Before leaving the Washington, DC area for Nigeria, Pastor Tom and Pastor Austin were already celebrating several evident victories that The Lord had secured for the upcoming mission. As many of our readers know, Pastor Joe Jacowitz had just recently entered remission from AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia), and was beginning a hopeful road to recovery, although he was far from having any ability to travel or to lead a mission team into Nigeria. “As we recounted The Lord’s grace in his healing, I was especially thankful for The Lord raising up Pastor Tom Smith who was willing to accompany me in the difficult work ahead.” Without Pastor Joe, Tom’s assistance was desperately needed. Nigeria is a much more difficult area to move around and work in when compared to some of the other nations and regions FirstLove ministers in. For that reason, and the very difficult visa and expensive application process, the Nigeria mission teams are usually the smallest. Once in Nigeria, Tom and Austin would be joined by Pastor Murungi Igweta, the newest Branch Leader of FirstLove in Kenya. Apart from these, the ministry team would be accompanied by precious African friends, such as Adamu Maga, formerly of ECWA, and then Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa of Zambia, who would later join us upon arriving in Lagos. Along with Joe’s healing and Tom’s agreement to come, we had also received word that a faithful brother somewhere in Georgia had paid for all of the upcoming radio expenses! (Radio is a key element of our outreach and conference work). Despite the financial resources being low, The Lord had provided for His work! With these praises in view, we flew over the Sahara Desert from Germany and arrived in Abuja, Nigeria midday on October 23rd where we were greeted warmly by many brethren from SGBC, Lagos, a couple from SGCC, Abuja, and Pastor Abutu of TBC.
The theme for this year’s conference in Abuja and Lagos was simply and appropriately entitled, “The Gospel of Christ”. A one-day conference would be held Saturday in Abuja and then, a week later, a fuller version would take place in Lagos from Thursday evening to Saturday morning. Two days before the first conference began, however, the mission team was already engaged in mass Gospel outreach via local radio.
Pastor Austin anchored the program and was joined by Pastor Tony Okoroh, Pastor Tom Smith, Pastor Murungi Igweta, Pastor Adamu Maga, and Pastor Abuta Joshua (our new host Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Abuja). To accommodate the large panel, the later chair was rotated between multiple speakers.
Radio responses were excellent! Many signed up in response to the program, many called in with good questions, and the first caller was so impacted by the content that he simply asked where we were, saying:
“I just want to fellowship with you”…
The call was so out of the ordinary and unexpected that it brought great encouragement and surprise to the team in the booth. God’s miraculous grace never fails. Later, one man informed us he was bringing eleven men with him to the conference!
As stated above, the conference was scheduled to occur Saturday. That fact, however, is that there was no venue to have the conference until only days before the event was to occur. Up until this point, there had been some unexpected difficulties in obtaining a useable location for the conference. The brethren were discouraged in the hopes of finding a place to host within the minimal financial resources available. What was quickly becoming a frustrating occasion that might lead to the cancelling of the conference, however, was seized upon by Pastor Abutu Joshua of Trinity Baptist Church. Pastor Abutu was sent by Conrad Mbewe from Kabwata Baptist Church to church-plant in Abuja after he had completed his studies in London. While still in his first year of the new church plant. He had previously been meeting in his living room, which he had arranged and accommodated for Church services. With the need of a larger meeting area for TBC, and the need of a conference venue, trusting The Lord, he quickly went out and rented a large enough building in enough time to prepare it for the Abuja Bible Conference and offered its use free of charge.
On Saturday morning, 250 precious souls poured into that facility. (It was remarkable to see what the Lord had done. By comparison, last year there were perhaps 80 attendees. Not only this, but this new crowd, as we would soon find out, was very agreeable) Several members of SGCC, including brother Sam who had been sent to assist us in our travels, were also in attendance and assisted with some of the moderation functions, this was encouraging.
Austin Huggins was the opening speaker, followed by Adamu Maga, Murungi Igweta, and concluded by Tom Smith. The Q&A sessions were lively and, again, surprisingly positive, as it began to appear that the topics and subjects being handled were being understood and received. Even when one or two pushed obvious questions that leaned toward and assumed certain Word of Faith heresies, when the truth of scripture was applied by one of the speakers on the panel, something amazing happened…, the room applauded the truth almost unanimously. “I have never seen this before, especially not in a gathering this big, not in Nigeria.” By the end of the conference, some pastors and ministers were coming up to the speakers and confessing that they could no longer continue in their denominational directions. Some others asked us to pray for them as they sought to bring the true Biblical Gospel back into their churches! Praise be to The One True Living God!