By Billy Moore
The phone was ringing. When I heard the voice on the other end I knew immediately it was a Nigerian for I have had a few calls from friends there. But this was a Nigerian friend, Sam Essiet, who lives in Patterson, NJ, who has talked with me several times in the past year or two regarding our mutual friends in Nigeria. He is from Uyo, Nigeria and his father, S.J. Essiet is a gospel preacher in that area. After greeting me, he said, “Brother Moore, I have sad news for you today: E.J. Ebong died earlier today!” For a while I could hardly talk. The thought E.J. Ebong is dead was overwhelming. It was Saturday, January 4, 1997. Just the day before I had received my last letter from “Ebong,” as friends called him, a letter dated December 9, containing the remaining seven names of men who shall be attending the Preacher Training Classes in 1997. About a month ago he had sent the names of the other 15 men who will be in those classes.
January 7, my dear friend Etim Abidiak, wrote:
E.J. Ebong is dead. His body is lying in his bedroom under embalmment in Number 9 Ebong Street, Uyo. He breathed last 4:00 a.m. Thursday the second day of this month of January 1997. His family members sent special message of his death to me. I have come down, I have seen his dead body and so I am reporting that brother E.J. Ebong, the man of God, the gentlemen, the teacher of the truth, the defender of the gospel, my teacher, my brother, my friend, is dead.
January 27 Sam Essiet had talked with the Ebong family and learned that the funeral has been set for February 8th. More on this later.
Since that phone call so many thoughts and memories of “Ebong” have come to mind, going back for nearly 24 years. Physically, “Ebong” was a tall, slender, strikingly hand-some, impressive man; son of Chief John and Madam Jannie Ebong. Spiritually, “Ebong” was a giant of a man! In my judgment he does not have an equal among the brethren in Nigeria. Nobody can ever take his place! Few men have ever had the tremendous wide-spread influence of “Ebong,” and most could not stand up under the great pressure of such a schedule, and so many brethren coming to him, de-pending upon him, looking to him for leadership and advice. Not that he sought such, but that his knowledge and abilities led him to this roll.
In 1985, by a special request of faithful brethren everywhere he went, Ebong wrote the History of The Church of Christ in Nigeria During The Second Generation. The church was established in Nigeria in 1948, when C.A.O. Essien learned the truth via Bible Correspondence Course and was baptized into Christ. Ebong wrote “Brother Essien was only an instrument in God’s hand to start that very church which was in existence many hundreds of years ago. I knew C.A.O. Essien as far back as 1950. A friend, and a fellow teacher with me in the Oua Iboe Mission School told me about him then I was moved to see him. I found him through the direction of the friend and enjoyed discussing many Bible lessons with him” (Ibid., 13). I do not know the date of Ebong’s baptism, but it was not long after that meeting with Essien.
For the past 24 years Ebong has been a part of the 15 Paul Bassey Street church in Uyo, Nigeria. Back in 1985, N.J. Ekanem wrote of Ebong: “He has a fervent zeal for the Gospel work than anything else. Bro. Ebong was converted from Qua Iboe Church. He attended Ukpom Bible Training College 1954-55 and thereafter worked with all Christian Schools in the then Eastern Region of Nigeria 1956-57 be-fore proceeding to Abakaliki township 1958-59” (Ibid., 11)
Churches Planted In Western Nigeria
“In 1959, June 30, bother Leslie Diestelkamp arrived in Nigeria to join in the work. He spent a few months in preaching both in local congregations and in villages in the then South Eastern State of Nigeria. As he could not be tied down teaching in Ukpom Bible College, he decided to move westwards. He desired that some capable men be chosen for him for the work, of which brethren D.D. Isong-Uyo, E.J. Ebong and Raphael Williams were recommended by brother Wendell Broom” (Ibid., 24). Brother Diestelkamp and these three men established the first churches in Lagos, the Capitol City of Nigeria. Later, two preachers, E. Ekanem and Solomon Etuk, from the east came to help in establishing churches in other western cities. These were five outstanding men of great courage and unwavering faith, who under the teaching and influence of Leslie Diestelkamp established many churches in the great cities of Western Nigeria.
Ebong and his family lived in the city of Lagos from late 1959 to 1973, when after the death of E. Ekanem, who had returned to Uyo, he moved his family to # 9 Ebong Street, Uyo, Nigeria, where he lived the rest of his life.
My First Meeting With E.J. Ebong
It was 3:35 a.m. when the plane set down at the Lagos airport. My good friend and brother Bob West (Robert H.) and I were so excited. We had left Kansas City on the 23rd en route for Nigeria and a “six-week” preaching trip, the first of its kind, for E.J. Ebong and Ezekiel Akenyemi, with the help of many brethren had arranged a schedule for us that would take us to many different places where we would be teaching classes daily 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (many times much longer) with the preachers of those areas, studying with a total of 185 preachers during those six weeks.
We were met at the airport by E.J. Ebong, James Majek, two of Ebong’s sons, and Ezekiel, another preacher of that area. These men had been there since the preceding day, as our flight had been delayed and our telegrams to them had not reached them, but they had stayed through the long hours to greet us and welcome us to Nigeria. Later, after a shower and a couple of hours rest, James Majek and Ezekiel Akinyemi took us to the home of E.J. Ebong. Brethren in the U.S. would have to see the crowded streets, the conditions surrounding the place where Ebong and his family lived, and to know of the beautiful country surrounding Uyo, where they had come from, to appreciate the sacrifice being made by this man and his family in order to preach the gospel to those of that huge city.
