Western Europe Work Moving Forward
The parsonage at the Western Europe headquarters church at our Bexley location in London, England, was dedicated on Sunday, January 13. At the dedication service, an overview of the construction project was given by Reverend Isaac Adigun, the Western Europe District Superintendent. He explained that the building, located next door to the Bexley church, was purchased in 2011 and put into service a few months later. In 2017, construction began to add a semi-detached dwelling, which is the new parsonage, while plans for the original residence are to convert it to office space for the district headquarters staff.
The dedication service was filled with joyous music. The message from Reverend Mark Mfandarahwa, pastor at Birmingham, England, was based on 2 Chronicles 6:41 and declared that God has directed the work and blessed the efforts of His people for a purpose—to yield more souls. The dedicatory prayer was given by Reverend Ola Balogun, pastor at the Peckham church in London, England. Later, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in front of the residence with Reverend Victor Okusanya, who pioneered the work in Western Europe, dedicating the building in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, before cutting the ribbon. This was followed by a tour of the new parsonage.
Reverend Adigun had emphasized that this step toward having a Western Europe headquarters office is the continuation of a work which has seen tremendous growth over the last four decades.
In his earlier remarks, Reverend Adigun had emphasized that this step toward having a Western Europe headquarters office is the continuation of a work which has seen tremendous growth over the last four decades. What began in the 1970s as a group of Nigerian students meeting for fellowship, now comprises thirty churches and groups spread across the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The following is a look back at the history of that work, as we continue to look to God for the future, praying He will send laborers for the harvest.
From Nigeria to London
The work in Western Europe began when Victor Okusanya moved his family from Nigeria to the United Kingdom (UK) in 1975 so he could study music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Through Ruth Ashwell, the world headquarters secretary to Africa, he obtained the contact information of other Apostolic Faith members who had moved to the UK from Africa, and invited them to meet. In April of 1976, about eight gathered at his sister’s home in Brixton, England, and afterward decided to continue the fellowship.
The group grew in size, and in 1979 rented a church building for meetings. That same year, they were visited by General Overseer Loyce Carver. Then Reverend Okusanya returned to Nigeria and was ordained as the pastor of the London church (considered an extension of the Nigeria work, the church was under the direction of the Nigerian leadership, and remained so through the 1990s). The congregation continued to grow, and in 1982, the current church location in Peckham was rented.
During the 1980s, the West and Central Africa headquarters church in Lagos regularly sent ministers to encourage the work, including annually for a week of special meetings in August. There were also numerous visitors from the Portland church, including a memorable visit in 2004 by Don Wolfe, the Portland Music Director, who stayed for three months to conduct music workshops. Music continues to be important to the growth of the work, with each of the main churches providing concerts during the holidays.
The London church was initially comprised of Nigerian students who moved to the UK for school and chose to settle there after graduation. As that first generation married and had families, there became a need for children’s ministries.
The London church was initially comprised of Nigerian students who moved to the UK for school and chose to settle there after graduation. As that first generation married and had families, there became a need for children’s ministries. A Boys’ and Girls’ Club was established and held on Sunday afternoons, and soon neighborhood children were also participating in the fun activities while learning about the Bible. In addition, music programs were introduced for elementary students who were encouraged to play in children’s church services, special meetings, and holiday events. As the children grew older, their club was renamed Youth for Christ, or Y4C, and time was set aside each year for a youth retreat, which today is attended by youth from all over the UK and Western Europe.
By the year 2000, the London congregation numbered about one hundred, and the work had grown to include eight Bible study centers in England and another six in Western European countries outside the UK. Reverend Adigun, who had been serving as the youth leader, was ordained as the London pastor and placed over the work. The next year, the first annual UK camp meeting was held in late July.
During the 2014 camp meeting, a Board of Trustees for the Western Europe Work was appointed, and in 2017 the work was restructured, creating four regions within Western Europe. Following is a brief review of the growth in each of these regions.
Regions of the Western Europe Work
The Midlands and Northwest England
The work in this region began in 1983 in Manchester with a university student: Isaac Adigun. With guidance from the London church leaders, he organized other students to hold meetings and distribute Gospel literature. Another group began meeting in nearby Bolton in 1990 when Judith Olowokere returned home to Bolton from Nigeria, where she had received salvation. A third group formed in Liverpool in 2008 when Garikai Mhike opened his family’s home for meetings after moving there for work. These three groups began praying for a joint place to worship, and soon a church in Manchester (thought to be the church where John Wesley received salvation) became available. The building was dedicated in 2011 after much refurbishing.
