By Chuck Eckerson
Looking across the meeting room at the Cru US Staff Conference in Fort Collins, CO in July 2013, my wife leaned up to me and said, “Do you see that man? He is not African American. He is African. We have to meet him.
While we could not articulate exactly what the distinguishing marks are, we had been in West and Central Africa enough over the past several years to guess if a person was African American or truly from Africa.
When the meeting was over, we introduced ourselves and discovered that Kathy guessed correctly. The man was from Nigeria. His name was Lepan.
He was excited to hear that we served with FamilyLife and came with us to the FamilyLife tent. As we sat and drank Cokes, Lepan shared about the needs for marriages and families in Nigeria. As we listened, we heard real needs. He thought God would really use FamilyLife’s Art of Marriage® and the new Stepping Up® video kits, so we made arrangements for him take both video kits home with him. (Shipping them would take forever, if he received them at all.)
He urged us to come and minister in his country. Nigeria was not part of our assigned territory, so we responded politely but did not seriously consider his request. Besides, given Nigeria’s reputation for danger, we had no intention of going. Little did we realize that we would be there 18 months later.
Lepan prayed about the materials we gave him and began to organize a group of men to go through Stepping Up. The problem was, all he had was the video kit. He didn’t have any copies of the participant workbooks.
Lepan was committed to call me up to courageous manhood, so he pressed forward to form a Stepping Up group, even without the participant workbooks. As foreign as it seems to our culture, he could not simply order workbooks and have them shipped to him. Not only is shipping prohibitively expensive, Nigeria is a cash economy; most Nigerians do not have (and cannot get) credit cards. Thus, they cannot order resources.
Lepan asked us for help. He wanted not only participant workbooks for the men in his group, but also enough video kits and workbooks that each man in his group could start his own group. We found someone who was going to Nigeria soon. They said they could pack a small number of workbooks in their luggage and take them to Lepan. So we bought workbooks for the members of Lepan’s group and shipped them to our friend who was Nigeria bound. Their trip was cancelled at the last minute because of Ebola, escalating Boko Haram activity, and other security issues. They were able to reschedule the trip a few months later (December 2014) and deliver just enough workbooks for Lepan’s group.
Kathy and I traveled to Nigeria in January 2015 to take the initial steps in revitalizing their 20-year-old FamilyLife ministry and chart a course for the future. What a joy it was to connect with Lepan in his country and be invited to “greet” his Stepping Up group. In that context, greeting doesn’t mean just stopping in and saying hi. Rather, it means staying for and observing the entire meeting, speaking a word of encouragement to them, and praying over them. So that is what I did.
During the course of the meeting, Lepan asked the men what they had done recently to demonstrate courage. One man shared that it took a lot of courage to go back to the location where a terrorist bombing occurred just a few weeks earlier. As he shared, I remembered thinking, “Wow! They are living with a completely different set of circumstances and dangers than we have in the U.S. It takes courage in different ways.”
It took nearly 18 months from the time Lepan envisioned the Stepping Up group to when the men could watch the videos AND have workbooks to use. But Lepan trusted God and persevered.
In the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2, each of these men want to start their own group now and call other men up to courageous manhood. They are each ready to Step Up and become multiplying disciples. May the Lord go before them, equip them, and resource them to reach a generation of men who are ready to Step Up. And may we join with them in praying for a breakthrough in the availability of FamilyLife’s biblical, transformational resources in Nigeria and the surrounding countries.