ossama.” When he came to Christ that all changed. As well as being a pastor in CFM he heads our fleet of buses, making sure the drivers deliver our children to school safely every day. He is now married with one child.
Every day someone’s life is changed, and they start growing, being restored, gaining health, learning vocational skills to contribute to community building, and then reaching out to serve and love others because Jesus loves and restores them. Some from remote regions come to our discipleship (safe house) centre and when they finish that program, some of them enrol in the bible college and become pastors, some missionaries, others training in various professions, or enrol in our senior secondary school, even though they may be well above the usual age.
The next building to go up at Wurin Alheri was for free vocational training. This again is to help youth, and to rebuild relationships between Muslim and Christians. It also serves women who have suffered sexual violence, who come to Wurin Alheri for recovery, sometimes having been raped, and are pregnant, sometimes with serious diseases that need treatment, for which there is often stigma in the society. Our staff and female bible college students serve them and help care for the babies, restoring the mother’s hope. Sometimes they are termed “mad” and abused in society, and our students take them in to love, to wash, dress and look after them. This is such a good part of the students’ training, learning to love those we are normally too busy to care for. Like Paul said, “The weakest members teach us the most,” not the boastful “super-apostles.” We learn that Christianity is the journey. When our journey is flourishing (meaning our relationships of responsible care for one another) we reach the goal of being Christ followers. The journey is the goal.
Our bible college students, disciples and older teenaged children from our crisis homes learn practical vocational skills to give them income earning power, to help them stand on their feet back in their home communities. We desire our bible college students to spread the aptitude for vocational skills in their churches and communities. We want them all to take with them both the forgiveness and love of God towards our enemies, and the aptitudes to rebuild lives vocationally. These rebuilt lives will rebuild local communities and rebuild the nation. Hundreds enrol for 15 different vocational skills, from building, to steel and aluminium work, electronics, carpentry, fashion design, shoe making, catering, computer and mobile phone repairs, hairdressing, and others.
A university in Belgium is currently helping us to design a wind-turbine built from locally available recycled materials, to generate electricity for village homes. Our vocational centre will train many people in this skill. We are training women to repair borehole handpumps. Thousands of these in village communities are left broken. Being able to fix them, and make these wind-turbines, will give many people jobs as they spread the love of God in these regions. Already many hundreds have graduated from our vocational college, and we have many wonderful stories of not only them making income, but also spreading the message of reconciliation to their communities, bringing people together, serving the weak.
Always, our students, from whatever college or school in CFM, seek to build relationships, to share what the Lord has done for them. One Fulani student in our bible college was kidnapped and while being taken away, she struggled and escaped, but she received a head injury in her struggle. She was able to return to the bible college but after some time she went totally blind. We took her to all the specialists, and she had CT & MRI scans from the best hospitals. They could not identify damage. The bible college students cared for her day and night. Staff said her condition healed us all; turned us into servants. After six months she says the Lord spoke to her: “Go to three lecturers and ask them to read this passage from the scripture and pray for you.” She obeyed. Nothing happened. That night, at 2:00 AM she dreamt Jesus told her to get off her bed and walk. She replied, “How can I, I am blind?” Her eyes suddenly opened, and she could see perfectly. The next week she summoned all to the bible college to give God thanks. Muslims and Fulani came at her invitation, all praising God together for her healing.
In Christmas in 2017 we invited townspeople, traditional leaders, and religious clerics from several communities near Wurin Alheri, and near our rented facilities in Bukuru, to have a meal at Wurin Alheri. There was a mix of ethnic and religious groups. While we were eating, people stood one by one and shared about their new relationships, all quoting from the teachings of Jesus. The Muslim leader of Bisichi and a traditional leader of Du now serve together on an agricultural cooperative CFM set up to help our region. CFM has three tractors which plough land for small farm holders at a discount, especially for widows (Muslim and Christian) to help them recover after the violence. These formerly opposing leaders (representing their communities) have literally “beaten their swords into ploughs.” Others shared on how much farming yields have increased. This gathering of the groups together hadn’t happened for decades. Two years later hundreds filled our chapel for a Christmas meal, from all backgrounds, all identifying with CFM and with each other.
