“For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumbline in the hand of Zerubbabel – these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the whole earth” [Zech.4:10].
God, who sees perfectly, rejoices when He encounters even one building the house of the Lord according to a divine standard that measures all from above. Here is a man, though “grown in Babylon” as his name translates, who does not employ the tactics and methods of Nimrod and Nebuchadnezzar. Rather, by His Spirit [v.6], through grace [v.7], and according to the unwavering standard of the Word of God in hand [v.10], the lampstand is erected sending forth the light of heaven in Babylonian wastelands. And thus our hearts were cheered during our three week itinerary in Nigeria as we encountered numerous faithful brethren holding their own against all odds in their contributions to extend the kingdom of heaven in their various spheres of influence.
Brother Adejobi in Lagos preaches Christ and calls upon men to live godly and upright in their every aspect of life. His good wife teaches in a school where many girls are Muslims and faithfully lives Christlike among them with many opportunities to influence them for everlasting good. Immediately upon landing after our 23 hour flight, we were taken to where they fellowship and I taught for about 2 hours including a Q&A time. The theme there was Brick for Stone: Nimrod and Christ – Christendom and the Pattern of Christ.
The following morning we headed to Ughelli in Delta State with bro Ugo and sister Nene Odimegwu. She is a lovely selfless sister, so humble and kind, though she is a medical doctor: no guile. We appreciate her so much. Bro Ugo has coordinated printing of 1000 each of my books All Things Loss and Love That Gives. Upon arriving I went immediately to a gathering of about 75 and taught for a few hours along with Q&A. Eager brethren. Following that evening session, many came to the house with questions, inquiries, seeking advice and clarification on a wide spectrum of issues. That continued until 1 AM. The following days were identical other than there were brethren waiting for me each morning by 8:00 wanting to discuss the Word. Those successive days continued until 1 or 2 or even 3 AM.
After 4 days of this we went to a rented facility for a “camp” meeting lasting 5 days. There I taught 3 or 4 times daily on the nature of the glorious church of Christ, a practical session on the nature of gospel ministry for pastors and Christian workers, and a series on Marriage and family. On the final day, Patti met separately with the ladies and shared with them many things from the Word and her wealth of godly experience over the years. Many of them came to her privately to discuss spiritual and domestic issues. It was a wonderful time. My final exhortation was taken from Zechariah 4, some of the salient points being noted above. Again, personal discussion with individuals and small groups continued well into the night, many times until 1 AM.
There in Ughelli we met 3 delightful young ladies, all university students, who sang like angels from pure spirits unto Christ whom they love. There was nothing of “performance” about them. Their stunning harmony lifted our hearts in worship and admiration of the Lord Jesus. We “adopted” them and they, us. Our hearts were immediately knit together with theirs.
There are a number of home churches developing in that area of Nigeria. We were able to meet with several of these sincere and simple brethren which cheered our hearts. The Lord also afforded the opportunity to advise several of the elders on a perplexing and delicate matter re a brother who had been stirring up strife and contention among the brethren. We looked at several passages from Tit.3, Tit.1, and I Tim.6 and they were greatly assisted to speak the truth in love to this brother. He seemingly received the correction and admonition and decided to attend the conference though initially he was adamant that such a gathering was “unbiblical.” He later confessed that he was very blessed and encouraged by attending.
Throughout this week, brothers Yinnkah, Tobi, Kunle, Morris, Oliver, and Israel were in attendance and we had many hours of profitable discussion. These are all brethren that we had discipled while living there in Nigeria who continue to serve the Lord in sincerity and truth. Bless the Lord for them and what He is using them to do in that land. We were all so very much mutually encouraged.
Our coming was also used of the Lord to settle some long standing tensions between various brethren that affected forgiveness and reconciliation. This was so precious to our hearts. Since returning I have learned from those directly involved that they met together this past Sunday and broke bread together for the first time in maybe 4 years or so. Blessed be the Lord: “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” [Ps.133:1]. And truly as the remainder of that Psalm expresses, it is the result of the anointing upon our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, with the life-giving refreshment descended from heaven. We are so glad to have had a hand in such loving reunion and to see several humbly renounce unprofitable talk and even slander. This is a triumph of grace!
From Ughelli we traveled to Igah-Okpaya in Benue State where brother Solomon whom we have known and loved for many years is faithfully continuing to serve the Lord Jesus. We met with the brethren there and taught the Word on “Who is my neighbor?” Hearts were awakened to not pass by men brutalized by sin and cast into the ditch. O how we need His oil and wine lovingly applied to our battered hearts!
The following morning we went to Otukpo, Benue State where Yinnkah now lives and serves and met up with many brethren that we had known and served with in years gone by: Dr. George, brother Amos, and brother Otis. We also met a Muslim convert, Dr. Omale, who runs a private hospital there. He has read several of my books and has been so encouraged thereby though he has been greatly disappointed in the “church.” O that there might be reality of Christlikeness in our profession and practice! How many have been stumbled by our half-hearted dullness! I was able to encourage brothers Yinnkah and Otis to even begin a simple meeting in this dear brother’s home. Lord willing that will materialize.
Also in Otukpo, we were able to reconnect with brother Gabriel Oginyi, a brother I had discipled when we lived there in Nigeria. He is a lecturer at one of the universities. We lost contact with him when he went to Lome, in Togo. There he lectured in French in that university. He is now back in Otukpo and is lecturing in French. He has begun translating one of my books into French. We are so thrilled at meeting up with him again as there is virtually no gospel testimony in the Francophone West African countries. It is a spiritual wasteland: few gospel workers and virtually no Christian literature. More about brother Gabriel in a moment.
