This week I will share stories of Thanksgiving. I hope they inspire all of us toward a heart of more profound gratitude.
The Nigerian city of Jos sits on Africa’s great fault line between the Muslim north and Christian, and thus has faced terrible things in recent years. A Nigerian Baptist church was attacked by Muslim extremists who burnt the church building and the house of the church’s leader, Pastor Sunday Gomna. On the second Sunday after the violent outbreak, when the people of that Baptist church returned for worship, they gathered in a little mud wall community center about one kilometer from the burnt church.
Pastor Gomna stood up and offered some beautiful words of gratitude. He said, ‘First, I am grateful that no one in my church killed anyone.” Apparently, during the chaos of the attacks, Pastor Sunday had gone around the community and some of the Muslim people said, “Pastor, thank you for the way you taught your people. ‘Your people helped to protect us.'” So Pastor Sunday was proud that his people did not kill any Muslims.
“Second,” he said, “I am grateful that they did not burn my church.” Everyone looked at Pastor Sunday with disbelief. After all, everyone was meeting in a small, uncomfortable Mud hut had been burnt to the ground. But Pastor Sunday continued: “Inasmuch as no church member died during this crisis, they did not burn our church. They only burned the building. We can rebuild the building but we could not bring back to life any of our members. So I am grateful that they did not burn my church.”
He continued, “Third, I am grateful that they burned my house as well. If they had burned your house and not my house, how would I have known how to serve you as pastor? However, because they burned my house and all my possessions, I know what you are experiencing and I will be able to be a better pastor to you. So I am grateful that they burned my house as well.”
Source: Mark Meynell, “What to say when they burn down your house and church,” Quearentia blog (10-21-13); source: David Smith, The Kindness of God (InterVarsity Press, 2013)