Infrastructure that had to be built into Wurin Alheri included roads and power supply. Roads would require extensive drainage for the rainfall that frequently deluges the site during wet season. It seemed daunting, but we began and were able to complete it. This brought down the rate of malaria for our crisis-care children living at Wurin Alheri, since the fast water drainage reduced the mosquito population. The electric power issue was a bigger problem. The nearest supply was more than 3 kilometres away. But then a retired government minister built nearby, and he asked CFM to share the costs in supplying power lines for the first two kilometres. So we had 1 kilometre to go, and the power infrastructure and transformers around the entire Wurin Alheri site. The power company pays for none of the infrastructure for the three kilometres, or for the site plan. Very thankfully, before we knew it, we were able to complete this project.
In mid-2018 I had to travel for one week to speak at a missions dinner in Australia. Ruth stayed with the rest of the team on our site. I went through Istanbul and while changing flights I heard there had been an outbreak of violence at Barkin Ladi, about 45 minutes from Wurin Alheri. More than 500 people had been killed. Some militants wanted to spread the violence and they came to Bisichi, next to Wurin Alheri, to stir up the region and recruit fighters. (We have no walls between our land and Bisichi, the three perimeters open.) Militants against the Fulani tried to recruit fighters in Du, the Christian township on the other side of Wurin Alheri. Once again, we were right in the middle, and before forming these relationships in recent years a situation like this would have been catastrophic.
However, militants were rejected in both Bisichi and Du. The people said they would have no part in violence, and they sent the militants away. But the violence spread to the outskirts of Jos, about 10 kilometres from our rented bible college facilities. Christians lined up on the street and pulled Muslims randomly from their cars and killed them. Even one pastor pulled from his car was murdered because he was wearing traditional northerner clothes, the attackers refusing to believe he was a pastor.
Back in 2009 – 2010, this would have ignited our whole area around our bible college. But this time, Muslims came out into the streets and insisted vigorously that no Christian’s blood would be split in Bukuru. They demanded strongly that there must be no retaliation for the Muslims who were killed. The Muslim and Christian youth who had attended (or were still enrolled in) our Bukuru computer centre, patrolled the streets at night with the police, as one unit, to ensure peace was kept. What an amazing change had occurred in recent years: from strongly divided to strongly united, for the peace of Bukuru, Du and Bisichi. The head of police in Bukuru wrote CFM an official letter thanking us for our peacebuilding work. He said there was no longer any religious violence under his commission.
Our first two computer centres in Bukuru and Bisichi have today grown, so now they are six centres, with 220 computers. We set up more computer centres in hotspots, other places where there has been violence, including Barkin Ladi (the focus of the 2018 violence) to bring training, relationships, and hope to thousands of youth. When we have a graduation these Muslim and Christian youth fill our chapel at Wurin Alheri. Over 800 students enrol in these computer centres every year. These, as well as the vocational studies, are accredited, and people go on to many jobs, further education, or self-employment. All students in the vocational or computer centres do ethics classes, in which the principles of biblical peace are taught, of community love and cohesion. We have Muslim staff and Christian staff in these computer centres. The head of the whole computer centre division of CFM is a dear Muslim brother. He and his team have made the centres the best in the north, with full CISCO capabilities and have built the centres to cater for 880 students per year.
CFM staff members formed Vanguard for Peace, with the objective of rebuilding relations within communities. They hold seminars in town halls, calling together stake holders from all levels of the society. They set up clubs in high schools, that call together teenagers to teach them the ingredients of a cohesive community. These are schools where teenagers previously held extreme views, on either Christian or Muslims segregated political positions. Now, they are students of community. Imagine this being done in the Palestine/ Israel region. The Vanguard for Peace runs sports days, where they invite teachers and teenagers from different government, Muslim, or Christian schools, and mix them into teams, so it isn’t one school against another. Events like this are very successful in community, and they work only if we care for each other and build genuine justice in sharing relationships. We don’t do “faith dialogue,” we don’t try to come to a “common faith,” we don’t have talks to agree on peace terms. It’s the grassroots that matter, the sick, the hungry, the widow and orphan, the neighbour in need. We treat every person the same because this is the command and example of Christ. We are brothers in the community, but in faith we are in Christ.
