AFRICAN TRIP 2000 REPORT
This is a brief report of my trip to the African nations of Nigeria, (Rep. of) Benin and Uganda in the period from September 13th to October 11th 2000. The originally planned trip was to have included Zambia (after leaving Benin), but an unforeseen event developed that led me to cancel that sector.
On the evening of September 13th 2000 (Wed), I left Singapore for Lagos (Nigeria) via Mumbai (India) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). I reached Lagos on the September 14th (Thu) in the afternoon. And a brother in the faith, who works at the airport, received me at the gate but a nasty surprise at the Immigration counter was waiting for me. I was refused an entry visa (which normally was granted to visitors who had a valid and an official invitation from churches, etc.). I was told that such procedures had long been discontinued.
Those ministering brethren who were outside the airport waiting for my appearance also received a nasty shock when the news reached them. They appealed to those at the top in the Immigration office but to no avail. The Immigration Officers had made up their mind to deport me on the next available flight out of Lagos to Addis Ababa.
At the airport, communication with those outside the nation is difficult. I could not call home nor the ministers in Cotonou (Benin). I had to sit out the waiting time of some 9 hours until 1 AM in the morning for the Ethiopian Airlines (or ET) plane to come in and pick me up for Addis Ababa. [ET was fined US$2000 by the Nigerian government for failing to inform me of the visa requirement.)
I was praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance on what I should do and where to go when I get to Addis Ababa. The most important thing was to get to Cotonou, for a much publicised meeting of 4 days was to be held in the city. I had the air tickets and the money to re-route or buy necessary tickets to get to there. But another nasty surprise came when I got to Addis Ababa. The staff said I had to return to where I began my journey — Singapore!
Unable to do anything else, I called home from the airport at Addis Ababa to tell the family of my deportation and to inform all the brethren involved locally and overseas about it. I had resigned myself to the fact that I had to re-start the journey from Singapore. It was just too much for me. I had a bad and painful throat that developed two weeks prior to my journey.
I got home on the morning of September 16th (Sat). When I stepped into the home, my wife informed me she had received many telephone calls and said, “You just have to go back to Cotonou. The brethren there are devastated about your deportation from Lagos but they are expecting you. They are desperate. They want you there. They said the meetings are advertised on the papers, the radio and the TV. And also, you are to have a meeting with the President on Tuesday. They want you to fly straight to Cotonou.”
I was tired from flying for almost 3 days. I slumped into a chair and prayed. I felt that the Lord would want me to go. So I called my travel agent to make the necessary arrangements for the quickest possible flight to Cotonou by Tuesday. It was given that the best and quickest way was to fly on Monday night (Sept 18th) to Paris then connect to Cotonou. Unfortunately, I would only arrive on the evening of the following day, thus missing my audience with the President.
Emails and phone calls were made immediately to inform the brethren there. And two days later I flew to Cotonou via Paris.
Republic of Benin
Needless to say, the brethren rejoiced to see me when I arrived at the airport. Bro. Sossa Thomas, the founder and director of a clearing, shipping and transporting company called Carl Dork International, was there with his pastor, Norbert Bambelou. This was the brother who had made all the necessary arrangements for me to come into Cotonou. He also sponsored the meetings. Two Nigerian ministers, Pastor Billy Joseph and Evangelist Ben Oluwatobi also came across the border to receive me. A Ghanian minister, Bro. Mamphey Asihene was also there. We were all taken to the church to meet the saints.
The following evening we began the first of four public meetings. The messages were interpreted into French and Fom. The crowd was estimated to be about 450 people per meeting. Not knowing that Benin was the cradle of voodooism, I spoke on “Sorcery”, a little on the “Trail of the Serpent”, the “Mystery of the Rapture” and “Knowing the Plans and the Purposes of God for our Day.” I stressed on the bewitching power of Satan who works among God’s people through so-called “servants of God” who are but sorcerers who blind God’s people from knowing His plans and purposes for our days.
During this period of time, my throat was already infected and painful upon swallowing. I committed the affliction to the Lord. I was able to minister the Word, not only during the public meetings but also four other services in different churches. (One of these churches used candles and kerosene lamps to light up their little mud floor hut.) It was only after the preaching that I felt the pain, which sometimes caused me to have difficulty falling asleep. I took a course of antibiotic to no avail. I took another course which was stronger and more potent when I traveled to Uganda.
The brethren in Cotonou had requested the President of Benin for me to have an audience with him on the Tuesday (Sept 19th). It was scheduled for the Tuesday of the following week. It was certainly a privilege for me, and the brethren who accompanied me, to deliver the Message of the Hour to Mr. Mathieu Kerekou, the President of the Rep. of Benin in his own palace. We spent a good 2 hours with him, showing him (who himself is a Christian) that God had sent a messenger with a message to call His Bride back to the Apostolic Word. That Rev.10:8-11 is to be a reality after Rev.10:7 is fulfilled is clear. We left with him a few copies of the message books.
On September 28th 2000, Bro. Norbert and Bro. Thomas drove the two Nigerian ministers and I eastward to cross the border into Nigeria. We had no problem passing through the border as Bro. Thomas brought along with him the photos taken of our meeting with the President.
