Reveling in color and song, hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist members, guests, and Pathfinders joined a celebratory centennial program at the birthplace of Adventism in Eastern Nigeria in Aba, Abia State, November 1. Adventist leaders present included General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson, treasurer Paul H. Douglas, associate treasurer George Egwakhe, and their wives. Officials from the West-Central Africa Division (WAD) and most of the union presidents across the 22-country region were also present.
Hundreds of students lined the road leading to the ceremony site as the convoy carrying leaders and guests drove by, led by dozens of Pathfinders Club members and a fanfare band. Once at the site, the band led world and regional Adventist leaders to the first stop on the grounds for brief moments of singing, reflection, and remembrance.
After official introductions led by Eastern Nigeria Conference president Bassey Udoh and WAD president Robert Osei-Bonsu, the band led the singing of Nigeria’s national anthem and the Pathfinder’s song. Wilson then inspected the honor guard.
In the second and main part of the celebration, leaders and guests followed in procession to the main site of the festivities, where hundreds of church members awaited to greet the Adventist leaders. Congregational singing and special selections by church choirs set the tone for the ceremony, which, in keeping with a regional focus on Adventist Possibilities Ministries, was fully interpreted into sign language.
Adventist leaders, including Egwakhe, a native of Nigeria, and Douglas, greeted the congregants. “Somebody asked me a few minutes ago if I was Nigerian,” Douglas, who was born in Jamaica, told the crowd. “I want to say that today, I am, indeed, Nigerian. It’s such a blessing to be part of God’s family, and such a privilege to be here with you.”
Wilson thanked the hundreds who patiently waited for several hours for the convoy to arrive. He also thanked Adventist members for the warm and joyful welcome, the uplifting music, and the extensive preparations.
Basing his anniversary message on Joshua 1, Wilson said that members should own God’s promise to Joshua, when God assured him, “The Lord is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
“Israel was almost home,” Wilson said, “just as we are also almost home. It is a key moment for us as Seventh-day Adventists, as it was to the people of Israel just before crossing the Jordan into Canaan. Don’t allow anyone or anything [to] distract you from pushing forward,” he said. “Don’t allow any earthly endeavor to distract you from your heavenly goal.” He added, “I don’t care what challenge you are facing today — related to health, family, mission, money — God will be with you and will take you across the river. Don’t lean on anybody else but Jesus. Allow Him to take you through.”
And as we wait, God is calling each one of us to be a missionary for the Lord, taking people back to the true worship of God, Wilson said. “We have to work with the community in every possible way, following Jesus, who always worked to relieve suffering and teach righteousness.”
Wilson also reflected on the stones the Israelites used to erect an altar to remember what God had done in their lives. “God wants each one of you to be a memorial of His power in your life because… you are part of this God’s end-time people,” he said. “And let me tell you: You are not alone; you are part of a worldwide family.”
Toward the end of the ceremony, Adventist leaders cut a centennial cake as more singing and prayers called members to recommit to the mission of sharing God’s message with at least one more person before the end of the year.
Adventists in Eastern Nigeria
In 1922, Jesse Clifford, an Adventist pastor, and his wife, Catherine, came to Nigeria from Ivory Coast. In April 1923, Clifford established an Adventist congregation in Umuola, Aba. Several of the early members had heard the message from previous missionaries who had come from Sierra Leone.
Eventually, more people studied the Bible with Clifford, and soon, other congregations sprung up in the area. Clifford also opened a school and stayed as the local church pastor until 1930. Today, the Eastern Nigeria Union Conference includes more than 191,000 baptized members and a Sabbath School membership of more than 300,000.