GENERAL OVERVIEW OF SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA)

Scripture Union started in United kingdom on June 2, 1867, as the Children Special Services Mission (CSSM). The Ministry was founded by Josiah Spiers with great support from Thomas ‘Pious’ Hughes, Tom Bishop and Annie Marston. The ministry started with 25 children but grew rapidly following the unique and innovative approach of presenting Jesus to the children.

And by 1885 the ministry of Scripture Union had reached Nigeria through a CMS missionary, Rev. Charles Henry Vidal Gollmer. Scripture union (Nigeria) as it is addressed today started from the activities of this missionary and his team in Lagos Nigeria. Just like in the UK where the ministry first started it also started in Nigeria as CSSM/CSU. It also started through the use of the reading cards which Annie Marston had introduced in CSSM UK . This bible reading cards later metamorphosed into Bible Union and later to Scripture Union.

But the ministry was too slow in its growth for many years. In fact there was a period of almost 50 years of near inactivity as a result of two world wars that occurred within that period. The world war 1 which happened in 1914 – 1918. And also World War 2 which started 21 year later and lasted for 6 years. Those two wars completely disrupted evangelical activities all over the world and in Scripture Union Nigeria it is often referred to as the ‘silent years’ in Scripture Union Ministry.

GOD ENDS ‘THE SILENT YEARS’ THROUGH NIGEL SYLVESTER

But those silent years ended in 1957 as God brought a great breakthrough and revival through another foreign missionary by name Nigel Sylvester. It was his visit to Nigeria in 1957 brought a great turnaround in the history of Scripture Union Nigeria as a ministry. It was equally his coming that brought together other missionaries and believers in Nigeria at the time to partner with SU movement. He demonstrated in a very simple way the mission of Scripture Union. And equally explained their focus in helping people meet Jesus through the study of the bible.

The positive response of those missionaries and a few indigenous Christians led to the convening of the very first SU committee which held on May 11, 1957. After that first committee, Nigel Sylvester made a formal presentation of some of the proposals he considered necessary for the growth of SU movement in Nigeria.

Highlights of Nigel Sylvester’s 1957 Proposal are:

1. Engagement of full time SU staff who would be charged with the responsibility of overseeing schools’ work, camps, leadership training, among others.

2. The use of the name ‘Scripture Union’ for the movement established in Nigeria

3. The forming of a central committee that would oversee the modalities of raising fund for the movement.

All three items in his proposal was accepted and given immediate approval by SU international headquarter in London.Though it was immediately approved but the implementation was to come in phases.

THE FIRST TRAVELLING SECRETARY SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA)

In order to match words with action the first proposal was implemented almost immediately. This was done in January 1958 through the ministry engaging the services of Mr. John Dean as a staff. He assumed duty as the pioneer travelling secretary of Scripture Union (Nigeria). Dean was an energetic and dedicated traveling secretary, who traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria for the cause of the Union.

However, in 1962 there was a need for Dean to move up to northern Nigeria to join the Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) who were labouring in the work of evangelism over there. While Dean went up North Peter Edwards was deployed to take over from him as Travelling Secretary.

God was already prospering the work among his people and there was a need to engage more staff and at that point Jane Sutton joined the staff of SU as another traveling secretary. By 1964, Bill Roberts also joined the team of SU traveling secretaries bringing the number to four.

SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA) GAINS AUTONOMY

1966 was a landmark year for the work of SU in Nigeria. This is because a few significant events took place in the ministry that year.

First it is the year the Union became autonomous from the international movement. It was in the same year that the name Scripture Union (Nigeria) was officially adopted as proposed by Nigel Sylvester in 1957.

Scripture Union Nigeria Tripod
Scripture Union Nigeria Tripod

A thanksgiving service was held to mark the autonomy of Scripture Union (Nigeria). The service held at Emmanuel College, Ibadan on November 5th, 1966. By this time Nigel Sylvester was working as the African Regional Secretary and by the authority of of Scripture Union International he declared the Scripture Union (Nigeria) autonomous on November 5, 1966. The inauguration service was attended by over 200 students and supporters of SU from different parts of the country. till today, the ministry is still addressed as Scripture Union (Nigeria). Following the declaration of that autonomy, a Nigerian council was established. Under the crafted constitution, the union operated as an area with a travelling secretary leading the staff team. And on October 9th, 1967, Scripture Union (Nigeria) was registered as a voluntary non-profit making Christian organization in Nigeria.

