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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers: The CMS Legacy

 

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Once upon a time, in a world filled with ancient traditions and deep-rooted taboos, a band of courageous souls embarked on a journey that would change the course of history forever. Enter the Church Missionary Society, affectionately known as CMS, and prepare to be swept away on a rollercoaster ride of transformation, emotion, and belly-aching laughter!

In the year 1857, when crinoline skirts were in vogue, and steam locomotives chugged along, CMS took its first steps into the vibrant lands of Igbo. Led by the intrepid and visionary Reverend Samuel Crowther, himself an Igbo man who had been rescued from slavery, the missioners arrived on the shores of Nigeria, determined to spread the light of education and the message of love.

Venturing through the untamed wilderness and navigating treacherous rivers, the CMS pioneers faced formidable challenges. But fueled by an unwavering spirit, they pressed on, forming deep connections with the local communities and immersing themselves in the Igbo way of life.

Picture this heart-wrenching scene: Many innocent and precious twins faced a cruel fate in the clutches of antiquated beliefs. Who knows if was then that they killed the persons who would have changed or laid the foundation for the change of the story of our country to the opposite of what we are seeing today. Indeed, many innocent and precious twins were wasted out of ignorance and barbaric cultural practice. And they continued to waste more, until the CMS, guided by Crowther’s understanding of Igbo culture, marched into the heart of the land, armed with love and empathy, putting an end to the abhorrent practice of killing twins. Yes, you heard that right! They gave the gift of life a chance to flourish, and in doing so, left a mark that time could never erase. Indeed, the arrival of CMS brought forth rays of hope and laughter that echoed through the ages, as they redeemed mankind from the gloomy past.

However, the sacrifices, efforts and the journey of these missionaries weren’t an easygoing one. I wish you felt same emotional surge I feel here as I recount the tale of a CMS nurse. In a world where medical aid was scarce, this nurse traveled fearlessly to remote villages, holding the hands of the sick, comforting the suffering and giving them hope. Her presence was a beacon of solace, and she became a guardian angel to those in need. Their tears of gratitude were her reward, and her legacy lives on in the hearts of those she touched.

But wait, there’s more to this legendary saga! Throughout the years, CMS continued to build bridges of unity, connecting diverse cultures, and breaking down walls of prejudice. They championed education, empowering generations with knowledge that would light the path to a brighter future.

I must tell this tale of destiny and serendipity! You won’t believe it, but some of our State Governors, Senators, and high-profile personalities today would have been living entirely different lives if not for the coming of the CMS. At least, I know one Governor in Nigeria known for his charismatic eloquent speeches and political prowess (don’t ask me whether past or present oo), who would have been a legendary hunter in his village today, chasing after antelopes instead of political opponents, if not for the coming of the CMS.

I also know a Senator in Nigeria (don’t ask me whether past or present) who would have been a revered native doctor, prescribing herbs and concoctions to people in his village today. But thanks to their lucky stars, for the intervention of CMS that led them down a different path! I bet they never knew their alternative career options would have been such odd and off!

As time swept us into the present, CMS’s indomitable spirit only grew stronger. Embracing technology, they harnessed the power of the internet to reach even more hearts, transcending geographical boundaries and language barriers.

Today, as we celebrate the 166th CMS anniversary, let us pay homage to the pioneers of change, the fearless fighters who dared to dream of a better world. Their legacy is etched in the fabric of Igbo culture, a legacy that whispers hope, justice, and love.

So, here’s to the courageous hearts of CMS – the warriors who vanquished darkness and ushered in a new dawn. Here’s to the tears they wiped away and the laughter they gifted to the world. Here’s to a legacy that stands tall, a beacon of hope that continues to shine, bridging cultures and breaking barriers for generations to come.

Happy 166th CMS Anniversary!

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Izunna Okafor writes from Awka, Anambra State capital.

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