February 3, 2005
It finally happened! After at least six years of God’s leading, more than twenty months of deputation, countless times of telling about a country we’ve never personally seen, and two cancelled survey trips, we at last were able to visit our future mission field! The trip was short because we felt it best to leave our son with our parents, and it was grueling as we endured nine flights in as many days, yet we were able to get much accomplished during our time in Nigeria.
We saw Nigeria’s three largest cities—Lagos, Ibadan, and Abuja. During our only day in Ibadan, Bro. Mark Sigstad planned a fellowship time where I had the privilege of meeting the national pastors of the churches started by “Pastor Mark” and Bro. Robert Smith. What an excellent gathering of several great men! The next day, we took a commuter flight to Abuja where Missionary Ron Gensaw met us and gave us a tour of the city and some of the places where his church members lived. Sabrina and I were pleasantly surprised at just how accessible practically everything is that we will need for daily living; we experienced a good sampling of the capital city’s supermarkets and restaurants. Each of us took several chances to witness to the overall kind Nigerian people on this day and during soul-winning time on Saturday. On Sunday, the morning service attendance at Pilgrim’s Independent Baptist Church was 540 with 27 baptized—not bad for a work that’s less than five years old! The church is also responsible for five chapels in three cities and two villages. Bro. Gensaw gave me the honor of preaching the evening service, and I did so in some Nigerian garments hand-made for me by a lady church member(Sabrina sang in the choir that morning and an authentic outfit was given to her). The plan for Monday was to take Sabrina and me to one of the village chapels and introduce us to their people. After driving an hour outside of the city and several miles past the last access to electricity, we became surrounded by the sights that most Americans associate with all of Africa: mud-brick homes with thatched roofs, some children with bloated stomachs and little to no clothing, and tribal people speaking a language other than English. We then “trekked” over a mile in the hottest part of a dry season, sub-Saharan day to a creek where I had the excitement of baptizing eleven converts after hearing some beautiful singing by Christians in their tribal dialect. There are countless similar villages that would gladly welcome a gospel-preaching church being built in their midst. Seeing those opportunities, along with meeting so many grateful Christians who anticipate our return, has made me more excited than ever about serving in Nigeria soon. [Ron Gensaw pictured below]
We returned home from our flight yesterday, and tomorrow starts a streak of five conferences in seventeen days where we will be in at least one church service daily; our full schedule continues through the end of March. To recap the last two months, we were able to spend practically the whole time in December with family because of meetings close to home. Joseph had two birthday parties within one week and took his first steps on Christmas Eve. At Christmas, southern Mississippi and Louisiana saw glimpses of a White Christmas for the first time in over fifty years! It was a special treat to drive through a Winter Wonderland between our parents’ homes during what will probably be our last holiday with family for a long while. Snow was common-place in January as we spent three weeks with meetings in Missouri or close to it. At the end of the month, Joseph’s grandparents [Sabrina's dad pictured] were overjoyed to keep him while Sabrina and I made our survey trip to Nigeria.