Today, I brought Sabrina home after she had her appendix removed on Friday at Abuja Clinics near our rental house in the capital city of Nigeria. Sabrina had been experiencing pains since Christmas Eve, and her doctor scheduled her for an appendectomy. The surgery proved successful; her stay in the clinic was normal (I’ll try to put into words one day what “normal” is in a Nigerian hospital; for now we’ll just say, customary for West Africa), but her body was going through plenty of soreness. Turning on our computer today was like having the postman show up with a bag full of “get well” cards; thank you so much for responding to our three e-mails with notes of encouragement, messages on our phone, and assurances of prayer more than ever before. Please pray that Sabrina will not have the same aches after she heals from the surgery; we will not find out if the problem was her appendix until we get some test results several days from now.
November 1st was the day our family (Sabrina, Joseph, Victoria, and I) returned to Nigeria with Brian Michael, and I resumed our Temple Baptist Institute almost immediately with six new courses. I am continuing to instruct on Saturdays at Pastor Ron Gensaw’s church, as a national pastor we trained brings a course on Tuesday (while Bro. Ron is in the U.S.). At Truth Baptist Church [pictured left], I’ve started Teaching on Preaching on Tuesdays, and New Testament Survey is being delivered by a national pastor near us on Saturdays. A great help has also been given by Miss Beth Joss [pictured right], a Christian school teacher from Ohio who has joined us for the next three months. She is giving lessons on Child Evangelism to our ladies at both Bible institutes and also helping in our Sunday schools and conducting several Bible clubs.
[Church members preparing to cook "pounded yam" for Beth when I brought her to see our village works]
Christmas and New Year’s gave me a chance to “catch up” from our travels to the U.S. as the Holidays are always a very slow time in our city. Abuja’s practical status as the working capital city of Nigeria has been less than ten years; so virtually everyone who lives in Nigeria is from a different state, and many will visit their home place during Christmastime. With fewer people in the Federal Capital Territory, our electricity is more constant, our internet is faster, and the automobile traffic is much lighter. We canceled Bible Institute for two weeks, and I had a lot of time to spend with the family and also get some extra work done. We had a special service on Christmas day with carols, the Christmas story, and some refreshments. New Year’s Eve was a chance for us to hear testimonies from our members and also share some plans and goals for a successful 2008.
Below is a letter from Mrs. Beth, who has since married and is serving with her husband Aaron, an assistant pastor at his father's church in Muskegon, Michigan:
My name is Beth Joss from Truth Baptist Church in West Salem, Ohio. I had the unique and privileged opportunity to work and serve with one of your missionary families, Pastor Mark and Sabrina Holmes, ministering in Nigeria, Africa. I just wanted to share with you how the Lord is blessing and working in the church and future seminary there.
I stayed with the Holmes family for three months and was able to see first hand how true missionary work is done. One of the most exciting aspects of the Holmes’ ministry is their Bible Institute. We were able to start a ladies’ class teaching the subject, Child Evangelism. This class taught the ladies how to teach memory verses, songs, Bible lessons, how to use puppets, and even how to make visuals. The most important lesson they learned was how to lead a child to Christ. Combined with another missionary work, we averaged around seventeen ladies. It was encouraging to see so many ladies desiring to learn how to better serve the Lord. With the help of another missionary lady, the ladies’ classes in Temple Baptist Institute have continued.
Another area of growth in the Holmes' church was their Sunday School Department. During my stay there, the Holmes were able to start three new Sunday School classes. A couple of new classes are now taught in tribal languages ministering to those who do not speak English. They are trying to start a class for three, four, and five year olds, so these little ones will have a class based on their own spiritual and academic needs.
One of the cultural problems that Pastor Holmes has to deal with is the lack of strong families. Due to poverty, it is very common for children and wives to live separately from their father and husband. Pastor Mark spends much time trying to strengthen and bring families in his church together. During my short stay there, they were able to see two families joined together.
Another area of service was Bible Clubs. I was able to work alongside of a national pastor, and together we were able to start several Bible Clubs. This is an important ministry as there are so many children in Nigeria. It is the most effective way of reaching the children of parents that attend churches that do not preach the Gospel. We were able to see many children saved through this ministry. Nyanya, the area where the Holmes' church is located, has even more children than usual. There have been three national men at Truth Baptist Church that have started Bible Clubs in which they have been very faithful.
An exciting ministry that Truth Baptist Church wants to strive to continue is a ministry to widows. There are so many widows in Nigeria due to cultural situations, and they many times have no source of income and assistance. We have strived to meet this challenge by having a meeting just for widows in which they hear the Gospel and are taught from the Bible and then presented with gifts of food.
One of my greatest surprises while I was there was when I realized that Truth Baptist Church was not even two years old yet. The Holmes are running a church that has the ministries and the strength of a much older church. I believe the secret to this is the love and trust that the Holmes give to their people. They love and trust the Nigerians, so the Nigerians in return trust and love them. The result is nationals that follow the preaching and have a great desire to serve their pastor and Lord.
As you can see, your church has made a wise decision in supporting the Holmes family and their ministry in Abuja, Nigeria. So many souls are being reached, and just as important they are getting the discipleship and training they need to serve God in return. I hope you will be as excited as I am about this ministry and the great future of it!!
Under His Wings,