Since 2014, the Church of God in Germany has been in contact with brothers and sisters in two African countries. Several brothers and sisters have also visited the congregations there. In September 2018, Brother Okereke Ogbonnaya was in Germany for several weeks and preached the Word of God in many congregations.
Development of the Church
The beginnings of this ministry go back to 1978. God led Brother Okereke Ogbonnaya to obtain a copy of “The Way of Truth.” It was in this publication that biblical baptism by immersion was discussed. He then contacted Brother Craig, the preacher of the Church of God in Hagerstown, MD, USA. Brother Craig answered and sent him literature that assisted him in studying the Word of God, as well as doctrinal information showing the New Testament Church as described in the Word of God.
The brother realized in the light of divine truth that the full gospel was not being preached and lived out in the congregation he attended. He therefore left that congregation in June 1982 and adhered to the Word of God alone. On June 20, 1982, the first service of the Church of God was held in Okposi. Brother Ogbonnaya sought people who belonged to the Church of God in the following years. Although there are more than 20 groups with this name, he was always disappointed when he met with them personally. It was not until four years later that he found brothers Benjamin Adesoro from Auchi and Silver Nnaeto from Benin City. These brothers then met in February 1986 with brothers Ollen and Alvin Craig from Hagerstown (USA) in Okposi. The Craig brothers also visited Nigeria three times until 1995. They helped the brethren dig deeper into biblical teachings and instructed the leaders in many matters of practical church life in the Church of God. They also brought them literature of the Church of God and sent them regular publications (The Way of Truth).
Brother Hessou H. Jean from Benin reports how he became acquainted with the teachings of the Church of God as early as 1983. In 1984, the brothers and sisters began Church of God services in Hègo-Tanmè, Benin. In 1989, when Brothers Alvin and Ollen Craig visited Nigeria, a group of brothers and sisters from Benin traveled to Nigeria and became acquainted with the brothers from the USA and, likewise, the brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Thus began the close collaboration of the ministries in Nigeria and Benin, which have grown to this day.
Since the beginning, the work of the Church of God has grown rapidly in both countries. In Nigeria, there are currently over 30 local congregations, and in Benin, the brothers and sisters gather in 19 locations. In total, about 2500 people attend the regular services in both countries, of which over 40% are children and youth. Only some of the local congregations have a building for the services; however, the term “building” can easily mislead us. In some cases, the services are held in extremely poor conditions or in rented rooms.
The pastors in charge meet regularly for pastors’ meetings.
In both Nigeria and Benin, camp meetings are regularly held to strengthen the church in the way of biblical truth.
In 2014, 2016, and 2018, visits from Germany took place in Nigeria and Benin. Remarkable was the fact that both the brothers from Germany and Africa gratefully noted how important “Church of God” is to them both in Africa and in Germany. Again and again, they shared together the preciousness of the church doctrine and practical living.
For the past three years, a radio program of the Church of God has been broadcasted in some states in Nigeria, which has been well-received beyond expectations. In Benin, the radio mission was started earlier.
The Church of God in Nigeria is so similar to the church in Europe – and at the same time so structurally different. There, where the essential spiritual elements of salvation, love, grace, and zeal are at stake, unity is clearly experienced. Unity is assured by the mind of Christ, who guides His children in every country. It is love and humility that unite the hearts of diverse people in a spiritual way and enable understanding across language barriers.
And then there are the different cultures in which the church lives and works. It is shaped by the environment, the regional culture, and the temperament of the inhabitants. There are major differences here: it starts with punctuality and does not end with lively worship services. But these differences ensure that the people of the surrounding area feel comfortable in the various congregations. The respective congregational culture is authentic and harmonizes with the spirit of the Gospel in its environment.
The mutual visits have shown how much we also need each other. In the last few weeks (March 2021), Brother Rufus sent a message to Germany, “I am on my way to evangelistic meetings to preach. Pray for me.” Prayers were said for him in various congregations – and God blessed the work. The services were held in an extremely poor room, and the visitors sat on plain plastic chairs. But the Holy Spirit was present and worked in His power.
May God continue to bless the work of the Church of God in Nigeria and Benin and let it be a bright light in a dark place.
Herbert Kowalski / Hamm, Germany
Olanike Adewusi Anders / Gifhorn, Germany
Hermann Vogt / Gifhorn, Germany