The Truth Baptist Church property has taken on a new look, as pillars were added and a foundation was poured [pictured] for the second floor of the Providence Baptist College & Seminary dormitory. Information about the project can be found at fbmi.org/mpg/holmes, and we covet your prayers, as more funds are needed for the walls and roofing. Simultaneous to that, we are continuing the development of our City of Refuge project, working towards the completion of the property fencing and a kitchen and toilet building.
The month of May allowed me the first opportunity to be a part of two of the six pastors’ conferences that we have planned for this year (I missed one in February before we returned to Nigeria). Truth Baptist Church hosted the 12th Soul Winning & Leadership Conference with nearly 35 pastors attending [pastors' wives session pictured at our home], many bringing workers and preachers from their church with them. Missionary Evangelist Jim Belisle’s 10th visit to our work proved to be the most urgent one for us as he was the only invited guest preacher who was able to have a valid visa to make it out here. The Pathfinder Foundation, started by Grace & Glory Baptist Church’s co-pastor, Adewale Adesina, honored Bro. Belisle and me (along with Ms. Pat and a few former missionaries) with plaques to commemorate our years of service to Nigeria. Our mission board’s Field Service Coordinator and I then flew to Aba for the third conference to be held in that city and the first hosted by Faith Baptist Church, started by Missionary Ken Gill close to 25 years ago and pastored for nearly 15 years by a faithful national pastor and friend. We had 18 churches represented in this three-day meeting, and all three area pastors surprised me with honorary plaques and gifts of clothing from their churches.
As the seminary continues to grow and our students get more and more opportunities for evangelism and service in the local area, the need for a van has become more essential. With the favorable exchange rate recently, I believe that we could buy a very reliable 18-passenger “bus” at around $10,000. We would greatly appreciate your prayers and potential assistance towards this additional project for our schools that have now been a part of producing nearly 150 graduates who are serving all over Nigeria, West Africa.
Four days after our arrival in February, Merci Cepeda and Kristin Muldrow landed in Abuja for a nearly six-week visit. Our oldest son and daughter, Joseph and Victoria, were traveling partners with them in Louisiana on a Bible club blitz team for a few weeks last summer. Merci and Kristin conducted Bible clubs [pictured], helped in children’s church and Sunday school classes, sang specials, participated in our school ministry, brought gifts for a visit to an orphanage, and helped to fund a widows’ meeting hosted by one of our deacons. Two weeks of their trip were spent at A Place Of Hope Africa, a large orphanage home in the East.
I had imagined that adding the second floor for our seminary dormitory would be the only big project for this year, but the Lord has seen fit to put the following additional new works on our ministry plate over the last twelve months: a continuing television ministry with Christian Media International, a fully-sponsored prisoner discipleship ministry, a new day school at Truth Baptist Church, the Friends of the Deaf ministry that just celebrated its first anniversary in April, and the growth of our last church plant (Liberty Baptist of Azunu) which Truth has adopted as its own like no other new church before. We are blessed beyond imagination!
I am writing this letter having my whole family with me in Abuja. We had several delays in our return due to required tests for travel, but, thankfully, we finally arrived on February 19th. The longest furlough of our ministry was fruitful on both sides, with several goals accomplished in the U.S. and our work continuing to mature in Africa.
In 2008, when we held our first Soul-Winning & Leadership Conference (SWLC), there was no other annual multi-day pastors’ meetings of which I knew in Nigeria. In 2019, we held six SWLC’s, and they have been conducted so far in 9 different venues. We can now see that at least four churches would be determined to continue these annual meetings even if an American missionary were no longer there helping to host them. The strongest of these four is Faith Baptist in Ogbomoso, led by Missionary Pastor Timothy Ojo [pictured with his daughter at our 1st SWLC], which conducted their church anniversary and three-day Pastors & Workers Conference during the first full week of February while I was still in the U.S. Missionary Evangelist Don Wattenbarger of Bibles Beyond Boundaries contributed toward the feeding of the delegates, and our ministry made sure that all the attending preachers received boxes of Bibles and New Testaments. We are grateful for our partnership with churches like this.
We are glad to report that we received donations and purchased new motorcycles [pictured] for the three ministries mentioned in our previous prayer letter. Please pray for us as we progress through adding a second floor to our seminary dormitories. Updates for this building project can be found at fbmi.org/mpg/holmes. Thank you for your investment in prayers and finances for our work.
Thankfully, after three itinerary changes, I was able to make it back to the U.S. in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and my father-in-law’s family in Houston. The Christmas week was commemorated by a couple of get-togethers with relatives of my mother-in-law, and that weekend was a nice time to be with my mom, my brother and his wife, and our sending church. A special Sunday before Christmas was enjoyed in Maine as Sabrina and I were able to “get away” to meet the family and sending church of Caleb & Emily Christiansen, who will be working with us long-term starting at the end of next year.
