True Miracles in Nigeria
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. – Galations 6:9
Despite massively difficult travel restrictions, struggling to make visa deadlines, and almost not making it into Nigeria at all, the FirstLove Missions team was able to reconnect with our Nigerian brethren for the first time since the lockdowns began. Nigeria is one of the most difficult mission fields we enter into. Nigeria is a land known throughout Africa as the home of “Nigerian Religious Junk”, a phrase coined by the well respected Pastor Conrad Mbewe of Zambia. As even the the brethren here will testify to, this witness is true. Years ago, the Health, Wealth, & Prosperity gospel was carried into Africa from America. This along with every extreme form of Word of Faith heresy, “name it and claim it” positive confessions, unbiblical mysticisms, and the dominating influence of an innumerable array of self appointed Apostles and Prophets, each claiming different degrees of signs, wonders, deliverance from curses, and get rich quick schemes entered in. There is a religious dealer on every corner promising wealth and riches, to the almost 83 million people, who live below the country’s poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year. (Which is less than $32 dollars a month). Preying upon real poverty and covetous hearts, religious con-artistry is become the name of the game. Whoever can promise the most other-worldly power, by the most seductive means, and can rake the most people for the most money, becomes the man with the most earned respect as the “Man of God.” To call these men to account or to call out their devilry is anathematized under “touch not The Lord’s Anointed.” They mainly teach superstition, act as the town witch doctor, and bless and curse people for a price, …all in the name of Christ.
The Gospel work in Nigeria is quite difficult despite that fact that The Joshua Project actually estimates that “Christianity” represents 51.1% of the country’s population. The reality is, the super majority of this statistic is represented by the kind of religious junk here described. Very few within those numbers actually know The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even less are following any true biblical pattern of the faith once delivered to the saints. Reformed Doctrine specifically represents less than 0.001% of professing Christians.
There are little bright spots here and there, mostly towards the North where constant attacks and threats from Islam, Fulani Herdsman, and the likes of Boko Haram, prevent the people from trusting too much in those superstitions. It is this Northern region extending down into the middle belt around Abuja that has caused Nigeria to enter the top 10 of the OpenDoors 2021 World Watch List. The country is religiously divided with Islam to the North and “Christianity” to the South. The further North you go, the more violent and horrifying is the persecution against Christians, The further south you go, the more outlandish and disconnected is the doctrine. True Christianity is small and scattered about between these two extremes.
It is here in the heart of Lagos, in the deep heretical South, that a little church with a brave history stands as a testimony and witness of The Lord’s promise that not even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church. Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Lagos, pastored by Tony Okoroh and the two newest elders, Osagi Azeta and Osinachi Nwoko, has remained firm and faithful despite every imaginable difficulty and setback. Pastor Joe Jacowitz first helped the church covenant together and ordained Tony Okoroh to the work in 2002. This year they celebrated their 19th Anniversary as a church. They have long since known what it means to labor at the tip of the spear in Evangelical missions in a world hostile to the teachings of the faith. Pushing The True Gospel of Christ into uncharted and unreached territory has been their life.
It is here that our report picks up as we join ourselves for two weeks with this faithful little church that is become family to us over the years.
As the opening of the report suggested, we almost did not make it in. Several obstacles stood in the way. First, were travel visas for which the funds were not yet available, nor did it seem likely that they could be acquired in time for the trip. The second obstacle was a coronavirus test no older than 72 hours, the results of which normally take 72 hours to process. Thirdly, Pastor Tom Smith informed the team he would not be able to make it this year as he had hoped. With these obstacles standing in the way, FirstLove initially recommended to cancel the trip until the travel climate improved and the resources were available. The next morning, Austin called Pastor Osinachi in Nigeria who was notified of the obstacles and was asked to pray. Pastor Austin also led the church to pray during their study groups at Christ Evangel Church. Truly, a miracle was needed. Within 24 of the FirstLove meeting, another church, not having been informed, and not knowing the nature nor the immediacy of the needs, placed a large donation on the pastor’s desk. It was enough to cover expedited visa services and to cover the remaining needs for the trip! Christian brethren wept together at the clear provision and intimacy of The Lord’s providence. We had our negative COVID-19 test results back in 48 hours and received our approved visas within 2 days of departure.