In Leicester, a work began when Stanislaus Nyakuhwa emigrated there from Zimbabwe in 1999 to study. He distributed literature in his neighborhood while attending the London church on Sundays. In 2002, Thomas Moyo and his family moved to Leicester, and the next year, a group started as his family, Stanislaus, and a few others began meeting in the Moyo home. The London church often sent workers to encourage the group, and soon a larger meeting place was needed. Today, they hold services in a primary school.
In 2002, Eunice Bolade began leading Bible studies in Birmingham, which was eventually joined by the group in Leicester for combined Sunday meetings. During one of these meetings, Reverend Adigun visited and encouraged the Birmingham group to seek God for a place of worship. The next day, a church building was located. The Birmingham church was dedicated in 2011.
Due to transportation challenges, the Birmingham saints from Coventry and Leicester were encouraged to find a local place to worship. They did, and in early 2017, inaugural services were held for both groups.
The work in Scotland began in 1998 when the late John Aina and his family moved to Aberdeen from Nigeria and began holding Sunday services in their home. By 2001, the group had grown large enough to perform a joint Christmas concert with the London choir and orchestra. This has since become an annual event in Aberdeen, and continued outreach efforts under the leadership of pastor Matthew Ibukun have yielded additional groups in Glasgow in 2016 and Edinburgh in 2017. Reverend Ikpaisong Ukpe is currently the regional director for this region.
Southeast and Southwest England and Wales
In August 2007, Michael Owolabi moved to Bristol with his family for work. He began leading worship for saints in Bristol and Cardiff, and the group eventually grew large enough to accommodate a choir. In November 2009, they moved to a rented facility in Bristol, and are praying for an additional place to worship in Cardiff.
While visiting a sick church member in 2007, Reverend Adigun saw an ad in the local paper for a church building in Bexley, and submitted a bid for it. The bid was not accepted, but the saints prayed and the seller came back to them in 2008, asking if they were still interested. The purchase was made, and the Bexley church was dedicated in February 2011. In 2017, Reverend Adigun became the pastor while Reverend Balogun was named pastor of the Peckham church, and also the director for this region.
A work began in East Sussex when Ade Akerejola moved there with his family. As they opened their home for Sunday services and Wednesday Bible studies, their numbers grew, and in 2016, they began holding Sunday morning services at the Girls’ Guide Brigade Hall in Bexhill-on-Sea, the group’s current location.
Reverend Francis Odudu, an assisting minister at the Bexley church, directs the work in this region, which began in Paris, France, when a group started meeting in the home of Mathieu Bobo in 1987. He had immigrated to Paris from the Republic of Benin, and soon more people arrived from Benin and also the Ivory Coast. Their numbers grew, and in 2014 Reverend Bobo was ordained as pastor of the Paris church. More recently, another group has started meeting in Troyes, France.
In the early 1990s, Sylvester Obdinma immigrated to Italy and met fellow believer George Utin. He then corresponded with the Apostolic Faith world headquarters and was encouraged to receive the deeper Christian experiences. He did, and from that time, the two men began to propagate the Gospel in Italy. Sylvester led a group in Treviglio which in 2002 held a Christmas concert in conjunction with the London choir. This became an annual event that was well attended by locals until 2014, when Sylvester relocated to the UK.
A group in the Netherlands was formed by Rita Ngolle after she moved from Cameroon to join her husband in Holland in 2002. Two years later, it was discovered that another Apostolic Faith group, led by Lucinda Hersissia, was meeting in Den Haag. The two groups combined services and continue to meet in Den Haag.
Cottage meetings began in Spain in 2005. On Sundays the members watch the live webcast of the London church service, and at times they receive an encouraging visit from Reverend Adigun and his wife, Stella.
The work in Ireland started after Adenike Adeyemi, the founder of the work, moved to Dublin with her family in 2006. After connecting with two other families, they started a home fellowship in their living room. The group moved to various venues until April of 2009 when they settled into their current location, the St. Columbia's Parish Centre. Since then, workers from Portland, London, and parts of Africa have visited to provide encouragement.
The Apostolic Faith group in Heidelberg, Germany, started in 2010 in Stephen Ogbodo’s living room. He and his family continue to be active in nearly every service.
In 2014, Solomon Akano moved with his family to Copenhagen, Denmark, to study, and in October 2015 began holding cottage meetings in the homes of Agnes Enongene and Laura Akinde, who had received salvation after reading an Apostolic Faith paper sent to them from Cameroon. The group distributes Gospel literature and is looking to God for a permanent place of worship.