Threads of Hope for Nigeria

BY michaelclesceri | 12 September 2014 |
Lami_sewing_small

Langham Scholar Lami Bakari (second from left) trains a group of women through Stitch of Hope, a ministry she founded in Nigeria that teaches women, many in poverty, how to sew–a profitable skill that helps them earn an income and their independence.

As Langham Scholar Lami Bakari cares for and shepherds the women in her Nigerian community, she thinks about those who came before her. Other women who led, loved on, and lifted up the church in Nigeria—women who had a heart to see God’s Word transform the hearts of people.  And though today there are very few women in positions of leadership in the country, Lami notes that in the history of the church in Nigeria, women were integral.

“Women planted churches, they were involved in baptisms, they were able to teach. Today, women can’t do that,” she says.

And today that’s what Lami is working to change. While she is inspired by the stories of the faithful women who went before her, she says that she is driven in her mission by her appreciation of what Christ did for her at a young age . . .

 

I always felt passionate about letting others know.

Although Christ captured Lami Ibrahim Bakari’s heart when she was 6, she can picture it like it was just yesterday.

“I still remember my mom holding my hand and walking me into that circle, and we were prayed for,” she says.

Her mom was the first Christian in her community, and Lami remembers being taken to church regularly. At that time, it was custom for groups to go from village to village—forming a prayer circle to proclaim the gospel. When they came to Lami’s village, she asked her mom if she could receive Christ.

“When I left that circle, I just felt like something happened to me,” she recalls. “I felt so clean . . . I was young, but I also understood a new thing happened to me.”

From then on, Lami says she wanted to “share Christ in my little way.” She got involved in Sunday school and in women’s ministry, and by age 12 she was leading some classes. “I just always felt passionate about letting others know,” she explains.

 

I saw God opening opportunities for me to teach.

In 1978, she felt the call into full time ministry. She attended Bible college, which she recalls as one of the greatest challenges in her ministry.

“I heard going to Bible college was a man’s job, but I felt deeply it was what God wanted me to do,” she says. “I went, and I tell you: I saw God opening opportunities for me to teach in Bible school. I rejected the idea that I was not called to ministry.”

After Bible college she continued her ministry, working with young girls, teaching in church, and working as a hospital chaplain. As the years passed, God began to bring her face to face with the needs of women in her community.

“As a woman, I feel that that is my Jerusalem,” she says. “To walk with women, to impact women, and to help them understand what God is calling them to do. It’s my passion, and it led me to seek further education.

Today, with help from Langham, she is pursuing her Ph.D. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. She says that her study on how to faithfully handle and apply Scripture within her culture’s context is equipping her to better serve the Nigerian church. As she’s studying the women who’ve impacted the church in Nigeria throughout history, Lami is reaching out to and impacting women around her on campus and in her congregation.

“We’re doing life together,” she says. “Sharing food, sharing the Bible, just being together. There’s so much that I can share and that they can share with me, too.”

 

I am so grateful to Langham.

Lami training students at Stitch of Hope.

Lami training students at Stitch of Hope.

Her goal is to return to Nigeria, armed with her theology degree, where she will continue her own ministry to women, equipping them to become women of God and encouraging them to become leaders themselves.

In addition to pursuing her theology degree, she and her husband founded the Maraba African Life Foundation to provide education and skills training to both women and men in Nigeria, showing them how the Gospel speaks into issues of independence, financial stability, and character.  The main project is called Stitch of Hope, a sewing center that teaches women and young girls, many of them in poverty, how to sew—a skill they can use to earn an income.

“For the development of Northern Nigeria in every way and expansion of the Kingdom, African women must become economically viable and spiritually alert,” she says. “That is exactly what Stitch of Hope is called to do, and I am convinced that we will make a difference in Northern Nigeria.”

She shares the story of the first Stitch of Hope student, Sarah, a young single mom struggling to support three children. Today, Sarah is running the Stitch of Hope training center, putting her kids through school, and providing for her extended family.

As she works to see how God’s Word can impact and bring hope to other women like Sarah, Lami reflects on how her own theological studies almost came to an end last year. After several family members were lost in a devastating accident, Lami found herself shouldering the financial burden of caring for several family members.

Sarah with her children. By God's grace and with Stitch of Hope training, she is now able to provide for her family.

Sarah with her children. By God’s grace and with Stitch of Hope training, she is now able to provide for her family.

“I am so grateful to Langham. When Langham came to my aide last year, I was at a point of giving up on my theology studies,” she shares. “I found myself responsible for the care of so many that I figured the expense of school just wasn’t possible.” But shortly after the accident, she received word from Langham about her scholarship. “That was my miracle,” she says. “To be in school today is a miracle. I appreciate what Langham is doing around the world, and in me, to offer me this great opportunity to fulfill a dream.”

Langham Partnership is committed to raising up biblical scholars around the world who can shepherd and disciple other leaders as they faithfully share God’s Word. It’s by His grace and the partnership of so many of Langham’s friends and supporters that make stories like Lami’s possible.