In 1962 a preacher presented the Gospel in a school in Lagos. A lad who was present showed no interest in the message. By his own confession, he was playing around at the back of the class, but the preacher quoted the Lord’s questions to Hagar, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8)
This last question raised concerns with the boy, Sylvester Eke – who is now in the Church of God in Owerri. He wondered where he would go when life was over. It troubled him for two years, until Scottish evangelist Willie Stewart was holding special Gospel meetings in Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria in 1964. A boy, who was randomly given an invitation leaflet on the street, passed it on to Sylvester, who accepted the invitation. When he heard the Gospel, he trusted the Lord Jesus as his Saviour. Shortly after that, he was baptized and added to the Church of God in Surulere.
Six months later, in April 1965, John Black arrived in Lagos. Sylvester said to him, “I got saved because a preacher came to our school. Let us go to the schools.” In 1966 Bible teacher George Prasher observed that, although we were in touch with many young people, they were not coming to the Church meeting hall. He suggested running a Vacation Bible Course to introduce them to our meeting place.
This started an annual event that has continued until the present day without a break, apart from one year (1967). Other churches of God, and indeed other Christian believers, have profitably followed Surulere’s example and run Vacation Bible Courses. Fifty to sixty schools and thousands of young people are reached in this way each year. Eternity alone will reveal the harvest that has been, and will be, reaped – if the Lord tarries – directly and indirectly through this productive work. The Lord has touched many lives through it.
One of our 1970 students, who is now a medical officer in London, met me at Paddington Station in 2008 and testified to the goodness of God in her life which started when she attended the VBC and gave her life to Jesus Christ. Tony Nemi, now in full time work for the Lord, was contacted through the VBC! We learn some invaluable lessons from this experience. No one knows the outcome of even one act done for the Lord, or the blessing that will flow on for eternity. Nor should we overlook how it all started, long before 1962! Who led that unknown preacher to the Lord? And who played a part in Willie Stewart’s spiritual heritage? There are so many interwoven strands to this story.
We can trace its origins even farther down the years to the cross of Christ: Rich harvest from a corn of wheat once scattered; Sheaves for His praise and endless glory gathered, Sown at the Cross in lonely agony.
Of course, we know that even the Cross wasn’t the starting point. The search takes us back beyond time into the mists of the eternal past and God’s great purpose of the ages,the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:11) With that thrilling thought we bow and wonder and worship as we contemplate what the Divine Co-coordinator has brought about. To God be the glory!