Goats, Chickens and Mango Trees
19 February 2009
The mango tree’s comforting green leaves and warm, green smell offset the flies buzzing around golden, dirt-encrusted mango pits lying on the ground. A large, luscious, golden-red mango hangs low to the ground, splitting at the seams with ripeness. Reclining on rickety wooden chairs, grandfathers and fathers in the village enjoy the shade as they chew kola nut and talk about local happenings.
April through August, however, the sky pours buckets of rain daily. Though mango trees serve as adequate church sanctuaries in the dry season, this becomes impossible during the deluges. Rev. Dr. Sung Lee remedies this by collecting materials for church buildings. Forty church buildings have now been raised, encouraging church attendance to grow.
Rev. Dr. Lee does far more than raise roofs. He trains Nigerian missionaries under the ECWA Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). (ECWA is the Nigerian denomination that SIM planted and with whom SIM continues to work.) Nearly 2000 national missionaries serve with EMS. About 50 minister outside Nigeria in Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. Rev. Dr. Lee established two EMS training centers to educate and mentor EMS missionaries. He also visits EMS mission stations and helps plant churches.
Rev. Dr. Lee equips some national missionaries to minister cross-culturally. Recently Rev. Dr. Lee and his wife took six West Africans, including two Nigerians, to Korea for five weeks of Bible training. Back in their home countries, the six men pass on what they learned about cross-cultural ministry. In countries like Chad, West Africans adapt more easily than white missionaries to the culture and harsh climate.
Besides meeting spiritual needs, Rev. Dr. Lee also supplies pure running water to people during dry season (October through April), the time of year when it seldom rains. He has set up three water systems in Nigeria—in Kaltungo, Rhijah, and a Fulani village.
Rev. Lee’s family is vitally involved in his ministry. For the past three years, Mrs. Jae Ok Lee and Grace, the Lees’ 18-year-old daughter, taught literacy classes at the EMS Rhijah training center. People from four surrounding villages attended, learning to read and write using ACE materials (Accelerated Christian Education). Mrs. Lee smiles, remembering the literacy program’s beginning. “Ponzin, our gardener, was illiterate. He is about 25 years old. Ponzin asked me to teach him to read and write, but I didn’t have time. Grace volunteered to teach him, and other villagers began attending the class. When Grace had 15 students, we had to start turning others away. This reading program introduced us to the village people, and the local Muslim Fulani asked for literacy classes. The materials’ Christian content made them nervous, and they abandoned the idea, but they were still thankful for the water system we provided, as well as cattle vaccinations provided by another SIM missionary. Now the Fulani have begun inquiring about a school again."
“The village people loved Grace; when she graduated, the chief had a ceremony and presented Grace with a live goat to thank her. Others gave her a live chicken, African fabric, and a mortar to prepare food the African way. Our younger son, Johnny, also helped with the literacy training. He taught some of the people to read and brought other missionary kids to help. Johnny wants to continue Grace’s work when we return from home assignment. Our children’s involvement has brought us close to the local people." Mrs. Lee and the village women worked together each week in different gardens, providing opportunities to fellowship, cook, and read together.
Under the mango tree, the village grandfathers and fathers watch local women carry buckets of water on their heads to help lay the foundation for a new church. A goat bleats in the distance, and a chicken scratches in the dirt nearby, but times are changing. Soon this church will supply the village with Living Water.