Report From Nigeria (No. 4)
February 5, 1960 -- For two months now we have lived and labored in this great African metropolis, and it is almost two months since we reported to you good American brethren who have supported us, advised us, and prayed for us. Your interest in this work is gratifying, your prayers are appreciated by us and your letters or other expressions of interest are received with much thanks. We now live 545 miles from the nearest faithful white Christians, and this naturally creates much loneliness. This is the dry season here, and these two months have been very hot and dry, though the humidity in the air is still very great because of the ocean.
As we explained in the previous report, we expected this week to be very slow, especially at the beginning. We were happily surprised at the immediate and significant visible results of our work here. After about three weeks hunting a house and getting moved in, etc., we settled down to preaching at least once daily publicly, and doing some personal work. We select a dark, dirty, congested residential area, where there are many, many people living in a small, compact place, and there we preach the gospel. We go just at dark, light a lantern (similar to an American Coleman lantern) and begin preaching to six or eight people standing by. Usually in a few minutes there will be from 50 to 200 people listening. For two hours this continues, the last half being devoted to Bible questions and answers. Often before we finish, someone will request baptism. In the last six weeks ninety-one (91) people have been immersed. All of this has resulted from street preaching and distribution of tracts at such street meetings. Brother Raphael Williams, a native preacher, has worked with me thus far, and now we are being joined in this work by two other natives, E. J. Ebong and D. D. Isong Uyo. (I am supported here by the Thomas Blvd. church in Port Arthur, Texas; Williams is supported by the Lamar Ave., church, Paris, Texas; Ebong is supported by the Plainfield, Indiana, church; and Isong Uyo is supported by the Aurora, Illinois, church.) The great challenge before us, now that there will be four of us, is to double our efforts to preach to the lost, and at the same time do our very best to keep in touch with the new converts and lead them to faithfulness and fruitfulness. This is no easy task, for they are so new in the faith, so unlearned in Bible principles and so beset by temptations that abound in this place. Yet many of them show immediate signs of significant comprehension, and zeal abounds in a number of them. Some have expressed desire to learn so as to be able to teach others, and every study period we arrange is attended by some earnest students of the scriptures.
Of course, "not all that glitters is gold," and though this may seem like a preachers paradise, there are trials here too. Occasionally the crowd just won't gather. Sometimes there is so much noise that one can hardly be heard. Sometimes we answer the same question three or four times, because new people will come. Every conceivable question is asked, such as: "Who was Cain's wife?"; "Where is heaven?"; 'What about original sin?"; "Will unbaptized babies be lost?"; "Can one be baptized again if his original baptism was wrong?", "Is Dec. 25 the birthday of Jesus?"; "Is heaven just for the 144,000 of Rev. 7?"; "Where did we get the Bible?"; "Who is this Jesus?"; What of those who follow Mohammed?"; "Why do you not perform miracles like the Apostles did?"; "Why are most people sprinkled today?"; "If the kingdom is the church, why is there not peace everywhere?"; etc. etc. Sometimes there is someone in the crowd who just tries to confuse the people, it seems. Some questions may be unimportant and some even unfair, but I try to turn every one into a chance to teach truth. If a questioner becomes offensive usually the crowd will "boo" him, but I get their attention and answer him, and then he either becomes a friend or slips quietly away. We call the names of the denominations and the pagan cults, we tell them that if they were sprinkled they were not baptized. and in every way we speak even more plainly than one usually does in America, dealing very personally with the people present, yet I have never spoken in such a meeting that closed in an unfriendly manner. Already, all over this area, natives hail my truck and ask for a ride or a tract, or they ask when we will speak next at a certain place.
Partners in This Work: Since last report the following gifts have been received to be used in the work: James Finney, Fair Lawn, N. J., $100.00 (for 2 mo.) for motor expenses; Mr. ancl Mrs. Martil Mikkelson, St. James, Mo., $25.00, Joan Epp, Kennett, Mo., $25.00; Mr. and Mrs. 0. M. Spieth, LaGrange, Ill., $75.00; Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Barker, Hillsboro, Ohio, $5.00; Miles church of Christ, St. James, Mo., $100.00; Mr. and Mrs. Harry Pickun, Sr., Tampa, Fla.,$75.00; Mr. and Mrs, Jerry Spencer, Lafayette, Ind , $100.00; Daniel Ortiz, Garnersville, N. Y., $50.00; Aurora, Ill., church of Christ, $25.00; Total $480.00, besides the motor expenses. In addition the following was received, and it was requested that we use these amounts for strictly personal uses: Mr. and Mrs. Glen Coslett, Lemont, Ill., $10.00; Alma Sorrell, St. James, Mo., $25.00; and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hennecke, Lyons, Ill., $5.00. We are very grateful to every one who helped this work or us in any way. We feel that all of you are indeed partners in this work, and that you share it with us and with the Thomas Blvd. church in Port Arthur, Texas, as they support us here. Forty thousand (40,000) more new tracts have been printed for distribution (we get them for about three for a penny here.) Actual expenditures from this gift fund in this period were: Tracts, $126.00; Lantern, $12.04; Living equipment (mattresses, chairs, tables, etc.) for Apapa house, and fees in connection with rental, $163.24 (Note: This equipment will be left for other American preachers who come here when we leave). Other tracts need to be printed, for we use 200 to 300 every night (and have to be a little stingy with them then). The Aurora, Illinois church plans to send $25.00 per month to help in this kind of work.
