A History of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria and the Emergence of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, part 2

John Grimley receives the gift of a goat for a church retreat in 1947. Photo courtesy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

CBM in its heyday

At the height of the Church of the Brethren Mission, more than 50 American mission workers and their families were placed in Nigeria. Over the years the programs and goals of the mission shifted with changes and development of mission philosophy, but the mission maintained a significant presence in Nigeria from the 1920s through the 1980s, when the numbers of American Brethren mission staff rapidly declined.

The main mission stations of CBM:

Garkida—opened in 1923, it was the first Brethren mission station and grew to be the largest. It was considered the headquarters of the mission. Garkida was the location of mission-built elementary schools, a teacher training school, a dispensary and hospital, Leprosarium, a technical school, a maintenance shop, and the CBM business office, among other facilities. Boys’ and girls’ schools were started in 1924, as joint boarding and day schools with Albert Helser as principal. In 1931 the schools were combined into one big school. In 1932 a training school for primary teachers was established, with financing from the government but mission leaders organizing the school. As the school developed, medical workers, masons, and carpenters were also trained there. In 1947 a Central Senior Primary School was started under the leadership of American mission leader Ivan Eikenberry. Also, the Garkida mission station and headquarters often hosted conscientious objectors or “1Ws” who did their alternative service in Nigeria during war years in the United States.

Lassa—known as the place where Lassa Fever emerged in 1969. The mission station was opened in 1928 when the Kulps moved there from Dille, accompanied by Pilesar Sawa and Risku Madziga who were the first teachers in Lassa. Dr. and Mrs. Burke also served in Lassa in the early years of the station and started the medical work there. Lassa was the location of schools and a hospital. The first school in Lassa was started in 1929, offering classes for the Bura people in the mornings, and classes for the Margi people in the evenings. By 1935, Lassa Elementary School was fully established.

Marama—opened in 1930 by Clarence C. and Lucile Heckman. The D.W. Bittingers were the second mission family to arrive there in 1931. Marama was the location of a mission school, teacher training, and a dispensary. The elementary school was fully established by 1936.

Shafa—in the early 1940s Nigerian Brethren began to open the village to the gospel. Carkida Bata received some equipment from the mission and built a house in which to worship and hold classes. Other church leaders gave help, and teachers moved there to teach the Bible in about 1948. The first CBM mission workers to serve in Shafa were Richard A. and Ann Burger in 1950, teaching and working at agricultural development.

Chibuk(also spelled Chibok)—there are conflicting dates given in different sources for the official start of the mission station. The dates 1937-38 are given in one source for the building of the first mission house and 1939 as the date of the opening of school in Chibuk. However, another source cites 1946 as the opening of the first school. April 1941 is the date when American mission workers Ira and Mary Petre arrived. Prior to their arrival a Nigerian leader, M. Laku, already had begun to introduce the gospel to the community. Accompanying the Petres were M. Njida and M. Usman Talbwa who did educational and medical work. A dispensary was a prominent part of the mission effort, with nurse Grayce Brumbaugh spending some 18 years there. Chibuk is still the location of an EYN Bible school, although the mission school was turned over to the government when many mission facilities were turned over to the government in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since April 2014, Chibuk has gained world attention as the location of the secondary school from which more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents.

Wandali—opened in 1946 with Herman B. and Hazel Landis as the first resident American missionaries, accompanied by Nigerian mission workers M. Hamnu Nganjiwa and his wife Rahila. Medical work started on their arrival, and also a school was built.

Gulak—opened in 1948 by James B. and Merle Bowman, after M. Risku had begun introducing Christianity to the community. A dispensary and school buildings were built in Gulak. In 1967 the station was turned over to the Basel Mission (now Mission 21), a mission organization based in Switzerland.

Mubi—not opened until 1954, although this was one the first locations sought by Kulp and Helser on their arrival in northern Nigeria. Kulp and a Nigerian colleague, Audu Afakadi, moved there in 1954. At the time Mubi was the largest town in Lardin Gabas (a previous name for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and the Christian community grew rapidly. A large church was built in 1961-62.

Congregation organizing in 1963. Photo courtesy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Uba—an outgrowth of the work at Lassa. John and Mildred Grimley were largely responsible for opening the Uba station among the South Margi people, in 1954-55. Uba was the location of a school. A medical mission was not considered necessary as the Adamawa Local Authority had medical work there. However the Grimleys began a ministry to orphans, and over the years 300 of them were brought to Uba where one account says “the Grimleys and their stewards, Wathlonafa Afakirya and Thlama Jasini, sought ‘grandmothers’ to care for them, providing milk and medicine.”

Mbororo—the opening of this station in the area of the Higi people was delayed until 1957 because the Mandara Mountain areas were closed territory until 1954. Robert P. and Beatrice Bischof moved there and began a dispensary. Primary schools also were started. The “father figure” among the Higi of EYN is Pastor Daniel Moda, who first went to the Leprosarium in 1933 and then returned in 1942 “to work diligently among his people,” says an account written by former longterm mission worker Ralph A. Royer.

