, communication and media assistant,
South England Conference
Adventist Nigerians across the world are celebrating the
100th anniversary of the arrival of Adventism in the African country, and the
festivities reached Britain this month.
A group of Nigerians and former British missionaries
gathered at a church in the London suburb of Watford on a recent Sabbath to
remember the first missionary, David C. Babcock of the United States, who
arrived in Nigeria in March 1914.
"This epic celebration started in Nigeria earlier in
the year, and the people and leaders there didn't think it would be complete
until we held one in the U.K. and then in America," said Kayode Omojola, a
co-organizer of the event and a local Adventist leader.
"Today we have heard from some of the missionaries,” he
said. “Some of them we haven't even met before, but through them people have
come to know Christ. I am one of the products."
This year marks a double celebration for Nigerian
Adventists. Sir Fredrick Lugard's British colonial administration formed the
Nigerian territory in 1914 by amalgamating the Northern and Southern
Today, Nigeria hosts the church’s largest school, Babcock
University, with nearly 8,400 graduate and undergraduate students, and boasts a
significant Adventist presence.
In the North Nigerian Mission alone, the number of Adventist
members has swelled from 3,000 a half century ago to more than 100,000 today,
said Roland Karlman, a former treasurer for the mission. His wife, Dr. Inger
Karlman, treated patients at the local Adventist hospital.
"It's wonderful to see how God has progressed the work
there," Roland Karlman said at the anniversary event.
Nigerian Adventists thanked the British missionaries for
"Those were the happiest days of our life in Nigeria,”
said Elizabeth Lethbridge, a former missionary whose late husband, Keith,
served as secretary and treasurer of the West Nigerian Mission. “Even now, when
I see Nigerians in town, a great big smile comes on my face.”
Ayodeji Adesina, pastor of the London-area Blessed Hope, the
only Nigerian Adventist church in Europe, said that as a third-generation
Adventist he was delighted to be able to learn about church history from the
former missionaries and to share the experience with his children.
"We heard about their stories," he said.
"They walked in some of the churches we went to. They walked in the
hospitals that some of us have gone in. To look at people who gave their lives
[and] sacrificed the comforts of their homes is very humbling.
“It's such a delight to look back and see the past 100 years
where the Lord has been awesome to us as a people," he said.
INSIDE LOOK: Nigerian Adventists and former missionaries explaining the significance of the anniversary.
British Union Conference article: “U.K. Celebrates 100 Years of Adventism in Nigeria”
Adventist World article: “One Family, Two Legacies: David Caldwell Babcock and Babcock University”
Adventist Review article, June 13, 2012: “New Adventist Medical School on African Continent”