Life-changing experience for Luke
teenager Luke Martin
had a life-changing experience in Nigeria in 2005 when he met some truly inspiring people. Anne Forbes
Promising pianist Luke Martin headed out to the Nigerian city of Jos for a month after finishing his ‘A’ levels last summer and before he started a degree in medicine at Newcastle University.
He was part of a team of 11 sent out by development charity Tear Fund as part of its Transform International programme, to help with educational and developmental work.
While there, he met a Christian woman who had been attacked, along with her husband, by Muslim extremists. They took her husband away to be beaten and tortured her in the hope that she would deny her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
“They cut off her right hand and leg with a machete, cut across her neck and shot her repeatedly with one bullet going into her abdomen,” said Luke. “She was pregnant and the baby was killed. Still she would not deny her faith.
“They set light to her home. She clawed her way out with her remaining hand but the child she carried on her back died. Incredibly this woman not only managed to survive, she also forgave those who did it to her and praised God for giving her strength.
“Seeing such inspiring people really got to me and has changed my whole outlook on life,” he said.
Luke is one of four brothers in a medical family. Two brothers are also reading medicine while his father is an oncologist and his mother a psychiatrist. Dr Martin worked abroad for the WHO, so Luke was born in Hong Kong, and lived in many places before the family moved to Norwich about ten years ago.
His main hobby is playing the piano and Luke has won regional Young Musician and Promising Pianist prizes and has given recitals in Norwich, notably to raise some of the £1,600 for his trip to Nigeria.
Luke was in Nigeria as part of a team of students helping teach on a summer holiday school organised by the Fellowship of Christian Students. He taught biology and chemistry, physics and geography and also played games with the younger students.
Luke was struck by the fact that all the students wanted to be there, walking long distances and denying themselves their summer break in the conviction that a good education is a route out of poverty.
“Being in Jos was really good fun. I found I was a lot happier when I stopped thinking about myself for once,” said Luke.
“The teaching was really appreciated. In fact, even the smallest acts and slightest efforts were, but ultimately the only thing that actually changes lives is relationships.
“Whatever the purpose of life is, be it spiritual or not, should be reflected in everything we do,” said Luke. “As a Christian, I believe it is to serve God in serving others, but I didn't reflect this in my own life. Out there it was totally inspiring seeing people who, in even the most mundane parts of life, would be delighted to have been given the opportunity to praise and serve God.
“This even came across even in the graffiti. ‘Praise God for giving me work to do’ was written on the wall of an abandoned, unfinished hotel, which more or less sums it up,” said Luke.
As well as poverty, a major problem for Nigeria is the “invisible killer” – HIV. Over 20% of the 20-40 age group is infected. The team helped increase HIV awareness through discussions about sex and the importance of blood tests etc., while treading carefully because of different cultural taboos.
Visiting an HIV foundation, Luke was challenged and inspired by women whose lives, by our reckoning, should have been destroyed by the virus. “One woman had been told of her HIV positive status the day before her marriage, another whilst giving birth,” said Luke. “Both had been rejected by their families and friends and lost everything, yet they praised God for life itself.”
The experience has changed Luke: “I realised that in return for my entirely untrained and unremarkable efforts at teaching, these people had shown me how to live. Many were content with comparatively nothing or had lost the little they had.”
Growing up in a Christian family, Luke had always considered himself a Christian but didn’t really see the relevance of Jesus to modern day life until just over a year ago. Now, challenged by what he has seen and heard, he asks: “would I have the strength to be willing to sacrifice everything, including my life, for my faith in Jesus?”
He would like to go back again and long-term, maybe do medical work abroad.
Pictured above is Luke Martin with some Nigerian youngsters.