Marking the centenary celebration of Missionary activities ( gospel) in wukari and its environs
Wukari the key seat of the (Jukun) is no doubt a big name as far as the history of missionary activities in Nigeria, particularly in the southern part of Taraba State is concerned. It is quite obvious that Wukari before the advent of the Christian missionaries was rooted in idolatry. Shrines of assorted types dedicated to different gods and godesses were a common sight within the town and its environs. But to God be the glory that despite all this, the Gospel Preachers persevered and took the gospel to every nook and cranny of the land.
The arrival of the Christian Missionaries as well as their activities in Wukari and its environs cannot be discussed without recourse to the Sudan United Mission (S.U.M); the pioneer missionary body that visited Wukari from Wase, Plateau State in 1905. Sequel to this visit, Dr. John Burt came to Wukari in the same year when the Aku Uka Manu Agbunshu was on throne. The mission board (S.U.M) sent another missionary Rev. W. Maxwell (fondly called Lange- lange by the Jukun) together with Burt during the latter's second visit to the area in the same year.
The hospitality accorded these two missionaries by both the Jukun divine king and his subjects based on their report motivated the Sudan United Mission to commence missionary work in Wukari. It is on record that on 29 May 1906 they built (opened) a mission station in Wukari and left same under the auspices of Mr. Young and Rev. Maxwell. While the former was the Head teacher, the latter was his assistant. Besides, while Young learnt the Hausa language, Maxwell learnt Jukun and was able to translate and publish in 1914 the St. Mark's gospel in the Jukun dialect of Wukari Wapan. In fact, they laboured tirelessly in the aspects of evangelism and health.
In recognition of the fact that the harvest was plentiful but the labourers few, more missionaries were sent to Wukari. To be precise on 26 November, 1906, Mr. Hoover, Dr. Derr and Rev. Guinter arrived Wukari. But the response of the natives to Christianity (the gospel) was poor. Progress was snail-paced as the natives saw Christianity) as White man's religion, as it was fondly called, a threat to their most cherished way of life idolatry. As a result, Maxwell and Burt moved down to Donga.
It is worthy to note that on 19 March 1911 a convert named Istifanus Lar (a tarok man) from Dampar were baptized in Wukari. Similarly, in 1912 Mr. Filibus Ashu with Esther (Astira), student of the then Orphanage Home/School in Wukari was baptized. The two were later joined in holy matrimony praise the Lord!
In the year 1913, seven missionaries were sent to Wukari to assist in the soul harvest. Among them was Mr./Mrs. Farrant. The missionaries held their first conference in Ibi on the 18 December 1913. They unanimously resolved at the said conference that a School be established in Wukari in order to equip the natives with writing skills. Dr. Paul Krusius a German was charged with this responsibility but for the World War I, he left the country. This responsibility was immediately transferred to Rev. C. Guinter and Rev. J. Maxwell. The dream came true in 1915 with an enrolment of fourteen pupils (13 men, 1 woman). Six out of the total enrolment were Jukun men. The school was located at the site where the central Mosque of the Darika sect stands today in Wukari.
Christianity as hitherto mentioned was met with stoic resistance among the people of Wukari during the formative years. But to God be the glory that in the year 1917, the church was said to have been firmly established. In the said year, the Rev. Guinter administered the Holy Communion in Donga. Indigenes then saw the need to be actively involved in propagating the gospel. To buttress this assertion the first S.U.M conference was held in Wukari in 1923 and matters relating to church growth and development were discussed. Also in the
year 1928 the first indigenous convention (RCC) of the church of the then
Benue Province (Lardin Benue) was held at Ibi and many people from places like Lantang, Takum, Donga, Wukari etc attended. People like Miss Johanna
Veenstra, Rev. H. J. Evenhouse, Dr J.C. Dekorne, Margaret Dyksta, Rev./Mrs. Peter Ipemas, Miss Jennie Stielstra, Mr. Lemcke, Miss Dorothy Systsma, among other missionaries contributed immensely to the growth and development of Ch˝stianity, education and health programme among the Jukun.
EVANGELISM BY INDIGENES (NATIVES):
Through the effort of missionaries some natives saw the need to give their lives to Christ. They renounced their old ways despite persecution from their parents and relations. They became very instrumental in spreading the gospel in the area and beyond. Some of them were Mall Agyo Likita, Mr. Matsonde Apaji, Mr. Adashu, Mr. Istifanus Lar from Dampar, Mr. Iliya Gani, Filibus Ashu, Bulus Maji Gadu, Aboki Wakani,, Manu Yamusa Aji, Manu Andrawus Agbu, Ato Kuku, Adi Sonyi, Habila Adda Angyu, Mr. Shawulu Angyu from Rafin-kada, Mr. Sambo Donga, Mr. Umaru A. Donga and a host of others. They usually met for worship at the site where the old church building in the present Gu Wukari stands till this day. Worship then was done under the auspices and guidance of Rev. Guinter and other missionaries. Suffice it to say that the missionaries then resided at the site where the St. Mary's Primary school is today. It is interesting to say that Mall Agyo Likita was sent as evangelist and health personnel to Akwana, Mr. Filibus Ashu was in 1919 sent to the Takum area.
He worked as an evangelist in places like Lupwe, Lissam etc. Mr. Iliya Gani was then in charge of the Wukari flock. Before the entire Jukunland came under the auspices of American Missionaries, the missionaries from England controlled the area from Wukari to Ibi while American missionaries controlled Takum to Bissaula on the Nigeria/Cameroun border. It became necessary to transfer control entirely to America this time because the missionaries from England were considering relocating their station or headquarters to Gindiri, Plateau State.
