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RIDGECREST, NC: Nigerian Bishop's Wife Recounts Brutal Assault & Deliverance

RIDGECREST, NC: Nigerian Bishop's Wife Recounts Brutal Assault & Deliverance
Bishop makes Ringing Call for Evangelism and Discipleship for Faithful Episcopalians

By David W. Virtue

The wife of the Rt. Rev. Ben Kwashi, Bishop of Jos whose family was assaulted by thugs in February 2006 at their diocesan compound, spoke movingly of being sustained by God's power and grace during the siege on her life and family where she was brutally beaten and nearly killed.

Gloria Kwashi told more than 1,000 conferees at a New Wineskins Conference on Global Missions that, "I stand before you as a testimony to your prayers for sharing the strength of his suffering that I and my family went through."

The bishop's wife and their six children had their home broken into back in February by a gang of people looking for the bishop who had been preaching so vigorously about Jesus and the gospel that she grew afraid for his life. "The bishop was out of town at the time. He was booked for a wedding and could not return," she said.

"The house was well fortified, but they smashed down the door. I knew anything might happen. I prayed and kept on praying. They started shouting and calling for my husband. It was 2am. To allay my young son's fears I told him we had strange visitors. I phoned everyone I knew including the police. Help came from nowhere. They broke into the house. They said they were looking for the bishop. My husband who is chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria is well known across the country. They kept yelling where is the CAN chairman, where is the bishop?"

"We were helpless. They came into the house with guns. They asked my son where he was and then they hit him on the head. He went blank. They dragged me into the bedroom. I told them to take me and leave the children alone. I said they could take any money they could find and the car. The leader said they were not there for the money. They dragged me into our bedroom. They pushed me onto the bed and said 'you will die silently.' We won't waste a bullet on you."

Mrs. Kwashi said that as they dragged her down God gave her his strength and joy in suffering for the gospel. Finally, when they could not find my husband they left.

"I couldn't walk. But suddenly I felt wind and power coming into me. I was bleeding from head to toe profusely, but I was able to walk three miles to get help. I thank my God I could share this with you."

Kwashi said this was not the first time her husband and family had faced opposition. "Several years ago our house burnt down. We came through that."

In his remarks to the conferees, the articulate bishop recalled an incident when a friend of his was roasted in his church in Kaduna. "I was bitter, but Gloria had always borne my problems and she carried me through. Then one day a group of angry militant Muslims came and burnt down our house and church. When that happened I took her into the burnt church and house. I took her and showed her what was left. She said to me, 'you said heaven and earth pass away...if it doesn't start with you it won't happen. I'd rather have your life than be a widow.'"

In a fiery lecture to the evangelical Episcopal and Anglican audience, Kwashi said, "We are too much kept in the church when we should be out telling people about Jesus. We should be looking out as God sees the world. If I am alive I preach the gospel... who cares about Nigeria."

The bishop said the church was growing in Nigeria by leaps and bounds because of a push in mission and evangelism which has led to a multiplication of dioceses. "We have created twelve new missionary dioceses. Archbishop Akinola has pursued a policy of evangelism and discipleship. All the bishops and archbishops are evangelists at heart." Kwashi said his own diocese had been cut up several times to create new expanding dioceses in the northern half of the predominantly Muslim country.

"Evangelism for Primates is a way of life, in the church and for the church and it is essential for each Christian. For the last two years we have been inspired by a 113 policy for reaching the whole world. The bishop is the leader in mission and he maintains the apostolic focus on prayer, word and mission. Every youth conference is an outreach place. Every Sunday service is leading opportunity to proclaim Christ and call people to know and follow Jesus Christ. Even an Ordination service is used as a place to ground people in the gospel of Jesus. The bishops and archbishops must be leaders in mission and evangelism."

Kwashi said 'Mission 113' meant that every bishop and Anglican Church member must know how to lead one person to Christ. And they must know how to disciple and nurture and lead one person to Christ every year and continue on doing that.

"Our call is simple. We challenge everyone; if you are converted I don't understand how you can't talk about Jesus. It is an encounter you cannot keep to yourself. Tell people what has happened to you. Just go; simply go. We want people to get on God's bandwagon. The fashion of God is mission and evangelism."

The bishop said such discipleship is costly. "It can bring loss of job, the burning of property, losing family and sometimes death, but that risk will not stop the work of the gospel. There are eternal consequences so get on with the work and trust that God will bring it to fruition, even if it leads to [your own] death."

Kwashi recounted a story of the Fox missionary brothers, one a doctor who came to Nigeria in the 19th Century and brought the gospel with them. They both died quickly but not before they passed the gospel along to his father and he handed the truth to him. "Their graves are with us to this day. One day I will go and thank these missionaries. They have given me a good life, the gospel is good life and good living, and those who risked their lives."

But the question most people ask nowadays is, "is it safe?"

"Bishop Riah of Jerusalem was going on sabbatical, I told him to come to Nigeria. He said it wasn't safe to come. I said, you come from Nazareth and I come from Nigeria, which is safer? It is not about safety. The first challenge is persecution, I don't think of safety. It is part of the package - persecution will happen, persecution is a part of all out lives. We have no permanent comfort here."

Kwashi said the church must focus on life saving activities. "Poverty is a reality and economic hardship never comes to an end, the cycles of suffering are endless. Persecution is the norm. None of these challenges are new or unique to Nigeria alone. The history of the nation is a history of challenges we must urgently face. What is at stake is future of the Christian church. Don't think Islam is out there, it is here. There are thousands of Somalis living in Minnesota. They need to be evangelized now they are away from their home towns. When they become Christians they can go back as new Christians and became evangelists."

What are you doing, cried the Nigerian bishop? "A church that fails to evangelize and indigenize is weak. The demise of the Christian Church in North Africa in the first centuries was that it lost its position in the world and gave up its life. It was not a united church; it was not a witnessing church. It also had more regard for Islam and class attitudes than the gospel. The result is that all of North Africa today is Muslim. The fault is the Christian church not Islam."

Kwashi said the way forward meant the gospel must be presented with clarity and power. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel. "The Church is in disarray, and society and ethical issues must be debated. But they are being debated disproportionately and when they are overshadowed then the gospel is beclouded. This is a recipe for disaster. There is one gospel, it is a total package - to raise the dead; open the eyes of the blind, to heal the sick, to preach the gospel - and he will do abundantly above what we are able to do all of these [things]."

"What many people today need is a clear presentation of this exciting gospel. Vague presentations of the gospel is not impressive to people. Evangelism is about eternity, see Mt. 25:14 -30. We should not worry about what people say. The days of ceremonial bishops in Nigeria is over. Every bishop who is not prepared to be a madman for God should leave the place. Oftentimes we are too sophisticated, citified, civilized and superficial. We should get down to the business of bringing the Good News to people. A day of accounting is coming. Evangelism is about eternity. The Parable of the Talents is applicable here. To whom much is given much is required."

"Is Jesus happy with your church and diocese? What did the missionaries have when the came they came to our country? They had no retirement plans, no big salaries, and no pensions....nothing. They came with Jesus on their lips and died with his name on their lips. The salvation of souls depends on us. This type of evangelism in not being done during office hours and with committees. This kind of evangelism concerns who we are."

"If the love of Jesus is in your heart it will ooze out and touch people. We must say with the Apostle Paul, 'I consider everything as loss, I consider them rubbish, the righteousness we have comes from God and comes by faith,'" concluded the bishop.


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