Theologian Henri Nouwen writes, “Our society encourages individualism. We are constantly made to believe that everything we think, say, or do, is our personal accomplishment, deserving individual attention. But as people who belong to the communion of saints, we know that anything of spiritual value is not the result of individual accomplishment but the fruit of a communal life.” Community is not an option, according to Nouwen, but rather is inherently indicative of a communion of saints – people who follow Jesus Christ. I’ve had the privilege of participating in many Christian communities, but none as unique and family-like as the community of Egbe. It was in Egbe at the ECWA Hospital that I witnessed a Gospel-centered community, bearing the fruit of healing and reconciliation for its members and neighbors – Christian and non-Christian alike.
As I stepped off the bus and onto Egbe soil for the first time, I didn’t have enough time to unload my luggage before I was greeted by dozens of joyful, warm, and friendly hospital staff and church members. Each man and woman shook my hand excitedly and told me emphatically, “You are welcome!” Needless to say, after their warm greetings, gifts of two very alive chickens, and cartons of cold fountain drinks, I felt extremely welcome and blessed to be there. Admittedly, I was also startled by the remarkable level of hospitality. Was this the norm? Does the community always exhibit this kind of welcome? As the days went by, it was clear that Nigeria, and especially Nigerian Christians, model a communion and a culture of hospitality that I would do well to learn from.
My primary role during my trip to Egbe was to assist in installing a new sound system in the hospital’s own on site ECWA church called The Chapel of Blessing, and on Monday we got right to work! I met the incredible team of devoted worship leaders, musicians, and sound technicians who consistently serve their church family through song, and I helped them create a plan for properly installing the system. It was exciting to unbox the new equipment with them, knowing that it would make an impact on their church – enabling the congregation to more clearly hear Pastor Sola’s weekly messages and worship the Lord with even more joy, freedom, and excellence. We faced numerous challenges throughout the week, but thanks to the encouragement of friends like Paul (Ariyo) and expertise from Ayo, we ended up manufacturing a secure wooden sound booth for the digital mixer and augmenting the power supply with an inverter to protect the equipment electronically. We had just enough time to string together a practice sound check on Saturday in preparation for worship on Sunday.
The highlight of my three weeks in Egbe was the first Sunday that the church got to use the new equipment. There was a noticeable energy in the room as the service began and the talented choir led us in the first song. As I stood behind the sound board along with “Blue,” the Chapel of Blessing’s sound engineer, I realized one of the roles that the new sound equipment would play – simply support the astonishing volume of the singing congregation as they sang and lifted up praise to the Lord. Yet again, I was startled by the sense of communion within the Egbe community. Church was not an environment to enter and exit as individuals, but a place to join together in a heavenly song. Egbe is a place to get excited about the Lord, and shout louder than you have before about what the Lord is doing in the Earth. As opposed to our growing Western culture of individualism, in Egbe I witnessed a Gospel community wherein the norm is to beautifully out-sing the sound system, no matter how loud or new the equipment. Egbe’s song of community cannot be thwarted. Egbe’s song is community, and that is a distinguishable spiritual value of eternal significance and worth.
Written by B. Burrows