Expansion of True Worship in Nigeria
THE work of Jehovah’s witnesses has been very fruitful in the Gold Coast and Nigeria, and leaders of the many missionary organizations in those colonies are feeling the pressure as thousands are forsaking them to become Jehovah’s witnesses. Without doubt this was why the Watchtower Society learned through Washington that it “seemed to be” the policy that no representative of the Watchtower would be admitted in those territories. Just to what extent the work has been fruitful in one of these places, Nigeria, will appear from a perusal of the following experiences, which were related at the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by two Watchtower missionaries who had worked in Nigeria, as reported by M. G. Henschel, secretary to the president of the Society.
“Jehovah’s witnesses in Nigeria have zeal and determination. The majority of them are poor and have but few material possessions. They live in mud huts. Their diet is simple—cassava and yams, with occasional bits of fish or meat. But they have the truth and they love it. They know they must preach it and they love to preach. They have faithfully preached and let their light shine. Result: the truth has spread into over 400 towns and villages, where congregations have been organized, as well as into scores of isolated places. There are over 12,600 ministers there now. Jehovah’s witnesses are seen in every part of Nigeria and even in the British Cameroons.
“One thing that has helped the brothers to advance to maturity as God’s ministers is the holding of assemblies. These require much work, since everything must be built by the brothers, there being no halls. Assembly time sees all the brothers on the move, by lorry (bus), cycle and foot. Some walk for two days, others pull a canoe on a river for three days to get there.
“On Sunday morning while everyone is still asleep they use Gideon’s method of converging into the village from all sides, announcing the public lecture as they come. Very few people have watches, so the early morning announcement must be followed up by a final announcement just before the meeting is about to begin. A group of brothers sing songs and go in one direction and then in another, telling the people the talk is about to start. How effective this method is can be seen from what took place at Abiriba. There, although only three hundred brothers were present, the final announcement was so stirring that the entire population of 1,734 streamed down to the assembly grounds!
“To illustrate the effect the holding of an assembly has on a village, let us turn to Akwete, a town where there were none of Jehovah’s witnesses. From twenty miles away the witnesses came to make preparations. The people were unfriendly and unco-operative. The brothers experienced much difficulty in trying to rent a piece of land for their assembly and then had to pay others to build the assembly booth, instead of being permitted to build it themselves, and that at the price set by the villagers. The Society’s special representative arrived and spent two days visiting chiefs, building up good will and removing fear.
“On Friday morning the witnesses began to stream into town, nearly 400 strong. Their happy faces quickly filled the village with gladness and transformed the scene immediately. The village people took on a cheerful attitude. Before they had refused to have anything to do with Jehovah’s witnesses, but now they were offering rooms free of charge. The price of the booth was reduced. The chiefs themselves began hurrying around finding benches. Akwete was humming with theocratic activity. The result was that hundreds from the village attended the assembly and two of them were immersed and took part in the preaching work. Eight months later a congregation of 22 ministers was found in Akwete. Dozens of similar experiences could be related.
“At Adagbrasa the European Catholic priest organized his flock for noisemaking. They created such a din that Friday’s sessions at the circuit assembly were practically drowned out. This angered the chiefs and the majority of the village people so much that early Saturday morning a proclamation was made all over the village by the elders that if anyone disturbed Jehovah’s witnesses he would be severely dealt with, fined five shillings and a bottle of gin. Before the assembly there were no Jehovah’s witnesses in the village. Immediately thereafter a Bible study was organized with sixteen in attendance. Soon the number doubled.
“Many times the clergy tell their complaining people: ‘Well, if you are not satisfied you can leave and go to Jehovah’s witnesses.’ And that is exactly what many are doing, whether the clergy tell them to leave or not; and the clergy are helpless to do anything about it. Honest truth seekers are glad to associate with Jehovah’s servants in the true worship.