Ezekiel and his wife, Eunice, drove Bob and me across the country from Lagos to Uyo, an all day trip. Ebong had gone back there to be with us in our first week with the first classes at Ntan Ikere, home of E. Ekanem. The second series was in Uyo, and Ebong sat through many of those sessions too. After the last day of classes with the preachers, I was invited to preach in the street and had an unforgettable experience: two preachers of God’s Church Denomination stopped to listen, afterward one of them began asking questions and later both these men went with us for private studies back in our room.
Looking at log book I kept of that trip: “We took the two men to our room and kept Ezekiel’s car with us. At 8:00 we sat down to study, using James Cope’s tract “The One True Church.” We went through the points. About midnight the men said they were ready to be baptized into the body of Christ. Bob went for E.J. Ebong and E.A. Ufot. Upon their return we went to the stream and at 1:00 that morning we baptized them into Christ.” Those two were: Etim Abidiak and Johnson Obot. Abidiak was the District Overseer in God’s Church in that section of Nigeria. He was the “head man” in charge of a district convention in progress in Uyo that week. He and his friend were going into town to get something, when they passed by our little meeting and saw a “white man” preaching. He told his friend, “Let’s stop and put this white man to shame.”
At 7:00 that morning we went by Abibiak’s house, for he wanted to accompany us to AbA where we began our next series of classes. E.J. Ebong and E. Ekanem were there to encourage us and all the preachers from the Aba area who had gathered. We talked with Ebong about studying with Abidiak and Johnson, which he, E.A. Ufot and brother A.E. Ituen did. Actually, that was the first year of the Preacher Training classes that Ebong had arranged and helped to teach in the Uyo area. This became an annual thing classes several hours a day, five days a week, for six months. He had already arranged the Preacher Training Classes for 1997 and my last two letters from him were about the 22 men who have been accepted to study in these classes. For all of these years we have helped raise support for the men in these classes, a thing for which brother Ebong was most grateful. The book, A Study Of Authority, which we had written in 1971, and which by request we had taught in all those classes with the preachers, brother Ebong asked to print in the Efik language. Such was granted and he translated that book into his native tongue, along with two other Bible study books, Unity In The Local Church and True Worship.
We returned to Nigeria in 1976, at the invitation of Ebong, Akinyemi, and Majek. This time Bob West was unable to go, and my good friend of many years, Lowell Blasingame, accompanied me. I knew he would love that work and the Nigerian people. And I was right. (Lowell made four more trips to Nigeria, and was a dear friend of E.J. Ebong.)
We arrived in Uyo January 19, and were taken to Ebong’s house. There we were welcomed by Ebong, Etim Abidiak, S.H. Equere, and E.A. Ufot, and where we enjoyed a delicious meal. From January 20 to 31 we stayed at Ebong’s house. He and his family were up at 4:30 each morning and at the 5:00 prayer meeting Lowell and I accompanied them several times.
My Last Time To See Ebong
My last time to see Ebong was at the close of the meetings in Uyo. It was January 31,1976. Up at 4:30, prayer meeting at Uyo Town building, Ebong went with us to “chop” that morning and when we returned to his house many preachers had gathered to bid us goodbye. I told them “we may never see you again in this life,” and saying goodbye was sad. From my “log book” of the trip: “The preachers presented us with gifts: a carving of a dove (symbol of peace and love), a leather book cover, and a walking stick with native carving, saying `when you get old and have to walk with a stick, remember us.’ Saying farewell was a heart touching moment. These men really appreciate what we do among them and for them. Then I shook hands and said goodbye to each of them, going around the room. I will long remember the day.” In the intervening 21 years Ebong and I have corresponded on a monthly basis. He has headed up the annual “Preachers Training Program.” He was a most humble man, so grateful to be a part of the church of our Lord and to be able to preach the gospel to others and to train men, who continue to preach the word.
Heaven only knows how many hundreds and thousands of souls he has taught. How we thrilled when we heard him tell of the scene when over a thousand souls were baptized in one day! He was there! We shall never forget him! When we “get old and have to walk with a stick” we shall indeed remember E.J. Ebong and the other grand soldiers of the cross with whom we worked in Nigeria, West Africa. May his soul rest in peace, comforted in Abraham’s bosom, until that great and glorious day of the coming of our Lord! And may we be together in that heavenly kingdom!
Ebong Family In Distress
Today, January 27, I had a call from Sam Essiet, of New Jersey, who talked with the Ebong family this morning and learned that the funeral has been set for February 8. Brother Essiet explained that because of the “tradition” in Nigeria, Ebong’s family will be in a very great financial need. Ebong was a very well known and very much liked man. Hundreds and thousands will visit the family for the funeral and their custom is this: the family is expected to entertain visitors. The cost of the funeral is so great, because of inflation in Nigeria. Brother Essiet estimated the total cost to be $3,000 to $4,000, which the family does not have. Emmanuel, a son who preaches in Lagos, Nigeria, was going to sell his car in order to pay for all this, but Essiet and others dissuaded him, for this would greatly hinder his work in Lagos.
Ebong was known to many brethren in the U.S. This is the time when all of us who knew and loved him and his work can come to the aid of his family. If you want to help with this, you may send a check to E.J. Ebong, c/o Billy Moore, Rt. 1, Box 237, Adrian, MO 64720 and it will be deposited into his account in a Butler, MO bank.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 7 p. 7-9
April 3, 1997