THIRD BENUE MISSION TRIP 17TH JUNE – 1ST JULY 2009
Brother Amos has already briefly shared with you about the ministry at Otukpo and for that reason I won’t dwell much on it again. However, I wish to add that during the said prayer and fasting meeting, I was privileged to share the Word of God with the participants. A number of church leaders were present as issues about the church of Jesus Christ and the true Christian worship were addressed. Prof. Hight wished to read some of bro. Steve’s publications which are currently out of print here in Nigeria. The time was indeed refreshing and edifying.
My ministry at Iga [Editor: This is brother Solomon’s village] on the 18th was very brief. It was to deliver the contributed funds for the sinking of the well for bro. Solomon and his neighbors. [Editor: This was mentioned in one of Yinnkah’s previous updates. Each year there is an outbreak of Cholera in this area due to unsanitary stream water]. The following morning bro Solomon led me to a blind elderly brother whom I encouraged in the Word of God before heading for Otukpo that same day.
Preaching Of The Gospel At Ugbobi Villiage 24th – 29th June, 2009
Ugbobi villiage is about 30km from Iga-Okpaya. The long trip on motor bike was a reflective one for me with vast farm lands [Editor: These are non-mechanized hand-tilled plots] on both sides of our narrow unsmooth path full of gallops [large potholes]. It amazed me how large the earth is and how populated even our part of the world is.
The love and compassion of God for humanity was impressed on me. Black and white, young or old, male or female, rich or poor; the Lord sees in us souls with the common and most important need of salvation through the foolishness of preaching. The gospel of Christ must be preached, and how readily the poor and the poor in spirit receive the glad tidings.
My first day and evening at the village was met with an oppressed brother who affirmed his faith in Christ when I asked him. Though he had just completed his mud house, Joseph was an unhappy man. His wife and four children had deserted him for fear of the witches and wizards troubling the village. Even bro Amos’ daughter, Oiodu, confirmed this dread in the heart of the villagers. Many of their infants and children die and their strong belief is that the witches are responsible.
This young man wanted me to pray for him for protection but, without denying the power of believing prayer, I encouraged him with the truth that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matt.28:18). I knew in my heart that the truth of the gospel could set these people free (Jn.8:32); and to the power of this truth I directed his heart.
The Lord also helped me to remember that whatever problems and fears may exist, they are only symptoms of SIN. Sin is the real problem, not the witches, he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him (1 Jn.5:18). For the believer, Our Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4).
With the countless problems and ordeals we all struggle with, Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary was that She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Sin is at the root of man’s problems and for these villagers I knew the gospel must be preached for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom.1:16).
My first public preaching session was on the following night. The meeting had to be scheduled from 8pm to 10pm because of the business of the villagers’ planting season. Everyone, male and female, young and old, has a farm. Some men among them don’t even provide for their family from their farm profit. Wives, mothers, and their grown up children have to take care of themselves! Bro Amos had gone round the village to inform them of the meeting as soon as we arrived on the 24th. Ugbobi is his home village and he is well known and honored among them.
The Lord laid on my heart the burden of “The Outcry Against Ugbobi”. And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth” (Gen. 4:10-12). From this text I pointed out to the people the judgment of God coming upon them, their land and the works of their hands because of their sins and hatred against one another. For every act of sin against our neighbor, there is an outcry to the Lord and He is always a witness (Mal.2:14).
Both the wicked acts and the thoughts and intentions of man’s heart in the days of Noah the Lord saw … He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth (Gen.6:16-7). And when man was building himself Babel to make himself a name in defiance of the purpose of God, the Lord came down to see the rebellious work of his hands (Gen.11:5). And what was the end? The Lord inflicted them with confusion and division (vv.7,8).
Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit (Ezek. 16:49,50). But before the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens (Gen.19:24), He had said: the outcry against it … has come to Me… I will go down now and see… (Gen. 18:21).
There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account (Heb.4:13). His eyes are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Prov.15:3). It’s only a matter of time before His judgment falls for the iniquity of the Amorites (‘Ugbobites’) is not yet complete (Gen.15:16). But before His unbearable judgment, you had better be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God. Yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? (Jonah 3:8-9).
This was my introductory message to the villagers for the first two nights. About fifty people gathered in the Methodist auditorium the first day. The promptness and attendance on the second day was poor as the village started to mourn the death of an elderly woman at the early hours of the day. Some may have thought: “Has God come to destroy us?!” But I was not discouraged, nor did I fail to declare the whole counsel of God to those that turned up; how He relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon ( Nineveh ) when HE saw their works, that they turned from their evil way (Jonah 3:10).
The third night of the meeting witnessed a better turn out than the previous. This time Fabian, a new disciple (whom I met during the Otukpo meeting) had joined us on his own accord. He willingly took over the interpretation from ‘old’ bro Amos. It was a blessing to have him with us and for the rest of the sessions and interpret for me.
