Written By Debra Ayis, Nigeria
Whenever I visit other continents, a question I am often asked is, “What is the hidden secret behind faith and hope in Africa?”
That’s when I share about the power of thanksgiving and prayer—the fuel that drives the church in Africa towards faith and hope.
Living in Nigeria, which was ranked the most optimistic country in the world in 2011 and the 6th happiest country in Africa in 2016, I’ve learned that it’s often not about how rich we appear on the outside, but how rich we are on the inside. Regardless of our situation, we always have a choice: to wallow in despair or hope for the best; to blame our environment or let it build our character; to complain all the time or rejoice and give thanks for every positive outcome.
Growing up, my family was considered “privileged” by many because both my parents held jobs to support the family. Even then, we lived in a three-bedroom flat which didn’t have tap water; electricity came sporadically. In the absence of power, we used lanterns and would often sleep outdoors, enjoying nature and letting the cool breeze blow over us.
Like many families, I grew up knowing hunger and learned, at an early age, to speak to God and have faith in Him. I was five years old when I received Christ. And at that age, I began to understand why my mother fed my siblings and me a tablespoon of boiled beans for breakfast and not herself. I understood why neighbors found it amusing that my mom had to loan salt in order to cook our meals. I understood why my elder sister would harvest fruit from our little garden so she could sell them to pupils in school in order to get enough money for us to buy lunch. I understood why the cattle herder was allowed to graze his cows on our front lawn in exchange for fresh cow’s milk. I understood why we only got new clothes during Christmas. I understood why we scavenged harvested farm lands for excess potatoes and groundnuts. I also understood why we had to search for water every day from a well or borehole.
Yet, I was not embittered by these. I always had faith that God would see my family through and provide for us daily (Psalm 37:19).
My story is not very different from many others throughout my continent. Despite the high percentage of unemployment and myriad of socio-economic issues all around me, I have witnessed people finding joy in sharing their “one tablespoon of beans” with other neighbors in need. I have seen families and communities coming together to face challenges, believing wholeheartedly that despite difficulties, nothing would separate them from God’s love (Romans 8:31-39). I’ve also seen brothers and sisters in Christ clinging onto hope amid the impossible, trusting in the only name that matters (Acts 4:12).
And I have witnessed miracles of provision like those in the Bible because of an intense faith in God whose might knows no bounds. I have seen God come through for brothers and sisters who would sacrificially give their all, down to the last penny for the furtherance of the gospel.
Over the course of my life, I have found that the need to pray for tomorrow’s provision produces such an urgency for God in the life of a Christian that it brings the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-16) to life. “Give us our daily bread” takes on a whole new meaning. Trusting in God becomes real. Relying on Him for guidance, security, sustenance and sanity brings on an intimacy that living in abundance often does not evoke.
God takes us through trials in order to draw us closer to Him. For that, I rejoice and am thankful to have been born in Nigeria.