The union became autonomous from the international body, with her first national chairman and other officers appointed in 1966

THE COMING OF BILL ROBERTS

It was in that same 1966 that Bill Roberts was sent to the eastern part of the country. Few months after his arrival a civil war that lasted nearly four years broke out. As God would have it that war was a tool broke that God used to harvest many souls to the kingdom in that region of the country. Though Bill had option of leaving once the war broke out but he decided to risk it and stay behind. He choosed rather to ‘suffer affliction’ together with the people he came to minister to.  His decision to stay back in the East during the civil war, eventually proved very timely and strategic to God’s revival programme for the East soon after the civil war.

Though a civil war broke out soon after his arrival but the war worked out good for the kingdom of God as many souls in that region gave their lives to Christ through the work of Bill Roberts under the SU. The ministry grew like wild fire through his efforts.

Within this period, the union was working right in the churches. But their goal was to help those churches establish new churches, as well as make people to be conscious of holiness and righteousness. And that they did excellently well.

THE WAR WAS ONLY A TEMPORARY SETBACK

The work was slightly halted for about four years following the civil war. But in 1970 when the war ended, the surviving SU brethren, who before the war, occupied leadership positions returned to their various locations and re-established SU fellowship centres. By this time they were doing the work with renewed zeal and gratitude to God who spared their lives. Brethren were never more heavenly conscious as they were then and it showed in their commitment.

But the revival was not just happening in the South East, brethren in the Western part of the country were equally feeling the fire. Precisely Ibadan was agog for Christ. The brethren came together from east to west and reorganized themselves and sought the way forward for Scripture Union (Nigeria).

ELECTION OF FIRST NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF SU (NIGERIA)

One of the key decisions from that committee was to elect new set of national leaders. Been filled with the holy ghost and completely under the leading of the spirit they conducted an election. And the mantle of leadership fell upon the shoulders of Dr. Peter Odumosu, a vibrant young man. He assumed the position in 1968, and served till 1974. Also a Council Secretary was elected by name Rev. Mike Oye. To complete the three cardinal offices as it has always been in Scripture Union is Mr. Olu Adeyemi who was elected as the Council Treasurer.

The council under Dr. Odumosu was able to tackle the initial challenges of the young ministry. Through their leadership, God proved to the western world that He “shows no partiality,” rather “in every nation whosoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted and used (Acts 10: 35c-36).

The Area (as the national movement was known then) had three zones namely East Central State, Western State and the Northern State. The East had Mr. Muyiwa Olemijulo as TS; the West had two centres which were coordinated by Sister Comfort Essien and Sister Beatrice Onoguenuwe (TS of Mid-Western State). The northern state had no TS.

THE IMPACT OF BILL ROBERTS IN THE MINISTRY

It is really important to highlight some of the major exploits of Bill Roberts as he was the agent of revival God used to evangelize the eastern part of the country before and after the war.

When he was employed and deployed to the Eastern part of the country in 1996 he settled down at Uzuakoli, Umuahai, in the present day Abia State. He opened an office at the Methodist College, Uzuakoli. From there, he launched out for massive evangelism that took him to so many towns and villages in the Eastern Region. But Bill as he was fondly called was also in charge of Scripture Union Mid-western Region. And his Mid-western office was situated in Benin City, which was the regional capital. That notwithstanding, he was all over the place with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

He remained faithful to the work to the extent that he dared the horrific challenges of the war. The success of Bill Roberts in the Scripture Union work was attributed to three key strategies he deployed:

1. Extraordinary care and love for his converts

Bill Roberts showed that he was not just after the souls of men but also their lives. He wanted them and safe so that they could serve the Lord faithfully. Anything that affects any of his converts equally affects him. During an interview with Elder Ralph Igbonagwam, a native of Obazu, Mbieri, Imo State, he narrated a very pathetic story.

He said Bill Roberts left Umuahia one fateful day to come to Mbieri to persuade him never to join the war. Bill pleaded with him to come along with him to Umuahia, where he believed Bro Ralph would be safe. In response to that offer, young Igbonagwam then assured him of his safety in his home town. Having been assured, Bill drive back to Umuahia under the protection of God. That kind of brotherly concern was one of the things that sustained and led to the rapid spread of SU ministry east of the Niger.

2.Free Lunch for young People

Knowing the hardship that came upon the people as a result of the war, Bill knew that people will listen to the word of God if they can get what to eat. So he introduced free lunch among the youth. The free lunch served dual purposes; through it he met both the spiritual and physical needs of the young people who clustered around him. He taught bible studies as he gave free lunch to people.Bill Roberts through this opened the eyes of the founding members of SU Nigeria to the importance of welfare ministry as a strategy to kingdom expansion.

