By Josiah Idowu-Fearon
and Tom Furrer
For the past 22 years the Anglican Diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria, and Trinity Church in Tariffville, Connecticut, have engaged in a mission partnership. Since 2002 we have run a full-time, year-round medical clinic [Facebook] in a rural part of Kaduna. Trinity Church has raised funds for staff salaries and Kaduna has administered the clinic’s daily operation of the clinic.
We have helped more than 100,000 people with medical care. In addition to the year-round clinic, we have conducted an annual joint mission between the Diocese of Kaduna and Trinity Church. Team members from Connecticut have joined with team members from Kaduna to provide health care, evangelism, and prayer to thousands of underserved rural poor people. We are building a second clinic in another poor rural area of the diocese. When it is completed, we hope to reach twice as many people every year with decent and affordable medical care offered in Jesus’ name. In each of our medical mission activities we couple our mission of mercy with a mission of evangelism and church planting.
We see healing on a number of levels. On our most recent mission, a woman who was unable to walk was carried to the chapel for prayers. After the prayers, she walked out on her own two legs without assistance. Others receive prayer and counsel for marriage and family matters. Others are counseled for behavior-based problems that affect their health, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and promiscuity. Still others receive prayers for deliverance from spiritual oppression. We strive to minister to the whole person and the whole family. Healing remains a sign of the kingdom of God breaking into the web of human disease, sin, hurt, and hatred.
There are strong antagonisms between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Kaduna, along with other northern cities, has been a flash point for interreligious violence in the past 20 years. On each medical mission we try to offer an alternative religious narrative to the one that has dominated news coverage in recent years. Just a few short miles from our annual locale are the ruins of both churches and mosques that have been burned down in religious riots. Entire neighborhoods, formerly inhabited by Christians or Muslims, have been destroyed. The need for religious reconciliation is not an abstract ideal. It is a life-and-death reality.
We pray intentionally that God will send us many Muslims to receive medical care. We want to show by words, gestures, and actions that it is possible for Christians to treat Muslims with respect and love. With each passing year, we have seen this prayer answered more abundantly. In our most recent mission, approximately a third (2,000) of our patients were Muslim men, women, and children. They were treated with respect and love. Many of them made a point of thanking our staff members for their care and respect.
A Muslim businessman in Kaduna has made a sizable donation to the expenses for the mission. For the second year in a row, Muslim doctors, medical students, and one dentist worked alongside our Christian team members. On the final day of our mission we enjoyed a celebration dinner, and handed out certificates of service to all who volunteered their time.
We remain aware of the continuing problems in the Anglican Communion of the past decade. We do not wish to minimize the challenges presented by differences on doctrine and the subsequent fractures that have occurred. But we choose to live by this theme: “Focus on the Mission — Not on the Mess.” While not blind to the mess, we refuse to be defined or derailed by it. We have been determined to hold together for the sake of our common witness to the world-changing gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we have seen much good fruit borne from this determination to work together. We have learned to love one another more deeply through this partnership. We believe that the Lord of the Church has called us to work for reconciliation in this way. This approach has borne much good fruit for the kingdom of God.
The primary focus of our medical mission outreach is to express Jesus’ love to others in tangible ways. Through medical services, prayers for and welcome of our patients, and by respect, we strive to proclaim the love of Jesus. We share Jesus both with those who know and love him and with those who do not.
The Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon is Bishop of Kaduna and former Archbishop of Kaduna Province. The Ven. Tom Furrer is Archdeacon of the Diocese of Kaduna and rector of Trinity Church in Tariffville.