(Pictured Left to Right): Pastor Osagie Azeta (SGBC,Nigeria); Pastor Austin Huggins (CECF,USA); Pastor Murungi Igweta (TBC,Kenya); (Deacon Tunde Odemala (MetTab,UK); Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa (CBC, Zambia); Pastor Tony Okoroh (SGBC, Nigeria); Pastor Tom Smith (SGBC, USA); Pastor Osinachi Nwoko (SGBC,Nigeria).
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.
“At the studio yesterday. Thankful for these faithful men, who were hitting the nail on the head, about the matters of the authentic gospel of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures.”- Gbanaibolou Burutolu
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!
(Top left) Pastor Adamu Maga & (top right) Pastor Austin Huggins joined by others preaching at the ABC 2019 (below) to a large gathering of about 250 precious souls that were in attendance.
As the conference concluded, many books and booklets were distributed free of charge from FirstLove Publications and Chapel Library. Saturday ended with encouragement and anticipation to see what else The Lord would be pleased to do in the days ahead.
As Sunday morning came, Austin and Tom were traveling to attend a local charismatic church in the area. The pastor attended the Abuja Bible Conference the previous day and requested Austin to come speak based upon Abutu Joshua’s recommendation. Considering the many important truths that this pastor had just heard the previous day during the conference, Pastor Austin felt it fitting to bring a message regarding the mirror of God’s Word and the importance of not being forgetful hearers. It seemed well received, even as Pastor Tom was able to pray, speak, and exhort the message as well. Please pray for their continuing meditation upon this message and the pastor’s reflection from the conference.
After church services were concluded, the already early day was only just getting started. It was a race to return to the small hotel room, gather luggage, and catch the flight from Abuja to Lagos. Some of the brethren had already gone out ahead, even Pastor Murungi, who had left in order to preach that Sunday morning at the Lekki church. Upon our own arrival in Lagos, it would be another fast-paced relocation to the radio station where we would regroup and would conduct our third mass radio outreach.
The team arrived at the studio just in time and met back with Murungi and the other brethren from SGBC, Lagos. It was evident though that the day’s hectic schedule was affecting the tired travelers. Along with the fatigue, and once inside with the radio session commencing, the team discovered the studio was playing a movie on a T.V. inside the booth! The other monitors were remotely operated and distracting, and the host received callers without prompting or giving sufficient notice to the team moderator. With only 45 minutes to discuss vitally important Gospel related issues, (minus one interrupting news break), the team left feeling a great sense of inadequacy. The mood was quiet, pensive, and unsatisfied. Their discouragement, however, was later met with the news that over 30 individuals had responded to the radio segment, and that one woman had even called in tears desiring to hear more of this kind of truth. What more can be said? Truly, in our weakness, The Lord’s strength is made perfect!
Monday provided one final radio outreach segment at UNILAG (University of Lagos) Radio. Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa of Zambia also joined the team at this point. His flight had been delayed, cancelled and then rescheduled and thus had arrived a day or two later than planned. With his addition on the radio panel, sufficient rest for the team, and a much more suitable studio environment, The Lord was pleased to strengthen and enable the team for the final radio session. We were also provided a full hour of time to gain traction! We recognized The Lord’s favor as we very quickly covered grave and vital topics related to the churches in Nigeria with clarity and accuracy. Overall, it went very well, as the team had good discussions regarding the current offices in the church (elders and deacons). Many false teachings and “apostles” with healing powers are prevalent in Nigeria. Most of these “mega churches” do not ever hear the Word of God, and so the battle is raging, but the opportunities are great.
On Tuesday, a seminar was held on How to Interpret the Bible at Lagos State University. Over 150 students attended, which exceeded Pastor Tony’s expectation of 50 or so. Pastor Choolwe opened, followed by Tom, Murungi, and then concluded with Austin. Pastor Tony Okoroh moderated a very well received Q&A thereafter. Despite the short time available to speak, the positive responses from those in attendance were so obvious that Pastor Tony ventured a public question as he asked the room if they would like us to come back again. Not only did those in attendance reply with a unified “YES”, but the team was asked to extend their next visit to a three-day conference. Pray about that!
“It was a feat to watch the speakers boldly present the hermeneutical principles in 30- minute slots, to a student population that is used to contemporary Christian music for most of a worship service. The messages were well received though.”
(Above) Series of Photos from the first Hermenuetics seminar at Lagos State University (LASU), (Below) Top Left: Pastor Tom Speaking at the second Hermenuetics seminar outside of WATS (West African Theological Seminary), and Bottom & Right: Pastor Austin & Pastor Murungi speaking at the third hermenutics seminar at the LBC 2019 conference location.
Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa explained how to rightly interpret the Prophetic books, Pastor Murungi addressed the Psalms, Pastor Tom the Miracles of Christ, and Pastor Austin the Epistles.
Wednesday and Thursday would carry the same seminar to two more locations, Wednesday was to about 100 students of WATS, just outside the campus. Thursday’s seminar functioned, essentially, as a pre-conference to the LBC 2019, where there were another 90 or so gathered. Responses were good and continued to be well attended and well received. FirstLove Publications and Chapel Library material were again distributed freely.
