Report From Nigeria (No. 5)
No songs were sung and nobody led a public prayer. There were no nice pews to accommodate the large group of people, but they stood in deep, loose sand for two hours, listening intent1y to the gospel message. Roy, our eleven year old boy, and one native passed out a couple hundred tracts. There was no pulpit and not even a street light, but the large crowd gathered so closely around the lantern that I had to ask them to step back so that all could see the charts being used and so that I could get sufficient air. Then eight men requested baptism and the same hour of the night we took them to the ocean and immersed them into Christ. When we returned them to the street corner where we had preached, before they could unload and we could leave, many other men gathered around the pick-up truck and asked for tracts. By now it was about 10 P.M., and I "threatened" to get out and preach again, but Alice vetoed this. She insists she wants to try to take me out of this tropical land alive! But it had been a typical night in Olodi, where we go preaching every Tuesday just at dark (Olodi is one of the congested suburbs of Lagos). After a night like that we don't always sleep well, for there is much concern for those who have just been baptized. About one third of them usually fail to be at all faithful. Before anyone criticizes this, it might be well to recognize that perhaps a similar percentage fall away even where the church is strong and where the background is different. Even though we recognize that many will fall away, our great challenge is to try to save the other two-thirds who are truly sincere by leading them into perfect understanding. Pray for them and for us.
Every Saturday night for several weeks we went into a certain valley in Ajegunle, another suburb, and the people there seemed so rough that we branded it "the valley of sin." Indeed sin abounds everywhere among these unenlightened people. Marriage is indeed a plaything and chastity is almost unknown, it seems. One large denomination here is the Africa Episcopal Church, and it was started to fit the marriage customs of the country (polygamy). But here in the city there is not so much polygamy, but instead it is said that many of the women are not married at all but just pass about, living with first one man and then another. Added to the immoral conditions is a maze of religious confusion, ranging from devout Catholicism to rabid propagation of the so-called Jehovah's Witness doctrine, with many others based mostly upon superstition, ignorance, and excitement. But even in "the valley of sin" and then in almost every corner of these suburbs where we have gone with the gospel, there are hundreds of people who manifest a great hunger for truth and who really seem to thirst after righteousness. In recent days I have made some charts, using poster card material, 2 x 2 1/2 feet, and find it very effective in these street meetings where the crowd stands very close to the speaker and can easily see the small charts. We continue to give hundreds of tracts to eager readers. It is necessary to have one or more persons hand out the tracts as the people gather, for if they are offered after the crowd assembles, a stampede will result.
In all of our street meetings, we find that the crowds are much larger if a white man is present and especially if he is speaking. But I am the only one here now. In discussing this problem once, one native said, "That is what I don't like about you - you are indivisible." If you could go with us a week, you would see how much we could desire the ability to be able to go to two or more places at one time! . .. But we give thanks to God now, for we have inquiries from six Americans who are investigating possibilities of coming to this fertile field of gospel labor. No doubt some of them, at least, will come if and when support can be arranged. Cost of living is very high here (House rent is about $150.00 per month, eggs are 84" per dozen (cold-storage eggs), gasoline is about 47" a gallon, and most other necessities are much higher than in the U. S. A.) Besides that, travel costs to get here are very high. But we beg Christians and churches to respond liberally to the appeal of men who are willing to come. If you will support and send faithful men, they will do more actual preaching here in two years than the average man does in America in five years. As a result of their work here for two years, there will probably be more conversions than the average preacher's work produces in a lifetime! Though costs are high, results (harvests) are so great that it is very worthwhile. So, when men appeal to you to help them come here, you can have a significant part in this great harvest by giving abundantly to their necessities.
Many of you have written and asked how Billy Graham's campaign affected our work. As far as we could tell it had no effect at all. The week he was here we preached each night within 2 miles of his meeting and we baptized 14 that week. He did preach to big crowds, but he did not revolutionize Nigeria. In all my contacts, I have talked with only two or three people who saw him. My point is this: while he made a big splash for about 3 or 4 days here, we went steadily ahead bringing souls to Christ.
