The Amazing Nigeria Story
Preparation—the ground laid
Twenty-two years ago, January 12-30, 1987, we took a group of twenty-four Baptist pastors to Imo and River States in Nigeria to conduct evangelistic services and provide prayer seminars. I reported this venture as “the most fruitful ministry yet” noting “prayers were answered dramatically.” There were 11,089 recorded decisions for Christ (public professions over twelve years old with informational cards on each). In addition, hundreds of children came to Christ who were not registered. 700 attended the prayer seminars and U. M. Unamba, pastor of the Baptist Church in Owerri, became our first official co-worker called to conduct prayer seminars in Ibo (the third largest tribe in Nigeria). Most memorable was the prayer seminar conducted with the students and faculty at Baptist Bible College. In my mind, I can see the students on their knees praying and sensing the moving of the Holy Spirit. The ground was laid for my interest in Africa’s most populous nation (146.3 million people)—a nation where spiritual warfare is raging, sharply divided with militant Muslims opposing every step taken by Christians. Hundreds of Christians have been killed and hundreds of churches have been burned. Islam is not a peaceful religion; ask the Nigerian Christians.
The pivotal point
Twenty-one years ago, eighty-three Doorkeeper families provided funds for a series of prayer seminars in Kano, Kagoro, Billiri, Jos, Igbaja, Lagos (November 17-December 1) under the auspices of SIM (Sudan Interior Missions) and ECWA (the Evangelical Church of West Africa). During the fifteen days, 1,030 pastors, missionaries, and Bible college/seminary students attended the six seminars. I reported, upon returning, that “the prayer seminars in Nigeria could not have gone any better. I had perfect health and stamina—even while traveling 1,500 miles internally on Nigerian roads! With Nigerian drivers!” Little did I know that that a spirit of prayer had been ignited that would double the ECWA membership in the ensuing years—from 2.2 million to 4.6 million.
As I read the testimonies, I reported in the Doorkeeper Report: “Not only does it appear that many pastors were encouraged to consider prayer as the major tool to do their work, the response by the students was impressive with several hundred testifying that the Holy Spirit had moved mightily in their lives and that prayer would be the major priority in their future ministries. We can only imagine what an impact they will make in the lives of countless thousands.” I shared many testimonies that verified the impact on lives the prayer seminar made.
Little did any of us anticipate the impact the seminars would make. A prayer seminar ministry, patterned after our own and using our materials, was established. Through this ministry, there have been hundreds of prayer seminars across Nigeria. Our materials have been translated into Nigeria’s major languages. The result of praying has been phenomenal, almost beyond words. A spirit of revival began to sweep across Nigeria and has continued down through the years. The growth has been amazing. Everyone acknowledges that the fire that swept across the nation was ignited by the prayer seminar. In all the fifty-five nations that have hosted prayer seminars, none has produced the results of the fifteen days in 1988. Please read the letter from Panya Baba that follows—AN AMAZING STORY.
When the prayer seminar ministry began to take root under the able leadership of Onesimus Sule and Sunday Bwanhot, our agreement was that when the time came that I needed to return to Nigeria personally, I would do so. Seven years ago (fourteen years later), in 2002, Sue and I returned to conduct prayer seminars in Abuja, Kagoro, Jos (seminary), Majurdi (mini-seminar), Enugu, Igbaja, Billiri, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, and Jos (ECWA headquarters). Thirteen thousands attended the seminars. The seminar in Kagoro (Saturday, November 2) was Seminar #1,000 in the prayer seminar ministry. One of the 2009 seminars will be Seminar #1,400.
The next level—20,000 expected
Now it is time to return to Nigeria. Sunday Bwanhot and I will return to Nigeria December 3-22. Sunday was key in the early years of the prayer seminar ministry in Nigeria, working closely with Onesimus Sule. He provided the leadership needed to grow and stabilize the ministry. He wrote a paperback book (entitled Lord, Teach Us to Pray, which is being reprinted) incorporating the ideas of the seminar and translated the workbook into Hausa. Then God called him to come to Chicago to serve as a missionary to West Africans.
The program that has been established includes the following four tasks
1. Conduct prayer seminars (in English and Hausa) in Abuja, Kagoro, Kaduna, Lagos, Gombe, and Jos.
2. Conduct training sessions in each location for Associate Prayer Ministry Staff, those God is calling to be part of the Prayer Ministry by working alongside the Prayer Ministry staff even conducting prayer seminars using materials/supplies provided by the prayer ministry.
3. Conduct a prayer meeting/planning day with ECWA leaders and those who have led the prayer ministry over the years, Onesimus Sule, Sunday Bwanhot, Gordian Okieze, Stephen Latong, Jerry Buptwada, and Leo Nuhu, the present Director.
4. Sponsor a Prayer Convention in Jos, Plateau State, to call all churches and individuals that have benefited from the prayer seminar ministry to a day of prayer and fasting of Prayer Revival in the churches. Hundreds are expected.
The Great Need: “Laborers working together with God”— Investing in eternity—in Nigeria
As you can see, the venue is full and demanding. We are printing 20,000 prayer seminar workbooks (10,000 in English and 10,000 in Hausa). It is possible as many as 40,000 might be involved. A very bare-bones budget ($14,682) has been developed for our team of three: International travel -- $2,432.00; Domestic travel $1,185 (airfare -$900/ground $285); Lodging/food - $2,065; Prayer Seminar Workbooks - $8,000; contingencies - $1,000). I am praying for 100 to make investments in Nigeria as the 83 did in 1988. It may be that what happens in Nigeria in December will be the spiritual fire that will bring many nations to God. What you invest in Nigeria will, in a sense, be a commemoration of the Lord’s ongoing blessings upon the prayer seminar ministry, as well as the beginning of my 57th year in the ministry, and getting us ready for our 30th year for the prayer seminar ministry in 2010.
Paul shared the final beatitude that Jesus gave in talking to the elders of the Church at Ephesus. He said: “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). As you give to make seminars available in Nigeria during twenty days in December 2009, you will be blessed. How do I know this? Because Jesus said that you would be! Whatever has happened, and will happen, in Nigeria through your partnership in the prayer seminar ministry will be a part of the eternal legacy you are building on earth as you make another investment in eternity, thereby laying up treasures in Heaven. ABOVE ALL, PRAY THE PROMISES (Jeremiah 33:3).