A Week in Nigerian Quarantine
Upon our arrival, we were required to be on quarantine in accordance with the general health mandate. By God’s grace, we remained healthy and were permitted to receive the brethren there in our flat daily. We had the distinct pleasure of meeting with each of the elders at different times, several of the deacons, and various ministry workers and members of Sovereign Grace Bible Church in Lagos. Each day was an adventure of hearing the testimonies of The Lord’s work there as shared in marvelous detail. Every one we talked with speaks with great boldness, joy, sincerity, and confidence in the Gospel. All week we fellowshipped with these stirred up Nigerian saints, who in turn stirred up and enlarged our own hearts. Please remember: Last time we were there, the church had suffered a very difficult church split, later one of the former elders left for the U.S.; and, as you know, the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic were especially difficult for churches in the west and had prevented FirstLove from being present there. Despite all likelihood to the contrary, however, The World shaking, economy breaking, and travel restricting pandemic had actually become the means of seeing the furtherance of The Gospel in dramatic proportions.
As I noted earlier this year “Since the pandemic has dragged on for so long, a lot of people, even in Nigeria, are becoming disillusioned with the many public, embarrassing, and unfulfilled claims of the dominant Word of Faith preachers.” Meanwhile, the church here has faithfully continued to preach the same Gospel message since it’s official beginnings in 2002. Only now, according to Pastor Tony “The Lord has been gracious to us at SGBC, He keeps adding to our congregation weekly. We have an average of 2-3 visitors every Lord’s day and many of them return and have become consistent attendees.” (Click the Link to read HeartCry Missionary Society’s Report) To date, the Sunday service holds over 180 attendees, cramped tightly together in a building too small to fit them, without any entertainment, games, compromise or church growth strategies. Their only strategy is fervent, Biblical, and sacrificial Gospel proclamation by any and all legitimate means possible, empowered by the Spirit of Grace. Behold, children’s Bible studies and catechisms, university Bible study outreaches followed by Q&A’s, local radio Bible preaching, distant travel to preach in available churches, free FirstLove Publications and Chapel Library books, tracts, and literature distributions, door to door evangelism, online service outreach across multiple media platforms, distant travel to preach in Ghana, leading a church based school using GBU curriculum, and on and on are their works. There are now multiple new works and church plants beginning in various areas around and beyond Lagos that they are now overseeing. Oh, I wish you could hear them pray! Prayer is their battle breath. They pray continually: Every Lord’s Day, Every Saturday in preparation for The following Lord’s Day, Midweek prayer services and studies, cluster prayer groups that meet throughout the week in various geographical areas of members living near together. Every day of the week, some group somewhere is praying fervently.
We had the tremendous relief and privilege of joining them Saturday as we began to finally break from our week long quarantine, We came to the Saturday prayer meeting where after the meeting, an older brother led two studies on the High Priestly prayer of Christ and the lessons learned from Robert Murray M‘Cheyne’s prayer life. Then, most appropriately, we ended with prayer.
The upcoming conference will last 2 days. Again the theme is: Suffering & The Sovereignty of God. We hoped to take further advantage of this God given pandemic to push against the false teachings of the Health, Wealth, Prosperity and Word of Faith preachers: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Philippians 1:29) (These words written by Apostle Paul would sound strange to many as they do not fit the image of God they have in their minds)
Despite difficult travel restrictions, and almost not making it into Nigeria at all, during the second week we were able to hold a two day FirstLove Missions conference on “Suffering and The Sovereignty of God” on the ECWA campus to 400 seminary students in Abuja, conducted two evenings doing Live Radio Evangelism and Bible Q&A in Lagos, two more days of Conferences on the same theme at the annual Lagos Bible Conference 2021, distributed many books, booklets, and tracts to everyone that attended the conferences, preached the 19th Anniversary service of Sovereign Grace Bible Church, Lagos, and ordained 5 men to the office of the Deacon.
Below are the snap shots and photographic storyline of our itinerary during the second week of the FirstLove Missions 2021 Nigeria Mission:
2021 Nigeria Mission Report
Monday – Nov 1
Fly to Abuja
Arrival and reception by Pastor Joshua Abutu. Fellowship, strategy sessions, and group prayer before the Conference began.
Tuesday – Nov 2
ECWA Seminary in Karu, Abuja
Travel by car to the outskirts of Abuja in a town called Karu,
Arrival at ECWA, Meeting with Rector
Registration, Conference Begins & 3 Messages preached, Lunch with the staff, 2 messages Preached, Q&A Panel Discussion,
Wednesday – Nov 3
Travel to EWCA. A massive gridlock occurred on the major highways and lesser routes after kidnappings occurred at the university in Abuja due to the resulting military checkpoints. Cars began breaking from the prescribed traffic patterns, turning into oncoming traffic to get around jams, and further compounding the problem. Masses of people were talking on foot for miles along the highway to get to where they were going.
