The Reformed Outreach Initiative
February 24, 2009
ABUJA, Nigeria - Starting a new thing in a new environment is very challenging. This is more true when it is the Gospel seeking to penetrate the lives of an ethnic group ofo which you do not belong. They are naturally suspicious of outsiders.
One can only imagine the frustrations that foreign missionaries endured in foreign lands, especially in Africa and particularly Nigeria. For instance, it took the Dutch Reformed Church Mission of South Africa 25 years to realize seven converts in my own Tivland. Just when they were about to give up, suddenly, the grace of God broke the hard hearts that made the Gospel suspicious among the Tiv people. Today, millions of Tiv people rejoice in the salvation of Jesus Christ with immeasurably more blessings as a result of the dawn of the Gospel in Tivland.
In a siimilar way, The Reformed Outreach Initiative had this experience as it organized a training workshop for evangelism with the Gwari (Gbagyis) tribe around Abuja. How does one feel when all efforts are put together in organizing an even that expects about 50 persons to be in attendance, and yet only 10 people attended? Would this be described as a failure or success?
Rev. Jacob Igyar went into the hinterland of the Gbagyis to extend the invitation. There are many people in the rural areas but not many are literate enough to attend the workshop. He invited 50 people who were mainly from the township. Radio announcements were aired several days before the workshop, to create awareness and also serve as a reminder.
The printed materials for the workshop, the food ordered, the hall rented and every other cost was to match the anticipated 50 invitees. Then only 10 Gbagyis came. All the invitees were Christians who worship in the ECWA Church and very young. ECWA is the dominant church in the area, though in the countryside the majority of the people are unbelievers. But even some of the ECWA members were suspicious that we were making plans to start a new church (denomination) among the Gbagyis that might compete with theirs (which is why many of them hesitated to honor the invitation to the workshop).
Just for the record, we have no plans for starting a new church that would compete with ECWA. Though ECWA is not Reformed, it is a very strong evangelical church. Our plan is to make converts and allow the nearest churches to take over their growth, though we will supply Reformed tracts that explain the Gospel in their own dialect.
The low attendance was discouraging at first. But as we proceeded in the training for three days we eventually became encouraged.The reason was simple. The response of the attendees was exceptional. The young people in attendance came with an amazing zeal and pledged to take the Gospel to their people in their own language using the tract that we have published in their own native language.
The predominant language that even those Gbagyis Christians in the ECWA church use is Hausa. This Hausa language has almost swallowed up all the languages of the minor tribes. By hinging on this language recovery, we have hit a key aspect of acceptance because recovery of this group of people’s language is recovery of their own identity as a people.
The youth's hearts were moved by this fact. And they made a sincere commitment to go back to their people with the Gospel.
Of particular note is Samson who suggested useful strategies on how to penetrate their people with the Gospel. He confessed after the workshop: “My heart has been set ablaze. I am so inspired by this workshop that I wish I could move swiftly to my people and evangelize them. I have never learned anything like this in my life before. I know some Gbagyi youth who have zeal for the Gospel. I must involve them also when we go for the evangelism.” After the workshop, Samson is going to lead our team to survey where we are going to evangelize.
We are surveying this week and our evangelism outreach is in March. We will first make contact with the village chief and other relevant leaders of the people, informing them of our coming. Our plan is to have all the people assembled together in one place where we shall first communicate the Gospel to them and share with them some gifts.
We are also taking a medical team with us that will attend to some of their health needs. Please pray for the success of the evangelism that is coming up shortly. We still believe that God will accomplish his purpose for this group of people through his chosen vessels.
- Rev. Philip Tachin, Ph.D. candidate
Below is a report on the expenditure on the organization and execution of the workshop:
1. Accommodation 195,000.00 =$1681.03
2. Feeding 117,000.00 =$1008.62
3. Facilitators’ remuneration 120,000.00 = $1034.48
4. Renting of Hall 60,000.00 = $517.24
5. Production of Seminar materials 50,000.00 = $431.03
6. Mobilization / Transport 40,000.00 = $344.82
7. Radio announcements 20,000.00 = $180.00
8. TV evangelism (February) 30,000.00 = $258.62
Total = N632, 000.00 =($5455.84)