Most people I know, myself included, would agree that if they were taking a shower with cold water out of a bucket, boiling water to hand-wash the dishes and trying to make it through dinner without the sporadic electricity shutting the lights off, they are having a pretty rough week. I had the opportunity to willingly step into a culture for 11 days where most people yearn for the lifestyle described in the typical American’s “rough week.”
To sum up my trip to Nigeria in one word: inconvenient. The stories of inconvenience range from being detained at a “police stop” on the side of the road in the pitch dark for a half-hour while they awaited a bribe from us (we did not give one), to stopping at four gas stations before finding one that had gas – right before our driver took us on a “short-cut” home that ended up being a four-hour route instead of the original two.
Despite the culture shock from those experiences, it was a different kind of inconvenience that weighed on me more heavily. This weight came from an inconvenient sect of people in their society– namely, disabled individuals. We learned on our first day in the Nigerian culture, the general perspective on people with physical or mental disabilities is one of shame and disgrace. It is commonly believed that a disability is a result of sin in a person’s life or sin in their family, and while they remain alive and disabled, they are to blame for any hardship in their family’s life. Therefore, most people will not come near, much less touch someone with a disability for fear that the curse will come upon them also. At best, disabled family members are kept in a back room, unknown and hidden from the community. More often, they are abandoned to the streets or even killed.
Seeing this belief first hand, I began to feel the gravity of my team’s mission for that week. We were there to spend time with, honor, and encourage that very group of people who are a marginalized inconvenience in the eyes of their community.
We took one afternoon at the beginning of the trip to host a party that involved playing games, riding a horse, face painting, an authentic Nigerian feast of jollof rice and chicken, and concluding the day with a dance party. Our team leader, arriving a month earlier than us, spent that time building relationships with families of disabled individuals in the community and invited them to our party. This proved to be a much harder task than anyone thought. Those that did claim their disabled children as family members did not want to publicize it. Even so, over 130 people (disabled individuals and families included) showed up to our party! We called this a Luke 14 Party, in reference to a parable Jesus told in Luke chapter 14 describing a master that holds a great banquet for the affluent people in his community. None of the invited guests show up, so he tells his servant to go the streets inviting the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. This is significant because Jesus tells this parable in response to a well-to-do man stating, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15).
Throughout our stay, we spent a significant amount of time with the children from Jesus Kids, exposing us to a whole new level of inconvenience. Upon entering the orphanage for disabled children, I was overcome with a deep sense of helplessness. We walked through the front door into a small, open room with a dirty floor. Though it didn’t take long to pick up that most of the children were non-verbal, the room was loud – filled with the sound of some children crying, others laughing, and others letting us know they were happy to see us through wordless squeals and smiles on their faces. The room was chaotic at best. After greeting and hugging all the children, we sat down to play guitar and sing worship songs. In pure excitement, they began to congregate around the guitar – those that could crawl, walk or scoot closer did so, while the others cried out to be carried near. I sat holding one young boy with cerebral palsy and could barely sing along; it took everything in me to hold back the tears. Through unrecognizable words, it was clear that these kids knew the worship songs we sang, and they were singing right along, praising Jesus with their whole heart.
My favorite part of the trip was the day we took twelve of the Jesus Kids to a place called Agodi Gardens, which is a big, grassy park with a public pool. Of course, it started to pour rain as soon as we got there, and we had already told the kids they were going to get to swim for the first time in their lives. Upon determining the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, we jumped in the pool. The rain turned out to be a blessing because we were the only ones there. Judging from the look on the workers’ faces, I doubt we would have been allowed in the pool if people from the community had been there. Seeing the kids’ faces light up as we carried them in the pool and down the slides filled my soul with joy. Though giant, the water slides didn’t scare these fearless kids. For two hours, we carried them up the long set of stairs to let them slide over and over until their skin was beyond the prune stage.
After an overwhelming week, feeling so sorry for what these kids had to endure, it hit me that they were filled with joy. In the depth of poverty, abandoned by their families, and a disgrace to society, they were full of life. As the trip came to an end, I began to understand the source of their joy. Mrs. Adamolekun, who founded and runs Jesus Kids, felt led during a successful business career in Nigeria to walk away and start the orphanage. She gave up her comfortable life to humbly seek out the lowly and despised in her community, to bring them into her home, love them as her own, and give them a full life when they were left to die. These children can’t repay her in any way and have nothing to offer her. In fact, they are an inconvenience to her life. Yet, out of great love for the poor, hopeless and helpless children, she laid down her own life so that these kids might live. To receive this wonderful gift, all they had to do was go with her. Mrs. Adamolekun not only tells these kids who Jesus is, but her daily life also reflects His life. Jesus left the throne of heaven to come live among the broken of this world, laying down His life so that those who follow Him will truly live. It is His love poured out through her that is the source of these kids’ unshakable joy.
We are trying to help raise $20,000 more for the Jesus Kids Building Fund before the end of August so they can add on 4 bedrooms for the kids before construction of their new building starts. I realize this may sound like an inconvenience, but I can personally attest to the fact that joy is more often found in giving than receiving. Jesus Kids appreciates all your prayers and support, as do I!
Manley Baptist Church has graciously agreed to receive funds through their website, out of which they will be transferred to a monitored Jesus Kids account. To securely support the Jesus Kids Orphanage financially:
- Click the following link. https://secure.accessacs.com/access/oglogin.aspx?sn=90181
- Select the “Jesus Kids– Nigeria” Fund
- In the “memo” box, designate your preferred destination (“Building Fund” or “Monthly Operational Costs”)