The Jesus Bridge

20160815_140409by Rev. Phyllis M. Sortor

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28

There is a new bridge deep in the palmetto jungles of southern Nigeria, a bridge spanning over 300 feet of water and impenetrable swamp, a bridge from today’s world to an ancient, primitive place where homes are of rushes and mud, men wear wrap-arounds and children run naked and free. A village knowing only fishing, hand-carved canoes, nets and hooks and racks of smoking fish. There is for the first time a bridge to Esuk Ekong, fishing village. It is the Jesus Bridge.

20160814_100949This July and early August a team of nine men and women from California and Washington State, led by Rev. Derek Isaksen, pastor of Real Family Free Methodist Church in San Jose California, joined Nigerian Free Methodists and volunteers from Nigeria’s Youth Corps to build a 300 foot long bridge to connect the fishing village of Esuk Ekong to the mainland, to allow women to take their fish to market and their children to attend Bright Hope Christian Academy, the ICCM school at Udung Ukoh.

Besides building the bridge, Rev. Derek and his team provided a new floor, doors and windows for the Esuk Ekong Free Methodist Church and completed the small parsonage. They funded the drilling of a borehole in the church compound, with two large tanks and a generator, all of which will provide the Esuk Ekong community with good, clean drinking water.

20160806_170019The team did this all for Jesus and for the children of Esuk Ekong, children whose lives will be forever changed as they cross the bridge into a new world of uniforms, textbooks, friends from other tribes, reading, writing and arithmetic! One small boy at Esuk Ekong, a boy we renamed “Silas,” has not only the opportunity for a new life, but the opportunity for life.

20160812_095825We discovered Silas covered with sores, starving, half-naked, tied hand and foot to a post in his grass shack. With no father or mother and a grandmother who was too busy to care, Silas was tied up all day and night to keep him from going from house to house looking for food. We met with the village chief, and with his permission, talked to the grandmother, loosed Silas’ bonds and brought him a plate of food. For the next days of the project, Silas stayed very close by our side and pretty much spent all his time eating or storing food, as anyone would do if he’d been starved all his life.

Silas doesn’t speak, has few social skills and walks in a slightly twisted manner. It may take a long time for him to recover from the years of abuse he has suffered, but there is real hope for Silas because Rev. Derek and Rev. Kevin and Val Williams are going to help immediately by moving him to a boarding facility near Bright Hope Christian Academy, get him to a doctor and therapist and into school then sponsor him through ICCM. The prison doors have opened for little Silas. His chains are off; he’s been set free.

Rev. Derek and Real Family Free Methodist Church also plan to sponsor many of the other Esuk Ekong children who will attend Bright Hope. There will be signboards at either end of the Jesus Bridge, each illustrated with a horizontal cross leading from “man” at the foot of the cross to God at the head and the words ‘The Jesus Bridge’ on the cross beam. There will be a Bible verse on each signboard and the words, “Jesus Loves You.” The message of Jesus will go out every single day to every single person who crosses the bridge.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

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