My Visit to a Yoruba Village Church
First thing to note was that church was designated to start by 7.30am, we got there by 7.45am and there was no body there except the old woman and her son who were cleaning the chairs.
The church was a shocker to me, nothing similar to the plush environs I’d become used to in Lekki churches. There was no window, no plastered wall, no elevated alter. Just some old rickety rusty plastic chairs and some local drums, no microphone or speaker, no lights, no plush decorations, just the sand filled building not more than 15m in width and 40m in length with a zinc over our heads.
Apparently, the church was in construction. The gist was that they erected that structure in less than two months, which is impressive given the location and demography of the church.
By 8am, one person joined us, we were five in number now. Church started with prayers said in Yoruba. I didn’t understand one bit of what was uttered. By this time the pastor had joined us with his family, when I looked outside to the entrance, I was shocked at how his family of five had fit onto the one motorcycle which he drove. It was also unusual for me seeing a Pastor stride in late to service.
I was seated in front because I came rather early, so I was quite shocked at one point to look back and see the whole church filled up. There were not more than 30 chairs in church, I think over 20 was filled up by my estimate.
I was the only one in church who didn’t understand Yoruba, the Pastor was kind enough to realise and called a young boy from the congregation to interpret in English for me while he spoke. The young boy tried so hard, you could literally see him struggle as he tried to mumble the right words in English for me. I was secretly hoping someone would put him out of his misery. The pastor noticed on more than one occasion and tried to help him out, it wasn’t any better, he too got stuck and ended up in Yoruba in less than no time.
The pastor had given what he termed “Morning Tonic”, apparently it’s part of their Sunday programme. He spoke about the Red Sea and how God performed a Miracle using Moses. He didn’t fail to humour them by saying there was a Miracle in church today (obviously referring to me). He told me to stand up on more than one occasion while he gave an example, he was elated to see him attend his church. After he spoke, there was an offering, I gave. Only for the usher who must have been shocked at the denomination I dropped, to come meet me and ask me how much change I wanted, I scoffed, and told her I didn’t need any change. Immediately the Pastor heard me say that, he mumbled somethings in Yoruba which I made out to be “Praise God for this blessing”. On the different occasions when an offering call was made, I gave the highest denomination, so you expect he doled out more personal blessings on my behalf.
There were many funny and strange moments. During Sunday School, the moderator’s phone rang while he was teaching in front of the church, I was shocked to see him pick the call in front of the congregation. He was smiling and exchanging pleasantries with his caller. They had spoken for quite some time before the Pastor said something in Yoruba which I guess was “end the call and continue”. I was amazed that no one found this strange except me. One time during his sermon, a woman made to leave, he called her back and told her to give her offering before leaving.
There were so many funny stories during the different sermons. I counted three different sermons. One time the Sunday school moderator told the church about a young boy who could bypass DSTv subscriptions and make people watch DSTv for free without paying, and he lauded it as an example of using your God given talent and the whole church screamed in affirmation. That was funny to me, I didn’t know when I started laughing out loud. Or the time when the Pastor narrated how he lent money to a church member who refused to pay him pack and the whole church hissed in dismay at the borrower who I guess was definitely not in church.
Oh, my first interpreter was finally put out of his misery by the time the Pastor was ready for his sermon. He called another young chap from the congregation, I liked this one. He was smart enough to not try interpreting sentence for sentence, he gave me summaries. He didn’t try too hard. That was smart of him. I gave him a tip after service, I also gave the first interpreter a tip too. They both went through stress, stood in front of a 30 man congregation which looked like a big deal to them, the least I could do was offer them a tip.
Did I forget the mention the incessant tears that regularly interrupted service? The kids always took turns to cry, and there was this semi-nude kid who ran round the church. For some reason I think he was the Pastor’s child, he kept running to him during the sermon.
There were four different offerings in church, and according to my interpreter, the Pastor was admonishing the church not to get tired of giving at the fourth time. I was more than happy to give during the different occasions because I was actually enjoying myself. The prayer section as you’d expect with a village church was filled with so many “kill your enemies” line and my Interpreter was caught up in the hype most times leaving me to make out what the prayer point was myself. I spoke in tongues almost all through, I guess I was equally covered.
This church was makeshift but her members were definitely ready. The Pastor talked about how he was eager to finish the church before his impending transfer came. He talked about how they needed nothing less than five hundred thousand naira to tile the whole church and how he was envisaging an even bigger land. I loved his enthusiasm especially after hearing the story of how they built that church up to this level. This is real ministry, I mean, it’s not his personal house, it’s the Lord’s house, but he was going about it like his personal business. I liked that about him.
The members were cheerful and happy. They were content too. They all tried to give during their offerings during the different occasions, they even gave their tithes too. They were friendly with me too — the stranger. Someone was eager to give me the English version of their hymn book when it was time, another volunteered to give me their Sunday school manual, they never missed an opportunity to throw a smile. I had to give the little kid beside me some money to drop into the offering pan, he was so happy to drop it in.
After service, I noticed church members both old and young packing sand from outside and filling the alter area inside the church. I defied my post clothes and joined them in packing sand and filling up the alter area. They were all shocked and resisted my efforts but I wasn’t having it. I was so impressed at how everyone was determined to build their church, I joined and enjoyed it. The passion showed by members was heart-warming. I sowed a seed to support the building of the church, it was so awesome being amongst these people and seeing their undiluted love for God translated into action. Apologies for not showing you guys pictures, I had a flat battery. There was no light in the whole village!
I spoke with my second interpreter after church, and I found out he was preparing to write JAMB, when I asked him if he was reading, he told me he wasn’t because he was learning how to make Almacos or something like that at a nearby shop hence he had no time. I encouraged him to make out time. He took my number, I hope he gives me a call sometime; I’d be more than willing to help!