All arms of CFM work in collaboration between biblical teaching and local cultural understandings. The biblical revelation is interpreted honestly and with faithfulness into local settings by local people who understand it best. We do this in all our nations and cultures. Sometimes it is drawing out of local culture the common grace that is actually Christlike and bringing that to the fore. This is a theology of the Word, the logos, by whom all things were made: Christ is the light of general revelation in creation, in the human conscience, though it has been marred by sin. One local term for peaceful cohabitation in many parts of Africa is ubuntu which is often translated as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others.” This philosophy can inform many aspects of our social and pollical life much better than our modern forms of politics which can be draconian, individualistic, and centralised rather than community orientated: discussions and relationships of justice between all the parties. Ubuntu concepts well known in local cultural traditions have often been merged very fruitfully with biblical teachings from Christ, bringing peaceful transformation. General revelation, which may even stem from a cultural connection to earlier biblical periods, may point to Christ as the fulfilment.
By the way, the idea that Muslims are offended at our Christian holidays like Easter, and faith traditions in the community, is not at all true in our regions. If you love them, they will easily come to church and hear the message with you. Nigerians grew up sharing meals at festive seasons with Muslim neighbours. This was normal life in northern Nigeria some decades ago, before recent geopolitics. The idea in the Western world that we mustn’t have “Christmas” because it offends Muslims has never been thought of in our renewed relationships with Muslims in Nigeria. It’s only the radicals and they are few. As our relationships grow the radicals have no voice. Even radical Christians might feel the same way about Muslim holidays. But Muslims expect Christians to be genuine in their faith, to express it fully. They do not respect Christians otherwise as genuine. In secular nations, the opposition to Christmas (and I am not supporting the commercialisation of Christmas) is propagated for secular reasons. “Muslim offence” is just an excuse. We use Christmas to do what Jesus did: he incarnated into our sufferings, to give to those who didn’t know him.
So many activities combine to serve widows at Wurin Alheri. They come for vocational and business training and then CFM connects them to microfinance loans, and they start businesses, with a close to perfect success rate in loan repayments. We bring in Fulani and local farmers for agricultural seminars, linked up through WebEx to global vets and other experts. But more on this in a subsequent chapter. Every day these things are going on at Wurin Alheri, “Place of Kindness.” And every day God provides.
We asked a dear brother in Belgium if God could provide a print press industry to our site. He got on the train that morning to go the Brussels and the one empty seat was next to a representative of a government funding agency whom he knew, who signed on to build the necessary facility. That week our friend had looked up “printers” in the public phonebook and contacted two previously unknown non-Christians, who signed on to provide the print machines and other equipment and gave a large donation to support the project. These friends and our brother came to Wurin Alheri to launch the completed printing factory, which is turning into a business for our site and also becoming a part of our vocational training for others.
In 2019 Christian Faith Hospital opened at Wurin Alheri. A health worker had joined the CFM team several years earlier when we started a small clinic for our CFM’s crisis-care children, and then a nurse joined. Each step we took was way beyond our financial ability, but the Lord always provided. Then a doctor joined our team. He was a student Ruth and I helped train in Benson Idahosa’s bible college. He was from the north and we sponsored his studies for two years. Later, he became a medical student and after qualifying he practiced under a highly qualified international doctor. He found us in Jos and offered his services. Today he heads our government registered hospital. Many other doctors join to offer their services as needed, especially for onsite surgeries. The hospital has inpatient wards, a diagnostic laboratory, dentistry, and maternity facilities. Hundreds of babies are born here. In emergency and outpatient services, Christians and Muslims from communities near and far are treated every day. It is becoming a community meeting centre. Our motto is, “None shall be denied basic health care.”
Currently, a larger hospital is being built on the Wurin Alheri site. When that is completed, the present building will be handed over to the vocational college as a boarding hostel for students from other states. When we occupy the new hospital building our desire is to also offer x-ray services to our region, as well as diagnostics and treatment for HIV and Hepatitis B. The villages I described further above, and towns throughout the Barkin Ladi local government area have some of the highest infection rates in the world. There is no other facility for treating these diseases in this L.G.A. These diseases also carry a strong social stigma, so our desire is to love those affected and see their restoration. Like I mentioned with education above, the question is, how do you sustain a medical outreach to the areas in this world that need it the most? Our health industries in the world are not designed for this. Yet, it must be done, not only for the sake of the individuals, but for human justice and peace. This is part of what God meant in Genesis when he told us to have dominion: dominion over that which destroys the creation, wholeness, and peace. This is our commission. But more on this in a subsequent chapter.