On the whole, the meetings brought several sinners to the Lord and some believers to have a better understanding of the Message of God for our days.
Several brethren of Bro. Billy and also of Bro. Ben had come to greet us on the Nigerian side of the border. After bidding the Benin brothers farewell we drove about one and a half hours to Sango-Ota, Ogun State of Nigeria. Having rested for the afternoon, I went for the evening meeting at Bro. Billy’s church. Billy requested that I should preach the same message that I preached in Cotonou. I did as requested. We had three meetings on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Billy has about 150 to 200 people gathered together in his assembly. The Lord has truly blessed Bro. Billy’s ministry after he and Bro. Ben separated from those “unstable” preachers of whom they had associated with for a good number of years.
I first met Billy and Ben in 1984 and then 1985. There were also other ministers I had met back then. Because of the confusion at that time, I had vowed not to go there again until something good came out of Nigeria. Bro. Billy’s book, “Those Killing the Message”, was what caused me to go back to Nigeria. I am glad that Billy and Ben are walking together in the same light.
The following Monday (Oct 2nd.), we drove to Ibadan, Oyo State, where Bro. Ben has his assembly. It was quite a drive, about one and a half hours. Vehicular traffic in most cities and towns of Nigeria is bad. There are simply too many vehicles. Most of the vehicles are old. Vehicular breakdowns are a common sight. (On the journey to the airport later to catch my flight to Uganda, we spent some four hours on the road instead of just one and a half hours.)
“The Evangelist”, as the believers called Bro. Ben Oluwatobi, has about 80 or so people attending his fellowship. We had two meetings in his church. I spoke on the “Three Witnesses” – the Stars, the Stones and the Scriptures.
On Wednesday (Oct 4th.), the brethren drove me down to the airport in the afternoon just to be sure that I get on board the plane which came only after midnight! We got to the airport just after 6 PM. The check-in procedures started after 7.30 PM. As the brothers have a long drive for home, I decided to bid them farewell, leaving them an assurance that, if the Lord willing, we will meet again. I cleared the immigration and custom checks and entered the airport lounge. A brother who works for Air Afrique later came to have a chat with me and saw me off on board the flight to Addis Ababa connecting to Entebbe.
The flight in to Entebbe was early and I had to wait at the airport for some 10 minutes for the brothers to receive me. There was a vanload of ministers and believers who came to meet me. There were two ministers from Kenya – Bro. Michael and Bro. Silas. They came mainly to try and help solve a problem facing a local church whose pastor had gone on to be with the Lord some time in March of this year. The church was split into two due to some misunderstandings that arose as a result of wrong counseling by the pastor and the elders, especially on the issue of love/sexual affairs.
I was not supposed to have come to this church as it was not part of the originally planned trip. But the situation of the church was not that good and I was requested to help and set the church in order.
So, in the evening on the day of my arrival, I gathered the elders and deacons together to meet with them over the problems they were facing – one with another. A few ministers from outside the local church were also present. It was hard going just to make some ministers and elders see the importance of meeting together to resolve the conflicts they have one with another. Satan was giving us a hard time. There were many confusions and misunderstandings among the elders and deacons. There were accusations, true or otherwise. But when they were brought to the Light, things were cleared up and apologies were made. Also, several elders were novices and did not have a proper understanding of the Word on how to handle the sheep. Scriptures were misapplied as law without grace, hence leading to the sheep being hurt and filled with bitterness.
The meetings lasted for four evenings, sometimes into the early morning till 3 AM. However, God gave us the victory on the last meeting when the final issue was set in place. Besides these meetings with the elders, there were fellowship meetings on October 7th, 8th and 9th.
I left Uganda for Singapore on October 11th via Addis Ababa and Mumbai. On arrival at the airport I received the news that my mother-in-law was sick and was admitted to the hospital. I went straight to see her. She was semi-conscious. I knew that she would not last through the weekend. I talked to her and gave her assurance of God’s promised Word regarding His faithfulness to those who believe in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ our Lord. She passed away into the arms of Christ about 16 hours later.
God is good. This is one of several trips which I had experienced much difficulties and afflictions. The Apostle Paul had set the pace, I followed. He revealed what the Lord had said to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Amen. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jam.1:2-4).
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A "Letter of Appreciation"
Dear Br. Richard L.S. Gan
"LETTER OF APPRECIATION"
Praise be to God. How is Singapore, above all the Church plus your family? I have written this letter of appreciation as I thank God soo much for the way He used you back here in Uganda to unite us when the enemy had caused a split in our midst. My dear brother the day you left for Singapore, the fellowship which was in Ochola's house came back to the Church there and then. It was glorious, wonderful, exciting, etc. My dear brother God bless you mightily for that effort and may He reward you in Heaven and here on earth. God willing I was requesting you to come back to Uganda and you witness the efforts of your fruits. We have only four brothers who are yet to unite with us namely Br. Enos, Br. Paul Onen, Sister Betty Maina, Br. Okwalinga. We hope God willing, they too will come back to the Church. We had a good time in the convention in Kenya. We were blessed by having Br. John Mark with us, Br. James Veremu, Br. John Kasonde, Br. Gadama. It was soo good. May the Almighty God be with you till we meet either here or above. God bless you.
Yours Rwamukaaga Simon.