Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Power to the People

Wanting to concentrate on my first year studies at Pacific Bible College, I purposely avoided the Overseas Gospel Missionaries basement office for those first months in 1977. But there was this curious tug on my heart; I felt I must consciously pull myself away or fall in. Ambrose evidently sensed my conflict and confronted me after one Sunday service.
“When are you going to obey God?”
He was only 4’11”, but he stood tall in God. When he spoke, He spoke.
That was my introduction to Ambrose Anyanwu (Pacific Bible College Graduate ’77) and the beginning of my association with him and his wife, Lynda, in OGM (Overseas Gospel Missionaries). Originally just a weekly evangelistic outreach to a downtown Skid Row Mission, it soon became what is now a worldwide correspondence Bible school. The Lord put vision in our hearts and the will also to see it through. An army of committed volunteers formed. We prayed together, compiled Bible studies, answered letters, stuffed packages, licked envelopes, believed God for the stamps and saw Him bring in a mighty harvest! One of our students described it as: "I see you put Jesus in the envelope!" He was right. In our first 7 years, we saw over 20,000 receive Christ and another 5000 complete studies in discipleship! In addition, I even met my wife, Erica, through this ministry!
In 1978, Ambrose and his family returned to his native Nigeria. Eziama, his home village, had suffered much during the devastating Biafra civil war. Those who had sent him off to America were not impressed when he can back, not an engineer, but a preacher of the gospel. How could a preacher help this poverty-stricken community? The family languished for months in one of his father’s mud huts. Ambrose despaired that all would die as malaria attacked each one. However, God had different plans.
The village elders schemed to get rid of this ‘preacher’. They gave him land that had once been the centre for idolatry, slave-trading and discarding babies whose mothers had died giving them birth. Considered cursed, they were left to die: either to starve or be eaten by wild animals. The elders believed the demons infesting the land would solve their 'preacher' problem by driving him and his family away.
Ambrose moved onto the property. His very first evening there, a passing cyclist encountered a spectacular scene: hundreds of terror-stricken, disembodied faces ran shrieking towards him and then past him, disappearing into the thick jungle! Knocked from his bike, he fled back to the village and recounted his terrifying story. None dared venture out to discover what had happened until the next day when they felt it would be safe. To their surprise, they found Ambrose sitting, calm and at peace.
“Are you all right?” they asked.
“Yes. Shouldn’t I be? ”
“What have you been doing?”
“Praying,” he answered.
And Eziama has never been the same.

The Anyanwus asked to take any future motherless babies in the village into their home. Instead of being cursed, the villagers saw blessing evidenced on their family and ministry. Lives once doomed to latrine pits were lovingly redeemed. Hearts gradually changed in the community. Now, 30 years later: over 200 ‘motherless babies’ have been saved, a 1000-member church thrives with 10 branch churches, over 300 students attend a grade school, a Basic Skills College teaches young women sewing, cooking and even computer skills, and much more. The onetime jungle battlefield has been transformed into a virtual Garden of Eden.

A few years ago, I returned as part of a team to help realize a long-awaited dream. Eziama, a community of approximately 80,000 people, but no electricity or medical clinic, took a quantum leap into this new century. Donors had helped build a new Grace Hospital and we had come to install its solar energy power plant with two diesel generator backups. The day came to turn the power on and so did the entire village. All was ready; the chief, elders, and hundreds of others gathered to witness and celebrate the momentous occasion. The 106-year old ‘eldest’ Eziaman had the honour to press the small white switch on the wall, the lights came on, the fans twirled and all the people gasped, “Ahh!”
God used His preacher to bring real power to Eziama –both spiritual and technological. What they once despised and ridiculed had instead become the very means of their provision and blessing, exceedingly abundantly above all that the village and its elders had ever thought possible. Isn't that just like Our Jesus?

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