As I travel around Nigeria and even other countries by road, I never seem to get over my relish for the countryside and for small villages. The first eight and a half years of my life were spent growing up in Ndayako village which was a suburb of a small town called Mokwa in the savanna middle belt region of Nigeria. Our Dad headed the ‘Building Section’ of the Maintenance department of the Ahmadu Bello University research station. The station had three different residential estates all nestled within tall trees planted by the researchers. Growing up among the trees, shrubs, grasses and other experiences of nature was absolutely a delight.
Grazing cows, roaming goats and sheep, quacking ducks and singing birds were the norms in this rural setting of Nigeria. The local populace was majorly made of peasant farmers and shepherds. The nomadic cattle rearers often passed by as they herded their cows in search of pasture. Occasionally, scorpions, snakes and other dangerous reptiles threatened the tranquillity of the environment but mostly every day was a delight and humans and animals lived harmoniously together.
Children of the research station officers lived a better standard of life relative to the natives. Most of our parents had come from different parts of Nigeria and from different ethnicities in search of their daily bread in this remote part of the nation. The blend of various tribes helped us develop a pan-Nigerian outlook from childhood. Knowledge of other tribes from close quarters gave us the children a sort of ethic blindness that united us at play and at the village school. After school, however, as we returned home, spending our afternoons at play, the locals had to work hard on their farms. We wore nicer clothes while they often made do with underwear. Our Dad in particular on official trips to Lagos would shop for clothing from the defunct Kingsway Stores, making us wear ‘Marks and Spencer’ clothing in a village. The story wasn’t different when we went to our native town ‘Odo Ere’ at Christmas time. Among the villagers, we felt like kings. The whole family cramped into beetle cars or the old ‘Vauxhall Victor’ sold to Daddy by his expatriate boss called Mr Marriot. I always felt on top of the world as a child. Prosperity indeed is relative. We truly had enough to eat, to wear and elementary education was free.
Concerned that his sons would be limited by the environment, Daddy relocated us to Ilorin, a city of about 500,000 at the time and suddenly the ‘Kings’ of Ndayako became commoners. Even then though humbling, we quickly adjusted. Certainly, horizons changed as exposure brought new interests, greater ambitions and bigger dreams. Building a new business and forsaking the security of monthly wages came with its challenges as there were periods of plenty and of scarcity too. Then, business took an unexpected downturn when the military took over power in 1983. Feeding became a daily miracle, house rent unpaid for months, faded clothes, tattered shoes, disconnected electric power supply, delayed school fees etc became the order of the day. My teenage heart ached, my self-esteem plunged to dangerous lows, and days were either filled with tears of sorrow or daydreams of affluence to escape reality. Bathing soaps gave way to the ancient black one, body creams were far-fetched, toothpaste substituted by salt or chewing sticks, regular barbing forsaken and soft drinks became luxuries.
Today, all that is a long past history, thanks to the discovery of my life’s purpose through Christ Jesus and the practical application of biblical principles of God’s Word. What however aches my heart is to see God’s children like myself still wallowing in poverty many years after knowing Christ. It is a complete anomaly and frustration of the grace of God. I have tasted poverty and can never fathom how a holy, loving, caring Heavenly Father will want poverty for any of His children.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11 NKJV
I believe the beginning of change is found in a personal rebellion against the status quo. I did not embrace poverty when it came and I did not see it as God’s plan for me.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17 NKJV
I remember laying hands on a lady years ago after she and her husband had complained of missed opportunities and financial difficulties. As I prayed, a demon spirit yelled in desperation asking me to leave him alone. As Christ did with the madman of Gadara, I asked for his name and he said ‘poverty’. How God will now collaborate with Satan by sending poverty to ‘bless’ His children is beyond my comprehension. Yet, some in the body of Christ would even claim that there is a spiritual gift of poverty. The truth of God’s Word is that redemption from poverty is a part of Christ’s substitutionary work on calvary’s cross.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” II Corinthians 8:9 NKJV
Dear friend, rebel against poverty and commit to a change of status quo. If blessed by God, don’t settle for little because there are multitudes in poverty who need your help. It is not enough to be blessed, you need to be a blessing. If you have the opportunity to serve in government, remember the poor. If you can create jobs, please do so that others also may eat and live decent lives. By all and every means, make your personal contribution to alleviating the sufferings of the needy. Preacher, don’t scheme to get all the money you can from people but rather teach the Word so they may prosper. Do all you can to empower others to meet their needs.
The rebellion which started over 30 years ago in my heart continues today. With a desire to meet the needs of others, I refuse to settle for the current status quo. It may not be one of poverty but it is not feeding enough people, not clothing enough, and not doing enough.