The one-year-old girl on the left has the strength to ride on the back of her bigger sister–arms at the neck, legs clamped–for most of every day. The older girl is eating a stalk of sugar-filled sorghum.
Ofir bought a billy goat and rode in the back of a pickup toward the Achipawa, searching for the first Achipawa Christian, Timothy, who lived on the edge of Achipawa territory and who would speak English. Ofir was in the remote north of Nigeria. Several days on, he and Timothy began to climb the volcano on which the Achipawa live. The two boys pictured were working seven years in the fields of their future father-in-laws, strangely echoing Jacob in Genesis. The Achipawa are animists.
Brother Bulus Demena tried to build a church in the territory of the Achipawa and was driven out. He told Ofir, “They are guarding their chief called god. No one enters. He is their god…They will not let you in. Don’t go there.” Still, as is the custom in Nigeria, Brother Bulus welcomed Ofir to his house and surrounded him with enough pots of food to feed a family of five. On the wall behind Ofir is a Year 2000 Doomsday poster, which delineates those going to heaven and those not. People drinking in bars, playing soccer, and practicing karate are not going up.
A year after beginning his search for Niyi Gbade, Ofir finally found the man in Lagos. Niyi was hesitant to share information about the Achipawa out of worry that Ofir would strengthen their local beliefs and thus strengthen their resistance to Christianity. Ofir pointed to his scars and said he’d nearly been killed trying to meet Niyi, and the man said only that the Achipawa were located between the Niger and Kebbi states. Armed with this information, Ofir returned to Leo’s hut in the bush, and after many days of walking they found an elder who had been to those states, a man who said, “If you reach the mountain of the Achipawa you will meet a man who when he speaks you will hear thunder.” The elder is pictured below with his homemade gun.
Ofir was in the hut of a Nigerian pastor named Leo when he found a document listing the percentages of Christians and Muslims in various tribes. More than a hundred tribes were listed, all with the percentage of converts. Flipping through the pages, he spotted the lone gap in the data. Just one tribe had no numbers beside it. Instead were the words, “Hostile Animists.” The tribe was the Achipawa. It would take Ofir more than a year to find them. The first photo is of Pastor Leo in his church in Nigeria, the second of a cricket that Leo offered to Ofir on the day he arrived in the village.
Out of food for days, Ofir tried fishing, tried bludgeoning monitor lizards with rocks, tried catching a python with his hands. But all he found to eat were river clams, and harvesting them from the water took as much energy as they gave back. Ofir could see in his arms that he was wasting away. His only hope was to climb out of the valley.
With the fishermen is a woman and her daughter, who both wear nice dresses. Ofir struggles to communicate with them in Orominya but takes their prosperity as a sign that there must be villages near. Carrying a gift of food, Ofir continues along the river and finds no one and his body begins to give out.