One unique church program that has seen much success recently in our church is what we simply call a “Soul Winning Day.” This year our ministry has enthusiastically started three churches that are within a 35-minute drive from our church. Now, once each month, our soul-winners [pictured loading into our church van] gather on a Saturday at 11 a.m. to help one of the new churches with their time of evangelism. The infant church, that would normally have less than five faithful people giving out tracts, will on that day have over thirty people preaching the Gospel in their area. I call on those church members who cannot normally come each Saturday to plan especially for the Soul Winning Day, and we have seen an increase in each of the three times.
As we plan for our furlough in December, we have some good reports and also a few needs. Sabrina’s appointments with her doctor here have been going well in preparation for our 4th child; and Joseph, Victoria, and Brian are already getting excited about seeing their grandparents and other relatives. I have taken some time to schedule several meetings and would be glad to set a date to visit any interested church. During our time in the U.S., I would like to present our seminary and corresponding church-planting efforts as a ministry for potential support. With those that have been trained in our ministry and/or ordained by our church, 16 churches have been started. As you pray for our family, and as many of you also financially support us regularly, would you in addition consider adding Providence Baptist College of Nigeria as a distinct ministry that you support? Also, please pray for us, as we need a cell phone and a vehicle for traveling through America with a growing family (a minivan-type that we could borrow or rent).
Finally, Dr. J. Stephen Crane, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Gulfport, Mississippi, has a publication called “The Soul Winner.” He sent me questions for an interview in January of last year that he will feature in his paper. I removed some of the questions that were repetitive with our prayer letters, but I thought you might be interested in some of the things about which he inquired:
1. After completing four years of missionary service and church planting in Nigeria, West Africa, how is the overall morale of you and your family, and are you more excited than ever? Share a few new goals for your next term on the field.We are truly very thrilled about the ministry in which God has allowed us to serve. Over the last two years, my wife has been able to call the field “home,” and, of course, young children are very flexible and adjust well. Lord willing, the start of our next term will see the continuation and growth of our Bible college (beginning its 2nd semester upon our return), the Bible Institute (2nd graduation service this year), and our church (celebrating its 4th Anniversary in May). Other goals include the starting of a full DVD correspondence program that will be made available to all Bible-believing churches, the welcoming of two new full-time missionaries (currently on deputation), and the further development of our property and buildings. Long-term goals would be the starting of a Christian school and orphanage, along with the multiplication of our church-planting efforts.
2. Have you felt from the beginning that you have a great and effectual door opened unto you? What has been that great door of influence? Who have been your adversaries?I have told people often, when trying to explain my calling, that even if I did not believe that God was calling me to Nigeria, I would be interested in the place because of the seemingly endless opportunities. Muslim dominance in many areas, a corrupt government, and clashes over oil-rich lands all threaten to limit those opportunities or even completely close the door. I believe the greatest opening is the chance to work with and improve upon the results of 30 years of independent Baptist endeavors in Nigeria.
3. What is the cost to attend your Bible college, if any, and are churches helping to underwrite these programs?It costs a student less than $115 per year to attend PBC&S, but they do have to take care of their own meals. The fees simply allow me to cover the expenses of our two teachers, a part-time secretary, and the running of our generator. Our support absorbs the upkeep of the buildings and any materials needed for now. I have plans to ask our supporting churches to prayerfully consider adding our college to their missions program as an additional ministry that they support; the way that Temple Baptist Church has helped with our institute has given us that idea. About $50 per month could support a student through his training.
4. Church buildings and parsonages in the villages: How many thus far and what is the actual cost of each one?During the time that we worked with another missionary, we helped in the building of a couple of chapels in villages. Those can be built in virtually any village for $3000 to $5000. The most recent church started was in a small town where land was bought for $1000, and it will cost around $2200 for the building, close to $1000 for church supplies, and only $1000 to allow the pastor’s wife to have a business for a sustaining income.
5. What are the daily challenges of food preparation, home schooling, currency exchange, etc. that you and your family face that we never hear about?Day-to-day life is truly the greatest challenge in Nigeria: our electricity cuts off about five times each day, there are at least three months out of the year when it is difficult to get enough water, and general safety is a constant concern. We have three sources for power: electricity, generator (diesel-powered), and battery inverter (running mainly lights and fans). All foods must be prepared “from scratch” as packaged foods are either unavailable or unbelievably expensive. We have four modes of shopping: local markets, supermarkets (imported goods), wholesalers (butter, cheese, and chicken in bulk), and out-of-town orders (fruits and vegetables). Currency exchange has not been a problem, but we are paying about twice as much for many items compared to the time we first came to the country.
