The following is from the October 2006 Daily Word©.
By Rev. Gregory Guice
As an African-American visiting Nigeria, I felt as if I were returning to my roots. As a Unity minister, I would be learning firsthand about the Unity movement in Nigeria. The movement that Charles and Myrtle Fillmore founded in Missouri in the 1890s had been introduced in Africa in the 1920s and had grown to more than 60 Unity churches.
I didn't know what to expect when I got off the plane in Lagos, Nigeria, a city of about twelve million people. Even though I didn't personally know anyone who lived in Lagos, I was welcomed like a long-lost brother by Unity minister Rev. Elizabeth Oyebode and a host of other Nigerians.
The next day, I boarded a plane for Port Harcourt. I spent the next week attending the Unity Harvest Retreat at a center in Rivers State of Nigeria.
Each morning about fifty of us in attendance awoke at 6 o'clock and jogged to a village about a mile away—singing and clapping our hands along the way. The sun rose as we entered the village each morning. After singing a few more songs, we jogged back to the retreat center and spent time in meditation.
At the conference, we joined in discussions related to Unity principles. We searched scriptures and talked about their metaphysical meanings. One of the unique discussions centered around the challenges that Juju presented. Juju is a belief in magic associated with fetishes, charms, or amulets. Many of the people of the villages were trying to make a transition from a Juju-based belief to a Christian-based belief. One woman at the conference asked us ministers: "What do I tell my brother who believes in Juju and was told by his Juju doctor that his children are evil? This doctor told my brother that unless he either separates from his children or buys jujus from him, my brother will be cursed!"
As Unity ministers, we shared our belief system. Knowing how entrenched that concept of Juju was in her village, we explained that we are each and every one a creation of God and, therefore, we are divine in nature. Because of the divinity of each person, no person has the power to place a curse on another!
The thought of the children being evil had been placed in her brother's mind by the Juju doctor, but her brother did not have to accept this error thought. I explained to her after the meeting: "God's presence is within your brother and his children. As they begin to realize that the divinity, power, and presence of God are within them, they will collectively bring out the quality of God's greatness." We shared the "Prayer for Protection," affirming that only good would come to them.
As I traveled throughout Nigeria and visited several Unity churches, I discovered that despite the many challenges faced by the people I met, their faith and love for God and the Unity message carried them above their challenges. When these faith-filled people greeted me, I was aware only of their love.
One day I was traveling in a car along a road full of potholes when children ran to meet me. They walked in front of the car, playing trumpets and drums, escorting the car to the village. The whole community was waiting outside the church. When I stepped out of the car, their cheers rang in the air. I felt the joy of being embraced with love and acceptance by my African brothers and sisters. Each man and woman shook my hand and thanked me for being there. They believed in the principles and the truth as expressed by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. They valued the principles and teachings of the practical Christianity of Unity.
Chief Eze Onuoha Uma of Ohafia welcomed me. He and his ancestors had ruled that area for more than 300 years. This particular man, who was in his 90s, was educated in England. When the African civil war started, he left his job with Shell Oil to serve as a chief. During the war, he and his family had to hide in the bush to escape being killed. Unity ministers hid and fed him and his family during this perilous time. Later this man received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. I was honored when he blessed me me with the honorary title of a chief of love, peace and understanding.
Early one morning, I was awakened by a man who said, "Come, Reverend; follow me." This man led me to the center of a village in Ohafia to the home of Laeqaw O. Ezutah, the sone of the man who founded Unity in that area. Laeqaw had built a kind of shrine inside his house, a library of Unity publications that had been collected from the 1930s to the present day.
We stepped out on the porch, and the children of the village gathered around as their mothers and fathers sat on the steps. Laeqaw, who was the head of this particular village, read the Daily Word message for the day. Everyone there took time to pray, a daily ritual for them. How wonderful that these families wake up in the morning and say, "Let us read Daily Word together."
I will never forget sitting wth the elders of the village that evening under a full moon as they shared stories and told me about rights and rituals of their village. I asked one of the elders, "In your reflections of history, do you tell any stories of Africans who were taken into slavery?" He said, 'Yes, we have kept these memories alive by telling them to our young people."
The next morning, we drove high into the hills, where Laeqaw pointed out the path on which slave traders took many Africans into slavery. Over the years, generations of villagers had kept that path clear as a reminder of the sons and daughters who had been lost to Africa. I understood why they welcomed me as a son who had returned home.
During my time in Africa, I learned the positive impact that Unity principles have had in Africa—principles of a God of love and of the sacredness of each and every person. I know this message of truth is shared wherever people recognize the presence of God in all and as being expressed by all. This is a truth that is uniting the people of the world in faith and love.
Rev. Gregory Guice is cominister (now Senior Minister) of Detroit Unity Temple in Michigan. Rev. Guice wishes to thank Rev. Lisa Davis and Helen Evwaraye, and the Building Bridges program at the Unity Portland, Oregon, who funded and organized his tour to Nigeria along with Unity Christ Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Special thanks also to Silent Unity Church of Port Harcourt, Senior Revs. Dr. Amos Kalu and Okon Ebong, and Rev Guice's guide and travel companion, Akin.