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.


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.

November/December '15

Evangelist Jim Belisle, a Field Service Coordinator for our mission board who has quickly become a dear friend to our family and work, allowed me to take advantage of his experience in ministry and flexibility of schedule to use him in November, his fourth visit to our ministry, to be a blessing to four churches [pictured preaching at a school in Ibadan].  His trip began with a revival meeting at a church in Ibadan that Missionary Mark Sigstad originally started.  Our members at Truth Baptist Church were glad to have Bro. Jim here to conduct our 8th Great Commission Meeting on the first Thursday and Friday of the month.  On November 8th, Grace & Glory Baptist Church welcomed staff members and deacons from Truth Baptist for an enjoyable combined service, where Evangelist Belisle introduced missions giving to the new church and then became the first speaker to preach a multi-day meeting for GGBC on Monday and Tuesday.  He concluded his journey by preaching for Missionary Israel Thompsons, the national pastor who teaches in our seminary. [Bro. Belisle pictured with our seminary students]
In five Saturdays spanning the middle of November through the middle of December, I stayed very busy with two weddings, two ordinations [one pictured], and an institute exam.  Around the same time, the ending of a semester at Providence Baptist College & Seminary signaled the beginning of preparations for an end-of-January commencement with almost 20 graduates of the seminary, institute, and correspondence college.  Church planting has continued successfully with one new ministry starting the building of an auditorium and one of our graduates conducting a survey trip to a nearby city, making plans for what will be the 32nd new church started with those who have been trained and/or ordained by our ministry. 

My family always enjoys the Holidays here for it truly is a break time. Our seminary and institute has several weeks off, and even our church activities become lighter as many families travel from our city to their villages for Christmas.  Traffic lessens, electricity is better, and the expectations upon me as pastor and director lighten for a while.  This year was extra special as a church member family here paid for Sabrina and me with our five to stay in a hotel for five full nights! 

Scheduling for our next furlough is under way; our family plans to be in the U.S., if the Lord will, from mid-August 2016 through mid-January 2017.  We are already slated to be in several missions conferences throughout October and November. If you would like for us to report at your church, please contact me; the easiest way is by email or Facebook messenger.
A video in an Abuja hotel from our holiday vacation last year, showing how much our family enjoys receiving packages at Christmas.

September/October '15

After eight years of hosting pastors’ conferences in Abuja, we have broken new ground as Dr. Mike Cox, the founder of our mission board, became our first American preacher to visit twice in the same year. He came in April for the national Soul-Winning & Leadership Conference and in September for the purpose of partnering with me to start two regional conferences in Port Harcourt and Ogbomoso [mealtime pictured]. The combination of three meetings has allowed us to reach 75% of the national pastors in the estimated 130 independent Baptist churches in Nigeria.  With the overall goal to see more churches planted, we have a three-fold cause being promoted in these meetings: each congregation to start missions giving, every church to involve their youth in ministry, and all pastors to train their people for the Lord's work. Ultimately, several pastors committed themselves at the end of each conference to start a new church within the next year.

I have often commented to anyone interested that the absence of malaria in our family for all these years has been a “Red Sea miracle.” Only Brian and Noah had mild cases as infants. These two months ended that “streak” as everyone except Noah and Victoria came down with the fever carried by mosquitoes (I had it twice).  Sabrina experienced some lingering effects for weeks, but we are all well again and appreciative of your prayers for continued health and strength.

The increase in our two churches these two months has been significant.  Grace & Glory had its first visitors’ campaign in October, Days of Great Harvest, that saw 23 adult visitors in three Sundays culminating on October 18 with the first baptism service for three adults.  A first-ever police appreciation day was held on October 25th at Nyanya; Truth Baptist had 317 total (all-time high Sunday morning attendance), welcoming over 30 law enforcement officers and nearly 80 total visitors [visiting officers pictured with Deacon Republic Dakum, an Inspector in the Nigerian Police Force, addressing the crowd].

Our church-planting efforts are persisting as two more new works should be started by the end of the year.  With more than thirty churches founded by our graduates, there are recurring needs where you may be able to help.  Five of our pastors could be greatly assisted with a means of transportation, especially with three of them each overseeing two or more churches. $600 is the price of a new motorcycle, the most common means of transportation, especially in villages. Please pray about helping these men to further their work.
Special greeting for the missions conference of Lighthouse Baptist in Theodore (Alabama), a supporting church for over a decade. 

July/August '15

As a result of being on furlough last year, we cancelled our 2014 youth camp, and there was concern that it would affect the momentum that had been built over four years of our Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism. Well, during the 2nd week of August, Truth Baptist Church witnessed our biggest SMITE ever [campers pictured], with over 150 campers gathering to receive teaching on how to reach children and conduct Bible Clubs.  The youth enrolled more than 1750 in the Bible Clubs and nearly 1000 were saved. For the 4th time, Pastors Sonny McGuffee and Jared Decker led the camp together, and this year we were happy to welcome youth evangelist Bobby Decker to the team.  The week ended with 14 graduating from the 4-year program.

During our travels to Bible-believing churches throughout America on deputation and furloughs, my family has been excited to meet many Nigerians, several of whom have relatives and friends in Abuja. Please help us to spread the word that we now have a growing church inside the capital city of Nigeria. Grace & Glory Baptist Church (started on May 31st) has grown to 13 families [first baptism pictured]; Missionary Israel Thompsons and I would be glad to follow-up on any contact information that we receive from Nigerians in the U.S.

Overseeing two churches has certainly been taxing to my schedule, but it is rewarding to see both works continue to grow. For the first time in its nine-year history, Truth Baptist Church had three morning services in two months with over 250 in attendance. After a successful Family Day in June, the church responded by inviting many to a Baby Dedication on July 12th [pictured], and the month was capped off successfully by our first-ever Fathers Day celebration where the "papas" gave testimonies and cooked for the whole church.

A big "thank you" to several churches and individuals who contributed to make it possible for us to put a roof on the widow's house, the need that was included in our last prayer letter. We are grateful for the way that our supporters allow us to present requests in order to help others. One reason we are able to focus on various projects that arise from time to time is because many of our church-planting graduates now receive a monthly support for their basic needs from helpful American ministries; the latest of these for us has been GOWIN (Global Outreach Worldwide Involving Nationals: harborbaptistchurch.org). It would directly assist us for you to visit their website and contribute to the national pastors they support. 

Video of one of our graduates, supported by CORE, the ministry I mentioned in our March/April letter