It is sad to say that Mr. Iliya Gani later backslide (He became a polygamist) and was laid off. The Wukari flock was left without a shepherd. In November 1940 some church elders from Ibi, Donga and Takum came to Wukari together with some missionaries to deliberate on the fall of Gani as well as the fate of the Wukari church. It was resolved that the church be closed down and that the other churches (believers) should be interceding for her.
In December of the year above, Mr. Smith visited the church to give what was to be the final message and then close down the church. After his message, he addressed the congregation and explained to them why the church would be closed. Mr. Istifanus Agyo and Mall. Kefas Angyu Atewunu felt touched and acted. Upon Kefas Angyu's advice a letter was written to the missionaries pointing to them the implications of their proposal. The missionaries reasoned with these men and entrusted the leadership of the church into their hands. They assured the missionaries that they would do their best by His grace. Mr. Smith assured them that the church would no longer be closed down. In addition, it was resolved in January 1941 that at the end of every month believers be sent from Takum, Ibi or Donga to encourage/advise the church. Moreover, Mall. Kefas and Istifanus were saddled with the task of taking care of the mission quarters (residence). They were placed on monthly salary of forty-five Pennies. In fact, they were very instrumental in teaching basic reading and writing skills.
December 2, 1950 marked yet another turning point in the life of the church in Wukari with the appointment of four persons as Elders. These were Mr. Istifanus Agyo, Kefas Angyu Atenwunu, Andrawus Agbu and Polycarp Umaru. While Istifanus Agyo was the Chairman, Kefas was Secretary. Mr. Istifanus Agyo preached the gospel within Wukari and its surrounding villages. These men suffered greatly for Christ. Christianity in the Western Region (Lardin Yamma) is traced to Mall. Kefas Angyu Atenwunu. He commenced soul harvest there on 19 December 1955. He took the gospel to places like Akwana, Abinse, Arufu, Ikwe, Chinkai, Ando-Yaku, Tsufa, Fyayi, Ando-Igba, Sondi, Rafm-Kada etc. Though on foot, he persevered.
The church wouldn't have progressed in the area of evangelism were it not for the literacy classes tutored then by Mr. Organizer Dangana. Through the efforts of Mall. Kefas and Istifanus, more converts were added to the body of Christ. These were Mr. David Bako Agbu, Solomon Gambo Ahima and women like Mrs. Agyinwakwa, Hawa Saratu etc. Between 1950-1956 the population of communicant men in the Wukari church stood at 32, women 22. The number of infants baptized was 14. The result of this increase was the upliftment of the status of the church to a consistory (Gu in Hausa) on 16 May 1954 with the four elders earlier mentioned. Mr. David Bako Agbu, Samuel Danjuma Gani, Ibrahim Sangari Usman and Solomon Gambo Ahima were later absorbed into the council of elders.
THE FIRST INDIGENEOUS PASTOR:
In the year 1957, the council of elders in their meeting resolved that a pastor be called to take care of the church in Wukari. Habila Adda Angyu was immediately chosen by the elders as he had then completed his studies.
Churches sprang up, grew and became consistories (Gu). Such churches include CRCN Bege (sondi) 24 February 1963, CRCN Rafin-Kada 24 January 1965, Nyakwala 14 March 1965, Tsokundi 20 January 1971. The Missionary, Rev Peter Dekker was during these formative years in charge of the church in Donga (Emmanuel Church), Ibi and Wukari. The consistories mentioned above constituted the first district (Gundumar Wukari) before the district was later split as follows: Wukari district, Western districts (Gundumar Yamma), and Taraba district for ease of administration and evangelism.
In November 1973, the Rev. Ezekiel Adamu was ordained as pastor to assist in fending for the Gu Wukari flock. Like Habila he worked relentlessly for Christ and was even made the Chairman of Wukari District Church. Rev. Ezekiel W. Nyajon now addressed as Aihaji Muhammadu Nyajon succeeded him as chairman. In addition to the Ibi consistory other consistories- Sarkin Kudu, Puje and Kyakyawa (Dooshima) were created. The Wukari district church became a Regional church on 9 June 1985 with Gu Wukari as the headquarters and Rev. Ishaya B. Gani as the first chairman, other pastors were
- Rev. Ezekiel A. Adamu - Principal V.S Wukari
- Rev. Filibus D. Aboki - Visiting Teacher
- Rev. Manasseh Gokum - CRCN S/Kudu
- Rev. Luka D. Agbu - Jukun Translator
Rev. Ishaya B. Gani also laboured for Christ that Gu Nwuban was created with Rev. Joel W. Gongung as the first Pastor. It must be mentioned that the expansion of the church during his tenure also saw the establishment of the Puje Consistory on 29/1/84 with Rev. Luka D. Audu as the first pastor and Wapan Nghaku consistory on 16/2/96 with Rev. Yakubu Ishaya Tsojon as the first pastor. Similarly, through Rev. Luka Audu Byepyi consistory was established in February 1990 with Rev. Exodus M. Adi as the first pastor.
Th& missionaries came, saw and conquered! As we celebrate the 100
years of their fruitful labour in our land we should be thinking about others such as Late Rev. Habila Adda Augyu, a graduate of Veenstra Junior Seminary Lupwe. He laboured faithfully to Zinna (Zing) for the gospel. He also went to Jalingo, Baissa, and the Mambilla area with Edgar Smith. He visited Kpanti Napo, .Kona, Lankaviri, Yakoko, Bete, Ma lumshe, Kashimbila, Lufu, Bissaula, Lupwe etc on foot for the sake of Christ.
He was ordained as pastor on 2 March, 1958. In fact, he contributed immensely to the growth and development of the church in diverse aspects. He baptized many believers within Wukari and the surrounding villages. This celebration should be a moment of sober reflection: CRCN is 100 years; what have been my contributions towards its growth/development?
Elder Amos Adi
Secretary RCC Wukari