Our supporters have been so kind to meet this particular need for other preachers in the past, so I feel confident in presenting it again. A pastor who recently started a third-generation church needs a motorcycle to be able to conduct an institute there, and another pastor overseeing two churches could use an “okada” for his works. Our recently formed deaf ministry has two seminary students serving fervently, and a motorbike would aide in their visitation efforts. A new quality motorcycle costs $600 and would be a great blessing to these worthy servants.
Soon, we will have the opportunity to broadcast the Gospel on television in the southwest part of Nigeria. Through a partnership with Christian Media International, a half-hour-long weekly program is being produced and aired in Ibadan. We will have more news to share soon and would appreciate your prayers for this important project.
At the end of August, I flew to Charlotte for a special meeting with West Park Baptist Church in Rockwell, North Carolina, the home church of the Ron Middleton Missions Outreach [brochure pictured below]. Evangelist Craig Bryan memorialized his missions-hearted good friend through this great ministry that is now supporting six of our national church planters, assisting an orphanage with which we partner, and kickstarting a building project over which we have been praying for years. During my weekend there, both the church and the outreach generously contributed significant funds toward putting a second floor on our Bible college dormitory. You can see details of that project at fbmi.org/mpg/holmes, and you can find out more about partnering with Evangelist Bryan for church planting around the world by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday, May 8th, my family boarded (what has been up until now) the last flight out of Abuja, arranged by the United States embassy. There were stops in Togo and Liberia and an aircraft change in Dublin, making the trip duration a full twenty-four hours. Once we arrived in Washington, D.C., a rental vehicle was arranged, and we drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for two nights. Our family was thankful to have some time to ourselves to overcome the jet lag. By Monday evening, we were safe and sound at my mother-in-law’s house in Denham Springs, Louisiana. The Lord arranged the timing for me to see my dad’s older brother on the way to Louisiana, and, just days later, I officiated his funeral [my brother and cousin pictured at the memorial service]. We were expected to stay at home for the first two weeks, and everyone is symptom-free. My family would like to relay a special thanks to friends who responded to our Facebook and email messages concerning the evacuation flight; the money was raised to pay the unexpected expenses, and Sabrina’s home church has already determined to help us with our return flight to Nigeria, hopefully in the middle of October.
Already, our family has been able to see plenty of relatives and take part in several furlough events that we had previously scheduled. We traveled to East Texas at the end of May for a missions conference in Gladewater after taking some time to visit my father-in-law (and an aunt and uncle) in Houston. I had the privilege of preaching at our sending church on the third Sunday after our arrival, and, in June, I did pulpit supply at Sabrina’s home church in Baton Rouge [family singing pictured]. Another “home” church for us is Temple Baptist in Gulfport, and, in the beginning of June, I had the opportunity to preach in their Jubilee for the first time. The month of June rounded up with our three oldest children participating in the Summer Missionary Institute for Training and Evangelism in Milldale, Louisiana [introducing the Christiansens to SMITE]. I had the honor of preaching Monday night and leading music Wednesday night at the camp that “started it all” for us (Sabrina and I officially met at SMITE in 1997; it was our first meeting on full time deputation in 2003, and we have now conducted 20 SMITE’s in Africa!).
Because there has been very little testing accomplished in Nigeria, it is uncertain how much the country has been affected by the coronavirus. Grace & Glory Baptist had not been able to meet since March 22nd, but they finally resumed Sunday morning services on June 14th. Truth Baptist never stopped holding church services, and they utilized house fellowships for those who could not logistically get through the travel restrictions to attend on the church property. One of those house fellowships (started in our deacon’s home) has recently become our newest church plant (now meeting in the chief’s palace!); please pray for the new Azunu Baptist Church. Plans are in place for our Temple Baptist Institute to resume on August 1st and for the students to return for another semester of Providence Baptist College & Seminary on September 2nd.
This letter is being written on Day 34 of a lockdown for the Federal Capital Territory (and three other states). Our family has remained healthy and safe; we are also glad that each of our children have stayed busy with homeschooling to finish up their semester by the end of April. A furlough for our family was to begin on April 28th, but we are thankful for the ways God has opened for us to minister here. We are communicating well through WhatsApp groups for both churches, and I have been posting sermons on Facebook twice weekly. With the help of my cute one-year-old, Aaron, I gave out fifty tracts and eighty bottles of water to exercisers along our street one morning. All conferences and camps were postponed or cancelled, and our SMITE’s in August will be dependent on the new school schedule once restrictions are lifted nationwide (some modifications of our particular lockdown will begin tomorrow). Our prayers are for those worldwide being affected by both the virus pandemic and the economic suppression, especially here where it has been reported that nearly half of our population, under normal conditions, live on less than a dollar per day.
Since 2001, two years before Sabrina and I started deputation, Patricia Hamburg has been faithfully serving in Nigeria. Affectionately called “Nana,” she now diligently teaches and tutors English courses in our seminary, devotedly cares for the single ladies’ class in our church, regularly participates in soul winning and visitation, and willingly conducts seminars and workshops [pictured] for our families. With this ministry update, I wish to share a testimonial letter from Ms. Pat, which includes details of her great outreach ministry, Tree of Life Missions. You can find the letter and an article she wrote on this blog's “Tree of Life” page. We are highly recommending her to our ministry supporters and praying friends and asking you to consider supporting her personally through her sending church or helping with one of her outreach travels through us.