When we came to Nigeria we brought one set of winter clothing, which we wore on the ships and in England. When we got to Lagos in December we found dry-cleaning facilities, and took those winter clothes to be cleaned. Roy and I picked them up, and before we had them in the truck 15 minutes they were all stolen except one of Roy's jackets. This was very discouraging and disheartening and the loss was enough to make us heart-sick. However, at the suggestion of their elders, members of Thomas Blvd. church in Port Arthur made up a total of $225.00, which adequately covers our loss. We shall never cease to be thankful for the splendid friendship and fellowship of Thomas Blvd. church. We will save this gift and purchase clothing when we get back in America. In the meantime, since we have only light-weight summer clothing here now, we shall pray that our "flight be not in the winter" (Matt. 24:20) - that is, when it is winter in America.
Things that vexed us: We rented a good house, paid six months rent in advance and waited a week for time to occupy. Then the landlord returned our money and refused to let us have the house. We had to start all over again hunting a house. We now live at 23 Caulcrick Rd., Apapa, just 1 1/2 mile from the place where we first set our feet on Nigerian soil. . . . I had a cold and wanted some hard candy to suck to lubricate my throat. The lady in the native market said the candy was a penny per piece. Men nearby screamed that it should be two pieces for a penny, but she would let me leave before selling it to me as cheaply as to the natives. So it is almost everywhere - they just automatically raise the price for a white person.
Things that concern as: Among the 91 baptisms so far, there have been only two women! This is positively terrifying and we hope to reach more and more women as we begin to use a native interpreter instead of depending upon English. Every night when we preach to a fine group of people, and often baptize many, we go home happy except that we realize that the same thing could have been done in dozens of places in this city. Yet we still have promise from no American man who will come to help us nor one who will make plans to replace us in 1961. Surely there are mature men who will want to give two years to this great work. They will be the most fruitful years of your life.
Things that compensate us: "Come back again and bring a Yoruba interpreter next time," said an old lady who spoke good English but who saw the need for others to be able to hear in their native tongue, at the close of one of our street meetings. The next week when we returned with an interpreter, she pushed up near and said, "'I'hank You". . . . The second church was started here in metropolitan Lagos on Dec. 20. just three weeks later, on Jan. 3, the school room we had rented was already too small when fifty-one were present. . . . On two or three Tuesday nights we had spoken at one place, and then one day Roy and I drove to that place on another errand. Several men carne to the truck and asked, "When will you lecture again here?" (Now, several weeks later, after baptizing 50 or 60 people from that one place, we will quit it for a while so that we can use that night each week for another needy place where other people are begging us to come.)
Please continue to pray that the doors of opporturiltv may not be closed, and that we may have the strength and wisdom to enter them with zeal. Write us if you have a few minutes time (a 10 cent Air letter from the Post Office, or a 25 cent regular air mail reaches us in about a week - ordinarv mail takes about 2 months.) Some of our mail was badly delayed, and we only hope none was lost, in the forwarding process after our move from Uyo. We pray for all of you and frankly admit that we miss our friends and loved ones very much. God be with all of you.
The appeal that Bro. Diestelkamp has made for workers in Nigeria is worthy of much consideration. The good that can be accomplished in Nigeria makes this field indeed fertile. That the presence of men such as Bro. Diestelkamp, mature in the faith, is of great value is unquestionable. Others must be willing to take up where he must leave off.
One faithful servant has already announced his intention to go. Bro. Sewell Hall, of Camden, South Carolina, has informed one of our staff writers that he plans to go to Nigeria and work with Bro. Diestelkamp. The following is a quotation from his letter:
"We have now obtained the promise of our basic support from the North Birmingham, Alabama church to leave for Nigeria (Lagos) August lst. We do still have to raise approximately $150.00 per month house rent and $7,000.00 in addition to what we have already raised. That is a lot of money to raise in a short time, especially with our desire to try to continue our work in South Carolina as long as possible. Of course, I would be grateful for any assistance you might give in raising anything in that area . . . "
This will be Bro. Hall's second "tour of duty" in Nigeria. He was there during 1956-58. He is known to be sound in the faith, and is deserving of the support of the brethren. Many of you, our readers, responded liberally and rapidly to Bro. Diestelkamp's need for a travel fund. Perhaps now you will be able to do the same to help Bro. Hall. We hope and trust that in this way you will be able to help in this fruitful work across the ocean.
Send letters of inquiry or contributions to Sewell Hall, 1012 Roosevelt Dr., Camden, South Carolina.
- The editor
Truth Magazine IV:7, pp. 2-3