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  • Doing God’s Work God’s Way in Nigeria
  •  Doing God’s Work God’s Way in Nigeria

    IT


    WAS an impressive sight. Huge piles of steel girders​—over 500 tons [nearly half a million kilograms] of them—​lay on the Houston, Texas, dock, stretching from one end to the other. A stevedore had the job of checking in the vast quantities for shipment. As he worked, he was amazed to see that all of them were marked “Watchtower.” At last he approached the man who was in charge of the consignment and asked: “Just how tall is

    this watchtower, anyway?”

    The stevedore then learned that the steel would not be made into a literal watchtower. Instead, it was going to be shipped to Igieduma, Nigeria, where it would be used in constructing a new branch complex for the Watch Tower Society​—literally a small city in the heart of the African jungle.

    Six years ago the site at Igieduma was primarily dense bush and rubber trees. Now the land is cared for and beautiful; there are flowers, gardens, and even a parkland with deer! Yet, on the grounds stands a printery larger than the entire plot of land that held the previous branch in Lagos. Inside the factory, three printing presses operate, one of which is capable of producing 17,000 magazines per hour. The residence buildings can house more than 400 people. The services building has a large dining room and kitchen as well as an infirmary and dental office. There are independent water-supply and sewage systems. A computer-controlled powerhouse generates electricity. There is a Kingdom Hall, an office building, and a fire department. You will also find roads and streetlights. No wonder people call the Bethel complex at Igieduma a city. And it was built entirely by unpaid volunteer workers and financed by unsolicited contributions.

    Rapid Expansion

    While this Bethel is the largest ever in Nigeria, it is not the first. The first was established by Brother William R. Brown, who with his wife and daughter moved to Lagos in 1930. The several rented rooms where they lived served as headquarters of the Society’s West African branch, which then cared for the Kingdom work in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. At the time, there were only seven active proclaimers of the good news in Nigeria.

    Bible Brown, as he was widely known, was a dynamic and courageous preacher of the good news. Never content for long in an office chair, he toured the country by car and train, giving public lectures and distributing huge amounts of literature.

    As the powerful Kingdom message took root in responsive minds and hearts, more

    and more people became zealous Kingdom proclaimers. The decade that followed was like the period in the first century in Jerusalem when “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying . . . very much.” (Acts 6:7 ) By 1940 the number of active praisers of Jehovah in Nigeria had skyrocketed from 7 to 1,051!

    The ‘little one had become a thousand,’ but this was just the beginning. (Isaiah 60:22 ) In 1947 the Society sent three Gilead-trained missionaries to Lagos. One of these, Anthony Attwood, is still active in his assignment. He recalls the Bethel of that time: “It was an apartment over a shoe shop. There were three bedrooms, a sitting-room/​office, and a dining room. Brother and Sister Brown and their family occupied two bedrooms, and we three missionaries were jammed into the third bedroom. There was only enough room for three single beds and a built-in wardrobe.”

    The need for more room prompted a move to a three-story building in 1948. By then the number of publishers in Nigeria had reached 6,825. Eight years later, this number had tripled, so Bethel was moved again, to Shomolu, Lagos. There, for the first time in Nigeria, the Society built its own Bethel Home, an eight-bedroom building on an acre-and-a-half [0.6 ha]

    plot of land. The local government named the street Watch Tower Avenue. In the garden grew many trees, including coconut palms as well as citrus, breadfruit, avocado, and mango trees. But over the next 33 years, buildings were added and expanded. By the mid-1970’s, buildings covered almost the whole of the property. It was again necessary to move.

    Construction Memories

    First, a 76-acre [31 ha] parcel of land was found at Otta, north of Lagos. But problems kept blocking progress. Eventually, it became evident that it was not Jehovah’s will that we move there. Next the search for land was extended throughout the southern part of the country, and in 1983 the Society obtained a 140-acre [57 ha] piece of land at Igieduma, in Bendel State.

    Over the next six years, the pythons and cobras moved out as the brothers and heavy equipment moved in. A major challenge to the work was that it was difficult, or nearly impossible, to purchase most of the tools and building materials locally. Outside help was needed. So a team of Witnesses in the United States was called on to find,

    purchase , and ship materials. Terry Dean, the coordinator of this massive operation, relates: “What made the project monumental was that just about everything had to be shipped in. The brothers in Nigeria told us that the only building materials they had were sand, cement, and water!”

