So what was the greatest shock for a young Nigerian student landing in the UK for the first time?
“It was not the weather”, he recalls. “I came with a prepared mindset. It was not the food, Although I had expected it to be more spicy.”
Maybe we should not be really surprised to learn from Laolu Akinsete that it was actually ‘social interaction’ or rather lack of it that took him by surprise.
He had arrived at the University of Sussex in October last year for a Master’s Degree course in Chemical Biology and settled into the most recently-built hall of residence on the campus.
“In Nigeria, colleagues would call at weekends just to say hello and I would do the same. It’s not like that here. People have get-togethers, yes, whereas at home there is more socialising during working hours. I discovered that locally it takes a while to get integrated into the social life.
“Another matter, related, is that I have never felt it convenient to call my colleagues because I would be interrupting them. They can’t do it, so I can’t! When there is a question about work, I can only text.”
Laolu has been successful with his Master’s studies and has now moved on to a PhD course: Bio-imaging and Genetics. He has also taken up accommodation with fellow-students in Brighton.
He keeps in touch with family and friends two or three times a week during the term, but in holiday periods more frequently. If there is a test or exam or report looming, maybe just once a fortnight, when father is his sounding-board and great encourager.
This delightful Christian young man, in his mid-twenties, remembers Christmas 2010 very clearly.
“The International Office at the University organised a meal and programme on the day, where I met a number of like-minded people and we went to see a movie. They became friends for the rest of the session.
“I linked up with a church in the city later on, although I really wanted to find a branch of my fellowship in Nigeria. It is called MFM: Mountain of Fire Miracles and Ministries. The worship is so good; we dance and play drums! We engage in warfare prayer – warring against the flesh, demons and magic. We try to convince men and women that they can be saved from these influences.”
Quite big differences between there and here, it seems.
“If I were at home for Christmas, I would be helping to arrange a children’s party in church and there would be a theatre show for the youth. My own hope is that one day I will be a clown!
The usual menu is chicken and coconut rice or red rice and fried beef. We also enjoy prawns and other seafood. Christmas pudding? We don’t know what it is! Oranges, mangoes, pineapples, papayas and water-melons make up our dessert.”
It is not all celebrating, of course. One important activity is distributing food to homeless children.
With all this in mind, will Laolu be returning to his country soon? Not immediately, he points out.
If nothing else, he has a mission-field amongst us where he can share his testimony of God’s goodness to him. “I remember past experiences of the Lord’s help and blessing. He has been very merciful. Hebrews 13, 8 expresses it perfectly. ‘Be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!’”
Laolu spent a weekend with us when he shared so many examples of the Lord’s grace. He told us that there was a prophecy a long time ago that he would travel, and that his parents should make haste and obtain a passport for him. It has come true, and surely there will be more evidence of God’s favour in this man’s life in the days to come.
P.S. Copies of the free booklet ‘Living’ are still available. Write to Pause for Thought, c/o 11 Lismore Road, Eastbourne BN21 3BA.