July/August '17

June of next year will mark forty years since S.M.I.T.E. in Louisiana/Mississippi began its unique ministry of training independent Baptist young people in the reaching of children through Bible Clubs. Seven years ago, we carried that legacy to Nigeria, and now the movement has reached unprecedented new heights in West Africa. Starting on the last day of July, three youth camps were accomplished in four weeks, and the results were greater than we ever could have imagined, as the Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism welcomed 460 campers from 51 churches; they took part in 88 Bible Clubs and enrolled 4,760 children to hear the Gospel! I was humbled by all the work that Berean Baptist Church of Ogbomoso, Truth Baptist Church of Nyanya-Abuja, and Independent Baptist Church of Port Harcourt [pictured] put into hosting, along with an ever-growing and hardworking group of faithful staff and graduates. We are now looking forward to the prospects of expanding to Ghana next year. 

The middle of July brought an invitation to the U.S. for the unique opportunity to be the keynote at Fundamental Baptist Missions International’s Missionary Candidate School [pictured]. Fifteen years ago, Sabrina and I attended our first, and we credit much of our deputation successes to what we learned during the (at that time) two-week seminar. Joseph joined me this time around and attended his first-ever Youth Conference at First Baptist Church in Hammond, twenty-three years after my life was changed by the same meeting. We were treated superbly by FBMI and its staff, and I delighted in the chance to fellowship with veteran missionaries (as well as friends at the conference) and to teach the new candidates and those on deputation. Joseph and I took full advantage of our time by spending the two weekends (before and after our four days in Hammond) in our home areas, visiting family [pictured with my brother] and ministering in supporting churches. 

After more than fourteen years of writing to churches semi-monthly, I am finally developing a system to keep track of those who wish to only receive our updates electronically. If you would like to help me “trim down” our postal mailing list and expenses, please let me have an email address for your church or missions department so that you can receive our prayer letters by PDF attachment. In addition to email or postal mail, you can also view all our previous correspondence by way of our website (missionaryholmes.blogspot.com) or our mission board’s site (fbmi.org/holmes).  More frequent updates of our work can be accessed on our ministry Facebook page: Abuja’s Conferences & Colleges. 

[Video Clip of recent preaching......happy to be excited about salvation!]
video

May/June '17

Happy Independence Day! This update is being written as our family is preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July with another missionary couple and a family from our newer church plant; we’re thankful to have good fellowship with close friends on an American holiday. Almost three weeks of June were consumed with Soul Winning & Leadership Conferences in two places and a series of good meetings in a third region. The founder of our mission board, Dr. Mike Cox, made his eighth visit with his wife [pictured left] to our ministry for the purpose of pastors’ conferences, both at Truth Baptist Church of Nyanya [pictured above] and in Calabar (in the southeast). They were joined by one of our board’s field service coordinators, Missionary Evangelist Jim Belisle [pictured below presenting Teaching All Nations], who was on his sixth visit to Nigeria. At the end of the month, I was accompanied by new full-time missionary to Nigeria, Bro. Sonny McGuffee, to preach in two churches and hold a pastors’ fellowship in Ibadan (in the southwest). 

Four other aspects of our ministry saw victories in the last two months. Grace & Glory Baptist Chruch of Garki conducted several baptisms and welcomed new members into the fellowship. Providence Baptist College & Seminary [reunion pictured of graduates with current students during our conference] completed another semester and has several students ready to graduate who have taken staff positions, many who are working at their home church during the break, and some who are serving as interns in various churches. Temple Baptist Institute grew in attendance for its Saturday classes over the last two courses, and another national pastor is teaching during this time that I am busy with conferences and camps. Lastly, one of our multiple church plants had a dedication service during Easter and is now meeting in a new auditorium after having services under a mango tree for more than a year!

