On January 12, 2015 Peter Goodyear, Pastor of Asbury Free Methodist Church in Perth, ON, and Dan Sheffield, Director of Global and Intercultural Ministries left Toronto for Niamey, Niger to visit missionaries David and Jennifer and to ordain a new pastor. This was Peter’s first mission trip and one he will not forget.
Asbury FMC met with Dan two years ago because some of their missionary commitments were coming to a natural end and they wanted to focus their energy on developing a deeper relationship with a single mission project in Africa. As a result, Dan connected Asbury FMC with David and Jennifer in Niger. This deeper relationship not only involved financial support but also prayer and a more personal connection established mainly though emails and reading their blog.
When Peter saw Dan’s email looking for a buddy to travel with him to Niger, he immediately went to Asbury FMC’s board who agreed that it was a great opportunity to further their relationship with their missionaries.
After arriving in Niamey, Peter spent the first couple of days getting to know the missionary family and their mission work. This included a visit to the ministry centre that is under construction and a bible study at the FM church led by the pastor whose ordination Dan and Peter were to lead on the Sunday.
Here’s the part of the story most of you already know. On Friday, January 17th violent protests against the publication of a cartoon of Muhammad on the cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine began throughout the city of Niamey targeting churches and French linked businesses. What you might not know is that Peter, Dan and David were driving back into the city after an amazing experience visiting giraffes when they saw burning tires and protestors in the street ahead of them. David did a quick U-turn over the median and then skirted along the edge of town to return to their home. As Peter put it, “I was cracking wise in the car because it was kind of hairy but not all that dangerous.”
When they arrived at home they learned that the pastor’s wife had taken refuge at the home of a Muslim neighbour and watched as hundreds of people burned and looted their church and home. The pastor and some of his family came to stay at David and Jennifer’s home where it was decided the ordination would proceed but with a couple of twists as all the Christian churches had cancelled their services for Sunday.
So Dan and Peter did ordain the first FMC pastor in Niger on Sunday at 3pm in a home with a 40 people instead of 200 but that didn’t lessen the celebration, “The singing was incredible. And there was joy. It wasn’t a beaten down service – we were not hiding. The protestors burned down a building. They couldn’t burn down the church because the church was gathered.”
The Muslim neighbours who sheltered the pastor’s wife also came to the ordination service which was a risk for them, “This shows that God is at work and it’s a witness to the positive relationship that the pastor and the church have with their neighbours.
Peter is home safely and processing his first mission trip, “We were glad we were there. We don’t regret going. God is doing incredible things in Niamey. God had us there to encourage David and Jennifer, to encourage the church and what they are doing there. It was an incredible experience. I’m glad to be home but I’d go again in a heartbeat. I feel we were an encouragement to people who are trying to share the gospel and are doing it effectively.”
And then he added a little cracking wise, “We weren’t promised an easy way. Jesus didn’t say, “pickup your couch and follow me.”