Interim Report of the Committee on Missions
“Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned
and hast been assured of, knowing of
whom thou hast learned them.”
—II Timothy 3:14
The Committee on Missions’ primary concern for our dear brethren in Nigeria and Russia is that they, by the grace of God alone (I Corinthians 15:10), “continue” in the orthodox doctrine and practice which they have learned and have been persuaded of from the only source of all God-pleasing doctrine and practice, that is, the Holy Scriptures (Psalm 119:105; John 8:31-32; II Timothy 3:16). In accord with this primary concern of the Committee, we attempt, with God’s help and strength (Psalm 46:1-5; 121:1-4; Isaiah 41:10, 13), to keep “in touch” with the Russian and Nigerian brethren as much as possible. Our main mode of communication with them at present is the amazing and wonderful “tool” of e-mail.
First of all, we bring to you an interim report on our Russian brethren:
- Pastor Schurganoff has been supplying us with monthly reports on his work in his congregation. Worship services have been held each Sunday (except for December 7, when he was sick) during the months since the convention, including January of this new year. He has Bible classes on Sunday and on Wednesday. Twice a month he lectures in the local library, where he presents various truths from the Word of God. In his flat (his home), he meets with individuals at different times for Scriptural instruction. Also, as needed, he makes home visits. He has two shut-ins, whom he visits twice a month. The amounts of the congregation’s offerings each Sunday are also included in these reports.
- Earlier this month (February), an anonymous donor graciously bought and then we sent to Pastor Schurganoff all three levels of the Rosetta Stone Learning the English Language course. (Rosetta Stone has an excellent reputation in teaching people to read, speak, and write a new language. They offer this instruction in thirty different languages.) This course uses both sound (audio) and sight (visual) stimuli in its tried and true “direct method” approach. For example, the instruction starts out with saying a single word, such as “book.” A book will then appear on the computer screen, and a voice will distinctly say the word “book.” The person learning the language has to repeat the word correctly and will not be able to go on to other words until the target word is spoken properly (in this case, in English). Beginning with this month’s report, we will ask Pastor Schurganoff to update us on his progress with this language course.
Secondly, we bring to you an interim report on our Nigerian brethren:
- After Pastor Fyneface’s arrival back home after his June/July trip to America, he wrote the following: “I was overwhelmed seeing those good, but strange faces, and I enjoyed everything about the Convention and Conference.” Yes, “how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
- The considerable outlay of our Conference at last summer’s Convention in purchasing up-to-date equipment to improve our communication with the brethren in this far-off land of Nigeria was a very profitable investment of our funds. For example, in preparing this report, there was certain information which I needed to have from Pastor Fyneface. I e-mailed him one night, and the next morning I had from him all the requested information. Formerly, we relied on the phone or on regular mail. The phone was and still is very unpredictable; sometimes you could get through, and sometimes not. If you did get connected, you often got abruptly disconnected from the Nigerian end for a variety of reasons. The mail, whether air-mail or even certified, usually took from 3 to 7 weeks one way. At the present, Pastor Fyneface is the only one of the Nigerian Pastors whom we can communicate with via e-mail. (His “address” is ). —At first, he could “pick up” his e-mail only at a local cyber café. However, about one month ago he wrote: “I am now receiving all e-mails at home. No need to go to cyber café. I do check my mails on daily basis. Although there are days the network is not friendly, but right now the device I installed is working very well.”
- All seven of the current Nigerian pastors can communicate, read, and write in English. This is a big “plus” when it comes to sharing materials with them, such as the Concordia Lutheran, “The Full Support of the Public Ministry —the Pastoral Office” (the Pastoral Conference paper given by Pastor Bloedel last June at Seattle), and the tract, “The Scriptural Principles of Christian Giving.” These last items were used by Pastor Fyneface as the basis for a thorough review with the other Nigerian pastors, who then were to go over these same materials with their own congregations. For the literate members of these sister congregations, 2000 copies of the Pastoral Conference paper on the full support of the Pastoral Office and the tract on Christian Giving were printed out for their study and review. “Through Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:104-105).
- All mail to the seven congregations (except St. Matthew’s, Port Harcourt) needs to go to St. Paul’s, Abonnema, and then be picked up at that location. This is due to the very poor postal system in Nigeria. Therefore, one of our goals for improved communication between these seven congregations, as well as for our communication from the United States to each of their locations, is to look into the possibility of getting a computer for each of the pastors in the coming years, with the hope, by God’s grace, of eventually being connected from America with each of them, and each of these Nigerian brethren with each other via e-mail. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
- One of the seven congregations is now lacking its own pastor since our wise and gracious God took His servant, the Rev. Robinson Dodo, from this earthly life to Himself in heaven last month (Revelation 14:13). Pastor Dodo’s obituary is in this issue of the C.L. The congregation which he had served, Holy Trinity, Idama, is about forty minutes away from Abonnema by speed boat. This congregation, which has 156 members, is, at present, in the process of building a new, bigger church building.
- Currently, Pastor Fyneface has the responsibility of training four seminary students: Mr. Biobele Aaron and Mr. Levi Wariboko from St. Clement’s, Elem Sangama; Mr. Afonyaa Ibama from St. Paul’s, Abonnema; and Mr. Senibo February from Holy Trinity, Idama. The fifth seminary student, Mr. Tamunotonye from St. Paul’s, Kula, is being trained by his own spiritual overseer, Pastor Onengiye Wariboko.
- The newest congregation, at Lagos, was meeting for its worship services in their Pastor’s apartment. Recently, however, the landlord, who is a Muslim, objected to the noise of their singing in the worship service. The congregation has been looking for another location; but, until they find some other place for worship, they are still at the Pastor’s apartment. However, they have temporarily at least ceased singing the hymns, and, as much as possible, carry on as best as they can under the present circumstances (II Corinthians 4:8-9; I Peter 3:13-16). We rejoice with Pastor Ekele and his new wife at the anticipation of the birth of their first child.
- As a result of the violence by militants in Abonnema and the surrounding area since last summer, the Nigerian Army came to Abonnema early this year to restore peace and good order. On February 11, Pastor Fyneface wrote that “the army is still in Abonemma, and they will remain for quite a long time as the militants are still disturbing some parts of the State [Rivers State]. Last Sunday (the 8th), there was shooting between them [the militants] and the army.” We commit our dear brethren to the Lord’s gracious protection for Jesus’ sake (Isaiah 43:1-3a; Psalm 91:10-12; Ephesians 3:20-21).
- Pastor Fyneface’s goiter has been decreasing at a very, very slow rate. He has discovered that cutting down on water with chlorine in it has helped to bring down the size of his goiter. We are grateful to the Lord for any and all improvement in Pastor Fyneface’s condition! (Hebrews 12:6, 11).
Let us remember these dear brethren in Russia and in Nigeria before the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16a), that the Lord God, in His changeless grace and mercy for Jesus’ sake, would continue to help them in their “time of need” (Hebrews 4:16b), all “according to His will” (I John 5:14), working out all things for their temporal and eternal “good” (Romans 8:28), that they may “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (II Peter 3:18).
For the Committee on Missions,
Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Chairman