We are anticipating the new advance in our conducting of youth camps starting on the last day of July. The Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism will hold for the first time in Ogbomoso (in the southwest), the 7th Annual in Nyanya, and another in Port Harcourt (in the southeast). For two of the three camps, we need to raise about $1200 each to feed over 150 campers for five days. We are grateful for the way that many responded to the widow’s need from our last letter, and we thank you in advance for any help toward expanding our ministry of training youth to reach children all throughout Nigeria. 

[Footage from Bro. Belisle on one of his previous visits, as he traveled to preach in a village church]
video

March/April '17


An enjoyable benefit to partnering with pastors in our ministry training schools or hosting multiple pastors annually in our conferences and camps is being invited to participate in ordinations and other special days for those on whom I’ve been privileged to have a small influence. Two such occasions took place on the third and fourth Sundays of March, as I had the honor of being on the council of two ordinations in Port Harcourt [pictured] and Kubwa-Abuja. It is thrilling to see pastor friends ordain their own preachers and to have any part in the training and sending of these men.
            
Our efforts to expand the reach of the Soul Winning and Leadership Conferences continued in March, when Missionary Evangelist Don Wattenbarger of Bibles Beyond Boundaries joined me to conduct a regional meeting hosted by Missionary David Maskey at Independent Baptist Church of Port Harcourt.  Once Bro. Don and I returned to Abuja, he left the next day on a three-hour drive with several of our students to visit the Liberty Baptist Church of Gidan-Waya, which Bro. Wattenbarger’s home church helped to start.  We then enjoyed having the guest evangelist preach in both Truth and Grace & Glory churches on Sunday.
            
The two churches I am overseeing continue to mature in unique ways. On Sunday evenings in April, I presented the Series One lessons of the Foundations of My Faith discipleship material at Truth Baptist Church. There was an average of over 90 adults and teenagers in attendance for each session [pictured is the last one], and 56 completed all four lessons. We are continuing the studies for another 16 weeks during our prayer meeting service on Thursday nights. Sabrina has started a Ladies Bible Study on Saturdays for Grace & Glory Baptist Church. She is planning through the lessons for this group to grow into an outreach and discipleship group.
            
One of the great heartaches of serving in a third world country is to witness the plight of widows, especially those who were once the wife of a pastor. Considering the immense challenges these women face once their husbands pass on, it is likewise extremely encouraging to see a widow survive and excel on her own while also rearing children. One such former pastor’s wife has succeeded in building a house for her and her two children, and I would like to help her establish a business to allow her to be more self-sufficient. $2000 would provide a borehole (mechanized well) that could supply clean water for her family and also be used for selling water to the entire village where she lives. Sabrina and I would greatly appreciate any help towards this!
[Family picture on Easter Sunday above and congregational singing following auditorium expansion at Truth Baptist Church below]
video

January/February '17

On January 19th, our family returned to Nigeria after a productive time on furlough. The last two weekends in America were spent at our sending church in Gulfport and then at Sabrina’s home church in Baton Rouge where I had the privilege of preaching both Sunday evening services. Around New Year’s Day, a mini-vacation was enjoyed at a missionary resort cabin [pictured] in central Tennessee for 4 nights; it was a nice break in the midst of more than forty meetings during our five-month stay.

This particular "home- coming" back to West Africa was in many ways our best ever. The flights through London and into Abuja “were perfect” (to quote my wife), our house was immaculately cleaned and in good working order upon our arrival, and several church members had prepared welcoming gifts for our family. The first Sunday morning service at Truth Baptist Church was very encouraging, as we observed faithful men and ladies carrying on things that Sabrina and I started more than a decade ago. At Grace & Glory Baptist, we joyously took part in a baby dedication; the venue was filled to capacity with relatives, visitors, and well-wishers for the two families represented [pictured].

