Amid Nigeria Tragedy: Grief and Promise of Joy

Aug 1, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

Amid Nigeria Tragedy: Grief and Promise of Joy

By: Commissioner Kelly Igleheart

Commissioner Donna and I won't soon forget the joy that filled the auditorium at the Nigeria Territory's Officer's Councils. 420 officers and 40 cadets sang and danced, praising the Lord for His faithfulness in what was a rare occasion for them to gather as one. Given the considerable financial and logistical challenges of organizing such an event, it had been many years since such a gathering had taken place. We encountered at that officers' councils a people overflowing with gratitude and holy expectation. The exuberance and energy in that space vividly displayed the awesome power of the Spirit—the splendor of His presence amongst His people.

The feeling amongst our delegation was also expressed through traditional Nigerian pageantry. There was a "social night" featuring traditional attire, favorite choruses, cultural dance and customary greetings that made us instantly feel not only welcome but like members of their family. The glory of the Lord was thick and palpable. It was a week we will always hold close to our hearts.

Yet, no one there could have imagined the news we would soon receive following the event's conclusion. The next day, the territorial commander, Commissioner Daniel Kasuso, met us and gave us unfathomable news. Around 9:00 that morning, 16 officers, a two-year-old child, and a soldier were traveling home from the councils when they were involved in a horrific accident. The van carrying the Salvationists was crushed between two tractor trailers. Of the 18 passengers, 12 of the officers, the two-year-old child, and the soldier driving the van died. Four more officers were taken to the hospital with two admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Two of the deceased, the driver and an officer, were brothers. That officer's wife and mother of the deceased child still remains in the hospital. Most of the officers were from one division.

Upon hearing reports of the accident, we immediately went to the THQ compound to pray and mourn with other Army leaders. I cannot find the words to adequately express the grief experienced by the Nigeria Territory. I assured them of our steadfast prayers. I pledged the financial support of the Southern Territory for the burial of the victims and a new van for their children's home to replace the one totaled in the accident.

It is for precisely such deep-felt needs that our territory raises World Services funds each year. At Commissioning in June, we recognized the hard work of officers, soldiers, employees, and friends invested in raising such funds. We also celebrated the immense generosity of God, who continually blesses us with the privilege to be a blessing to the worldwide mission of the Army. We did not know that night at Commissioning that the funds we officially received would allow our territory to quickly offer support just weeks later that the Nigeria Territory would greatly need.

When we raise World Services funds, we do not fully know how God will bless and multiply our offerings to lift up our comrades exactly when needed. In a message sent by their chief secretary, Lt. Colonel Christian Azubuike, it was shared that the territorial leaders, Commissioners Daniel and Tracey Kasuso conveyed their sincere thanks for the Southern Territory's generosity and Nigeria's unending prayer support for the South. They also indicated that they are now "indebted" to us for such support. While I appreciate their kind words and sincere sentiments, I must contend that we have received much more than we have given. By allowing us to help them shoulder these difficult burdens, we are far more indebted to them.

At the officers' councils, Commissioner Donna and I had the honor of sharing the Word of God with those beautiful officers. Drawing upon James 1, Donna spoke in one meeting about the difficulty and possibility of holding together both grief and joy. She shared vulnerably about her own experience of loss and how God unexpectedly added to tears of sorrow, tears of joy. We did not know just how timely a word that would soon prove to be. Of all the wonders fashioned by the hands of God, there is none greater than a person by His grace, in His strength finding in the darkest of valleys that precious experience of joy—joy that does not eliminate our grief but illuminates it, revealing for us His fingerprints as He crafts from our pain something unexpected, something new, something beautiful.

We continue to hold together the joy of that officers' councils and the grief that followed. As our Nigerian friends hold in one hand their grief, Donna and I ask you to pray that God will place in their other hand His joy—that miraculous joy that makes all the difference. The Salvation Army is one global family. We thank you for your prayers for the Nigerian members of that great family. We also thank you for your continued contributions to World Services funds. We especially know today just how vital your generosity is. May the Lord bless the Nigeria Territory. May He bless you in His service. May God bless The Salvation Army.

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