This night, I commenced a thorough teaching on the Gospel in its four aspects – The problem, solution, response and the result. The night was spent briefly teaching on the problem: God is holy, man is sinful & the reality of hell. I laid much emphasis on man’s sinfulness that all may be aware of their depravity; and with the call to repentance, the meeting was closed.
The teaching in the Gospel would be continued on the next day from 3-6pm and 9-12pm. The pastor of the Methodist Church was present this time, and after the message he requested that I come to preach the Word of God the next morning during their Sunday service. He would have to be officiating in another village parish by then but he assured me his associate would be present to receive me and officially introduce me to the people.
[Editor: The Methodists along with other “Orthodox” denominations in West Africa regularly accomodate idolatry, immorality, drunkenness, and polygamy within their ranks while demanding money and providing little or any biblical teaching]
Sunday Service At Methodist Church Ugbogi (28th June ’09)
The service started at 9am. It was a typical Sunday with everyone in his/her best. About a hundred people congregated in the hall this beautiful morning. The associate pastor was seated on the elevated ‘altar’ while the ‘laity’ occupied the opposite wooden pews. Everyone knew I was a stranger, and that I couldn’t deny by my obvious inability to participate in the Idoma singing and back-breaking dances.
The pastor invited me to the ‘high table’ but I gently turned down the offer, assuring him I was comfortable on the front right pew before him. After all the Sunday routine he introduced me as a missionary all the way from Ibadan. (He interpreted his introduction in English for my sake). I stood up to greet the people ‘Mmochi. Ochebe?’ (Good morning. How was the night?). The chuckles that followed told me I needed to brush up my accent. It was a pleasant introduction, but my heart couldn’t wait to preach the gospel to these “sinners in Zion.”
It was “offering time”, and the pastor exhorted the people to give. This was mainly in Idoma, but at a point he interpreted a statement wherein he exclaimed, “God is not pleased with your N5 offerings!” [Editor: N5 is five Naira, about 4 cents]. He was rebuking the people for dropping such a small denomination at all! My heart was grieved. I believe that for many of these folks, N5 could be their widows’ mite.
Right at that point I knew where I was to start my sermon; and as soon as I was called upon to preach I directed the congregation to the teaching of our Lord Jesus in Mark 12:41-44. In the spiritual economy, though the widow put in two mites compared to the big bills of the rich, Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she has, her whole livelihood.
That was Christ’s evaluation. I made it clear to those poor folks that God is after the quality or attitude of their hearts towards Him when they give and not just after the quantity. “A man’s N5 may be his best” I preached to the congregation; so let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
The gladdened congregation nodded in approval, and the pastor himself gave a loud convicted “Yes!” to the brief teaching. This atmosphere launched me into the main message entitled: Jesus: the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25-26), interpreted by a brother and member of the church. Bro Amos and Fabian visited other church meetings as we had previously agreed upon.
The village was still in a mourning mood for the death of the elderly woman who was buried the previous day. The reality of death was still looming. Against this backdrop the Lord inspired me to present Christ to them as the only bridge between death and life. For all who believe in Him, physical death is only a passage to life; they have the hope of resurrection (Jn. 2:21; 6:39,40,44 cf. I Thess. 4:16,17; I Cor. 15:50-57) to then ever be with the Lord while the sinners will be raised to condemnation (Jn.5:29 cf. Rom.8:1) and eternal destruction in the lake of fire(Rev.20:11-15;21:8, Ps.9:17).
However, every man has the privilege of avoiding the latter, the Lord says, He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live (Jn.11:25); but how can one believe, turning to Christ by faith, without first repenting from sin? Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted and so that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the LORD (Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2:38; Lk. 13:3,5). We must repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance (Acts 26:20).
True faith or conversion is known only in a repentant life. God forbids that we continue in sin that grace may abound (Rom.6:1). Outward identification with the church does not guarantee salvation. Let sinners In Zion be afraid for the Lord our God is a consuming fire. It’s only the righteous that can dwell with Him in His beauty (Read Isa. 33:14-17; Deut. 4:24).
Therefore, in conclusion, having set before them Life and death, (Read Deut.30:15, 19-20) resurrection of life and resurrection of condemnation, I couldn’t withhold the tears in persuading them to choose Christ Who alone is the Resurrection and the Life. The repentant prayer session that followed assured my spirit some indeed believed. The Sunday meeting was ended about 1pm, shortly after the congregation was notified of the two sessions of teaching on the Gospel at 3-6pm & 9am.
An elderly gray-haired man approached me and thanked me for the teachings, especially, that on giving as he complained that all their pastors are after is their pockets. “We don’t hear this kind of message” was his lament in English. Please brethren pray that the Lord will raise true shepherds for His flock. We are four months behind! Look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest (Jn..4:35).
