Mission stories: Nigeria

Mission stories

We are not afraid

Douglas P. Weiser

WELS works closely with two sister church bodies in Nigeria—All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria and Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria. Here meet two of your African brothers and learn more about the challenges and blessings of outreach in Nigeria.

Michael Nleng Egar

Michael Nleng Egar has a poignant family story. His mother went away and had children with other men. His father had children with other women. As a boy he did not “enjoy any maternal love.” It made him sad when other students’ parents visited his school mates. “I have never seen my father one-on-one. I begged God to help me get a family,” he says. “God heard my prayers and gave me my wife, Anthonia. We have three children: sons Anthony, 14, and Wisdom, 10, and our daughter, Precious, 5. When I joined All Saints Lutheran, I met Pastor Mathias Odey. He acted as my father, spiritually and physically. I love him so much.”

Egar’s spiritual life also involves a sort of rebirth. He had been born and baptized Roman Catholic. He always thought that he could be saved only by his own works. He had never really understood God’s grace. The examples he saw of living one’s faith in life were negative. “I saw men who jumped from one woman to the next. I knew many who were spiritists (animists).”

But in 2005 he found a Lutheran friend. “He told me about the grace of God. He told me everything God has done for us. It was such wonderful news! I followed my friend into a Lutheran church.” In addition, Egar eagerly witnessed his new friend’s faith in action. “He was so faithful to his wife. Both he and his wife were faithful to God.”

By 2006 Egar was confirmed a Lutheran in All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria in the Ishibori (Ogoja) congregation. There his faith continued to mature. “By the grace of God I was accepted into the preseminary in 2008,” he says.

Before deciding to become a pastor, Egar did whatever it took to make a living—driving okada, a commercial motorbike; working as a paid driver; farming; and fish farming. His wife, Anthonia, once taught school. But when Egar had to move far from home to live on the seminary campus, Anthonia cared for the children and worked on the farm in Ogoja. “She can do anything on our farm, producing garri (cassava) and the rest,” says Egar. “She’s a very fine help to me. Of course, I worked the fields too, when I was home on breaks.”

After preseminary, Egar served as an evangelist at the Ishibori congregation, working at Pastor Odey’s side. He then spent three years at the Christ the King Lutheran Seminary. Along with six classmates from All Saints and two from Christ the King, Egar graduated from the seminary on March 14, 2015. This graduation was a celebration of student blessings and achievements and yet a sad memorial for the deaths of three classmates—Happiness Eko, Samuel Eyo, and Saviour Udo—within the last two years.

A beloved instructor, Pastor Eme Umoessien, also died in a motorbike accident in January. Egar offered a prayer as the seminary students and Pastor Umoessien’s widow crowded into the mortuary. He praised the Lord and thanked him for this opportunity to honor a man they loved and to declare to the world that they are not afraid. They are not afraid because God is in charge.

Why would Egar confess that the students, the instructors, and the people of both synods in Nigeria aren’t afraid? Because adversity and death, so easy to suffer in Nigeria, are feared. People fear death because it tempts them to believe that God is not in charge. They revert to the old ways, thinking that someone has cursed the seminary or the living spirit of a dead person has decided to plague the seminary. In defiance of the animistic views of cause and effect, our fellow Christians tell themselves and the whole world, “We are not afraid.” They know that Jesus lives and has conquered death.

Egar was ordained into the ministry on March 21. All Saints President Simon Orem handed out sealed envelopes at the service. These told all existing pastors and the seven new pastors where they were assigned to serve. It meant moves for the six existing pastors. All were expected to get to their new stations by April 1. Egar was assigned to Bitiah Irruan, the easternmost and the largest congregation of All Saints.

Before the ordination service, the new pastors for All Saints were videotaped as they gowned up in the shade of the north church wall. Egar said, “This is a wonderful day! Today is the day we are put into the house of God as shepherds.”

Friday John

Friday John is a lifelong member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Nigeria. Recently he was the recipient of a personal disaster grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

What happened?

One February day in 2014, Friday John was picking up his two sons on his motorbike—a common enough practice in that area. A car hit them. John’s two sons died, and John’s right leg was badly mangled. “The doctors told me to cut it or I would die,” says John. They amputated the leg below the knee.

Massive hospital bills and unpaid rent would have cost him his business—a car paint store. The Christ the King Welfare Committee asked WELS Christian Aid and Relief for a personal disaster grant. The grant paid John’s hospital debt, caught him up with rent, and restored the operation of his shop. John said, “I was very happy for the gift from WELS Christian Aid. I thank them well, well. They did fine for me. Christ the King Lutheran Church also helped. The throne of God helped me. Without that I would not have survived.”

Ofonmbuk Okon, Christ the King’s welfare chairman, wrote, “The recipient and his wife sang a song of joy, praising God and thanking WELS for their benevolence.” In fact, John “danced” his joy, pumping his arms to bounce in his wheelchair.

Now John’s nephew runs the store. John hopes to earn or find enough cash for an artificial leg.

John’s story emphasizes how risky motorbike travel is in Nigerian traffic. That’s why WELS dedicates the motorbikes provided for the graduating pastors. The prayers ask God to bless the pastors’ use of these machines, keeping them safe in their daily travels and blessing the gospel message they carry with them. All things are in God’s hands, and the prayers of these believers ask God to protect his messengers so that Friday John’s story remains unique.

Doug Weiser is a part-time non-resident missionary for our two sister synods in Nigeria.


 

Facts:

Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria
All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria
Baptized members: 5,203
Congregations/preaching stations: 56
Missionaries: 0.5
National pastors: 26
Unique fact: Nigeria is a rich harvest field. More than 175 million people live in an area equivalent to the size of California, Oregon, Washington and part of Nevada. Half of that population is under 15 years old.

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Author: Douglas P. Weiser
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015

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