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January 2024 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Family,

What a blessing it is to be able to once again connect with you whom we love. We trust and pray all is well with you, in spite of the many difficulties many face. We trust in the Lord to see us all safely through this troubled time, until our work here on earth is finished.

This December and January will remain one for the record books in our family. What undeserved blessings we have experienced. We pray our recounting some of them will encourage you as well.

The end of the year is of special significance to Nigerians. They call them the “ember” months. Families gather from all over to celebrate and plan for the new year. We experienced some of this ourselves. I told you that Dr. Innocent was coming to get married. I also told you of plans for Joshua to move back. But I had no idea that a kind brother in Lubbock would make it possible for Kingdom to come and celebrate with us, or of the plans for our children from Ghana to come and be with us as well. I experienced for the first time what my grandparents must have felt, when the old farmhouse was over full with three or four generations of kin. It gave me a deep sense of satisfaction to see how the family here has grown and to reflect on how God has made this all to happen. Thank you for being a faithful part of God’s provision that has enabled all this.

The biggest accomplishments of this period was the wedding of Innocent and Lovett and James and Cynthia. Altogether there were 7 separate ceremonies between the two of them. It is no wonder that many young couples just begin to live together, because of the overwhelming load traditions have placed on them.

You have to go and meet the bride’s family, and let them know of your intention to marry their daughter. If they accept your proposal, then they give you a long list of items that must be bought for different groups in the family and community. After those items are furnished, then a date is set for the bride’s family to host the groom and his supporters for the traditional marriage. It wasn’t easy, but by His grace, all was done peacefully, and the couples have now started their lives together. I was thankful to witness the great efforts made by their brothers and sisters to support them and make this all happen.

A couple of things happened that emphasized how traditions rule many folks life’s. When we went with Innocent to Lovette’s family to present the bride price, his supporters from his tribe were not presented as first item with cola nut, which in their tribe is an important sign of hospitality. There was no slight intended, just a different tribe has different rules. So serious apologies and promises that cola would be bought and presented before things were allowed to proceed. At our house when James's new in-laws come, the mother of the bride would not proceed until we presented her with a live hen. When we asked why this was demanded, she said this is what they had done for her and for her mother. Funny how tradition rules so many things, even in the religious world.

I am happy to report that the number of persons coming to our assembly continues to grow. Attendance hovers around 200 plus. Every assembly we have welcomed visitors. Baptisms have occurred weekly through out this period. I never was one to push numbers as a sign of achievement, trusting God to know the hearts of those who come to Him. I am just thankful that our communal efforts to sow the seed of God’s Word has had a harvest during this period unlike anything I have personally experienced. Someone said that preaching the pure Gospel is what brings people to the Church, and practicing it is what will keep people in the church. We have tried to do both, and God has given the increase. Know that your labor has not been without effect.

Part of what has drawn people is the little help we can give in the midst of the economic hardship the country is facing. An example of need is a widow that just came for a little food stuffs. She has two sons, one of who comes every day and to every service. She told my wife she has a job washing used plastic bottles for recycling. From Monday to Friday she earns 3,000 naira, which at today’s exchange rate, is $2.10. She confessed she cannot afford but very little for herself and children to eat at that salary. One egg is over 100 naira. We went to buy a bag of beans today,100kg worth, and the price has gone up to 100,000 naira. So a kg of beans would be 1000 naira, a third of her weeks salary. So how many meals can you feed two teenage boys with two pounds of beans. A bag of rice is more than 50,000 naira. The situation is dire, and that is why those who are desperate come to meet us.

The situation was not different for Jesus, as folks flocked to Him for healing and for the loaves and fishes. Like Him, we try to warn people not to come just because we have a fellowship meal after Sunday service, but because we try to share the true Bread of Life. We try to continue to do good, enabled by your kind contributions, and pray for the Lord to continue to find us all useful for His purposes.

We are happy to report that my brother’s son Will and his wife welcomed a baby boy into their family at the end of December. This is the first grandson of that branch of the tree. Baby Shiloh and his mother are both well, and for that we are so thankful. But we were also saddened that five folks we knew died over that same period. Our dear brother Charlie Cleveland passed away unexpectedly. He made announcements at Saucer Creek on Christmas Eve, was in the hospital the next weekend, and was buried the following weekend. Another life lived in faithful service to the Lord, Br. Charlie has gone to his reward. We join in prayers of joy for some, and join in tears for others.

Let me again thank all who have given so generously, especially during this end of year period. You would have to come and visit us and see with your own eyes what an impact your gifts have for so many. We appreciate you and ask our good Lord to continue to increase you. Pray for us, for our spiritual and physical strength, for wisdom in dealing with others, for safety and protection in a world that seems spiraling out of control, for our hearts to grow in love. We pray the same for you.

Remain blessed,

Cliff, Nkiru and family

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