Our vehicle that had been conveying us to these various places broke down in Otukpo and there were no parts available to repair it. So we abandoned the vehicle to brother Aaron who was driving us around [a true servant of Christ: so simple and ready to do anything to serve the brethren without complaint or thought for himself] in order for him to attend to repairs while we went on to Enugu-Ezike.
Because the car had broken down, we did not arrive as planned at 3:00 PM. Rather we traveled in a rickety van bumping over terrible roads full of treacherous “gallops” [extreme potholes] by night: a dangerous venture. We encountered no less than 30 police check points because of the increased incidents of abduction of foreigners. Often when being detained by the officers hoping to receive a bribe to allow us to pass, I spoke to them in Pidgin English using some of their local proverbs and expressions and you should have seen how their countenance changed. They would amusedly reply and we would banter back in forth for a while then they would wave us on with a smile: all without handing out a bribe.
We eventually arrived at midnight after 3 days of not bathing, brushing teeth, or changing clothes and met with 60 some brethren whom I taught until 2:30 AM. We then slept for 2 1/2 hours and I was up again at 5:00 AM with these same brethren who had slept on the floor. They were so loving and appreciative. Enugu-Ezike was the place where my death had been decreed and “prophesied” a Pentecostal “Man of God” many years ago. Now there is a loving simple fellowship of around a hundred or so who are reaching out to surrounding villages with the gospel. By 6:30 we were on the road for a 13 hour trip to Ibadan.
We arrived in Ibadan at 7:00 PM and immediately I taught for 1 1/2 hours, again with Q&A. There we met up with many brethren that we had discipled over the years as well as many new ones that the brethren have been working with themselves. I taught 3 other times over the next 2 days for several hours at a time. The teaching from 2 Tim.1 was so helpful in their re-focusing and re-kindling the gift of God within them.
Also there, we met with a dear brother, Segun Aijayi, who has quietly for many years now been encouraging small home churches in various parts of Nigeria. We had not known about each other’s work all these years, but now the Lord had our paths cross. The brethren we have been working with were so encouraged by this brother’s work and emphasis. They immediately sensed a kindred spirit and he was thrilled with the teaching I brought. I shared with him many of my books and he and the brethren in Ibadan are moving in fellowship and unity to see the testimony of Christ established and extended in that area. Brother Segun facilitates a yearly gathering in December of all the various small gatherings for their mutual encouragement. Last year 5,000 attended: all simple believers following the Pattern of Christ. How marvelous is the Lord, the Head of His body! He was so enthusiastic about my books as they express in print what he has been sharing with these brethren. He is insisting that I come and share with the next gathering in December of 2015 [amazingly, the Lord arranged that the Nigerian Embassy gave us multiple entry visas that are good for 2 years!]. So, if the Lord is pleased, we will gladly join them at that time.
Another group of brethren that we met are our age who have for about 30 years facilitating sending out Nigerian missionaries to remote tribes in Nigeria and into Francophone countries as far as Mali. They are not a ruling organization, but rather true NT practitioners, humble, godly, and stalwart. We came in contact through a brother whom Carl Mease met here in the States, brother Jack Ring, who read my book Positive Confession and believed that it would be such a useful tool for these brethren in Nigeria. It was a blessed meeting and we were able to introduce the brethren we have been working with to them as well. And this is where brother Gabriel comes in. He is translating some of my books into French and these brethren have virtually no Christian literature for their missionaries in these Francophone nations. So I provided them with brother Gabriel’s contact info and I trust this will eventuate in a significant contribution to the gospel work in those parts.
Back in Lagos now before we departed for the USA, we met up again with brother Isaac who had been with us at various parts of our trip. He is earnestly moving ahead with getting other of my books printed in Nigeria. There are a group of his associates that are solidly behind this endeavor. He is currently working on Workers Unashamed Phase I and 2 and is planning on combining them into one volume.
Other brethren are working on getting All Things Loss produced as a film and distributed throughout the land on DVD. This is a larger undertaking but brother Tola has already written the screen script from my novel and done a fine job of retaining the spiritual message of the gospel and simple NT principles of gathering. If the Lord enables this to be done, it will have profound effect upon the thinking and practice of Christianity in that land as Africans learn by what they hear and see; it will be powerful medium of communication.
A young brother, Jeremy, whom I am discipling here in Phoenix believed that the Lord would have him travel with us on this journey. He has never been to Africa before but did remarkably well and made significant life-long friends while there. As a fringe benefit, he was able to qualify for 3 credits of “internship” at the Christian university he attends here by going with us. His perspective on many things, I know, has been changed re the church and its expression here in the USA.
There is an influential brother in the Southeast of the country who holds an annual meeting for pastors and gospel workers in January. He has asked Yinnkah to come and teach at it and has invited me as well. He says that Christian leaders need to hear what I have to say. He sat in on several of my teaching sessions while we were in Delta. I have given him all of my books in print and told him to go through them carefully and then we can discuss details about whether I should come in January or not. He is inclined towards the practice of the NT Pattern of simplicity in Christ and believes that the church in Nigeria needs to hear that. Last year 4,000 attended. However, unless he is “on board,” and willing to suffer persecution for such a stance, my coming would scatter him and his ministry decidedly. So, we will wait and see what the Lord has in store.
And now, lest I weary you further, I will close with many thanks to the Lord Jesus for what He has done during this trip and is continuing to do. We are so very grateful to God for your love, prayers, and co-laboring with us all these years. His Word will not return unto Him void. This is our assurance.
Blessings with much love, Steve and Patti