Report From Nigeria (No. 3)
We begin this report by urging our friends to take note of our new address, which is as follows: Leslie Diestelkamp, P.M.B. 1080, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. We arrived here a week ago and have just now secured a permanent residence. We made the long, tough, hot trip overland (545 miles) without any trouble in the Chevrolet pickup truck. One night was spent in a native hotel, which is an experience worth remembering, but that was not unbearable. We look forward to a great work here in the Western Region of Nigeria and solicit your pravers in behalf of this work.
It was a hard decision we had to make. People of the "bush country" where we were working begged us to stay there and continue the work that took me into one village after another where the word had not gone before. Churches that hunger for instruction begged me to stay and come again and again to them (usually this was done at 5 or 5:30 a.m. and the open-air meetings for non-members were at evening). Hundreds of people had come to look upon that bright red Chevrolet truck as a sign of gospel preaching, and everywhere the friendly greeting extended to me and the fine interest manifested made the work pleasant and challenging. In the four months about 350 were immersed as a result of our work and five new churches were started. Only the lack of more time and energy prevented an even greater harvest, for indeed the field is ripe there. I did my best to warn the churches of the ever-present dangers and to instruct them in every principle of truth and righteousness. I can honestly say with Paul, that "I kept back nothing that was profitable" for those churches, as far as my ability and understanding permitted.
Yet, in spite of all the pleas that we stay there, there was the constant appeal to "come west" and help get the work started in a completely new area. This has always been our desire to go into the new places, even in America, and also here in Africa, again saying as did Paul, "Lest I should build upon another man's foundation" (Rom. 15:20). So we have come west with the hope that this Western Region, and these great cities in the west, may also have the pure gospel. We know the work will be much slower here, and baptisms will be one-by-one instead of in droves, but we believe the work will be healthier as a result of greater understanding by the converts.
In the last two months we have received the following help: For auto expenses, from James Finney, Fair Lawn, N. J., $100.00 (for 2 months) ; For tracts and other gospel work, $5.00 each from Susan Gourley, Zeva Selho, Myrtle Rice and Arvilla Lindquist, all of Milwaukee, Wis., and from Carrie Martin, Madison, Ill.; $25.00 from Lavern Beckham, $20.00 from Alma Sorrell, $2.00 from Jane Copeland, $1.00 from Mrs. Bover and $50.00 from Mr. and Mrs. James Hawlev, all of St. James, Mo.; $50.00 from Mr. and Mrs. V. W. Vaden, of Kenosha, Wis. From such funds we printed 25,000 tracts in the Efik language for distribution in the Eastern Region. Other tracts may be printed here, and some money will be used, and reported later, for renting halls and other expenses of getting started here in the Western Region. Oak Grove church, Cuba, Mo., sent 25,000 tracts already printed. We are grateful for every gift, and try to acknowledge each one when received, and then use it to the glory of God and the salvation of souls here. The checks sent simply become tools in our hands for furthering the preaching of truth. Our stay in the Eastern Region was made pleasant by the cooperation of the Southside church in Odessa, Texas, who provided our house while we were there, and for which we are very grateful. Thomas Boulevard church in Port Arthur, Texas, provides our salary, and has graciously volunteered to also provide our rent here in the city. Their help is a source of great joy and confidence. I shudder to think of the souls that would have been doomed had it not been for assistance from Thomas Boulevard church.
"A tree falls at Ikot Ibono" and a lady walking to a gospel meeting with her children, is killed as she attempts to rescue a child (The beautiful, fruitful, tall, slender palm tree graces all that land, but often thet fall unexpectedly because of poor roots and sandy soil) . . . I walked up a hill with some natives, carrying a kerosene lantern that was to furnish light for a Bible lecture nearby, but as we came to a certain house, a little child ran, screaming, to its mother. For the first time it had seen a white man and was badly frightened . . . On our last Sunday in the East, as we made our way far back into the bush land, driving the truck over roads that a motor vehicle seldom uses, approaching a stream where 54 were to he immersed, our interpreter agreed that some of the older ones there might have tasted human flesh in their younger days. We rejoice that they have now "tasted the good Word of God" (Heb. 6:5) . . . Just after sunrise one morning (and after I had already preached at one place that morning) I drove around a sharp corner in the bush road and slammed on my brakes as I looked upon a breathtaking scene. I was at the top of a series of three big hills, and far below me in the valley there was a thick fog. But both the sun and I were above the fog, and the sight was one I won't forget, as the bright sunlight glittered down upon the billowing fog . . . Then there was the "farewell service" with the Aka. Epemy church, with whom I had worked so closely. I hadn't preached much in their building, but often we had gone together to some cross-road or market. They would sing and I would preach. Never in my life have I known a more enthusiastic church or one where more people seem to live closer to God. I hope to meet them in heaven . . . Many, many men served as interpreters for me, and all are appreciated. Two of them deserve special mention. They are E. S. Essien and S.I. Essian (they are unrelated). They are both brave pioneers, eager to go with me into new places where the gospel had not gone before.
Our four months in the bush country were happy, fruitful days that make a chapter in our lives that will never be forgotten. We would have liked very much to have stayed there for the rest of our time in Africa. However, since there are more than three hundred churches in that small area, with many able preachers, we feel that duty calls us on to this new and virgin field. Both the natives and the American preachers and their families treated us with every kindness in the East, and we hope the work there continues to prosper for the salvation of many, many more. Now we turn our attention to the big cities (as we had done so long in America).
Here we will have electric lights and pure water to drink (without boiling it as we did in the bush). Our living quarters here will be inferior to those in the Eastern Region, but they will be adequate and acceptable. We will sorely miss the companionship of the other American Christians from whom we are now separated by 545 miles. Certainly we will miss the help of the hundreds of native Christians who have assisted so much in the bushland. We will miss the encouragement that we have been receiving from the multiude of conversions. But surely God will be with us here, and evidently many of these people will be willing to hear the gospel, too. We will have to learn more lessons in patience here, and we trust those who support us will be patient too, while we plant the good seed and wait for God to give the harvest.
Remember that our new address is: P.M.B. 1080, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. A letter from my American friends would be so very welcome, and would be gratefully received by us here.
Truth Magazine IV:5, pp. 4-5