In the last decade, Providence Baptist College & Seminary and Temple Baptist Institute have averaged conducting a graduation every two years. Another one of these special occasions occurred on the 11th of January, with twenty-one students from both schools [seminary staff and graduates pictured] receiving diplomas, degrees, and certificates. We were honored to have as the guest preacher, Missionary Ted Speer [pictured with Ms. Pat and our correspondence college graduates]—the pastor of Fundamental Baptist Church International of Kumasi, the host of our Ghana Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism, and my good friend in the ministry. Just before the commencement, seventeen students (including three new ones) attended the orientation to begin the twentieth semester of our seminary.
When we had our first Soul-Winning & Leadership Conference in 2008, I only hoped that we could continue to have it every year in Abuja. Because the Lord has allowed several of our thirteen different keynote speakers to make multiple visits, various doors have been opened for us to bring the conference to other influential churches. The largest of these, as far as the number of independent Baptist churches represented, is a Pastors’ & Workers’ Conference [evening service pictured] at Faith Baptist Church of Ogbomoso with Missionary Timothy Ojo. Over fifty Bible-believing churches had pastors, staff, or members attending the third annual meeting, where the guest preachers were Evangelist Jeff Walters of America for Christ and Missionary Evangelist Don Wattenbarger of Bibles Beyond Boundaries. During the first two weeks of February, these two men preached with two great national missionaries in Ogbomoso and then joined me to Aba for another conference at Trinity Baptist Church, pastored by George Kamalu. We preached in three independent Baptist churches on Sunday and welcomed ten pastors to the services on Monday and Tuesday. Evangelists Walters and Wattenbarger ministered in multiple schools during their visit and saw hundreds raise their hand for salvation.
On this blog, please take a look at our 2020 Conference and Camp Schedule. Also, our mission board recently helped us announce a building project that will expand our college dormitories, give us needed Sunday school and meeting space, and make it more feasible for our church to start a Christian day school. Please go to fbmi.org/holmes/biblecollegebuildingproject for more details.
Also in November, a missions seminar with our board afforded me the opportunity to finally visit our good friend, Missionary David Orus, in Kasoa, Ghana, to preach their church anniversary and have some long-awaited fellowship. There were 24 saved in the morning service! [several being counseled in the picture] Pastor Orus is a Nigerian that our church helped to support at various times in the past. On Monday and Tuesday, FBMI held a Mastermind with our board staff, team leaders [pictured below], and several individual missionaries, hosted by the staff and leaders of Fundamental Baptist Church International (FBCI), the same work that invites us for S.M.I.T.E. each April. The Mastermind sessions were refreshing, informative, and challenging; I was able to bring Brian along, and he had a wonderful time with the Ghana team’s children. On Wednesday, my trip was concluded by having the privilege of preaching to the great people at FBCI during their midweek service.
December highlights included our first wedding for Grace & Glory Baptist, and a special marriage ceremony [pictured] at Truth for my “daughter,” Mercy, who had worked with our family for nearly seven years; the occasion was the second time that I have walked the bride down the aisle as her “father.” Two of our graduates also had their weddings during these months; deacons and staff represented our ministry at both events. Our seminary concluded its 19th semester, the building project for Grace & Glory was basically completed, and our family had its December tradition of Christmas Eve gift opening, a Christmas service at Truth, a staff dinner [pictured] on Boxing Day, and a few days at an area hotel for a break. A special thanks goes out to five churches that responded to our previous prayer letter’s request for an offering towards land at three different church plants; if you would like a specific update on those purchases, please let me know!
October for me was non-stop with traveling and preaching. On the first Sunday, I had the opportunity in Calabar to take part in a Missions Sunday at Nigeria’s third-oldest independent Baptist church. The Sunday school, morning service, and evening preaching times were all focused on encouraging the members to give above their tithes and offerings to help works throughout our country and around the world. We also took some time to go through items that came on our container that will be used as an encouragement to churches represented at the six Soul-Winning & Leadership Conferences (SWLC) [2019 schedule pictured] that we have planned for next year.
Our last two SWLCs for this year were held at Port Harcourt and Ibadan in the middle of October. Dr. & Mrs. Mike Cox and Missionary Evangelist Jim Belisle joined me once again at the Maskeys’ work in the East to conduct a combination Missions Conference and SWLC at Nigeria’s largest independent Baptist church [pastor delegates receiving Bibles]. IBC Port Harcourt had over 800 on Sunday and more than 300 attending each of the three nights of our special meeting. Dr. and Mrs. Cox and Bro. Belisle taught split sessions in the mornings, I taught an afternoon session on missions giving for two days, and the three of us rotated preaching the evening services. Bro. Belisle [pictured with host pastor Kelani and me] stayed an extra week to preach with me at Victory Independent Baptist Church in Ibadan, the first church outside of Abuja in which I preached in 2005. We held special Sunday and Monday services along with a Tuesday pastors and workers fellowship.