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Thursday, April 7, 2005

NIGERIA- A VISIT AT THE LIBERIAN REFUGEE CAMP AT ORU, OGUN STATE: MINISTERING THE GOSPEL OF HOPE

By Warren Fornah - Assisting correspondent to Dr. Herbert Eze

LAGOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- It was a great experience both refreshing and challenging for my family and I at the Oru Refugee Camp in Ogun State, Nigeria. It was on the 19th December 2004. The pastor in charge of the refugee Church invited us to worship with them during their annual Thanks Giving Service.

The refugee camp has been in existence for the past ten years. The pastor is a close friend of my family. The camp mainly comprises of Liberian refugees who were about five thousand in number. There are also some refugees from Sierra Leoneans. It is sad to say that a great number of them do not attend Church. Since the inception of the war in Liberia in the late eighties, this ground has been used as a refugee camp (Pictured: Pastor Warren Fornah during an interview in Dr. Ezeís office at Lagos).

I left Lagos with my family in the morning (about two hours drive) right in time for Sunday school, but it was rather unfortunate that Sunday school could not hold. Instead, it was replaced by congregational singing, which lasted for about forty minutes. Divine service commenced at 10:30 am and lasted to 1:00 pm. From to my observation, the entire service was jubilant and joyful, mainly, singing and dancing overshadowed the entire occasion. Various auxiliaries in the Church rendered songs (mainly Christmas selections).

It is very clear that refugees all over the world are traumatized with those at this refugee camp not been an exception. In a bid to pacify their traumatized emotion, they sincerely express their emotions through singing. This was clearly evident in the church service. Despite their deplorable condition, they still danced and rejoiced in the presence of the Lord, thanking Him for His goodness and mercy upon their lives. The service also climaxed with much prayer and fund raising. Pastor Kennedy, the pastor in charge, officially presented a newly wedded couple while the congregation showed their sign of appreciation through vibrant singing.

The guest preacher for the day was a Baptist Pastor. In his sermon, he stressed that there is hope and peace in the coming Messiah. He took his message from Matthew 2. The coming of Jesus Christ into the world ushers in true peace. He encouraged his hearers to put their trust in God, even though there is politically no peace back home in Liberia, yet in Christ there is peace. He further encouraged them to realize that God is preparing them in a new way for active ministry back home in the Church and society. Their lives would impact many upon their return, and they should not relent in serving and living for God.

I was asked to lead in the intercessory prayer. The prayer was mainly focused on peace and restoration in the land of Liberia. The congregation joined in prayer in particular for the role of the Church in the land. During the course of the prayer, members confessed that the Church in Liberia failed in her duty of standing for the truth. The earnest desire and prayer is for Godís intervention on the Church so that her true purpose would be felt in all sectors in the land. For so long the Church in Liberia has distanced herself from effective governance and compromise became outstanding. The service concluded as prayer was lifted for Nigeria.

The Church has about two hundred people in attendance on Sundays. Keenly observing the activities in the Church, it dawned on me that the Church needs sound basic teachings from the Bible that covers basic issues such as salvation and Christian growth. The situations on the ground also demand effective counseling. Immorality appears to be the order of the day and abortion is gaining momentum. I was also informed that there are about nine churches in the camp, but a great number of these churches are dead spiritually. I have been invited by the pastor to teach in a leadership seminar that he is organizing at the end of January.

In conclusion, it is my desire and prayer that the Churches and the government in Lagos would turn and give positive attention to the situation in the Oru refugee camp. The Church should be involved in the affairs of people out there in the camp. Practical demonstration of love and concern would create a great impact on the people in the camp and especially unbelievers. Jesus Christ practiced practical Christianity when He was on earth and so His Church should emulate His footsteps. I do sincerely identify with the refugees in the camp because my family lived as refugees in Guinea for ten months in1997.
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