Advances in Africa

History Book
History Book
History Book
Josiah Soyinka led the Nigerian work from 1983 until his death in 1999.

The work in Africa is the largest portion of the Apostolic Faith organization. Twenty-four countries on that continent have Apostolic Faith churches. The largest work is in Nigeria, where there are more than six hundred branches, many of them with congregations numbering in the thousands.

An early orchestra in the Lagos church.

The outreach efforts of the Apostolic Faith Church on the continent of Africa originated more than eighty years ago. A missionary in Liberia received tracts and distributed them in that area. A man by the name of Frank Hein also received Gospel tracts from the Apostolic Faith Church while he was a missionary in the Republic of the Sudan and Nigeria. Upon returning to the United States, he wanted to meet the people who published those tracts. He agreed with and loved what he found in Portland, and the Lord laid it on his heart to stay and work in the church printing plant. Translating the Apostolic Faith literature into the Hausa language of northern Nigeria was one of the projects he undertook. This literature was sent to various areas of Africa where the local people translated the material into other dialects and returned it to Portland. It was then printed, mailed back to Africa, and was the means of many being saved on that continent.

Gospel literature printed at headquarters and shipped to Nigeria is unloaded by volunteers in 1999.

As early as the November-December 1909 edition of the Apostolic Faith paper, mention was made of “The Apostolic Faith Mission at Johannesburg” and of two missionaries in that area; there were extensive reports of miracles happening in their midst.

Raymond Crawford with Peter Van der Puije during his visit to Portland.

A man in Gold Coast (now Ghana) by the name of Peter van der Puije received some Gospel tracts from the Apostolic Faith organization. He sought for and received the deeper spiritual experiences, and began establishing Apostolic Faith churches in that country. In 1948, he attended the Apostolic Faith Church camp meeting convention in Portland, where he learned more about the church’s doctrines and practices. While there, he presented the needs of the African people, pleading, trusting, and believing that God would send someone to help the believers in his country.

An outdoor Sunday school class in Lagos, Nigeria, during the 1950s.

During that convention, George Hughes, a minister at the Portland headquarters, made a definite dedication to the Lord. Noted in his diary under the date of July 3, 1948, were these words: “Volunteered for service in Africa—or anywhere in the world.”

The first church in Lagos, Nigeria. This picture was taken in 1950.

Reverend Hughes’ offer was accepted, and on October 10, 1948, he departed for a seven-month trip that began in Accra, Ghana. This trip was in answer to the call of thousands, not only in Ghana, but in other parts of Africa as well. During this first trip, he toured the branches in Ghana, and also traveled through Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, doing evangelistic work among Christians, pagans, and fetish worshipers. Services were held in mud-walled, thatch-roofed churches, in a chief’s home, and wherever else an opportunity arose.

A team of Gospel workers prepare to set out to a meeting.

A minister in Lagos, Nigeria, Timothy Oshokoya, had received some Apostolic Faith literature. In it, he found the answer to the longings of his heart for holiness and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He steadfastly upheld the doctrines of the Bible as preached by the Apostolic Faith, and he moved aggressively and selflessly to distribute the papers and establish a place of worship. He organized the first camp meeting in Lagos, held in 1949, and visited the Portland camp meeting in 1951.

George Hughes welcomes Timothy Oshokoya to his first camp meeting.

Other groups had also received literature from Portland and expressed their desire to affiliate with the Apostolic Faith work. On his initial trip to Africa, Reverend Hughes met with a number of these leaders and helped to organize some of the groups into churches. Hearts were established in the faith and many of the African Christians became missionaries among their own people.

On his second trip to Africa, George Hughes greets a pastor.

Four years later, Reverend Hughes returned to Africa. Especially on his heart was a congregation of six hundred in Ikot Enwang, Nigeria, with whom he had stayed less than two hours on his first trip. For years, the believers there had prayed for someone to come and help them, feeling they needed more guidance. (Fifty years later, that church is currently building a new facility that will seat 18,000 people.)

Children in Lagos, Nigeria, line up in front of the bus that brought them to the services. This picture was taken in the late 1950s.

After going back to Nigeria, Reverend Hughes and local leaders took a small bus and camping equipment, and made a six-week journey through hazardous territory. Visitations were made to numerous churches. In one central Apostolic Faith Church, leaders gathered from twenty stations and received much spiritual admonition from this missionary. After six months of constant activity, Reverend Hughes accomplished his mission. He prepared his final report to give to the overseer on his return to headquarters. Just before taking off from Africa, he wrote, “Hope the next journey is Heavenward—with the Bride of Christ.” As his flight began, he became ill. The airplane landed in Liberia and he was taken to the hospital, but he died very soon afterward. He was laid to rest in his beloved Africa, at a cemetery in Harbel, Liberia.

