The last two months of 2008 saw Truth Baptist Church add an aspect that I believe has further completed the purpose of our labor. In the middle of November, we hosted an American evangelist [Bro. Chris Stansell pictured beside a village chapel sign] who preached our first-ever Missions Conference. During the four-day meeting, a different ministry was introduced each night, and we prayed about helping to support a Nigerian missionary in Ghana, a deaf ministry near Lagos, a Bible college, and two village churches near our city. At the end of the week, our church members pledged to send to those ministries the equivalent of more than $200 per month!
Our first two deacons were ordained on the second Sunday of November. Over thirty visitors witnessed this special day for both men who have been faithful to our church since the Grand Opening 2 ½ years ago. During the missions conference, a music seminar was also held where our guest evangelist taught representatives from all four independent Baptist churches in Abuja. The month was capped off by our best-attended baby dedication yet [pictured], with five families inviting friends and relatives. The church achieved its second highest Sunday morning attendance (238 at the baby dedication) and average for a month (171 in November) since our Anniversary in May.
At Thanksgiving, our family had a wonderful time hosting a single lady missionary who is helping with a work in another city. The Christmas holidays gave us a chance to have fellowship among some Christian friends with whom we have become acquainted amid the Americans who are working in Abuja. We were invited to four different homes, one family paid for us to spend two nights in the nicest hotel in our area [kids and I pictured with the lobby Christmas tree], and another couple is sending us to a ranch area for three nights in March. It is only this year that we began to meet these dear people who have been such a blessing to our family. We also received several Christmas gifts through the mail from family, churches, and friends in the U.S.
Below is a letter from Evangelist Chris Stansell who visited us from Springfield, Tennessee.
Today I finally arrived in Abuja, the capitol of Nigeria. I have prayed for years about taking a preaching trip to this country. It has been about 40 hours since I left Nashville, Tennessee bound for the 'Dark Continent' as Livingstone referred to it. The airport was warm in temperature, but modern in facility. We had many people offer to help us. We managed a quick and painless departure toward the Holmes' residence.
I had lovely accommodations in the guest room/office of the dear Mark Holmes family. I have known Brother Holmes for about 13 years. It has been a blessing to watch him grow and serve the Lord through the years. I am very thankful for all he did to make my trip a blessing and success. Mrs. Holmes is doing a wonderful job in Nigeria. She is obviously loved and respected as the lady of the home, and "first lady" of the church. I always appreciate the sacrifice of the wives of missionaries especially when they do it without complaining. I praise the Lord for this couple.
First Sunday--Today I was picked up for transport to a local Nigerian church pastored by a Nigerian Pastor who was trained by an American Missionary. It was such a blessing. The people seemed so happy that I was with them. We were in a building that I can't really describe because of the difference in normal building practices in America, and yet the people were so very thankful for this building on property that they purchased for their church. I loved it. I also had the privilege of speaking for a baby dedication. This is a real event! We had testimonies and preaching, singing and food. After the service I was able to baptize some new converts in a river that looked as scary to me as anything you ever saw in an old Tarzan movie! Praise the Lord. I traveled back to Brother Holmes for a short afternoon, and then I met another Pastor for a different church on Sunday night. His name was Simon Peter! I love to hear the precious Nigerian Christians sing the songs of the Lord. What a day. We had people saved in both services, and many decisions.
During the trip I kept a diary of all the daily activities. I could fill a small book with events and blessings! We had the privilege of speaking in several different schools. There were many young people saved at each one. People are hungry for the Gospel-even when they don't know they are!
I was able to share the Gospel with many people while visiting and walking door to door, besides people at the services. It was amazing to see Nigerian people going soul-winning and growing in grace. I am elated at the progress Bro. Holmes has had from the Lord in training and re-producing new Christians.
Many of the days I was there I was able to meet in a Bible Institute and train dear sweet Christians in Evangelism, and leadership principles, as well as much teaching about music and singing in the Bible. I am honored being able to be a part of the teaching and training at these churches. I feel so much potential is waiting in the wings.
I must admit that one of my favorite activities was preaching at two Mission Conferences. One was for Bro. Holmes. The church people have next to nothing, yet they sweetly committed to Faith Promise mission's giving, and this brand new church took on four Missionaries to help spread the Gospel. Imagine! A church in Nigeria, Africa supporting men to start churches in villages out in the bush and even to another country—Ghana. What a blessing to see the Book-of-Acts Christianity in action.
Today I went to a little village outside of the city of Abuja. It was like stepping back in time, and out into the wilderness. Yet, we were only 15 minutes away from the bustle of city life. We crept through the terrible dirt road/trail conditions until we passed several huts to find a crude 3 room school house. They were expecting us. As dirty and dusty as everything was, the children all had on cute uniforms. The little girls and young ladies all had on skirts and tops; their manners were perfect. Even the small children were corralled in short order. We gathered around in a circle about 4-5 children deep. We were gathered under the shade of a Mango tree. It was over 100 degrees, so the shade was a blessing in that hot sun. I stood in the middle completely surrounded by the darkest faces I have ever seen—all hungry to hear what this big white man from America had to say. I excitedly sang a few songs with them. I gave away some American candy as prizes to thank them for their fabulous energetic singing. Then I opened up my Bible. I read from John chapter three. And I had the wonderful thrill of preaching the gospel to them and seeing almost all of them get saved. Amen!
The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ works everywhere in the world. People may not get saved at the same rate, but they get saved the same way. You just have to learn a little culture. Instead of, “How are you?” or, “How is the weather?” People ask about the electricity as a talking point: “How is your light? How much light have you had?” because the power is so sporadic and undependable (averaging a couple hours a day).
It's not really something I can adequately describe to you in words when I think about the villages we visited, seeing people flock out of the little huts when they hear you drive through the trail of high grass and a little bit of dirt road. The blessing of seeing the people I saw was that men of God had been there before me and started small village churches. I got to preach to them. It is quite different preaching to people that listen intently and beg you to preach rather than the almost opposite in most of the world. I met two different chiefs in villages; they were gracious. One of them had donated land on which a Missionary had built a small permanent Baptist Church building. I thought about how pleased the Lord must be at the true spreading of His gospel to the ends of the earth.
I was very tired at the end of almost three weeks. It was a great 'tired' after seeing the Lord do so much. It was humbling to have so many people genuinely convince me of their thanks and appreciation. To see the eyes of fellow believers begging me to come back is difficult to watch. I know I will see my new friends with the Lord someday. I hope to see them again here on earth as well.
Please pray for the Truth Baptist Church and Pastor Mark Holmes. There are many needs in their church as they grow and build, as well as many needs for their entire country. I am praying for laborers in their field, as well as souls for their hire. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to visit and minister first hand. It was all and more I ever hoped and prayed for.
Evangelist Chris Stansell
South Haven Baptist Church; Springfield, TN