GUEST EDITORIAL: ANDREW SMELLIE – LAGOS MISSION TEAM LEADER
“The people walking in darkness have seen A GREAT LIGHT; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light HAS DAWNED.” Isaiah 9:2
On behalf of the Africa World Sector, representing 15 churches across 54 countries on the continent of Africa, we are excited to announce that our Second African Missions Conference (AMC) is entitled, A GREAT LIGHT HAS DAWNED! This historic event will be held in Lagos, Nigeria from Friday, June 24 to Sunday, June 26, 2016! Prayerfully, we will have brothers and sisters join us from all around the world!
Sadly, Nigeria is a nation known for the “darkness” of its religiosity and corruption, but at the AMC, we will have the opportunity to proclaim the “great light” and the “abundant life” of Jesus! Let us be encouraged by a quote from my father in the faith, Kip McKean, “Where it is darkest, the light shines brightest!” Fascinatingly, Nigeria is called the “Giant of Africa,” as it is the largest country on the African continent with a population of approximately 180 million and a landmass that is twice the size of the State of California! By 2050, one projection estimates that Nigeria will reach 300 million in population – a statistic that will be exceeded by only five other countries in the world: China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the USA! Lagos is also the largest city on the African continent – home to over 21 million souls… and counting! Not surprisingly, this thriving metropolis is Nigeria’s economic and commercial center. Therefore, Lagos will serve as our key pillar city for the evangelization of all Africa!
Last year, my lovely wife Patrique & I had the privilege to participate in our First AMC in the French-speaking city of Abijdan, Cote D’Ivoire! Our theme was EVERY TRIBE, LANGUAGE AND NATION! The Lord blessed us with almost 500 souls in attendance, 12 baptisms and one restoration! All of this culminated in the official planting of the Abidjan International Christian Church led by Amadou & Angele Sountoura!
It was at this time that a remarkable event occurred – our initial meeting with Benedict Atason! Benedict was a Mainline Church of Christ preacher who had been following the SoldOut Movement for a few years. After seeing the incredible multiplication of disciples similar to the Book of Acts (which he did not witness in the Mainline Church of Christ), Benedict became eager to join the movement by being “brought to complete unity” in Christ! (John 17:23) Benedict initially contacted Kip on Facebook, asking to join the SoldOut Movement. To test Benedict’s sincerity and resolve, Kip requested for him to make the arduous western trip by bus from Umuahia, Nigeria through three other countries (Togo, Benin and Ghana) to attend our African Missions Conference in Cote D’Ivoire! This Benedict gladly did – at 61 years old – despite the fact that he did not speak any French!
At the AMC, Kip, Blaise Feumba and I studied the Bible with him for three days. It was clear that Benedict was made into a true disciple before he was baptized into Christ! Interestingly, we learned that Benedict was also born in the same year as Kip and baptized the same year as Kip – 1972! Also, one of Benedict’s mentors and one of Kip’s mentors were fellow teachers at a Christian College in Nigeria founded by the Mainline Churches of Christ! Bonded by these common experiences, and more convinced than ever from the Scriptures that the SoldOut Movement is indeed God’s modern day movement, Benedict returned to Nigeria. Immediately, Benedict sold his car and other possessions in order to be able to attend the August 2015 Global Leadership Conference in LA!
On Benedict’s way home to Umuahia from the 2015 AMC, he purposely stopped by Lagos to study with his oldest son, GoodHope, who was also a Mainline Church of Christ minister, what he had learned in Abidjan. Interestingly, GoodHope had a second and more lucrative job as an Information Technology professional. His wife, Bonita, is an accountant for one of the top insurance companies in Nigeria! As well, they have a beautiful five-year-old daughter named Anita!
After Benedict’s visit, I had the privilege to study out the SoldOut Movement’s “distinguishing” Biblical Core Convictions over Skype with GoodHope. Like his father, he too was eager to join the movement! He traveled to Los Angeles in September 2015 and was blown away by the love of the disciples! In speaking to the City of Angels Church, GoodHope shared, “You have shown me love in a way that I have never seen before!” Upon his return to Lagos, GoodHope challenged his Mainline Church to restore from the Scriptures what GoodHope had recently learned from his father and me, but was met with malicious persecution over the issues of central leadership; discipling is a command of God; the evangelization of all nations in this generation; God calls His people to be a Bible Church, not just a New Testament Church; and “to be silent where the Bible speaks and speak where the Bible is silent.” (In other words, Christians are free to do anything that does not contradict Scripture.)
Upon informing his boss in the IT firm about his new Biblical convictions, his boss – who is a Mainline Church of Christ elder – stated, ”I am going to make life very difficult for God’s new movement!” When GoodHope arrived at work the following day, he could not login to the network of the company. Seeing that his boss was intent on firing him, GoodHope decided to resign! This is indeed a challenging decision for a man who was living comfortably in one of the most affluent parts of Nigeria. With the loss of his job also came the loss of his home – which his job paid for – as well as his car! Yet, I never sensed a complaining or fearful spirit from him. Instead, GoodHope was zealous to uphold the standard of righteousness in such a corrupt system!