Two views of the tabernacle under construction in Accra, the headquarters church for Ghana.

Responsibility for the huge volume of correspondence coming from Africa to the Portland headquarters was then assigned to Ruth Ashwell, whose letters to hundreds of people on that continent over the next nearly fifty years earned her the affectionate title, “Mother Ruth.”

Ruth Ashwell wrote thousands of letters to Africa from her desk at the headquarters office. She was lovingly called “Mother Ruth” by her many spiritual children in Africa.

Reverend Oshokoya visited Portland again in 1956, and was greatly impacted by his trip. Upon his return to Nigeria, an orchestra was formed, a printing plant established, and construction was begun on a tabernacle in Lagos. The vision of “Africa for Christ” began to grow in his heart, and in 1956 he made visits to the eastern, midwest, and mid-belt regions of Nigeria. The work in that country continued to expand.

The Lagos orchestra and choir performing during 2005. Their annual concert is attended by more than 20,000 people.

Literature received in other sections of Africa influenced more people to turn to Christ. In time, the Gospel light spread to hungry souls in southern and central Africa who also had a craving for a deeper knowledge of Christ. In 1955, Timothy Oshokoya had been asked by the headquarters church to travel to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with the purpose of meeting people who had been corresponding with headquarters. Morgan Sengwayo, a man who had already been saved, was one of them. Upon receiving instruction in the deeper experiences, Reverend Sengwayo was sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. After much prayer, his group sought affiliation with the Apostolic Faith organization. A revival sprang forth in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, and Apostolic Faith branch churches were established. Gospel teams from Nigeria went to South Africa in 1961, and hundreds of souls were saved. Today in this region there are branch churches in Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Angola, Malawi, Botswana, the Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Namibia.

Morgan Sengwayo (on the right) was a key figure in establishing the Apostolic Faith work in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Here, he visits a group in Zambia. This picture was taken in 1971.

Following the death of Reverend Oshokoya in Nigeria, leadership of that work was assumed by Josiah Soyinka, who guided the organization forward in a rapid multiplication of branch churches. On October 3, 1999, after Reverend Soyinka’s passing, the leadership role was assumed by Paul Akazue.

Paul Akazue following his installation as Africa District Superintendent.

During the 2002 camp meeting in Portland, Oregon, Reverend Akazue gave a report about the growth of the Apostolic Faith work in his homeland of Nigeria. At that time, there were seventeen major projects underway to build churches that would each seat 10,000 or more people. Several camp meetings are held annually in various regions of Nigeria, and each of these is attended by many thougsands of people. A tabernacle that will seat 100,000  is under construction at the new campground at Igbesa, not far from the headquarters church in Lagos. A university, named “Crawford University,” opened in the fall of 2005.

A group gathers in front of the Zambia headquarters church in Lusaka.

The literature ministry in Nigeria continues to be very effective. Government officials often request copies of the Higher Way magazine when church vehicles are stopped at security points within the country, for the magazine has become a common household item in that county.

Superintendent General Darrel Lee being welcomed to Nigeria in 2002.

Since Reverend Hughes’ trips, representatives of the headquarters church in Portland have made many visits to various parts of Africa. Darrel Lee, the current Superintendent General, made his first visit to Nigeria and Ghana in the early part of 2002, and was impressed and delighted with the progress being made in those areas of Africa and the dedication and zeal of the Gospel workers there.

Visitors from headquarters are taken on a tour of the Lagos church and the surrounding grounds.

The motto of the African Apostolic Faith churches continues to be “Africa for Christ,” and God is abundantly blessing their efforts to win souls for Him.

A baptismal service held outdoors on the construction site in Lusaka, Zambia.

In the past few years, outreach efforts have moved into several new areas in Africa, and the Gospel literature has played a large part in the forward movement. The organization currently prints and stocks publications in nineteen African languages or dialects. Much of the printing for Western Africa is done in Lagos.

Children in Botswana wave a welcome to visitors from headquarters.

The motto of the African Apostolic Faith churches continues to be “Africa for Christ,” and God is abundantly blessing their efforts to win souls for Him.

The headquarters church for South Africa is located in Johannesburg.