Before the weekend I sent Margaret a message that I wanted to go to the Jungle on Sunday morning. Her response was that it would be better to go in the afternoon. I said that I wanted to go to church in the Jungle, so the morning might be better. She was thrilled at this on-going redefinition of church that I’ve been pushing.
When we arrived at the top of the ridge overlooking the Jungle we were pleased to meet a number of the youth who had been called to carry down lunch. Margaret complained some, but with the help of one or two youth, she managed to get down to valley were a number of youth were waiting, locally rolled cigarettes hanging from their lips.
The Jungle is a small space in this valley where a few mango trees grow and the youth have claimed a sanctuary where they can smoke to their hearts content. They say nobody bothers them here because nobody comes.
Because it was Sunday, the topic of discussion Margaret choose was “church” – what is church and why do we go? Interestingly, as much as the experience of these youth with the church has not been positive, they were not yet cynical and were trying to make sense of their understanding:
- “You go to church because of unity not for God. When you come out it is to serve God.”
- “Most people respect you if you dress well in church.”
- “There are two laws: the law of God and the law of the church.”
Then Margaret asked the question whether the Jungle was church. Within a few minutes four of the youth huddled together and put together a Jesus rap: “Jesus on my Mind”, which they proceeded to perform. It was a powerful Gospel message brought into the reality of these youth who have felt rejection by family and society, but still claim Jesus welcome for their lives. We went on to talk about relationship, about trust, a peaceful and natural environment….all of which they enjoy in the Jungle.
Kingsley gave the most potent message I’ve heard for some time. His theme: what have we done for Nigeria? “Mommy”, he said, “you have brought us many skills, you’ve brought us food and you’ve showed us a different way, the way of love and acceptance. We are grateful and can never thank you enough. But we have to go on from here. Shouldn’t we ask, instead of what is the government done for us, what can we do for Nigeria?”
Ever the mother, Margaret’s love for these youth was clear when she spent the morning cooking rice. The youth, observing the cooler and knowing what was inside, finally suggested that the theological discussion should end so that physical needs could be met.
Her response, “my brother knows me well!”