February 1st was the orientation for a new semester at Providence Baptist College & Seminary. We have welcomed five new students with hopes to have a commencement for ten graduates at the beginning of next year. The end of the month was highlighted by the ordination for a man who was reached by Missionary Maskey, trained at our college, and then sent out by the first church that Missionary Long began over 30 years ago; newly-ordained Royal Idakari [pictured at his graduation], along with his wife, successfully started a church in September, and they are a great testimony to the truth that one may plant, another can water, and it is definitely God who gives the increase.

Below is a letter from Missionary Evangelist Jim Belisle, a Field Service Coordinator with Fundamental Baptist Missions International
February 18, 2016
God has allowed me, for the past four years, to preach for Missionary Mark Holmes who ministers in the country of Nigeria. I had first met Brother Holmes at a conference about two years prior to preaching for him. At the time, I did not know the extent of the ministry I would observe. During my acquaintance with him these last four years I have been very impressed with what the Lord has allowed him to accomplish.  

One of our concerns as preachers in sending forth missionaries, is we want to believe that what they do during their service in an area, will last after they leave the field. We understand an area will never be reached just by the missionary. If an area is to be reached, it must be reached by the local population getting a vision for how God can use them in His work. I can say without reservation that what I have seen regarding the ministry God has allowed Brother Holmes to start, that ministry will last after he and his family leave the area. I am not talking about just the specific church that he first started or even the churches he has personally been involved in starting. I am talking about the influence he has had on the nationals. 

Brother Holmes has a remarkable ministry of influence throughout Nigeria. He has not only started churches, but he has a Bible Institute, a Bible Seminary and a Bible Correspondence School. Just recently he has added to the correspondence school, using CDs with solid doctrinal teaching. Also his church has had a part in establishing scores of churches that have national pastors who have had good solid training. He partners with a number of US ministries, (BEAMS and other similar ministries), so that his people can get good, Baptist based books and literature for their personal use. Each year, he and other preachers have a National Soul Winning and Leadership Conference. The interest has grown so much he is now having regional conferences. God is using these conferences to stir up pastors to follow the Baptist teachings of the Bible, to be soul winners and to build New Testament Baptist churches. Praise the Lord! This is why I am convinced his influence will continue long after Brother Holmes can no longer continue his ministry tin Nigeria! This ministry is a great example of a ministry being God’s ministry and not man’s ministry.   

I am always honored to be with Brother Holmes. I heartily recommend pastors to prayerfully consider having a part of this ministry. I believe your support will bring much fruit to your account.

November/December '16

November was momentous for Sabrina and me in that it was our first Thanksgiving in the U.S. in over a decade. Our family thoroughly enjoyed spending the holiday with both sets of relatives. Christmas was extra special as all three of Sabrina’s siblings with their spouses were together in her home area. The four families, including fourteen children, surprised my mother-in-law with a new piano for her rebuilt house. Please pray that her home renovation from the August flood damage will be completed soon.

It has been a great privilege for the first time on a furlough to have someone “fill in” for us. Bro. and Mrs. Sidney McGuffee [pictured with the SMITE guest preachers and our youth camp caterer] arrived towards the end of July and stayed in our home through mid-December.  At the beginning of this year, upon revealing in their home church a calling to become missionaries in Nigeria, they began raising support to minister in West Africa. Bro. McGuffee had been a supporting pastor of our ministry from the beginning, was instrumental in starting our Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism, has preached at Truth Baptist Church and in school ministries for the last five months, and ultimately wishes to work with our ministry and help with church planting and the starting of more youth camps throughout the continent. We ask you to pray for Bro. Sonny and Mrs. Dianne as they continue deputation through June of next year.


Through over 40 meetings on this furlough, it has never gotten old for me to testify of how God has blessed our family and work, especially in the area of multiplication. To date, 32 churches have been started by those who have been trained and/or ordained by our ministry.  The recent acceleration in church planting growth has been made possible by organizations such as C.O.R.E. Missions. Centered On Remote Evangelism [CORE group that visited in May pictured] works closely with missionaries to determine how they can be assisted in reaching their areas for Christ. Currently, CORE is desiring to support eight national pastors through three missionaries in Nigeria (including four with us), as well as working in fifteen other countries. Your potential support of CORE Missions directly benefits our work, so please visit www.coremissions.org for more information. 