The team was late and stuck in traffic. Once reaching the proximityof the seminaryPastors Osagie & Osinachi exited the vehicle, pressing ahead on foot. Austin and John were cautioned and directed to remain in the vehicle with Abutu driving. Session 1 was swapped with pastor Osagie taking the first session. Preaching on Maintaining our confidence and witness in the midst of suffering. John 12:27
The rest of the team arrived safely, Conference continued on normally. Ended with Q&A and Free Book Distribution.
After the work at ECWA had completed, the brethren were invited to Abutu’s Church, Trinity Baptist Church in Abuja, for Wednesday evening services, where Bro. Eleazar was teaching from Romans 13.
Thursday – Day 4
Flight back to Lagos & Begin Radio
Live Radio Evangelism and Bible Q&A program
We almost did not make it to the radio! We awoke that morning to learn that our 12pm Noon flight had been delayed until 7pm. This was insufficient time to land, exit the airport, and drive across the city to the radio. Osagie and Austin were able to purchase new tickets for 3pm. All other flights were delayed, including Deacon Tunde (from the Met Tab) whose original flight was delayed, as well as his new flight he purchased. No one made it on time the first night except Pastor Austin and Pastor Osagie, who met Pastor Tony and brother Joel in Lagos. The photos above were all from the second night. Most all flights to Lagos were excessively delayed that day. It was a providence of The Lord that Austin and Osagie made it in time for the first night of the scheduled radio outreach.
Friday- Day 5
Begin Lagos Bible Conference 2021
Arrive at Shepard Hill Baptist Church for Lagos Bible Conference 2021
Welcome/opening statement by Pastor Tony Okoroh, 5 sessions, Q&A Panel Discussion, and return to Live Radio Evangelism and Bible Q&A Program
A young man of 18 years who was present for both conference days has commenced regular Bible study attendance and enrolled at GTS/GBU. This young man, currently enrolled at the Bible school of MFM (a major Pentecostal church in Nigeria), has been asking a lot of questions about the truths of Scripture. He is hoping to make the transition to start attending worship services at SGBC, but while he prepares his exit, he has begun teaching the teenagers at the current church some of the things he has been learning. He is making use of some of the Chapel Library materials received at the conference for this.Pastor Osinachi Nwoko
Saturday – Day 6
End Lagos Bible Conference 2021
The second day of the Lagos Bible Conference ended with over 300+ adults in attendance, not counting children. Of those 300+, we learned over 30 of them attended simply based off of having heard the live radio invitations the previous nights. Given the ongoing restrictions and potential difficulties in meeting, we were originally only expectingaround 150 total attendees. We were thankful to The Lord for hte significant turnout and the positive responses to the messages preached.
“One of the ladies who attended the 2nd and last day of the conference after listening to the radio broadcast the night before, has started attending evening services and midweek prayer meetings at our Ipaja church plant. We are expecting students from the West African Theological Seminary (WATS) to also join as they have dedicated interest.”-Pastor Osinachi Nwoko
Sunday – Day 7
Lord’s Day Worship & Ordination of Deacons
19th Anniversary of SGBC
Deacon Ordination -Pastor Austin Huggins Ordaining/officiating
Fellowship Meal, Final Strategy Meetings, Goodbyes, Hugs, Tears, Prayers
Return Flight to USA 10:30pm
This was a landmark ministry visit. The hundreds of former difficulties, set backs, and discouragements of the past years have become the fertile soil for healthy, spiritual growth in Nigeria. We are seeing The Lord soften hard hearts, give us great reception, and open many new doors to take The Gospel into new areas. New church plants are being established, several false teachers have repented, turned in their keys, and are being discipled in a faithful church. Doors have even opened for us in the neighboring nation of Ghana. We have much to follow up on, much to prepare, and much to pray for! Lastly, even the literature is continuing to circulate and be read and asked for:
Book distribution has increased tremendously since the conclusion of the conference. As of the time of writing this, we have received four requests (both within and outside Lagos) for books.Pastor Osinachi Nwoko
Please remember to pray for these brave and faithful churches that have long since known what it means to labor at the tip of the spear in Evangelical missions in a world hostile to the teachings of the faith. Pray they would know the ongoing and enabling grace of God in pushing The True Gospel of Christ into uncharted and unreached territory, just as they have done so many years before, and excitedly continue to do now.
The work continues even after we are gone. Please pray for these faithful brethren for their tireless work and sacrifice in extreme conditions unfamiliar to many of us. They have The Love of God in them, and I return with my own heart full from what I have seen and the sweet fellowship that was had among close brothers. As always, I will miss them. We praise The Lord for his wonderful works to the children of men!Pastor Austin Huggins
Executive VP | FirstLove Ministries