During my first visit to Lagos in November 2015, GoodHope and I quickly became great friends, and it was a privilege to see the conviction of his wife Bonita as well. Financial challenges due to their decision to join the SoldOut Movement, forced GoodHope’s family to move to a much more modest area. As well, Bonita now travels more than three hours to get to work. These decisions by GoodHope, Bonita and GoodHope’s father Benedict showed me that they were truly sold-out to God’s SoldOut Movement!
Since there was only one remnant disciple that joined us in Johannesburg, but many who joined us in Lagos, Kip and I then wrestled with the early events of Paul’s second missionary journey in Acts 16. In this powerful passage, Paul was guided by “the Spirit of Jesus” to NOT go into the Province of Asia where he desired to preach, but to travel on to Troas. (It should be duly noted that at the end of this particular missionary journey, Paul does go to Asia and this becomes perhaps his most fruitful ministry of all time! God’s timing is perfect!)
Since so many joined us in Lagos and so few in Johannesburg, Kip and I saw this as God redirecting our steps in His timing. Also, in Acts 16:9, Paul is once again guided by God, but this time in a dream. “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia, standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” (Acts 16:9) Benedict’s consistent zeal for the SoldOut Movement to plant churches throughout Nigeria was reminiscent of this “man of Macedonia.” Although we had plans to plant Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016, we changed our plans to obey the Spirit’s call to plant Lagos, Nigeria as the movement’s Tenth Crown of Thorns Church!
Not only has God been moving to “gather His remnant” amongst the Mainline Churches of Christ, but He has also drawn to Him courageous souls from our former fellowship – the International Churches of Christ (ICOC)! After the Lagos Remnant Group was initiated by GoodHope, Bolaji Akinfenwa – a former ICOC Evangelist who led regions in Lagos of hundreds and was the overseeing Evangelist for the countries of Chad and Benin – also joined God’s new movement! During my last trip in April 2016, Bolaji shared vulnerably with me about the deterioration of “life and doctrine” in the church he loved. This is clearly seen as the Lagos ICOC has decreased from 4,000 to 1,500 members since 2003, with little focus on baptisms. In fact, during the last two years, a total of only 25 have been baptized.
With the abandonment of discipling, one sister who has been a faithful disciple for over 25 years and who attended our April church service shared that both her mother and her son have cried over the lack of love in what is left of the Lagos ICOC. She simply said, “This is no longer the church we were baptized into…” Sadly, despite Bolaji’s call to repentance to those in the Lagos ICOC leadership, the vindictive nature of those around him led to Bolaji’s resigning from the ministry in 2006. Yet his zeal has been renewed as he awaits the arrival of the Lagos Mission Team! Bolaji has already brought many remnant disciples to our sister congregation who are seeking revival! At the last service before I returned to LA, the six remnant disciples had a total of 26 at church with many members visiting from our former fellowship!
Finally, the need to support two disciples whose visas in London had expired also became clear, as both Damilola Arulgan and Atolani Abiodun were stranded in Nigeria! Most recently, I have learned that another disciple from the San Francisco ICC, Kate Awara, must return to Nigeria as well due to an expired visa. All three have counted the cost and see this “difficulty” as God’s will for them to be added to the Lagos Mission Team to save their people!
Now let me introduce you to the others that the Spirit has selected for the Lagos Mission Team: Joshua Ajayi of LA, Simon & Ashley Ajayi of LA, Attalee Dixon of Gainesville, Ariel Hazelton of LA, Markesa Hill of LA, Tina Nwachukwu of LA, Iggy Odighizuwa of LA, and Macque Linder of Portland! Lord willing, today at the end of the City of Angels All Congregational Service, the Lagos Mission Team will be sent out to evangelize not only Nigeria but all of Africa! The Inaugural Service of the Lagos International Christian Church will be held on the final day of the 2016 African Missions Conference – Sunday, June 26th – at the beautiful Four Points Sheraton Hotel on Victoria Island in Lagos! (www.fourpointslagos.com)
We would be greatly honored to have you join us, as several inspiring guest speakers such as Kip & Elena McKean will be traveling from nations across the globe for this historic weekend! The registration fee for non-African attendees will be $150. Please note that a Tourist Visa is required for your visit (www.travelvisapro.com), as well as the necessary vaccinations (wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/desinations/traveler/none/Nigeria). Thank you for your prayers that will surely propel us to make our Second African Missions Conference an event that we will talk about in Heaven! Indeed, the darkness of this lost continent will surely recede as A GREAT LIGHT HAS DAWNED! And to God be all the glory!