One of the more recent endeavours CFM has launched is the legal assistance team. This is located in a rented office in Bukuru. For some years, our bible college students have reached out to inmates of the Jos prison. We often see people languishing in this and other prisons without legal representation. In other places we see people persecuted without legal redress. We see plagues of sexual violence, like other nations, especially during this recent Covid-19 lockdown. So we work with social services to spread awareness in communities and to bring mitigation and restoration to individuals, families, and communities.
CFM’s barrister heading up this department previously served as the Director of Civil Litigation of the State Ministry of Justice and is highly respected for his integrity throughout the profession. His aim in CFM’s legal aid department is to implement redemptive and reconciliatory remedies in communities for crimes committed, pathways to alternative dispute resolution, which bring restoration and healing, working with the Sermon on the Mount model. He found the government had seen the importance of this for a long time but lacked the ability to carry it out. This dear friend is the Muslim man that one of CFM’s leaders rescued in the 2009 – 2010 violence I talked about earlier. His assistant in our legal department is also a lawyer, wife of one of CFM’s pastors.
Our concern is to model the things that build peace into our nation’s future and these things are all structured around justice. We don’t mean justice in the sense of legal retribution. That is the human sense of justice, upon which our sacrificial religious systems were built. But Jesus spoke of the justice of God, which is mercy based. He demonstrated, that in laying down our lives to serve the broken, healing and atonement come into the retributive heart of human society and bring peace. Peace starts from this atonement in our hearts, which is essential for our relationships. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Go and learn what it means, I want mercy and the (true) knowledge of God, not sacrifice (finger-pointing and retribution.”) This could be taken as a lynchpin of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus moved atonement from being the sacrifice of others to springing from our communal self-giving mercy. This is the basis of true justice flowing.
In our response to the earlier Boko Haram jihad on Jos, CFM launched Healing Justice back in 2011, as the avenue through which love would be used as a weapon against fear and hate. Widows and others in misfortune, from any background, could come to CFM’s office for prayer and support, as we looked to the Lord for supply. This touched many thousands of lives. It built the foundation for peace in many places. Today, CFM’s legal assistance team builds on this foundation. As reconciliation comes to communities in which there is offence, as those who have not received justice are released from prison, then society begins to heal. This is the gospel: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to set free those who are in prison, to heal those under oppression, to proclaim the good news (Exodus, return from captivity) to those who are poor…” For Luke, this wasn’t just spiritual, because for the Jewish people the spiritual flowed out of the social relationships, into which justice must come.
Some ask us how this works in a society of sharia law, as we encounter in some northern regions. To start with, there are more incarcerations in America for the population than any other nation, so “Christian” justice systems aren’t working too well. Coming back to sharia: there are positives, such as stopping exploitive interest rates, like those common in Western societies for low income earners. An extensive study would reveal many other interesting points for discussion. But, in regard to some of the more harmful parts of sharia, we find this often comes down to local implementation. Our cultures and own minds determine how we interpret our religion. When light comes to our minds, especially through renewed relationships, our cultures, and viewpoints change. In interpreting our faith, we look for the inner story of scripture, which is about God’s love for and redemption (healing) of his creation. It’s a story of pro-life. Any theology that mitigates against life is destructive. This story of scripture is contrary to a humanistic view where we try to please the individual as the centre of all things. We have had at least one very positive experience with sharia courts, where the judges annulled a force marriage, stopped the abusive rule of others, and set a young woman free to serve God according to her conscience, and to have full access to education.
We estimate that around 20% of CFM’s donated funds have been used to build at Wurin Alheri and these buildings are all used every day in restoring lives. All the rest of CFM’s donated funds go into daily programs for the people we serve. We prepare 18,000 meals per week when all our bible college boarding students and disciples are on site, including our two crisis-care homes. Wages are paid for almost 300 staff members monthly. We supplement their wages by paying for their professional development, and by assisting in the education and health of their families, their accommodation, and transport. We have built two houses owned by CFM’s two main leaders, whom I will introduce later. We have a gratuity system to give land to staff members after “long service.” We run a staff cooperative that helps with other needs, and supplement this with profits from CFM’s agricultural businesses. CFM’s vocational businesses are already helping to support the free training of vocational students and we hope will soon also contribute to CFM’s staff cooperative.