“This is what happened during the assembly at Ode Irele. In united harmony the brothers built a beautiful booth. This activity set the town alight. No one had ever witnessed such a booth, nor the willing and enthusiastic work on the part of the brothers erecting it. The local Methodist people got together at a special meeting to consider what they should do. No, not to oppose, but rather to join up with Jehovah’s witnesses. It was decided to collect five shillings from each member and then hand the money to Jehovah’s witnesses as membership dues. However, they were told what really was required—learn the truth and become a dedicated proclaimer of Jehovah’s kingdom. Money could not do that! On the opening day 811 were present. Of these only 400 were brothers. The second day 937 jammed every corner in and about the booth for the evening meeting. The villagers showed the same enthusiasm as the brothers. On Sunday 75 symbolized their dedication by water immersion and of these four were local villagers.
“An illiterate brother moved to Emu some two years ago where there were no witnesses of Jehovah. His Catholic employer would not listen to the message until one day he said, ‘This must be the truth.’ Quickly a group of five gathered for the study of the Bible. Soon they were telling others about it. As the word spread in this Catholic and juju area, persecution came. But then one of the opposing chiefs accepted the truth. A full-time minister was sent into the area and a congregation was started. The work continued to expand. Recently a special representative of the Society visited the congregation of over fifty ministers and found an attendance of 130 at the study of The Watchtower. Of the Catholic Church only one member remains, and he is studying with Jehovah’s witnesses. Now the only opposition is from the juju society, and it also sees the handwriting on the wall.
“Ntan Udom has another good example. From time immemorial the Ekpo society, a juju organization, indulged in its traditional drunken festivities during the three to four months of the dry season. Its members mask themselves, get drunk and then masquerade through the villages with full liberty to do as they please. The law is that anyone who is not a member of this organization is not to appear in public or out of his compound when they are masquerading and dancing through the village. This law has been fearfully obeyed. But now Jehovah’s witnesses have come along, who recognize only those laws that are in harmony with God’s laws, and who have a command to preach in wet season and in dry season. What would happen?
“The brothers obeyed God’s commands and as a result one was slashed with a machete and a dozen were arrested and fined £120. Over 500 people came to attend court, to see how the Ekpo society was going to uproot and destroy the society of Jehovah’s witnesses. The minister in charge of their congregation stated that he was ready to die, but before he did he had one desire and that was to give a mighty witness.
“On the fourth day of the trial he got his opportunity to speak. So powerful was his testimony concerning the supremacy of Jehovah and his purposes that the court shook. The chiefs (judges) began to tremble. The case was dismissed. One chief requested this brother to visit his compound and study the Bible with him. Further activities of Jehovah’s witnesses have completely broken the power of the Ekpo society. During the past few years they have not carried on their traditional masquerading. Worldly people have expressed gratitude because of the freedom they now enjoy as a result of the victory of Jehovah’s witnesses.
“The Church of Scotland, which likewise has had great power over the people here, is crumbling. Across from the fine Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses stands its decrepit building with one of its walls ready to collapse. ‘The Church of the Lord,’ which established itself in the area more than seven years ago and had regularly celebrated Christmas, stopped doing so two years ago. At that time the pastor remarked: ‘There will be no Christmas celebration this year. Why not? Because Jehovah’s witnesses do not observe it! What they do is right.’
“The brothers in Nigeria give a good witness wherever they go. They are an example to others around them. In some areas when a public meeting is held one can readily tell who are Jehovah’s witnesses and who are the public. The brothers are clean and dressed, while the public are practically naked and rough-looking. Jehovah’s witnesses do not earn greater wages than the others, but they live according to the high standards of Jehovah’s Word and so they do not squander their earnings on liquor and women. They use that which they have to the honor of Jehovah’s name. Despite illiteracy and other handicaps, the brothers have the truth and are advancing to maturity. Even worldly people recognize the maturity of Jehovah’s witnesses and see in them the people that indeed represent the Most High God.”