Kwarhi—the place near Mubi where Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria has established its headquarters and the location of Kulp Bible School (KBS), now Kulp Bible College. KBS, however, was first located in Mubi when it started in 1960. Irven Stern was one of the young American missionaries who pressed for the development of a Bible school to train church workers, and he later became the first principal of KBS. After much consultation between the American mission and Nigerian church, it was decided to establish a school with two major areas of instruction–Bible and agriculture, and students would have farms on the school property to be able to earn their living while at school, said an article by Howard L. Ogburn in the Lardin Gabas 50th anniversary yearbook. After the school started in Mubi, next door to the Mubi mission station, the building of the school on its present site started. Building was begun by mission worker Ray Tritt. The Majalisa of Lardin Gabas decided to name the school in honor of mission founder Harold Stover Kulp. From 1961-71 a KBS Agricultural Fair was held annually and drew crowds of thousands. As the school grew, a women’s domestic science building was added and more student living compounds. The first Nigerian teacher, M Mattiyas Fa’aya, joined the KBS staff around 1961. The iconic KBS chapel was dedicated on April 21, 1963. Expansion and building continued for several years, under the leadership of a number of American Brethren principals. In January 1972, M. Mamadu Kl. Mshelbila, who held a diploma of theology from the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN), became the first Nigerian principal of KBS.

Waka—a complex of schools was developed at Waka, known as the Waka Schools. The first school in Waka started somewhere around 1951. Over the years, the Waka Schools included an elementary school, a girls’ school, a secondary school (started in 1959), the Waka Teacher’s Training College (started in 1952), and a women’s school for wives of students at the teacher training college. Many of the American teachers at Waka were Brethren Volunteer Service workers and conscientious objectors. The Waka Schools received government grants and became a major educational center for the area. From 7 students in 1951, the complex grew to serve more than 700 students by 1972. In 1968, M. Bitrus Sawa became the first Nigerian principal of the teacher’s college. In 1970, M. Gamace Lengwi Madziga became the first Nigerian principal of the secondary school. His article on the Waka Schools in 1972’s 50th anniversary yearbook of Lardin Gabas, described the continuing religious and moral emphasis of the education at Waka: “Christian students are encouraged in their moral training through out-village work on Sundays…. Muslim students are similarly encouraged to always say their prayers and to go to Mosque in Biu every Friday.”

Jos—the location of Hillcrest School, an American-style mission school originally started by the Church of the Brethren Mission in 1942, but soon thereafter turned into an ecumenical project supported by a number of missions and denominations. The Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) is located near Jos, in the community of Bukuru.

In addition to these mission stations there were many other places where churches were built and congregations grew, as well as preaching points where American mission workers and Nigerian church leaders would travel to preach and teach and plant more churches.

1983 Brethren Encyclopedia map of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria

Click for a larger version of the map

An abbreviated timeline (cont.)

1950– Nigerian Brethren pastors began to receive training at a school for pastors in Chibuk. The first pastoral candidates were M. Hamnu, M. Madu, M. Thlama, M. Gwanu, M. Karbam, and M. Mai Sule Biu. That same year, the mission station at Shafa was opened, and a primary school started there. Primary schools also were opened at Ngurthlavu, Bazza, Dzangola, and Yimirshika.

1951– The primary school at Mindikutaki opened.

1952– In April, after two years at the Pastors Training School in Chibuk, the first group of Nigerian Brethren pastors graduated. M. Karbam became the first pastor in the church, and M. Mai Sule Biu became the first elder. Primary schools opened at Brishishiwa and Kaurwatikari. Also that year, Christina Kulp died at Garkida.

1951-53– Schools were begun at Waka, which became known as the Waka Schools and included over the year elementary schools, a secondary school, and the Waka Teacher’s Training College.

1953– A primary school opened in Zuwa.

1954– The mission stations at Mubi and Uba opened.

1955– Waka Girl’s School opened, and a primary school opened at Gashala.

1956– A primary school opened at S. Margi Uba.

1957– The CBM rural development or agricultural program established a loan program to enable farmers to buy teams of oxen and plows, who previously had used hand-held hoes. Also, primary schools opened at Vilegwa, Dille, and Kwagurwulatu.

1958– Primary schools opened at Mbororo, Mubi, Bilatum, Gwaski, Pelambirni, Debiro, Dayar, S. Garkida, and Hona Libu.

1959– Primary schools opened at Hyera and Tiraku.

1959– The secondary school at Waka was started.

1960– Kulp Bible School was started in Kwarhi, near Mubi. Also, primary schools opened at Durkwa and Musa.

1961– The primary school at Wurojam opened.

1962– Primary schools opened at Kuburshosho and Midlue.

1963– The primary school at Sahuda opened.

1964– Mission pioneer H. Stover Kulp returned to the United States, where he died that same year on Oct. 12.

1967– The mission station at Gulak was turned over to the Basel Mission (now Mission 21), a mission organization based in Switzerland.

1967-69– Nigeria’s civil war, often call the Biafra War.

1968– Year in which the mission schools were transferred to the government via Local Education Authorities (LEAs), according to one source.

1969– A primary school opened at Jiddel. Also, the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) opened. It was an ecumenical effort in which Brethren–both American and Nigerian–have participated as students, professors, and administrators. The same year, the mission’s rural development program shifted to a community development program.

1969– Nurse Laura Wine, serving in Lassa, contracted a mysterious disease that did not respond to treatment, and died despite being transported to a better equipped hospital in Jos. She was the first identified victim of Lassa Fever, a deadly hemorrhagic virus subsequently the subject of a popular book titled Fever! By John G. Fuller that told the story of the doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and virologists who tracked down the cause and carrier of the disease.

1972 – On June 26, the Church of the Brethren in the United States agreed to the independence of the Nigerian church. The Nigerian church was first known as Lardin Gabas, and then was renamed Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

1982 – EYN had 96 organized congregations and nearly 400 preaching points, with some 40,000 members, according to the Brethren Encyclopedia.

Corrections and additions to this history and timeline are welcomed; contact cobnews@brethren.org.