September/October '16

This letter is being written as I am wrapping up our 10th missions conference in as many weeks. My family [children pictured] has traveled north to Michigan twice, flown west to California, and driven east to Durham, North Carolina. I am now in Brownsville, Texas, the site of our southernmost church and last multi-day meeting for our furlough. When we arrived in August, one supporting church and three dear friends in different states found out that my only suits were ruined when my mother-in-law’s house flooded, and, before the end of September, I had four new suits!

Our greatest encouragements in our considering Nigeria as a mission field and our biggest cheerleaders through our deputation were Robert [pictured] and Rhoda Smith, who spent nine years laboring in Ibadan. For over a decade now, they have served as missionaries in Barbados and have continually invited us to see their work. It finally worked out for us to spend a week in the Caribbean nation in September; I had the privilege of preaching in two churches, and Sabrina and I enjoyed a vacation with a beach house, plenty of sightseeing, and wonderful fellowship with close friends.

For the last several years, the three constant sources of insecurity in Nigeria have been the Boko Haram terrorist group in the northeast, various militant groups in the oil-producing southeast Niger Delta region, and sporadic skirmishes between Christian farmers and nomadic Muslim Fulani herdsmen. Recently, our assistant pastor, Bro. Justin Mathias, became acquainted with a group of Fulani converts who were desirous of discipleship and in need of resources to reach more of their own people.  On a Sunday morning service in October, several of these converts [pictured with Ms. Pat Hamburg and the McGuffees] were welcomed to Truth Baptist Church; they gave testimonies, sang specials, were fed by our ministry, and received an offering and promise of future support from our members.

I’m glad to share several avenues on how you can receive further updates and more easily invest in our work. Our ministry website, www.missionaryholmes.blogspot.com, has been revised with recent prayer letters, scores of pictures, and a testimony video. Also, you can message me at holmesfaith@hotmail.com if you want an email attachment of the video that we are showing to churches during our furlough or if you would like to receive our prayer letters electronically. Finally, our mission board has been working diligently to make it possible to give through the internet to each individual missionary. Please visit www.fbmi.org/give if you would like to learn more about this; find our page at www.fbmi.org/holmes. We want to take every advantage to stay in touch and partner with you in reaching the people of Nigeria. 

July/August '16

On August 16th, the Holmes family departed Nigeria for a five-month furlough. We have averaged being in America for about five months after every two years on the field. This time, as part of a 15th wedding anniversary celebration for Sabrina and me, we were able to take an extended layover in London and spend a day with the kids touring the city [pictured] and visiting missionary friends.  Please pray for our travels as we have forty meetings planned until the middle of January, including ten new churches. 

Our excitement about arriving to the U.S. was tempered by the news of mass flooding in Sabrina’s home area. On the Saturday before we left the field, my mother-in-law had to be rescued out of her place in Denham Springs (Louisiana), as waters from a nearby river reached the level of her roof.  We are thankful that her life was spared, yet prayer is greatly needed as there is much work to be done in rebuilding her house. Our sending church in Gulfport (Mississippi) generously provided a hotel room and a van for Sabrina’s mom so that she could be with us during our first weekend home; Faith Baptist made it known that they were very happy to see us (restaurant meals, gifts, and a phone were given by members), and I had the privilege of speaking there the last two Sundays of August. The other two big activities of the month were picking up a van that we have on a missionary lease from a ministry called Righteous Rides in the St. Louis area and preaching a school revival for a supporting church in the Beaumont (Texas) area.

