After two weeks of public evangelism, themed "Almost Home," 650 sites produced unprecedented results in the history of the Eastern Nigeria Union Conference. The Pentecost 2023 Baptism Festival was jointly held with the annual One Day Prayer Conference on Sunday, January 22, 2023, in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria.
Usually, the prayer conference gathered a maximum of 20,000 people at the beginning of the year. For Pastor Bassey Udoh, president of the union, this is unprecedented. He said, "We praise God for what He is doing. We have well over 80,000 members gathered here. From what we see, we can't determine the number. It is impressive! We have over 10,000 souls that are going to be baptized."
It is true that in the beginning, according to Azukoye Amadi, the organizer of the festival, “[We] were expecting about 1,500 baptized, though we planned for 2,000. But now, 2 out of the 16 conferences have reached 3,520 souls. When we entrust a project to God, He really does wonders. This is the result of the prayer we are seeing today. We have rented 40,000 chairs, but today, we are overwhelmed."
In view of all this, Pastor Robert Osei-Bonsu, president of the West-Central Africa Division (WAD), expressed his gratitude to God: "We thank God for this well-organized day of prayer and fasting, which culminated in a phenomenal mass baptism of over 10,000 souls. The attendance was overwhelming and beyond expectations."
Speaking as he exhorted the nearly 80,000 people, Pastor Osei-Bonsu commended the union: "I would like to commend the leadership of ENUC for their visionary and innovative leadership. It is wonderful in our eyes, and we have every cause to say ‘Thank you’ to God.” Pastors baptized in 34 mobile baptisteries.
In a very meaningful and challenging message, Pastor Osei-Bonsu encouraged everyone: "May the Lord motivate us for the mission by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are almost home. I can feel it.” He echoed the words of John 14:1–3: "Let not your heart be troubled …" He called the people of God to be ready to go home. The WAD departmental directors were among the preachers deployed to the 650 campaign sites, partnering with ENUC.
The three baptized people interviewed for this article had a common refrain. Ngozi, from Mewi, a middle-aged man, said, "I am happy with our baptism today. I discovered the truth about Jesus and the Sabbath. I feel good because my life has changed."
Chioma, a lady in her 40s, said, "I am very very happy. My spirit is full of joy. I thank God for baptizing me today."
And a young girl named Grace couldn’t refrain her joy: "I feel happy because now I am a full member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I saw that there is truth in this church.”
The message was clear to the people of the area who were affected by the recent floods that left more than 25,000 Adventists without homes and possessions. Many unreached villages have opened their doors to the Adventist message. Several companies and churches are being established.
Pastor Osei-Bonsu sees that "every union can organize such a program yearly. Evangelism will thrive in WAD, and many souls will be won to the kingdom." Desiring to see this replicated in all ten unions, he encourages “all union presidents to adopt this laudable vision of planting a hunger for souls in the hearts of every member right from the beginning of the year."
Thus, the centennial activities were launched. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, executive governor of Abia State in Nigeria, gave the official declaration: "The glory of the last house will be greater than that of the former," according to Haggai 2:9, heralding a bright future for the church. "I give glory to God. We are privileged to be part of this worldwide family that is looking forward to the return of our King, Jesus Christ. If He returns today, we should be ready."
Ikpeazu added, “I officially declare the centenary activities in this field open in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!” An impressive fireworks display greeted this formal declaration. And the mass choir, made up of over 1,000 choristers, sang Handel's “Hallelujah.”
Pastor Udoh promoted his vision further: "For these 100 years, we want to give to God 100,000 souls by the end of the year." In this, he can count on the support of members and pastors.
Pastor Osei-Bonsu believes it can be done. "The mass baptism sent a strong signal to the members that every person must gain a soul by the end of the year. The response from members is encouraging, and I believe the goal of 100,000 members by the end of the year is possible if we all work together."
This centennial celebration will be attended by Pastor Ted Wilson, General Conference president. The date is set for November 2023. The Eastern Nigeria Union Conference estimates it will baptize at least 90,000 people. Nothing is impossible for God!
This article was provided by the West-Central Africa Division.