3. Systematic Bible Study

Bill held bible study will his converts and prospective converts almost anywhere he can find. Some times it will be in his house. Some times it will be under the trees. There are times he will take some young boys to the football fields, give them opportunity to play football for a while then sit down on the grasses with them to discuss the bible. But no matter where it is, you can be sure of the consistency of the systematic manner in each he explains the scripture to them. He relates one passage of the bible to several other passages in such a way that the relationship becomes glaring. But he doesn’t stop there, he also relates it to everyday event that his converts sees and understands perfectly.

Also read: SCHOOLS’ WORK IN SCRIPTURE UNION MINISTRY

PROMINENT CONVERTS OF BILL ROBERTS MINISTRY

Bill Roberts played a great role in the spread of the gospel and the subsequent salvation of many souls in Nigeria. Prominent among his converts are:

1. Mrs. Amuche Okeke (nee: Obijiofor) – the wife of the former General Director of Scripture Union (Nigeria).

2. Venerable Chris Okeke – former General Director of Scripture Union (Nigeria)

3. Dr. Augustine Mbanaso – former Council Chairman, Scripture Union (Nigeria)

4. Elder Ralph Igbonagwam,

5. Uncle Dan Onwukwe – former provost Alvan Ikoku College of Education

6. Engr. Obioma Okere

7. Late Elder Sam S. Nwanne

8. The Rt. Rev. Emma Ekunobi

9. Late Bro. Uche Emezue

10. Prof John Nwangwu

11. Prof. Peter Nwangwu

12. Late Dr kalu Okwun

13. Rev. Kalunta Okwun

14. Late Sister Chibuzor Iwuro

These are just few among the thousands of people he led to Jesus, and almost all of them were converted as young people. From their testimonies, it was gathered that Bill Roberts made tremendous impact in their lives.

BILL ALSO STARTED THE PILGRIMS FELLOWSHIP

Bill Roberts was also the brain behind the establishment of the SU (Nigeria) pilgrims fellowship. This unique arm of the ministry was introduced during the war and it was meant to be a means of extending the gospel and salvation to adults otherwise known as pilgrims. This aspect of the ministry has also been the financial base of SU (Nigeria). Schools work, youth ministry and children ministry are all powered by the activities of the pilgrims groups.

During the period also, Bill established a unique fellowship that was held once a month, which they referred to as guest service. The idea of a guest service is that everyone will invite at least one person to be his guess in the fellowship. With that approach the number of members in the fellowship doubled every month. Guest service is still a regular feature in most SU zones especially within Okigwe Region today. But unfortunately the effect is no longer the same.

SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA) IN THE EAST AFTER THE WAR

Just like it happened to the church in Acts of the Apostle after the ascension where persecution made the apostles to scatter abroad with the gospel. A similar thing happened in Scripture Union fellowship at Umuahia after the war. Brethren were dispersed to different parts of the eastern region zealously and consciously preaching the gospel. Oha (2017) reported that two groups emerged out of the fellowship then.

One group emphasized that brethren should remain in their churches and carries on with massive evangelism, while another group opined that converts should come out from the orthodox churches and join their fellow believers to avoid distractions and pollution. The former had upper hand in that they upheld the vision statement of SU worldwide which supports members to stay in their churches and be committed members.

Related: SU CHORUSES – THE SPIRIT FILLED SONGS THAT MAKES SU UNIQUE

With that fire of revival, some brethren who relocated to Enugu after the war opened scripture union fellowship centres there. One of such centres was located at No. 10, Bishop Anyaogu Street, Uwani, Enugu. Another fellowship centre was later opened in Onitsha, located at No. 8, court road, Onitsha, in the present day Anambra State. These two groups and others at various towns and villages in Enugu and other places, embarked on aggressive evangelism such that within a short period, many souls were won for the Lord.

THE ROLE OF CHURCHES IN SPREADING THE GOSPEL BY SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA)

Unlike today where most churches are seeing Scripture union as competitors and resisting their members from joining the ministry churches of those days had a clear understanding of what SU stood for and were open to working together.One key way of support and partnership by churches in those days was by making their church halls available for SU fellowships to us.

Notable among the churches that accommodated SU fellowships in those days are:

1. The Anglican Communion

2. Methodist church

3. Presbyterian Church

4. Baptist church

5. Roman Catholic Church

6. Qua-iboe church

7. ECWA, among others.

Some church leaders who were SU members used their positions to help open fellowship centres in almost all the churches in Enugu. Some of the church leaders that promoted SU work vigorously in the east then were:

1. Bishop Joshua Dimoji of the Methodist Church, Enugu

2. Bishop Benjamin Nwankiti of the Anglican Communion, Owerri

3. Bishop Gideon N. Otubelu of the Anglican Diocese of Enugu

4. Rev. Dr. M. Ezeigbo, then General Superintendent of Assemblies of God church, Uwani Enugu

5. Rev. I.B. Nwaosu of Baptist Church, Owerri and many others.

It should be noted that the first SU fellowship to be opened in Enugu commenced at Brother Justin Ogugua’s house. The initial election that was held after the civil war at Enugu commenced at Brother Justin Ogugua’s house. The initial election that was held after the civil war at Enugu brought Miss Amuche Obijiofor (later Mrs. Okeke, the wife of former general director, Ven. Chris Okeke) as the group president of Enugu central group, the first group that was established then.