Our last six weeks on the field were filled with activity for various ministries. In the middle of July, Evangelist Paul Schwanke [pictured with my family], visiting for his first time with plans to return in the future, preached a morning service for Grace & Glory Baptist Church and then conducted a revival meeting for Truth Baptist Church.  Our seminary students had two great days of teaching with Bro. Paul, and both churches in which our family is involved heard him gladly. Also, for the first time ever, our youth camp was conducted in two locations with Bro. Sonny McGuffee and Pastor Jared Decker. Between the two weeks in Port Harcourt [pictured right] and Abuja (with Bro. Bobby Decker joining us at Truth Baptist Church), the Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism welcomed 245 teenagers from 24 churches; they conducted 56 Bible clubs that reached nearly 3600 children, and over 1600 professed Christ as Saviour.  In the midst of all, members of Truth Baptist and Port Harcourt IBC kindly planned for surprise celebrations of my birthday and our anniversary.

C.O.R.E.

Video explaining the benefits of partnering with C.O.R.E. Missions for church planting.
For more information, and to help support one of our pastors, 
Recorded during C.O.R.E. team visit in May. Published on Sep 10, 2016: One aspect that makes CORE Missions unique is our close relationship with missionaries. Each national pastor that CORE represents has been recommended to us by a foreign missionary, with those missionaries serving as our Accountability Directors around the world.

May/June '16

[Pastor Yohanna (I had the honor to ordain him 7 years ago) meeting the pastor and greeting the church that is helping to support him through C.O.R.E. Missions]

At the end of May, we were thankful that a group from Centered On Remote Evangelism (C.O.R.E.) included our ministry in their three-country trip. The group consisted of the director, two members from C.O.R.E.’s home church, and a long-time supporting pastor. Their first few days were spent in another area of the country, exploring how C.O.R.E. will soon support several graduates of Nigeria’s first independent Baptist Bible college. Returning to Abuja, the group conducted an open house for Providence Baptist College & Seminary, where our students, church members, area pastors, and pastors supported by C.O.R.E. gathered for teaching and preaching; Pastor Jon Horton then preached our mid-week service. In June, another dear friend and supporting pastor, Bro. Warren Johnson [pictured in traditional attire with young men from our church], preached the 10th Anniversary of Truth Baptist Church. Both the C.O.R.E. group and Pastor Johnson (along with a member of his church) visited churches started by our graduates that their ministry has helped to support.


With our furlough coming up in August, I had been planning and praying for months over some changes that would strengthen the leadership at both churches where our family is involved. In the beginning of May, those plans were announced, and each congregation has been very supportive. The youth pastor at Truth Baptist Church is now at Grace & Glory Baptist; this assembly celebrated its first anniversary on May 29th with an after-service reception, welcoming Adewale Adesina [pictured with me], along with his wife, to his new position. Truth Baptist now has a new co-pastor, youth director, and properties coordinator to serve alongside our deacons and faithful assistant pastor. We believe God has been leading every step of the way with these decisions.                   



Several other activities made these months an eventful time for our various ministries. Providence Baptist College & Seminary’s semester began in mid-May with seven new students.  Our sixteen total students, along with several Truth Baptist Church members, immediately entered into an intense five-day training on children’s ministries with a national child evangelist from a neighboring state. Our seminarians have also enjoyed the open house, anniversary, revival meeting, and a Sunday ministering at Grace & Glory Baptist Church. June climaxed with me having the honor of preaching for Pastor Nicholas Wayih at the 30th Anniversary of Independent Baptist in Calabar, started by an early influence of mine, Missionary David Long.
[Pictures were taken of our family during the visit of the C.O.R.E. team]

