Report From Nigeria (3)
We have now been in Nigeria four months and the dry season is upon us. The temperature is much hotter now than in the wet season. December and January are said to be the two hottest months of the year. Here in Lagos there is a breeze most of the time and that helps to make the heat less disagreeable. Our last report was I written on September 24th, and since that time several things of interest have taken place. In October the Surulere church conducted a gospel meeting with different speakers each night. Brethren Bill Hall and Sewell Hall and I each spoke on three different occasions but perhaps providing transportation for the members of the other congregations rendered our greatest contribution to the meeting. The other speakers were E. J. Ebong, D. D. Islong Uyo, Raphael Williams, Abimbola, Solomon Etuk, and E. Ekanem. In addition to these native preachers, two members of the Surulere church spoke. Each night there was a 30-minute singing class, two sermons, and a question and answer period that lasted from 15 to 30 minutes.
On October 30, Bill Hall and I went to Sapele, 350 miles to the east of Lagos. There is a congregation of about 40 members in Sapele, and small groups meet in Warri, Overside, Agbarho, and two other villages in that section. It encourages the churches much for a white missionary to visit and preach for them. In addition to visiting the churches we both preached on the streets twice each night. We would find a place where people could assemble out of the hot sun at 5:00 p. m. and then we would move to another location about 7:00. By taking two automobiles we both had public address equipment and we were able to be in different towns each night. While we were there Bro. Edet Inyang, who preaches for the Warri church, and Bro. E. Ekanem, who preaches for the Sapele church, assisted us much in the work. Over 50 people were baptized into Christ on this trip.
31 miles to the north of Sapele is Benin City--an important city in that section of Nigeria. Bro. Hall and I had planned to spend at least half of our time in Benin in an effort to establish the church of the Lord there. But after arriving in Benin we learned that living accommodations must be reserved some time in advance so it was impossible for us to stay there and preach. Then we gave consideration to driving up from Sapele each night but there is a huge river at Sapele that must be crossed and the ferry stops operating at sundown each day. So, the Lord willing, we plan to go back to Benin in February and stay two weeks. While we were in Sapele we encouraged those brethren to make an effort to start the work in Benin and if they are successful we will do what we can to strengthen the work when we go in February. But if they have not been able to begin that work we will lend our efforts in that direction.
The new congregation established in the Shomolu section of Lagos is making progress. Last Sunday morning 30 Nigerians were present. In the two months of its existence a number have been baptized into Christ from that section, but perhaps the most promising individual was converted just last week. A man in his early fifties, who has his own church building on one of the best streets in Shomolu, heard a street lecture, attended services the following Sunday, and then after several teaching sessions in our home both he and his wife were baptized for the remission of sins. The building referred to is a good metal building that will seat between 50 and 60 people and was constructed by this couple for the purpose of instructing children. He gathers neighborhood children in on Sunday afternoons and teaches them songs and stories from the Bible. Last Sunday Verna and I visited the service and we were amazed at what he had been able to do with them. Five years ago he and his wife broke away from a popular denomination and had not joined another because they had not found one they believed to be right.
The street preaching continues to be interesting and profitable. Each session is divided evenly between preaching and answering questions. Many of the things that trouble people here are about the same as in America, so many of the questions are those that you would expect to hear from a man on the street in Texas or Indiana. "Why are there so many denominations?" "Which church is right?" "Do we know that Jesus was born on December 25th?" "Is baptism sprinkling or immersion? " etc. But then conditions here raise a number of questions that are not common to America. "Why do the wicked prosper?" is often heard. "What about polygamy? Can a man be a Christian and have more than one wife?" "Is it right to take medicine?" (Often the word "medicine" is used for Ju-ju) "Can a man be a Muslim and still go to heaven?" The people here appreciate you speaking plainly and, contrary to conditions sometimes found in America, they do not consider it an insult when you call names and point out specific errors. They want the truth and the plainer you speak it the better they like it so long as you are kind in your presentation.
For the past two weeks Sewell Hall and I have had a series of classes in our house each morning from 8:30 to 12:00. Some of the Nigerian men are without employment and some have working hours that allow them to attend. We have taught classes in the Old Testament, the church, assorted Bible topics, and the book of Acts. In addition, 30 minutes have been given each day to instructing the men in making outlines and in actually making talks. Shortly after the first of the year we plan to begin classes like that at night and we hope to conduct them much of the time we are here. It is our conviction that gospel preachers in every foreign mission field should work themselves out of a "job" just as soon as is possible. This can only be done by establishing churches and encouraging them to become self-supporting and self-perpetuating. The Great Commission did not make the "missionary" a permanent fixture in a strange land, but rather he labors under the responsibility of teaching those who have been taught and baptized to "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Certainly a part of the "all things" is to go and teach and baptize.
Caneta Hall and Verna have had a class for the past three months for the ladies of the Ajegunle church in Apapa. As many as 17 women have been attending. Some weeks ago Caneta began a similar class in the Mushin church and this week Verna begins a class for the ladies of the Shomolu church. There is more difficulty in teaching women than men here. Most of them are not as well educated and thus do not understand English as well, and at the time the men learn the truth at the street lecture the women are home or on the street selling. We have found that the best way to reach the women initially is for our wives to teach them in their homes, and then they are happy to attend special classes.
Again we express appreciation to all who have made it possible for us to come, and to those who continue to support this work so that we may have the money for tracts, transportation, interpreters, etc. We will include a financial statement with this report in order to make the financial reports coincide with statements from the bank.
We continue to ask for your prayers that the Lord will deepen our concern for the souls of men and that He will bless every righteous effort in which we engage.
Truth Magazine VI: 5, pp.20-21