The same day would be my last with them before returning to Otukpo. So, after about an hour of rest, brother Amos, Fabian and I left our base of bro Amos’ family compound, to attend to the ministry of the Gospel. It was in the same Methodist hall. The ‘lay leader’ was highly influential in allowing us its use. The meeting started at the scheduled hour (3pm) with prayers and spiritual songs led by bro. Amos.
I started to teach some thirty minutes later with Fabian by my side to interpret with his youthful zeal. The auditorium was almost full as I continued my teaching on the Gospel. Having reviewed man’s sinfulness, I proceeded to expound on God’s holiness, the reality of hell, Christ as God’s solution to man’s sin-problem, and the expected response to the gospel call.
The call to repentance was again laid as the foundation before they could turn to Christ in simple faith. The demons believe but lack repentance (Jas.2:1 cf. Jn.2:23-25) and even Judas followed the Lord but he never had a repentant life (Jn.6:70;12:4-6;13:18;17:12; Mt.27:3-5). Repentance must lead to believing in and receiving Christ, confessing Him, following Him, loving Him and our submission to baptism. The meeting was closed with prayers and a favorite Idoma song:
W’ebe gi Jesus, W’ebe gi Jesus [Come to Jesus, come to Jesus]
W’ebe gi Jesus, anana! (Anana) [Come to Jesus, now now]
Anana, W’ebe gi Jesus. [Now now, come to Jesus]
W’ebe bi Jesus, anana! [Come to Jesus, now now]
Anu w’Onyoche… [He’s your Saviour…]
It was few minutes past 6pm. We had three hours to retire before the next teaching session.
The last session of our Gospel meeting commenced as planned. By 9pm bro Amos opened with prayer and led the excited congregation in indigenous spiritual songs. As perceived by the villagers, a spectacular thing happened during the afternoon session. Inspired of the Lord to read Acts 13:4-12, I publicly warned the witches of the village to repent and believe in Christ lest they be stricken with blindness by the Lord!
The congregation was alarmed by the bold declaration. Some even interjected with “Ha!” A few minutes after this pronouncement as I continued to preach, suddenly a black small object crawled out of the pew on my right and started heading towards Fabian and me! I ignored it, concentrating on the message. But the object then wiggled towards Fabian! The congregation saw it but waited to see the reaction of the preachers!
Nearing Fabian, the thing almost crawled into his trousers without his knowledge then suddenly from the congregation, a brother jumped up and out ran a few others towards Fabian and smashed the small bat under his right foot! My heart ached for the brutality, but bro Amos joined the “hunters” by picking it up to be later burnt after the meeting. According to him and others, “it was victory over the manifestation of the power of darkness!”
As the people gathered to hear the Word of God, the last night, I preached on the results of receiving the gospel: salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, cleansing, no condemnation, and power! Without deemphasizing the others, I encouraged the hearts of those who may have been saved among them that as Christians, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim.1:7).
They need no longer fear the witches and wizards because these evil ones now rather fear them! I reechoed to them the promise of our Lord Jesus who says, Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Read Lk.10:19f). I assured every believer of how the Lord God of heaven has made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side (Job 1:10); and that living a life of purity is a defense itself against the enemy (1 Jn. 5:18). However, as every believer should know, I also pointed out that we can trust and rest in the Lord’s sufficient grace when He permits a messenger of Satan to buffet us. Even in our infirmities, the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor. 12:7:9).
I can still see the brightened countenance on the smiling face of Joseph who first ushered me into Ugbobi village with all of its fears. The truth had set him free, I believe! Before our departure, two of his kids, a boy and a girl, were returned to him by the wife. She was still away though, still seeking ‘divine protection’ under a ‘prophet’ who promised to deliver their demon possessed grown daughter.
To my readers, please don’t just read this but find time to regularly pray for this family and the villagers; that the seed of God’s Word sown into the land will be blessed and caused to grow by the Lord to bring forth fruits of transformed lives. I hope to revisit them during the next non-planting dry season if the Lord wills.
I rounded off my ministry trip to Ugbobi as I returned to Otukpo in the morning hours of the 29th of June. In the evening time I fellowshipped with the brethren at Sabongiri and led them in a Bible study on self examination (2 Cor. 13:5) after which a troubled brother inquired about the Eternal Security of believers.
His question formed the basis of our three-hour Bible study the following evening. The church rejoiced at God’s marvelous grace that is greater than all our sins (Rom. 5:20). I was prayerfully sent forth as I was to return to Ibadan the next day. They hope I will be back with them to speak more on this last subject and to be a blessing in their youth conference.
Having heard the report of the Lord’s work in Ugbobi, bro Simeon would also have me visit his village on my next visit. May these things please our Lord Jesus the Head of the body, the church, who is the Beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence (Col.1:18). Amen.
P.S. Please pray for bro Titus’ visit to Benue and Enugu-Ezike. He’s presently being hindered. I’m also raising some funds to get bro Amos a new bike for the gospel work at Otukpo. The present one he’s using is as old as he is. This is without his knowledge though. It will cost some N65,ooo [about $465].