Now in our fifteenth year, we find our clinics shut, our workers distraught at the increase in infant deaths, and serious criminal activity scarring the creeks in which we work. Interior communities shield armed gangs and there's uncertainty who to trust.
It seems that all that has been nurtured over the past years has fallen and remains in pieces. Our dear friend and partner in the work, Ian Squire has been taken from us and travel in the region is impossible for the forseeable future.
Cultic groups run community councils, the army swarms ineffectually over the waters and armed vigilantes stand waterside to protect villages from night-time incursions.
Bold statements of confidence that miscreants will be caught, litter fading headlines, and the media furore has now left town.
What remains? At least ten children dead in the past two weeks at Enekorogha, more than have died in the past year, and dysentery claims more young lives at our satellite clinic at Oyang-bene, quite needlessly, families ripped apart by frustrated grief and suffering.
The phone rings maybe twice a day with our team keen 'to just hear your voice', and to share updates and thoughts. A serious death threat remains over our senior worker who sought to bring one gang member to justice.
As amnesty payments to gangs begin to dry up and promised infrastructure fails to materialise the climate had been shifting for some time. Does this justify a return to violence and criminality? God forbid. The vast majority suffering the economic downturn in this region set the shoulders back and do their damnedest to support their family through honest toil.
The work of New Foundations and Mission for Vision are collateral damage in this debacle, but the communities in which we serve suffer collectively.
We know the risks of working in this environment, and have seen such criminal acts before. Press interest always desires the salacious above the reasoned, but many reporters seemed genuinely bewildered at the idea of Missionaries, somehow viewed as sepia anachronisms from a previous age.
Media trolls flung the usual accusations of 'medieval proselytes peddling patent nonsense' across internet forums, occasionally conceding that subsidised health care may be of limited benefit, though certain that any help came with provisos of conversion.
When Jesus was crucified and ascended he left , by human standards, a very poor business model, the oft-times misunderstood message of Salvation to a small rag-bag group of uneducated and unreliable followers. Yet the good news of salvation has spread such that Christianity still remains predominant faith across the world, a message of love, hope and redemption, without coercion, threat of violence, ritual or good works.
Advice has been to employ armed escorts, to leave, or to move elsewhere where needs are equally matched. To do so would be to acknowledge that outcome is all. The true testimony of the work has always been in the constancy of the Mission and in the resolute proclamation of the Gospel, and the Love God has for His people.
Why were we taken?
The answer is two-fold. The superficial answer is that we fitted the profile, white and western. We have no armed security and work in a remote area, and have done so for fourteen years, ironically amidst many who have been involved in this harrowing trade. Our profile is our security, we are not oil and live transparently where most know we have little funds to speak of. There is a deeper answer however.
'We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13
Occultic beliefs have experienced a resurgence in recent years. We have testimony of many corroborating factors to this. Pauls writings of a spiritual battle and the neccessity for the 'whole armour of God' is so apposite for tackling these oppressive forces and we witnessed first hand the power of the Word of God during our captivity.
Some will turn away at this point, uncomfortable with this aspect of their faith, or lack of it. Be aware however the battle is just as real in our own sonomulent society, but most sleep on..
The Delta is unforgiving in its climate, disease, politics, and poverty. We continue to believe that only the Gospel preached without compromise, without shame or apology will meet these challenges head on. For Jesus Christ is able. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, delivering the radical transformation of sinner to saint.
Of course timing and discernment of when to open the clinics is important and we are spending the dying days of this year recomitting the work, asserting to all, including our captors, that Christ died for all, that forgiveness is there, free and unmerited. This skirmish has taken its toll. Thankfully we already know the outcome of the war.
Our little school at Oyang-bene opened in August with three classes and currently two teachers taking up to 30 children.
To ensure sustainability we provided all capital expenses and the community agreed a small fee termly to cover teachers salaries.
Despite the clinic being shut in the Community, the school continues. Sadly with no current medical cover dysentry has become rife with the encroaching dry season.
Deaths from Malaria, Typhoid, Diarrhoeal illnesses and chest infections remain the most prevalent cause of mortality.
Swift action saves lives as many present late with significant problems that need immediate treatment.
We completed the childrens sanctuary that was due to open in October. Because of recent events and the security situation it now remains on hold.
Besides older vulnerable children we are planning support for some vulnerable adults, blind, cerebral palsy, socially isolated, where they can be fed, enjoy fellowship and receive prayer and where possible practical help. We have previously rebuilt a small house for a blind and deaf lady and provided kitchen equipment.
We facilitated this young lads cleft lip and palate operation after some months finding a suitable surgeon, and appreciate the partnership with Smile Train who undertook the surgery.
The surgery has changed his life and a bonny wee lad is he.
This lad had a large tumour arising from his teeth and we visited him in October this year following his surgery in May. He's fully fit and symptom free.
Thank you to The Swinfen Charitable Trust for all their hard work linking us with Mercy Ships in neighbouring Benin to get this operation done
Ian Squires legacy will continue. Over the year the small team he trained undertook outreach camps in remote communities screening vision and examining for cataract, glaucoma, and eye disease.
Many scores of glasses were dispensed and surgical cataract cases listed.
Once again sadly , because of the insurgency the eye team have deferred the January camp, as travel into remoter creeks is not safe even for locals
|Daily Post Nigerian newspaper cutting Sept 21 2017|
It is ironic that whilst the Christian Gospel is so denounced in our society pagan deities are seen as fully cohesive and relevant within the creative media of our age.
In late December we are having two prayer camps to refocus our work upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What did we do this year?
- We treated over 4500 patients over the past year,
- We employ 28 people,
- We run three clinics 24 hours a day seven days a week
- We provide free electricity and water to the local school
- We have inaugurated a new primary school in a community with no access to education
- We have started a micro finance initiative to prevent debilitating debts to loan sharks
- We have a new sanctuary for abused and vulnerable children ready to open
- By Gods Grace and Ian Squires sacrificial life and mission we have the only community eye centre in the entire State
Why do we do what we do?
We wish to actively demonstrate in love and compassion the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ, to minister to the suffering, to stand alongside, to pray with, to care..
' To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;' Isaiah 61:1
This would not be possible without your support and prayers for which we remain so very grateful.
May we look forward to a blessed and fruitful, and indeed victorious 2018 in Christ.
David and Shirley and all @ New Foundations