Report From Nigeria (No. 6)
It was about 2:30 A..M., April 30, but the closet door just two feet from the head of my bed squeaked and awakened me. The flashlight batteries were old and the light revealed nothing, as I flashed it through the mosquito nets, except that the door of the closet was open. I assumed a wind had blown it open and went back to sleep. Two hours later I had to get up to doctor an infected mosquito bite and was then shocked to find the front door of our chalet wide open -in the midst of Africa. A thief had entered through a transom and evidently when scared by my awakening left hurriedly through the door. His loot was only a cheap watch of Roy's and two shillings and two pence. I had about 48 pounds ($135.00) in my pants pocket but he left before finding it. We were in Ibadan at the time, staying in the Government Rest House which is similar to in American motel. The next Sunday ten people met for the first assembly of the church in that great city.
Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa, and with an area about like an American city of 30,000 to 50,000, it has a population of nearly a half-million. The people are so thick there that we immediately found that it is a problem to find a place where we can do open-air preaching, for there are few places where the people can stand. However, in those few places many interested men and women listened to the gospel for two hours, standing patiently just as they do in all of this land. We finally rented a good place for the Sunday assemblies (and since then have converted the landlord, who is owner and manager of a secondary school.) We were also fortunate in being able to hire a teacher in the secondary school as an interpreter (and since then he too has been converted). Brother E. Ekanem, one of the most mature and able preachers from the Eastern Region, was with us from the beginning of that work and continues to live there with his family, supported by the Kenosha, Wisconsin, church. He is being joined this week by brother Solomon Etuk, another good native preacher from the East, and together they will sow the good seed of the Kingdom there, along with whatever help we can give them from here. Already several have been baptized and the work is very promising. Brother Etuk will be supported by a church in Grand Prairie, Texas. One week before we started meeting in Ibadan, another group began to assemble here. Previously almost all our work had been done in the suburbs of Lagos, but finally we determined to go into the very city itself. Lagos is an island City and is also a very congested place. We secured a meeting place in a school building (at 3 pounds per month, which is too much for this economy) and fifteen met for the first time on April 24. In one month attendance had risen to 21 and already 28 have been baptized on the island. So, in such a short time the church began to meet in two of Africa's greatest cities. Since our last report, two months ago, 102 have been baptized in connection with our work here, and after beginning from nothing 10 months ago and with just 15 members six months ago, there are now the following: Aiegunle (Apapa) church, 183 members; Surulere church, about 50 members; Lagos church, about 45 members, and Ibadan church, about 10 or 12 members, making a total of about 288.
Since last report we have received the following help, besides our regular support from Thomas Blvd. church in Port Arthur, Texas, and besides support for the native preachers (from Aurora, Ill., Plainfield, Ind., and Paris, Texas) in addition to the two already mentioned in the Ibadan paragraph; from James Finney (for auto expenses, etc.) for four months, $200.00 (we forgot to mention the first half of this in last report. Sorrv!). For tracts, interpreters and other expenses of starting the new works and carrying on the gospel preaching everywhere in this vicinity: Aurora, Ill. church$64.00; Antioch church, Charlotte, Tenn., $80.00; Grand Prairie, Texas, church, c/o Robert Phillips, $50.00; Duluth, Minn. church, $22.00; Oak Grove church, Cuba, Mo., $50.00; Lincolnway church, Valparaiso, Ind., $25.00; Mrs. Alfred Westerback, Racine, Wis., $10.00; Mrs. Elizabeth Root, Milwaukee, Wis., $25.00; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Wright, Rochester, Ill., $10.00; Mr. & Mrs. C. D. Matthews, Sandusky, Ohio, $50.00. Total $386.00, besides auto expense gift. In this time we spent as follows: Assistance to native preachers for cycles, $33.60; Bed, mattress, net, for Apapa house, $39.25; Subsidy on Bibles sold to natives below cost, $4.90; charts, signs, rubber stamp, $9.40; Rents, sign for Ibadan, Tilly lantern, etc., $60.00; Expense for L. D. and family, Ibadan trip, $50.12; Expenses- Preachers Ebong, Jsong Uyo & Williams who went to Ibadan