THE FIRE SPREAD FROM ENUGU TO ABA

The fire God kindled in the scripture union movement at Enugu soon spread to Aba, which was a prominent commercial town in Eastern Nigeria then. The brethren there received the fire with excitement and enthusiasm to the extent that Aba town became a strong centre for SU activities. Brethren like late Mr. Ngwakwe, a renowned school principal; Mr. (now Ven) Nkoro fondly known as ‘Dede Nkoro, who was once an Aba area patron and some other brethren contributed to the successes that were recorded there. It is on record that brethren in Aba became the financial pillars of SU movement in the East after the Nigerian civil war.

In the South Eastern state (present day Cross River and Akwa Ibom States) efforts of some brethren like Prof. Mbipom (former national chairman of SU Nigeria), Dr Usip (a teacher who later became a travelling secretary) and Jane Sutton helped to facilitate the work after the Nigerian civil war.

Other brethren who worked assiduously for the success of SU work in Cross River and entire nation were: Mr. A.J. Akpan, Brother Edet (a close friend of Jane Sutton who later served as a travelling secretary also), Sister Comfort Essien, a pharmacist by training who served a a travelling secretary and retired meritoriously from the SU service as a national school co-coordinator, Pastor Usio and A.J. Akpan who donated the land where Uyo area scripture union office is currently located.

The establishment and growth of scripture union movement in Port Harcourt was more or less smooth. The presence of Jane Sutton in the East immediately after the civil war helped ease up the work of scripture union in Rivers state and other parts of the Eastern region.

SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA) TODAY

Scripture Union Nigeria today
Scripture Union Nigeria today

Today, Scripture Union has grown by all standard. The number shows that the ministry has grow tremendously:

10 Regions in Scripture Union (Nigeria)

Abuja Region

Akure Region

Benin Region

Enugu Region

Lagos Region

Okigwe Region

Onitsha Region

Oshogbo Region

Port Harcourt Region

Uyo Region

Regional Chairmen and RCs in Scripture Union Nigeria
Regional Chairmen and RCs in Scripture Union Nigeria

38 Areas in Scripture Union (Nigeria)

1. Aba Area

2. Abakaliki Area

3. Abeokuta Area

4. Abuja Area

5. Afikpo Area

6. Agbor Area

7. Aguata Area

8. Ahaoda Area

9. Akure Area

10. Auchi Area

11. Awka Area

12. Benin Area

13. Calabar Area

14. Eleme Area

15. Ekiti Area

16. Enugu Area

17. Ikeja Area

18. Ikom Area

19. Ikot Ekpene Area

20. Jos Area

21. Lagos Area

22. Makurdi Area

23. Ngwo Area

24. Nnewi Area

25. Nsukka Area

26. Ohafia Area

27. Okigwe Area

28. Okitipupa Area

29. Onitsha Area

30. Orlu Area

31. Oshogbo Area

32. Owerri Area

33. Oyo Area

34. Port Harcourt Area

35. Umuahia Area

36. Uyo Area

37. Warri Area

38. Yenegoa Area

Also read: SU MOTTO:THE METAPHORIC VEHICLE THAT WILL TAKE US TO HEAVEN

6 Departments

Missions and Bible Use Department

Youths, Schools/Aids for Aids and Family Design Department

Children/Primary School Department

Pilgrims and Volunteers Department

SUCF Department

Research, Planning and Resource Department

SCRIPTURE UNION (NIGERIA) LEADERSHIP

The leadership structure of Scripture Union Nigeria employs a bottom-up approach where the grassroots play prominent role in the work and mobilization of members.

Report flows from the groups to zones. From zones to Areas. From Areas to Regions. And from Regions to the national council which is the highest decision making body of the ministry.

 

SHARE WITH US

We hope this article on the history of Sripture Union Ministry in Nigeria enriches you. What have been the experience since you joined Scripture Union? Considering the vision and passion of those that started it, do you think SU Nigeria has lived up to the expectation? Also share with us important areas where you think SU need to do better in country? Share with us in the comment box and you can be sure that SU leaders across the world are reading and will definitely take action. Also let us know if things like guest service is still part of the ministry in your zone.

God bless you.

Have you seen: SUCF ANTHEM RELEASED IN VIDEO?

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