6. Any impending dangers that you have encountered or at least came close to facing while living in a third-world nation? Has your life ever been in danger?When people ask me for stories of adventure, I try to inform them in the best spirit that one’s sense of adventure changes as he is living in a third world country. “Adventure” in America is an exciting activity that may put the person’s life at risk; in Nigeria, life-risking activities are a daily occurrence, so escapades are to be avoided, as they may bring you closer to death. Simple city driving is often insane, and we have experienced two fairly serious collisions (not in the last 3 ½ years though). In my first year, I subjected myself often to the public transportation system of motorcycles, taxis, and buses, and had some unbelievable experiences there; now, I drive myself or fly to meetings……another adventure altogether! I’m sure my life has been in danger at times, but we have taken measures to steer clear of as many of those situations as possible.
7. How about your family (both sides)...have you had to go through any persecution because of taking such a giant leap of faith?I certainly would not call it persecution on either side. My wife’s family and relatives have more of a Baptist background, so they are more familiar with missions. When I first went to Hyles-Anderson College in 1996, none of my family or relatives knew anything about the school, so I’ve had almost a decade-and-a-half of getting accustomed to explaining myself! Our two years of deputation helped greatly, as we made it a point to visit relatives and spend time with them; we’ve also tried to keep in touch in different ways (e-mail, blog, Facebook, phone calls on furlough). Both sides of our family have been quite supportive.
8. Speaking of faith, I was talking to my son-in-law who is the youth pastor of one of your sponsoring churches in the States, and we both concur that we have never seen as much done by a single missionary family in such a short amount of time. Could you give us in a short description of how God unlocked some doors for you to have the liberty you have enjoyed?First of all, we are honored by the high compliment; ultimately we want to exalt Him for what He has done. We must give credit to the thorough training we received from our mission board, Fundamental Baptist Missions International, on the formula for a successful deputation and on how to get started on the field. My pastor, Bro. Carr, and my wife’s home pastor, Dr. B.G. Buchanan, were instrumental in giving us good contacts for raising support; we have an amazing sending church in Gulfport. Nothing did more to put us ahead of the curve than working with a veteran. We lived with another American missionary for six months, and partnered with him in ministry for a total of two years. He taught us things that could have taken us five years or more to learn by experience, and we had great access to his ministry and trusted people. Dr. Doug Kalapp and Dr. Mike Cox taught me while at HAC that what is successful in America, God can use on the mission field also. There are many others to whom we could point for the influence they have been in our lives. I truly don’t want to think that we are accomplishing anything special or unique here in Nigeria; we are simply carrying out what we have been trained and taught to do—and it works!
9. What cultural and spiritual differences have been the biggest problems as an American in an African country, if any? It seems from the outside that you are breezing through them, if you have had barriers.If it appears that we have had not had any trouble adjusting, then that can probably be attributed to the fact that I enjoy the challenges of learning new customs, culture, and languages. I want to love people, and to do that, I must learn how they think and what is accepted. We still have a long way to go in my eyes, but it is nice to know that people in Nigeria and America have noticed our efforts.
11. Do you have an armed guard, compound, and police dog around your home, as we have heard other Americans living in Africa do? If you do, is it awkward to be on guard constantly for the peace and tranquility of your home?No armed guard, but our house does have a six foot wall around it with razor wire on top and a large iron gate at the front. We have two Labrador Retrievers and constantly lock our doors. God placed us in a fairly peaceful neighborhood these first four years, and our city is better than most in Nigeria for security. Much like the electricity problems, security and safety is just one of those things that is constantly in the back of our minds in Nigeria and is nice to somewhat forget about when we are on furlough.
12. With Nigeria being the largest populated nation in Africa, how could this help you reach the whole of Africa, both practically and spiritually?Nigerians do seem to have more of a continent-wide influence than do the citizens of some other African countries, and we do have dreams of sending missionaries out of Nigeria to other countries in Africa.
What a privilege it is to testify about God’s goodness in our life and ministry.