Report From Nigeria (10)
One night I was preaching to a large and attentive crowd at the Surulere Roundabout, which is a traffic circle in one of the suburbs here. Interest was real good, but then we all heard the loud crash and crunch of a motor accident on the other side of the roundabout, and immediately about seventy-five percent of the crowd left me to go look at the accident. Some returned soon, though. Another night we were in Evans Street in Lagos with many listeners when a mob of people ran by shouting "Ola, ola, ola" (thief, thief, thief). These people cannot resist such a chance, so most of them ran after the mob until the thief was caught. On another night at Boundary Street in Ajegunle (another suburb) the crowd was unusually large and response was imminent. Then an extra zealous "Jehovah's Witness" pressed some questions too aggressively, and the crowd turned against him with such a frenzy that the meeting had to close with disappointment to us, even though it was really the friends who broke it up with their over enthusiastic opposition to the "Witness." So it goes, night after night, as we go out into the streets, preaching Christ. One never knows just what each night will bring forth. Always it is interesting, usually it is fruitful, but sometimes it is distressing.
During 1960, we went out preaching in the streets, almost every night, except for about 5 or 6 that were hindered by rain and a similar number hindered by local celebrations. More than six hundred were immersed into Christ in the year. About eight churches began assembling as a result of this work. Four more native preachers were brought into this area, in addition to the one who was here before, and three more native men have been converted and sufficiently trained to enable them to begin to do much work as interpreters and preachers. Brother Sewell Hall and family came to this place in September to join in this work, and altogether the work has been fruitful and challenging.
Actually we have only begun, for only a half-dozen of the big cities of this area have ever been touched with the pure gospel, while many, many such cities remain, with thousands of people eagerly awaiting the truth that can make them free from guilt. Right here in Lagos vicinity, the work in the suburbs has been very fruitful, but the actual city work has been slower. We really only have a toe-hold in the main cities of Lagos and Ibadan, but we do hope that the coming year will enable those two huge centers to be strengthened very much, as well as affording chance for reaching into other places also.
Right now we are attempting to erect our first building in this region. The Ajegunle church, where D. D. Isong Uyo, one of the native preachers, works, has grown sufficiently that they need permanent quarters badly. It has been very difficult to secure land in this crowded area, and the building will be expensive according to native standards. Perhaps a total of $1400.00 or $1500.00 will be needed to get a building and though this seems very little to readers of this report, it is a very high sum for these people, most of whom live on a salary of less than $25.00 per month even here in the city. Surulere church, where Raphael Williams is the local preacher, also will need a building before too long, and even Iagos, where E. J. Ebong preaches regularly, a permanent location will probably be necessary to expedite the teaching of the word most significantly. We pray these goals may soon be reached, and if we can get buildings in those three places, plus one in Ibadan, where Solomon Etuk is the native preacher, and where E. O. Abimbola also labors, then the work of these city churches will have been expedited significantly, and they will not be hindered by the likelihood of being evicted. Quarters that are rented are usually very dirty, noisy and sometimes disturbed by other occupants, children and neighbors.
We acknowledge with much gratitude the following gifts that have helped very much in this work in the last two months: Mrs. Alma Sorrell, St. James, Mo., $22.40; Miles church, St. James, Mo., $50.00; Mrs. E. G. Parker, Hendersonville, N. C., $25.00; Mrs. Carrie Martin, Madison, Ill., $25.00; Antioch church, Charlotte, Tenn., $80.00; Mrs. Dillie Stone, Cicero, Ill., $10.00; Mrs. S. M. Gourley, Milwaukee, Wisc., $20.00; T. B. Waldrip, Saltilo, Miss., $29.53; Total -$261.93. Spent since last report: Bank charges (exchange of Money), $4.45; Expenses and some salary for interpreters and native preachers who have no regular support-$99.95; Travel expenses and food and lodging for preachers from distance who came for special two-weeks study-$22.40; Expenses for myself for preaching trips to Ibadan and Abeokuta-$27.00; Total-$153.80. Balance for two months-$108.13. At last report, Dec. 8, the deficit for this fund was $186.53, therefore the present deficit is $78.40, minus $8.27 for mistake in former report (figuring exchange from dollars to pounds, shillings, etc.), leaving an actual deficit of $70.13 today. Our regular support is still provided by Thomas Blvd. church, Port Arthur Texas, and James Finney sends $50.00 per month to help with motor expenses.
Some brethren have wondered why gospel preachers who come to Nigeria only stay two years, while it is known that denominational missionaries stay much longer. Let us compare: Most denominational missionaries come for three or four years, but each year they take off about a month for "holiday" (what we would call vacation), perhaps Jos, in the higher climate. Some brethren have taken vacations in such places, and I think it is justifiable but we have taken none at all. Furthermore, most denominational missionaries settle in a "mission," quietly living there while they manage a school and teach a few classes. One such preacher we know here in the city, whose wife has an excellent job (they have no children), lives in an air-conditioned apartment and teaches four Bible classes per week! One day I went to see him about a business matter. It was ten A. M. but the servant said he was sleeping. I asked if that was usual, and he indicated it is, for "The Master had to teach a class until ten o'clock last night." Business firms have investigated thoroughly, and say that after eighteen months in this climate, European people become almost worthless in their work. Almost all companies require their people to go back to their homelands after 11/2 or 2 years. Then after some time there they may return. It is true that one could retire to some quiet "mission station" and live several years there without significant harm to his health, but if he enters into the work with the vigor and enthusiasm that has characterized the efforts of most of the brethren who have come here, then two years may be enough (several brethren have stayed much less than the intended two years). Some people react more unfavorably to the climate than others, and some are driven out of here by the psychological problems that develop out of the habits, morals and customs of the people here and out of the complete change in living conditions.
Actually my observation is that denominational missionaries do very little preaching. They teach a few classes but seldom go out into the highways and byways to wrestle with the minds of men in the markets and street corners. One group that teaches sinners almost exactly the same thing we teach them, has been here several years, with one American all the time and two much of the time, and yet they have baptized far less than we have in one year and their assemblies have far less than those we have already started. Why? It is not because we are superior preachers, but it is because We Do Preach and They Don't - very much. Paul said the "gospel is the power . ." and in this land there is just one thing needed more-and that is more preaching and teaching! Many nights now my body says "stay home tonight," but my conscience says "Go preach." Sometimes, after preaching nearly an hour (dressed in cotton pants, sport shirt, no tie and no coat) and when my undershirt is wet with sweat and more perspiration runs down my back, when ants crawl up my legs, bugs fly in my face and my voice crackles out, "Are there any questions?", I almost hope there won't be any so I can hurry home and bathe and go to bed. But there always are questions, and after another hour of wrestling with them, we may end up going to the ocean to baptize, and when I get home I say, "I'm too tired to bathe," but Alice insists, "The water is ready, get right in there." Finally when we crawl under the mosquito net for the night, we often think and talk of the activities of the day - of its problems, its disappointments and its joys-and we can never fail to marvel at the receptiveness of these people and to be truly grateful that we have had this privilege of sharing the pure gospel of Christ with so many honest souls. Likewise, we always give thanks to God for the abundant help we receive from America, and we are happy to know that you brethren there pray for us, and that you truly share in the joys and privileges of this fruitful work.
Truth Magazine, V:7; pp. 22-24