Being Christian in Nigeria

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Being Christian in Nigeria

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Due to extremely poor economic conditions, young men and women tend to live with their parents for as long as possible.

It is very common to see 30-year-old (or older) men and women still living at home even though they might be working. This is because young people need years of savings to be able to afford a simple place of their own and then save for a wedding. Even then, young people often depend on their parents and relatives to finance as much as 90 percent of the cost of the wedding.

Education is one of the few ways to improve one's lot, and there is often great pressure to sacrifice all—even one's religion—for the opportunity to succeed. In this difficult environment, three young people in the United Church of God prove that one can be Christian in Nigeria.

Ibironke Abiona Akinbo is 28 years old. "Ronke," as her friends call her, finished high school at age 15. It then took almost five years for her to secure a university admission to study law. She had gained admission once, but there were too many admitted and the school decided to revoke the admissions of the last 150 students. She was among them.

Now she is a student of law at the state university where she lives. Sadly, due to incessant strikes by lecturers or student riots protesting one issue or another, the school has closed many times. What she expected to be a five year program has now extended to eight years.

In 2007, which was to be her final year, she learned there would be a mid-semester exam during the annual Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:33-43 Leviticus 23:33-43 [33] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [34] Speak to the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. [35] On the first day shall be an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. [36] Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein. [37] These are the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing on his day: [38] Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD. [39] Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. [40] And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. [41] And you shall keep it a feast to the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. [42] You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: [43] That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×
), when she planned to be gone. Her friends urged her to cancel her plan to attend the biblical festival, but she decided to be true to her religious convictions and go anyway. Ronke decided to observe the Feast even though she knew it would mean failing the exam and perhaps losing an extra year. She decided to pray and hope that when she later sat for the final exams she would make a good enough grade to pass anyway.

After attending the Feast, she came home and took her final exams. Regrettably, she was not able to overcome the missing mid-semester exam and failed. She was really hurt and devastated. Even so, she was glad that she made the decision to attend the Feast anyway because God says to do so. And while Ronke is pained at having to lose an extra year for just that one exam, she says that she does not regret her decision and would not hesitate to make the same decision in the future!

Femi Akinfolarin, 23, is a soft-spoken, quiet young man. The church his family attends sits on a piece of land given to it within a large compound owned by his father. All of Femi's family attends this church. He, too, was an active member who played in the church band.

Then he came across a copy of The Good News magazine at a friend's house. He liked what he read because it made sense to him and addressed issues he had often wondered about, especially the weekly seventh-day Sabbath (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).

He found the local Web site for the United Church of God and attended a midweek Bible study. This led to him requesting more booklets and starting to attend Sabbath services. At first his family gave him grief over his new beliefs. They threatened to cut off the support they were giving him for his education and to throw him out of the house. They claimed that he had been hypnotized and brainwashed.

But Femi refused to give in to the pressure. He quietly stood his ground and continued to attend every week. In order to make sure he had money for transportation to church services, he'd start saving what he could early every week.

Over time, Femi's family has come to accept his beliefs. While his family still has reservations about him not attending church with them, Femi continues to be an active and committed member of the United Church of God in Lagos.

Yakub Hakeem Oladimeji, 28, comes from a non-Christian background. Akeem, as he is called, grew up in a polygamous home, and his parents are now separated. He came in contact with God's truth through a friend down the street from him whose entire family is in the Church of God. The family accepted him without question, and the depth of love and fellowship he received made him a regular visitor. His friend's house became Akeem's second home.

When Akeem learned about the beliefs of his friend and his friend's family, they made sense to him and he started attending Sabbath services. He was soon baptized and is now an active, committed member of the Church.

As a third-year law student, the time came for him to pay his school fees. This coincided with an unbiblical religious festival his family observed. Even though he had not celebrated this occasion with his family for some time, this year his father insisted he come home and participate before he would give him the school fees.

Akeem was faced with a serious choice. He could go home, participate in the festival and collect his money or refuse to go and risk not getting the money for his education. If he couldn't pay, he'd be thrown out of school. Having struggled for more than six years just to gain admission to his school, this was no small problem.

In counseling with his minister, Akeem was advised to go home, tell his father that he was now a Christian and that he could no longer celebrate this festival, and to pray that God would touch his father's heart so he would give him the money. Akeem knew that he also had to be ready to accept whatever decision his father made. Whatever the outcome, it was time his father knew about his faith of the past seven years!

When Akeem's father learned of Akeem's beliefs, he was not pleased and threatened to disown him and have nothing to do with him if he didn't abandon his Christianity. His dad was also a lecturer at the university and could make life tough for him or even get him expelled if he so chose.

Akeem pleaded with his father to respect his desire to follow God as his conscience dictated, but his father would have none of it. Akeem left with a heavy heart, hoping that he could get financial help somewhere else. Just a few days before the deadline for paying the money, his father called him, spoke strongly and harshly to him, but eventually gave him the money.

His father was still angry with him and shocked, but somehow, he had come to respect his decision. This may not be surprising to many in the developed world, but this is indeed a miracle in Nigeria and most of Africa.

When Akeem went to pay the fees, he saw a new notice stating that all who had a certain grade point average or better were exempted from paying the school fees. As long as they maintained their grades, they would receive a cash award equal to the value of the school fees. Because Akeem's grades met the standard, he wouldn't have to pay. He had been faithful to His spiritual Father in spite of the possibility of losing out on his education.

Living Conditions in Nigeria

With an estimated population in 2007 of approximately 135 million, Nigeria is often referred to as the "Giant of Africa." Nigeria is also a very poor country.

According to information published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army (www.country-studies.com/nigeria/income-distribution.html), Nigeria's GNP per capita in 1988 ranked it below India, Pakistan and Ghana. Rising debt, falling average income and rapid inflation (20 percent yearly between 1973 and 1980) were responsible for a standard of living that was lower in the mid-1980s than it had been in the 1950s. As inflation became more severe in the 1980s, wages fell almost 60 percent.

Economic conditions in Nigeria today continue to decline. Estate agents demand an initial house rent of two to three years as advance payment excluding commission and agreement. Everything has to be done with cash and paid in advance. To own a car is considered a luxury, and 90 percent of all car owners buy them secondhand, after the cars are 10 to 15 years old.

With no steady electricity, no pipe-borne water (people dig boreholes and pump their own water into reservoirs), terrible roads and high corruption that makes every imported item (raw materials or finished products) extremely expensive by the time it gets to the hands of the consumers, the cost of running a business is very high. Every business from the mundane to the magnificent must have its own electricity generating plant in order to function. Because of this, companies are not expanding and very few new jobs are created.

More and more people are now struggling to get a degree and have the opportunity for a better income. But there are few openings for such job seekers. A company may advertise for two job openings and have as many as 15,000 applicants. Unemployment continues to rise every year as the schools churn out more graduates and the economy worsens. VT