At any given moment or hour of the day, one can hear music coming from Agape Hope House in Nigeria. It could be a mixture of singing and instruments, just instruments, or a collection of young men singing acapella. There is only one common thread, no matter how you encounter the music – it is an act of worship.
Hope Parents, Nehemiah and Deborah, have lovingly and faithfully opened their home to teen boys over the last six years. Together, along with their three biological daughters, and the call and strength God provides them, they foster a space of warmth and connection as they raise up boys to young men within their own walls.
In their time parenting, they’ve seen at least five young men graduate high school and move toward university and bigger dreams, they’ve been spiritual mentors to students with difficult pasts, and have led many to relationship with Jesus. They’ve addressed past hurts, helped them overcome trauma, and prepared them for a world ripe with possibility. They’ve also diligently shown what living a life of worship is and how it can be done.
Nehemiah has long seen music as his ultimate act of worship. As a young boy, he was a self-taught musician learning the drums, piano, and guitar. This serves him greatly as he welcomes young boys with a traumatic history into his family home to provide holistic care. “I believe it’s important for young people to learn and harness a skill, and if it is a skill which helps them live a life of worship, then all the better,” shared Nehemiah. He allows the young men in his home to choose which instrument they want to learn – guitar, drums, or piano – and he faithfully teaches them how to play their chosen instrument.
“I always like being a part of a mentor relationship,” Nehemiah shared. “I am eager to teach, especially young men. It is my greatest desire to raise up people to be greater than me. I live by John 14:1 – I want to teach what I know to others and then allow them to grow beyond my skills. This is the secret of both discipleship and learning.”
Currently, the Agape Hope House is home to seven young men, all of whom knew nothing about instruments when they arrived, but now come alongside Nehemiah, Deborah, and their three daughters each night for spontaneous worship. It was his wish early on that their home be a house of worship, and those they care for make it a reality.
Along with a learned skill and hearts eager for praise, learning how to play instruments offers the space to grow leadership skills. Quarterly, Nehemiah and Deborah host all the Hope Program homes for a night of worship. He doesn’t plan or lead these evenings, but encourages the young men to do so.
“We start our days with worship and end our evenings with it, too,” shared Nehemiah. “But I also think it affects the care we provide for them, because it offers healing to their hurt.” When someone is struggling with a situation or person, we stop and pray, and it often ends by pulling out instruments and singing. “Music can speak to them and help heal them, when I don’t have the proper words.”
Of all the many teens boys Nehemiah and Deborah have welcomed, four are currently taking steps pursuing university and so no longer live in their home. They often return for visits, and when they do, everyone ends up in the living room together, eyes closed, instruments out, and hearts postured for praise.