alternately to help there, $6.80; To E. Ekanem at Ibadan to pay interpreters, etc., $44.80; Public address system for street preaching, $104.55; 40,000 Yoruba and English Tracts on "How to Be Born Again", $89.60; Rent for Lagos church, 3 Mo., $26.20; Lagos interpreters, Ebong transportation, bank charges, $18.95; To Solomon Etuk for moving from Eastern region and settling expenses, $80.03; Total expenses for April and May (thru June 6), $578.20. Indeed this seems costly. But we have the public address system, some lanterns and some other equipment that will last a long time. Furthermore, we have 40,000 more tracts for use. But as we said in last report, it is always costly starting churches in big cities. We believe the money could not have been spent more wisely anywhere in the world for salvation of souls, and we believe those who gave will agree as they see the reports of the work. We could not have done this work without such help. You are indeed partners with us in every saving effort. In addition to the above gifts, $25.00 was received from Mr. & Mrs. C. D. Matthews with instructions to use it for our personal needs. We are so very grateful for every gift given to help us do this work for Christ. A balance of $258.60 remains in the working fund today.
We still go out into the streets every night preaching the gospel to many, many people almost every time. Interest is still excellent and the majority of the people are just as friendly as they ever were, but where we have gone often some opposition seems to arise, usually led by those who call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses. They sometimes try to "take over" our gathering, but we tell them that if they want to preach to "go and light your own lantern." We use their quibbles and assertions to enable us to stress again and again those vital truths about the kingdom, etc.
You probably have read that the Moslem religion is spreading in Nigeria. It is true, for that religion allows a man to have four wives, and this is appealing to many here. But some Moslems are converted here from time to time - not many, but at least enough to show that it is possible. Most of those we baptize have been brought up in some denomination or else come from homes where paganism prevailed.
In April the Billy Nicks family left Nigeria after four years in this land (with one six month trip back during the time.) They spent their last night with us here in Apapa, after flying here from the Eastern Region where they had worked. In May the Wendell Broom family drove here from the East and, after three nights with us, sailed for home. They had been here more than four years (with one trip home also). Both Nicks and Brooms have done great and fruitful work. Both did very much of their work in training Christians for leadership and in strengthening churches. Of course they both preached much to the lost, also. They will be missed badly in the Eastern Region. It was a great joy to us to have had them in our home before they left Africa.
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind." Indeed it is so here. Some do not give up sin, some have entirely wrong motives, but some are very devout and faithful. There are three ways to proceed in this kind of work: (1) Convert a few and then concentrate on teaching and training them so that they can carry on in the future. (2) Emphasize only the work among the lost. Stress baptism, and leave them alone afterward (3) Continue preaching always to the lost and still devote much time to "teaching them to observe all things" (Matt. 28:20). The first two ways are comparatively easy, the last way is hard but is the only right way, it seems to me. In this work we know many will not be true, but we try to reach as many as possible, knowing that out of the many, some will be true converts. How to divide our time is, as you can easily see, a serious problem. Because I want to go to just as many lost souls as possible, and yet because so many are baptized every week, and all are so weak and unlearned, the necessity for having the native preachers here to help is easily seen. They are kept very busy in teaching, visiting, training, and of course in helping some in converting the lost.
A young man in Abeokuta, a city of nearly 100,000 people that is 63 miles northwest of Lagos, took the Bible Correspondence course and requested baptism. I wrote him and arranged to preach there. Last Sunday evening we took an interpreter and went there. A very large crowd heard the gospel. Two were baptized. We made appointment to go there again June 13, 14. So the church is started in another great and congested city. Pray for us that our strength fail not for all of these many tasks and that we be wise for the most fruitful work for Christ.
Truth Magazine IV:10, pp. 11-13