Everything we do serves as a model, so it can spread and rehabilitate communities. The model here is cooperative businesses that bring justice between leaders and staff members, while integrating ethnic groups and neighbours as participants and beneficiaries. Businesses, environment, and community flourish much better this way and this is what CFM is seeking to prove in the days ahead. More on this also in the next chapters.
We have wonderful support from Christians, some of whom have supported Ruth and I from our early days, when we were working with Benson Idahosa, right up to the current time. I had a dream once that a brother drove up from Melbourne and handed a cheque to Ruth’s father for the work. Soon afterwards he gave a large gift. (Unfortunately, I cannot dream such things at will.) We have seen the Lord provide in such a variety of ways: small donors, those who pray for us, large donors. Like Jesus and Paul said, each according to their ability. Sometimes those who have less give more, that is, more from what they have. Like Moses said, “Gather the manna and share it, so he that gathers much and he that gathers little all have what they need.”
Once we visited the far north of Queensland and after a breakfast meeting a man asked us to come to his farm and pray for his friend. We saw the friend, just skin and bones, lying there. I don’t recall the illness. I do recall feeling somewhat intimidated by the severity of the situation. But we prayed. Ten years later we were back in a church in the region. The man who owned the farm and his friend drove six hours to meet us. After we had prayed, ten years earlier, his friend fully recovered, and he wanted to thank us for coming to the farm that day. That prayer was 30 years ago and the man and his wife with the farm have supported us ever since. We look back with thanks for many different events like this.
An old lady from a village once visited us at our flat when we lived in the south of Nigeria. She said she prays for us every day, and the Lord told her to tell us he wants us to have patience, not to faint. How right she was. We never saw her before or after that time. This kind of interaction with the Lord’s people has happened often over the years, and its usually the simple brothers and sisters, and the ones who clearly have no motives. Some even donating large sums of support with simplicity and love. And we meet most of these people in simple churches, who just want to pour out the love God has given to them. Even in times of economic crisis, Christian supporters behind us have doubled up their efforts to help others, not putting themselves or their fears first. What a blessing these have been to encourage us. What a blessing all our supporters and encouragers have been, not just to us, but to all those who are lifted up to go and serve others. This is how regions are transformed from darkness to light: the light of self-giving. We do not represent one denomination but are supported by Christians from all backgrounds.
Ruth works tirelessly on filing reports and communicating with a few Christian agencies that support some of the projects within CFM. These agencies have been very kind and the believers who serve in them devote their lives to sharing the love of Christ. They have helped so much, through the many Christians in simple churches who back these agencies with prayer and support.
Ruth also applies endlessly for other grants from charities and government bodies, but usually to avail at the present time. Providing the restorative services to those most in need, while building peaceful coexistence seems to be the remit of most government aid bodies. Ruth uses the lingo government employees like to hear, but for us it is genuine. CFM aims at providing the outcomes these bodies claim to be looking for. Possibly, the problem presently is our lack of connection. Britain recently took away the independence of its aid department (DFID.) Now British aid is linked to what the government determines to be their strategic aims in a region. Australia also made this change some years ago. This means aid is related to trade, given to areas that are strategically important to British and Australian interests. This largely diminishes the integrity and effectiveness of aid. It’s more a bribe and subject to change, which makes it ineffective in long term development goals. But Ruth doesn’t give up.
The last facility to be erected at Wurin Alheri is the bible college, enabling us to finally move from our rented premises at Bukuru. We have kept this story for the last chapter, to end where we began, with the central part of Christian Faith Ministries, the integral base of our training, theology: the place of studying, learning, and reflecting on the character and will of Christ. This constantly, year after year, does so much to build us into a family and to feed God’s primary mission into every one of CFM’s arms. It is the foundation, with the presence of God’s Spirit, from which the biblical narrative emerges in its ever-increasing richness, informing us on the new creation God is building through his people. This is the building we desire to build with him, the renovation of hearts, relationships, communities, and the natural creation, as heaven fills our earthy place, just as Isaiah depicted. This is sacred place, wherever it is located. This is the temple. May the Lord be willing! Amen. As well as the prayer gifts of the Spirit, the mysteries expressed in doxology make way for God’s creational blueprint in all our hearts, the garden he is building and filling.