One night recently, as a large crowd listened to the preaching, Roy was passing out tracts and at one time he heard some natives who were passing say, "Are those Europeans edible?" (all white people are called Europeans). Of course these natives are harmless and they were joking. One Baptist preacher from a place not too far from here said that when he insisted upon preaching at a certain village, the chiefs told him, "If it wasn't for the government, we would just eat you." We are grateful for the government that controls their desires, but we also recognize that they were trying to bluff the preacher. But tonight (or any night) (when it is high noon in Chicago) you can know that the blazing tropical sun is just setting in Nigeria and that in a very few minutes we will light our lantern and begin to tell again the story of salvation by grace through faith. Pray for us that we may be wise and strong, and that we may be able to bring many to obedience where salvation is received and to faithfulness where that salvation is retained.
We continue to be grateful for the support of Thomas Blvd. church, Port Arthur, Texas, in suppling our personal necessities here. Since last report we have also received the following gifts for gospel work here: Mrs. Dillie Stone, Cicero, Ill., $9.20; Berwin church of Christ, $25.00; Ward Rinehart, St. James, Mo., $60.00; Mrs. Carrie Martin, Madison, Ill., $5.00; Aurora, Illinois church of Christ, $64.00; Antioch church of Christ, Charlotte, Tenn., $40.00; Mrs. H. R. Mast, Nacogdoches, Texas, $25.00; Harry Pickup, Sr., Tampa, Fla., $70.00; West Washington church of Christ, Indianapolis, Ind., $100.00; Total in the two months, $398.20. In the same two months we have spent as follows: Interpreters, $5.04; Brother Umoh, support, $7.28; Loudspeaker rental $3.92; Two Tilly lanterns and spare parts, $20.86; Rent for new native preachers's rooms $11.20; 40,000 tracts $84.00; moving costs for two native preachers coming from Eastern Region (545 miles) $151.20; subsidy on Bibles sold below cost to natives $11.66; printing of letters which are mailed to new converts $4.20; total spent in two months $299.36. With the balance from former months, there is now a balance of $450.80 in this gift fund. However, in the next few weeks we hope to start two new churches (one on Lagos Island - the main city of Lagos, and one at Ibadan, 85 miles north). Each will necessitate the expenditure of some money to get started. One or two native preachers will also be moved from the Eastern Region to Ibadan, we hope, and will require expense. We will probably print a few more tracts, too (notice that we get these leaflet tracts printed here at the rate of five for a penny). Big-city work always costs some money, but here it is indeed a fruitful work (so far we have baptized 156 here in four months). Your gifts become tools in our hands and we try to use them in the most productive way. We are indeed grateful for every contribution sent, for we could not do it very good work here without such help.
CORRECTION: In our report No. 2, dated in October, a gift of $25.00 from Brother George Broadhurst, Tulsa, Okla. was listed. This should have been listed as $250.00. We are sorry for the error.
We have now printed a total of 140,000 tracts and 30,000 have been sent from America. Since last report we received 5775 good tracts from James Cope, Tampa, Florida, which were paid for by brother James Herndon, St. Petersburg, Fla. We appreciate the cooperation of those brethren very much.
EXPLANATION: Some gifts are sent to us, requesting that it "be used for tracts or for other necessary things." Enough is usually spent for tracts to utilize such requests. Some friends send suggesting that I help native preachers. This we do on a temporary basis until regular support can he arranged. Some churches send to me requesting that I use it for necessary things in these efforts and in all of our preaching. Some of this is used to help get native preachers on the field. However, this is a temporary matter. Regular support for native preachers is sent to the preacher himself (several of us get mail in the same address, but checks are made to the separate men). I do not intend to become a one-man missionary society, receiving funds from churches and disbursing them for support of preachers of my choosing. I have no "salary fund" for preachers. I do recommend some preachers and their work to churches, and they then support such preachers directly, and the preachers report directly to the ones who support them.
BROTHER C. A. 0. ESSIEN, the first convert in Nigeria, died Feb. 8, of malaria. He was only 38 and had done a great work in Eastern Nigeria. He and others like him had started 60 churches before a white man came for permanent work. Here in the Western Region we have had no such good start, but have had to start from nothing. Two good churches now assemble and two more will soon start, the Lord willing. With the help of some good native men from the East, and some more Americans who we hope will come, we surely believe the church will prosper here as it has in the other parts of this nation, though it will he many months and years before it attains the numerical strength here that it has in the East. Pray for us that we may be wise and strong and that the church may grow in strength and faith and that it may be kept in the way that is pure and that is true to God's word.
Truth Magazine IV:9, pp. 5-7