“Young people are the hope of the church”

A historical picture of a Mennonite Church Nigeria congregation after a church service. Photos courtesy of Mennonite Church Nigeria

Renewal 2027 testimony: Anabaptists today

Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events organized by Mennonite World Conference’s Faith and Life Commission to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement. This series highlights leaders in the movement from history to the present

“People feel excited about the Word even as their problem vanish through prayers. Also, when they have physical need, we grant them welfare,” says Bishop Victor UmoAbasi. This is the legacy of Mennonite Church Nigeria, which celebrated its 60th anniversary November 2018.

An early baptism in Mennonite Church Nigeria. Photos courtesy of Mennonite Church Nigeria. The church began 22 November 1958 with pastor Francis Umana Ekerek sending an invitation letter to a mission board in the USA. As a result, Americans S.J. and Ida Hostetler and Edwin and Irene Weaver worked alongside the Africa-initiated churches who have since grown in leaps and bounds.

“As [new Christians] were coming in streams, the major challenge was how to make them true disciples; the land and the buildings were not a problem because the manpower was there,” says UmoAbasi.

Church growth 

The church now has 18,000 members in five dioceses. “Indeed, this is worth celebrating,” says UmoAbasi.

“We pray, preach and share the Word of God as well as interpret to the people,” says UmoAbasi. Churches meet Sundays for worship, Fridays for Bible studies and Wednesdays for prayers and deliverance.

Peace work

“There will be no prosperity to the community that is not at peace. And where there is no peace, there will be no eternity with God,” says UmoAbasi. At the anniversary event, members and community leaders who pioneered peace work in their community or state will receive awards.

Leader development

“Young people are the hope of the church,” says UmoAbasi. “Some of the youths that I have seen with enormous talents and potentials. If opportunities are given to them to showcase their worth at the international programs, it would be an amazing discovery.” Young people will display their abilities in a talent show at the anniversary event.

Some 50 percent of Mennonite Church Nigeria leaders are trained at Bible college; other leaders – men and women – are trained through seminars and summits every three months.

Skills acquisition and regular conferences also help people come into their destiny.

2018 youth camp. Photos courtesy of Mennonite Church Nigeria

Children’s ministry

In the aspect of education, the church has an orphanage, nursery and primary school in about six centres in local government areas. The church has employed more than 40 staff with 400 children in these schools.

The chilren’s camp 13–19 August 2018 for ages 3–12 included activities such as singing, talent hunt, football competition and Bible quizzing.

In addition to education, the church is working toward the skill acquisition centre for the vulnerable groups. “Being a custodian of moral consciousness, we raise them through training,” UmoAbasi says.

Evangelist Uduakobong leads attendees at the 2018 women’s convention, Uyo Assembly. Photos courtesy of Mennonite Church Nigeria

Social enterprise

The church also has a Purified Water Factory. It is managed by a seasoned investor, though owned by the church and overseen by board of investment of the church. “This has also created employment for the people,” said UmoAbasi.

“The church has faced great and turbulent times; yet, God has kept the church strong,” says UmoAbasi.

An event tagged “Change for Dominion Conference” at the national headquarters in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, celebrated the 60th anniversary in November 2018.

“We need more understanding from the new leadership… and we want to have collaboration… as an organization that is spreading the gospel of peace and also integrating people into international activities,” says Umo Abasi.

Over the next 60 years, Mennonite Church Nigeria will be “a formidable movement” that engages youth and the global church.

—Monday Ekpo is a lay leader in Mennonite Church Nigeria.

8 Jan 2019 - 12:08pm