When God’s Word comes alive in Nigeria

March 24, 2020 by Robert Kenna in Stories of Persecution

Through literacy training, young and old believers are reading God’s Word on their own for the first time in Nigeria.

The instructor writes on the board and asks everyone to repeat after him.  

The group is made up of multiple generations. There are women with colorful scarves wrapped around their heads—one mother holds a newborn who rests, deeply enfolded into her lap, wearing a furry blue and yellow cap. Some men have taken a break from their farm work. There are also and young children and teenagers who sit attentively. 

Students of all ages attend the literacy class in Madeng’s village.

They all open their books and follow his lead—repeating after him. The sound is like a choir—sharp staccato beats, booming voices in unison bouncing off the concrete walls and escaping through the windows into the hot African air. 

But this is not a choir; it’s an Open Doors literacy class in a remote village in northern Nigeria. 

The class meets almost every day for a few hours. Literacy is a luxury in this part of Nigeria. Many of the people here have long wanted to learn how to read to have fuller lives, to advance in their vocations, and, most importantly, to read the Bible for themselves. 

The challenges in this part of Nigeria are significant, though. Most of the people attending the class couldn’t afford the school fees when they were younger, and some didn’t have the means to travel to another village where there was a class—and others had to work to help support their families and had no time.  

That’s why this program is so critical. In addition to literacy programs, Open Doors helps this village through vocational training, trauma counseling, food relief, clean water solutions, and much more. All of these initiatives are helping this remote Christian village become a vibrant community. 

Madeng reading out of the book of Proverbs.

While the class is going on, we pulled one student aside to hear his story. His name is Madeng. He’s a young teenager wearing a blue soccer jersey in the back of the class. He’s timid, often looking down as he speaks, and his smile is bright.    

“I was actually in school but had to stop halfway because of my inability to pay my school fees. I had no money,” Madeng says. 

When Madeng started the Open Doors literacy class, just four months ago, he couldn’t read or write. He says he felt insignificant, and his friends from other villages looked down on him—and, of course, it was a struggle to communicate. “Learning how to read is key in one’s life,” he says.   

Today, after only months of literacy training, Madeng can read. “I did not know how to read the Bible, but now I have been taught how to read my Bible, and it has been a great help to me,” Madeng says. 

“All my life before now, I could not read, but now I can,” he adds. 

Madeng sits outside his home reading the Bible.

We ask Madeng to pull out his Bible and read for us. He’s nervous but ensures us that he wants to share his new skill. He turns to Proverbs 3:5-6 and reads with conviction and poise—as if he’s been doing this his entire life: 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.” 

When he finishes, he closes his Bible and looks up with his full and contagious smile. There’s great pride and accomplishment in this reading—it’s a special moment. Just months ago, Madeng could hold his Bible but never understand it. Today, God’s Word is coming alive in his very hands. 

“I enjoy reading, and I feel excited I can read. By God’s grace, I will also teach others,” Madeng shares. 

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