We have been back for three weeks now. It has been very hard to settle back. Going home made me realise how much I was missing everyone and how difficult life is out here. However, as usual as I have been very busy and the days are going by quite quickly.
I decided that it was time I experienced religion in Nigeria so the first Sunday back I finally took up my neighbour’s offer and went to church! She was very excited about taking me and promised me it would not be a long service. We went to a Winners church-they have lots of churches and schools in Nigeria and other countries, including England. There were about a thousand people there! Ante drove us into the car park about 8 am and marshals directed us into the building. It was extremely well organised with a succession of marshals directing Oozo, baby Michael and myself to our seats. The older children went to a separate room for their own service and Ante parked the car and then sat on his own somewhere. A lot of people were wearing clothes of the same material which had pictures of the founders of the Winners church on it. This was to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of the church. We sat under a large canopy as the actual church (which was also large) was full. There were two television screens so we could see the pastors. The first speaker told us there were three kinds of wisdom-wisdom that allowed us to do tasks, evil wisdom from the devil that resulted in manipulative acts and spiritual wisdom. The congregation were then told how pleased God is when they bring someone new to the church and the rewards they will get. So then of course all the new people were told to stand up. I could hardly hide as I was the only white person there! Fortunately there were about eight other visitors so I was not singled out. The marshals sprang into action again and we were directed into the main church and taken to the front which was a kind of altar decorated with fairy lights and artificial flowers. The pastor was standing behind a lectern and the other speakers were round him. We had to shake hands with all these people and were made very welcome. We were then taken to a little room at the back where I was given information about Winners and asked to fill in a form about myself. I kept this to the bare minimum as I did not want to receive phone calls or have a ‘follow up’ visit. One of the questions asked for the date when I had been born again so that got left blank! They were very kind-they let me keep the pen-and there was no pressure. We were then allowed to return to our seats amidst lots of hand shaking from the congregation. I then heard the basic philosophy of Winners –in brief believe in God and be a Winner! Once you are a Winner you will have the greatest gift of all which is God’s grace. Doors of opportunities will be opened, you will be prosperous, healthy and never experience shame again. He told us how God always provides. Whenever the church need more land or money to build a school it just appears. Everything just falls into their laps! He had a good laugh about this! It is so wonderful-they do nothing and God just makes it happen! Basically God is in charge and we should not worry-that job we need will come, we will get our house, etc. Winners have many schools in Nigeria which have just happened! He failed to mention how much money was raised each week-My neighbour told me I had to bring an envelope with money for the collection and we were advised coins were not acceptable! There is a much better place waiting for us to-when we die! Winners is striving to buy more land, build more churches and save more people. New people who wanted to be saved that day were then invited to go to the front. I sat very tight in my seat! The service ended with twenty minutes of very loud singing and dancing. The video cameraman panned into my face and there I was on the large screen for all to see! The singing was in Yoruba and aided of course by the microphone so my ears were ringing. Oozo handed Gabriel over to me while she went to get her other children and we swayed a bit together. There was a lot more handshaking and half hugs. Finally the singing stopped and we filed out of the church. Some of my other neighbours met me in the car park and were very pleased to see me. Everyone was very welcoming but all I wanted was to get home to reach for paracetemol as my head was now throbbing from the noise! Winners have a church in London I later found out.
I may try the Catholic church next. Watch this space.......