NOTE: Since arriving in Lagos, Austin and Tom stayed at the home of Eric and Love. Eric is a member of SGBC, Lagos and the secretary for the church. Between his wife, Love, and the other helping hands in the home, our gracious hosts made our stay as comfortable as possible. Power goes out intermittently almost every day, sometimes for several hours at a time, so it is something everyone learns to live with. Brother Eric, having taken some time off work, would spend most of his days driving us from one venue to the next. This was a major sacrifice. The roads in Lagos are in very poor condition, unmaintained mostly, and even the highways are full of massive potholes. Traffic is also extraordinarily bad with gridlocks being the norm in many places throughout. Many locals take to the roads without official licensing or training, so wrecks and accidents are very normal. Due to this, the team was often on the road well over an hour or two each way between the various destinations which limited the available time for correspondence and sleep… You may begin to notice the speakers appear fatigued in the photos.
The final Hermeneutics conference came to a close shortly after lunch on Thursday. After a couple hours’ time for break and transition, The Lagos Bible Conference of 2019 would begin with Pastor Tony Okoroh opening the event with a message titled, “What is NOT The Gospel.” This message served to highlight the proliferation of false gospels, false Christs, and false promises that are become so prevalent throughout Nigeria. This is an essential and vital first step that must be taken. The thick layer of heresy laid upon the professing Christian religions in Nigeria is so thick, it takes purposeful and calculated efforts to point it out to a people who are so steeped in it, they cannot see it. Pastor Tony would address the problem, and it would be the rest of the speaker’s responsibility to clarify the Biblical understanding of the various Gospel related subjects, such as: Sin, The Law, Salvation, and God Himself!
Each speaker would address their specific subtopic consisting of two messages for each subject. Once or twice a day, time would be allotted for an open forum, Q&A panel, and discussion segment to answer any questions or clarify any confusing points for those in attendance. Pastor Murungi explained the sinful condition of mankind, Pastor Austin explained the proper role of The Law in Redemption and Sanctification, Pastor Choolwe explained the Gospel and the Attributes of God, and Pastor Tom explained what salvation is and what man is saved from. At the end of the conference, remaining literature was again distributed free of charge from FirstLove Publications and Chapel Library.
“In the Nigerian church, the crucial and central matter of the new birth has taken the back seat and has been overtaken by the prosperity gospel, motivational speeches, and humanism.”- Gbanaibolou Burutolu
Please continue to pray for those that have heard the word preached, and the true Biblical Gospel of Christ. May The Lord turn back the tide of false narratives and unbiblical teachings that have seduced the hearts and minds of this people, and may the Lord turn them unto Himself at the appointed time!
Immediately following the conference, a ceremony was held to present Certificates of Completion to two individuals who had completed the course requirements of Christ Pastors’ Seminary. One of them was our very own Alaba Ajileye! He is a missionary with FirstLove. By the end of the conference, over twenty persons signed up to undergo the 18 to 24 months of theological training offered by SGBC, Lagos at Christ Pastors’ Seminary.
Christ Pastors’ Seminary (CPS) certificate completion and graduation ceremony. Brother Alaba is the second person from the left and wearing a white shirt.
Sunday would be the last day in Nigeria, although a full day. Austin and Tom were sent out to Sovereign Grace Community Church, Lekki. The Lekki church is a new church plant out on Victoria Island, who is currently without an elder. Tom and Austin hoped to strengthen the church in perseverance and holiness, knowing that false professions are dominant. Pastor Austin preached a message from James regarding the value of a public visible witness and a testimony of Christ that validates the message we preach. The idea was to understand the need of holy lives and to understand that faith without works is dead.
(Above): Pastor Austin preaching “Are you Dead or Alive” at the Lekki Church.
That same evening, after celebrating the 17th anniversary of SGBC together, the FirstLove team members boarded the plane and began their return journey home. By the end of the two weeks since departing the United States, although very tired, Tom and Austin were very hopeful for the work being done in Nigeria. The local brethren are on fire and are serving the Lord with fervent zeal and love for Jesus Christ. The work before them is so great, the darkness before them is so black, and the heresies and false Christs are so many and so prolific. Yet, these few men, rejected of the world, are charging into the darkest part of their land and lifting high the banner and light of the Gospel of Christ. Though the difficulties are many and assistance is little, they are remaining steadfast and are believing God for great things.
“It is my desire that we carry the fire on our head and bring the cry of Reformation to this land (Nigeria).” — Abutu Peter Joshua
NOTE: We want to thank you, our readers, for your continued support of FirstLove Missions, the dear brethren of Nigeria, and the ongoing work of The Gospel in foreign lands. Below you will find a few other meaningful quotes and reflections from the recent mission in Nigeria.
“I am grateful for the warm reception we have had with the church here in Lagos. They have put their arms around us, protected us, and supplied all our physical needs. The young men I have met are on fire for the Lord, and after 20 years of work, the Lord is blessing [the work], and other churches are being planted for His glory. Praise be to Him for His work in building His church.
“Although Pastor Tony is over 70 years [old], he is as youthful as ever in the service of Christ’s bride. His zeal for the cause of the Gospel is undimmed. He is leading a small army of the Lord in ramming the gates of hell with the Gospel and there is no doubt that the Lord is rewarding his efforts, as feeble as they may appear to him.”
“We rejoice that the radio programs planned for the 2019 conferences were done. Our God is a God of hope. It is good to put our trust in Him always. Praise His Holy name.”
T. Austin Huggins IV