    It was good that the basic materials were on hand, since the construction work consumed 7,500 tons of cement, 55,000 tons of sand, and 35,000 tons of gravel. Plenty of wood was also available. Nevertheless, over the next five years, 5,000 tons [4.5 million kg] of material was sent from the United States, enough to fill 347 freight containers, which if placed end to end would extend 2.2 miles

    [3.5 km] !

    Other branches also generously contributed supplies. England supplied the entire electrical system, including six huge generators to power it. Sweden donated a tower crane, tractors, an excavator, a truck, tools, kitchen equipment, and a telephone exchange. When a hardware store was put up for sale, the Swedish brothers bought it and shipped the entire contents to Nigeria. About the only items from the store they did not send were snow shovels​—decidedly more useful in Sweden than in Africa!

    Of course, local Witnesses also contributed according to their ability. Over 125,000 showed their support for the project by coming to the site during the construction. Many helped financially. One contribution of 20 cents (U.S.) came from a seven-year-old boy. How did he get the money? His father gave him a piece of yam to cook and eat; instead the boy saved it and planted it during the proper season. Later he harvested his yam, sold it, and contributed the money for the Igieduma project.

    Other Witnesses of Jehovah contributed their expertise, even training others to master the skills of construction. Many, up to 500 at a time, contributed hard labor, toiling under torrid sun and in tropical rains to finish the work. Consider, for example, just the work involved in building the wall that surrounds the site. In the seven months that it took to complete this nearly two-mile-long [3 km]

    wall, the brothers made and individually mortared into place over 57,000 concrete blocks! One brother joked: “What kept me going was the sight of the vultures circling overhead waiting for me to drop!” In truth, like the thousands of others who contributed to the success of Igieduma, he was motivated and sustained by Jehovah’s holy spirit.

    Official Recognition

    Government officials cooperated in support of the work. The Office of the President made the concession that all imported building supplies be exempted from customs duty. Local officials waived development and plan-signing fees. Only a token building fee was required. Once, when there was a dispute about land, the

    Omo N’oba, or king, of the entire area stepped in and decreed: “The work must not be stopped because this is God’s work.”

    That this project had divine backing was recognized by others who were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. When an American company supplied steel to build the garage, they sent one of their men, a Catholic, to help erect it. During his two-week stay at Igieduma, he soon felt right at home, even calling his fellow workers brother and sister. After returning home, he wrote to our Nigerian office: “I have never enjoyed work so much as when I was there doing God’s work in God’s way.”

    Dedication Day

    On January 20, 1990, this beautiful Bethel complex was dedicated to Jehovah God, whose spirit was responsible for its completion. Visitors came from all parts of Nigeria, though invitations had to be limited to those who had been baptized at least 35 years or who had spent a minimum of 20 years in full-time service. The sisters were adorned in flowing, colorful dresses with matching head ties, and many of the brothers wore splendid African robes. All told, 4,209 from 29 countries attended the dedication. Among them were at least 80 missionaries, most of whom had come from other West African countries. Included in the program were reports by five visiting branch representatives, who highlighted the unity of purpose and fellow feeling that exist among Jehovah’s people. Written greetings and telegrams came from brothers in 21 countries, including a heart-stirring message from “the 400 brothers and sisters in Moscow, Soviet Union.”

    Two members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, were also on hand. Albert Schroeder spoke on the theme “What Is Looked for Is to Be Found Faithful,” stressing the need for continued faithfulness on the part of God’s people. (1 Corinthians 4:2 ) The dedication discourse was given by Lyman Swingle, who discussed the construction of the glorious temple of Solomon’s day. Though the temple had God’s backing and approval, Jehovah made it clear that of far more importance than the building was the loyalty and obedience of his dedicated people. In this way Brother Swingle showed that the beautiful branch complex at Igieduma was not an end in itself but a means to advance true worship.

    On the following day, special meetings in connection with the dedication took place in three Nigerian cities. Over 60,000 attended these sessions.

    In ancient times, when the Edo-speaking people of Nigeria came to honor a great chief, there was much celebration and rejoicing. Igieduma (originally ugie dunai ) was the word used to describe the successful conclusion of such a joyful gathering. To Jehovah’s people who came on that dedication day to honor the Chief of the Universe, Jehovah God, few words could have been more appropriate. To the 139,150 Kingdom publishers in Nigeria, the word “Igieduma” calls to mind the place from which flows theocratic direction and counsel, as well as the printed material that will help them to continue doing God’s work God’s way in Nigeria.

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