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.
Imagine the freedom to let a river pull you along in its current for six weeks, the freedom to stop in riverside villagers to rest and eat. Ofir passed under just one bridge in those six weeks. It was the last journey he took before founding LAGA in Cameroon.
These three photographs, before, during, and after, were taken in the same month on Ofir’s Journey through the Gibe River valley, in which he lost his horse, lost his way, and didn’t eat for two weeks.
Ofir heated and licked drops of oil off the carcass of the baby hippo he found. Sick and famished, he made it out of the river valley. Though he’d never felt weaker, he knew he was already stronger than he’d ever been. Was the journey wholly reckless or the kind of experience you’re lucky to have?
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.