March/April '16


 
An eventful period in our ministry included the 8th Annual Soul Winning & Leadership Conference during the last few days of March. We rejoiced in the return of both Dr Mike Cox of Victory Baptist Missions and Evangelist Don Wattenbarger of Bibles Beyond Boundaries for the fourth year in a row, and we were thrilled to welcome for the first time the pastor of our mission board, Bro. John Wilkerson [pictured below] of First Baptist Church in Hammond.  Leading up to Easter Sunday, both of our Abuja churches had special programs that boosted the attendances, including two appreciation days for teachers [pictured above] and Road Safety Corps (our version of the highway patrol).  In April, I joined Evangelist Jim Belisle to conduct a revival meeting [flier included] at Victory Independent Baptist in Ibadan, a church in which I preached during the first month that we were on the field.
Whenever local, state, or federal elections are held, for security reasons, no one is allowed on the roads from morning until about 4 p.m., unless the person is walking to his nearby polling station. Such a time arrived on the first Saturday in April, the week after our pastors’ conference. So, on Friday, we took advantage of a half-off weekend rate at our favorite hotel, requested a late Saturday checkout, and spent the “limited movement” day enjoying some family time.

As our update is being written in the month of May, this time period is always special for me personally, for within just a few upcoming weeks of each other, I get to celebrate the following milestones: 27 years since the day of my salvation, 22 years for preaching, 14 years being approved to serve as a missionary with FBMI, 11 years on the field, 10 years at Truth Baptist and one year in Grace & Glory Baptist (the two churches in which our family is involved).  My desire is to say that all of this is “to be continued”!

One of the most impressive works started by our graduates is the Salvation Baptist Church of Luvu (pronounced “loo-voo”).  This is actually a third-generation church and has become a great example to our current ministry students; though the pastor (Timothy Gideon) was trained in our institute, his sending pastor is one of our earlier graduates.  While still a student, Timothy held Bible studies in various homes for several months, until someone in the area allowed those attending to use his land for the starting of a church. The members banded together to raise a temporary structure [pictured on anniversary service]; in just two years, they have had several Sundays of over 100 in attendance, and Pastor Timothy has started a Bible institute, a Christian day school, and a needed ministry to Muslim Fulani (pronounced “foo-lah-nee”) people.  The membership now would like to build a more permanent auditorium, and I would love to assist them by helping them purchase a plot of land for $2000. Would you prayerfully consider sending an offering to be a blessing to this growing congregation?

January/February '16

The first two months of 2016 brought forth another important milestone for our ministry, as Providence Baptist College & Seminary celebrated its second commencement on the last Saturday of January with fourteen seminarians [pictured] receiving their degree, another nine students completing their diploma through Temple Baptist Institute, and the first-ever awarding of a certificate from Revivals Christian Correspondence College. We were honored to host the pastor of Independent Baptist Church Calabar, Bro. Nicholas Wayih [pictured], as our guest preacher for the special weekend, and I am looking forward to preaching their church’s 30th Anniversary service in June.  Of the 24 graduates, most are already laborers and pastors in various locations, and we are trusting God to use all of them in ministry service and church planting in the near future.  Please pray with our ministry as the next seminary semester will begin in May, and the institute has already resumed on Saturdays with 16 new students!

By the time we leave for our furlough in mid-August of this year, with God’s help, we will have conducted nine conferences in twelve months! Our first two regional Soul Winning & Leadership Conferences concluded in September of last year [pastors and wives of the Port Harcourt conference pictured], with the 8th Annual national meeting scheduled for the end of March this year. In the two churches where our family serves, we hosted missions conferences in November 2015, and we are planning Spirit Renewal Meetings (multi-day revival) for both congregations in July 2016.  To top it off, we will conduct two youth camps this year for the first time ever; one will be held in Port Harcourt, and the 6th Annual SMITE (Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism) will be in Nyanya-Abuja in August. Immediately after those youth camps, we plan to be in the U.S. until mid-January 2017; please let me know if you would like for my family to visit your church during the five-month span.

I have posted details of each national and regional conference, updates on the youth camps, and information about our seminary and correspondence college on the pages of this website. Also, with our improved internet access at home, I’ve been able to post videos for the last three updates, as well as pictures for all of our prayer letters (since January 2003). Soon, I will add a traveling schedule for our furlough; my family would love to meet up with supporters and prayer partners if we pass through your area.