We are sons of prayer. By this, I do not mean we pray a lot. Rather, I mean we were prayed for, very often. Our local church was more instrumental in shaping us than any other factor. Yes, it can be said and rightly so, that the church was our home. We formed friendships, built relationships and found the path to the Cross. It was also there that we were prayed for. Oh my, those praying mothers. They prayed with tears, with hope and with a certain form of persistence that can never be explained. Night after night, church program after church program, at homes, on the road side, and everywhere that they can say a prayer, they prayed for us youths. They believed something could be done in Jenta, even when it seemed everything went against that. If we have any faith at all, it was theirs we inherited.”
–Lengdung Tungchamma describing the Jenta reads teamThis website came about because of an amazing and unlikely story in a land called Jenta, which is a ward of the city of Jos, Nigeria. You can read all about it, and see pictures, in a long article here called Into Jenta. In that story you will read about the humble beginnings of the Jenta Reads Community Library, which is a story of faith, and a story of prayer.
In May of 2018 I had the glorious privilege to travel to Nigeria to meet the Jenta Reads team in person, and to see the humble beginnings of the only public library in a city of nearly a million people. It was housed in a small storage room, about 8 feet by 12 feet, and only 6 feet high. Even so, it was well attended by enthusiastic patrons. My visit to the library was a pivotal moment because it brought well-needed attention from the community, and has helped propel it forward. The story I want to tell is one of God’s wonderful and loving provision in answer to prayer for Jenta Reads. To begin, I will include an excerpt from the long article referenced above.
Lengdung has a friend who teaches leadership training conferences, and who also is running for political office. We visited this very nice man and his staff in his Jos office on my second day in Nigeria. A few days later, he and his entourage came to Jenta to visit the library for the first time. There were many carefully staged photographs taken, including one with lots of children and the white guy.
But the most amazing thing about his visit was what didn’t happen. In the third photo below, we are all packed into the tiny and hot library. The politician stated the obvious and said (in essence), “Tomorrow I will come back to Jenta and we will find a three bedroom house to rent for the library. Imagine what you could do with so much space! We will do this tomorrow and I will pay for it.” At first I was so excited for the Jenta Reads team, and I was (somewhat proudly) thinking of all the great things that were resulting from my short visit. But Lengdung didn’t look happy. He listened respectfully and said thank you, then he turned down the offer.
The Jenta Reads team is a praying team. One morning all the team members gathered under the mango tree. Lengdung informed me that it was a business meeting and that I should take a moment to rest, which was very welcome. After a while I came out of my room to use the restroom and found the group deep in prayer together. It was so sweet and encouraging to see. One of the resolutions born out of prayer was that the library should have no political affiliations. To do so could be limiting, and would have strings attached. Instead Philip told me that they want to trust God for the perfect place and for all of their needs, just like George Müller! This is uncommon thinking in any country.
Since that was written I have had the opportunity, with a dear friend, to visit Jenta a second time. We learned the rest of the story, which is…
About two weeks after that meeting with the politician, the Jenta reads team got an email from a Nigerian non-profit inviting them to present the Jenta Reads vision in a nation-wide competition for community development projects. On July 14th, Philip and Lengdung traveled to Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, to give what they described as an under-prepared pitch for the Jenta Reads Community Library. Many people around the planet were praying for that presentation. They won first prize, the Emerging Global Leaders award, which was 1.1 million Naira, or slightly over $3,000.
Because the Jenta Reads team was willing to pray and wait on God for His best, they now have a newly renovated three room building, beautiful new bookcases, ten computers, reading tables, and a full time librarian. Praise God! He provided everything from the previous offer and much more, with no strings attached.
I expect the politician, who really is a great guy, is rejoicing along with the Jenta Reads team, that they were led by the Holy Spirit to turn down his offer.