From The Tiny Seed: The Apostolic Faith Mustard Tree Blossoms!
AT some point in your cogitation, when you are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the biggest sanctuary of all the Apostolic Faith churches in the world (and arguably the biggest of any denomination in the South-South of Nigeria) you may not be able to escape the temptation to wonder aloud: “How did all this started?” Very good question. Like many other great churches of Apostolic Faith globally, the work that brought this gargantuan church to be, was started by the power of the Written Word. Or, to put it simply, it was started when God put a Gospel literature into the hand of a right man, Phillip Inyang.
At this point, we may be faced with the chicken and the egg dilemma. Do we consider the man first, or the movement and the church building, which his labour of love brought to be? Let us consider closely the man. God found a fertile land in the heart of Philip Inyang, a village evangelist. One of his close kinsmen was given an Apostolic Faith organisation tract and probably after a cursory look, concluded that it was not for him but for Philip. On receiving that tract sometimes in 1935, Philip, for whatever reason— maybe waiting for God’s fullness of time— did not open it to read until two years later. He discovered the “pearl of great price” in that slip of paper, which prompted him to enter into correspondence with the international headquarters of the Apostolic Faith work. Philip was already a lay preacher with his old church and on his expounding the canons of holiness, he got quite a number interested, and of course, quite a few feathers ruffled among the elders and leaders of the congregation. With further teachings and enlightenment resulting from his continuing correspondence, he enjoined holiness on the clergy and the laity of the church. This, expectedly, called for a reaction from the church council, and react they did; either let down on these newfangled ideas or leave our church for us. Philip Inyang chose the latter. That singular choice marked the time, when the mustard seed of the Gospel work, east of the Niger, sprouted.
Along with a few that loved the ring of this Truth, Philip left the church and they set up another church in the village. It was a small affair, an adobe structure with straw matting roof. They proudly displayed a sign in front of their church: APOSTOLIC FAITH CHURCH. In that humble sanctuary, these few souls gathered for prayers, Bible studies and Sunday services. And the Lord, seeing their hunger and thirst for the Truth, blessed their souls in wondrous ways. The state of affair was like this for many years until the time when the village evangelist received a letter from Portland, Oregon in the USA informing him of the impending visit of Reverend Timothy Osokoya from Lagos. Like in the case of Priscilla and Aquila, the 1st Century missionary couple when they “expounded” to Appollo ‘the way of God more perfectly,” Reverend Osokoya explained more fully the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, beginning from the doctrine of Repentance and Salvation, on to that of the experience of Entire Sanctification and others, as explained in the Bible. Brother T, as Osokoya was affectionately called, worked with his newfound friend to put the foundling church on the pedestal of the sound doctrines of the word of God. The mustard tree kept on growing.
At the end of his tour of duty in the East, Brother T invited Reverend Inyang to Lagos to be part of the August Annual Camp-meeting. It was at this meeting that God met this village evangelist and blessed him with the spiritual gift of the born-again experience— better known as salvation in Apostolic Faith circle— and Sanctification, and later, the mighty Baptism of the Holy Spirit. If this impassioned and determined man had been zealous before, this slew of spiritual experiences more than transformed him. From that time till he breathed his last on the mission field in Lagos, in September of 1969, Reverend Philip Inyang threw himself, literally, into the evangelising of his community. Beginning from his village of Ikot-Enwang in the larger Ikot Ekpene community, some 20 minutes to Uyo, the capital of the present day Akwa-Ibom State, he, in company of dedicated workers, ministers and members of the new church, echoing the testimony of Mark 16:20, the final verse of that synoptic: “…They went forth, and preached everywhere…!” This band of determined workers, defying opposition, persecutions and tribulations, which were not in short supply, practically went everywhere to preach their glad tidings to the people of their region. And, true to His word in the second part of that quoted verse above: “…the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” The Lord proved Himself in the lives and ministry of these faithful. A visit to the region shows the highest concentration of Apostolic Faith churches in any region in Nigeria.
The succession of leaders came and went into office, as the number of adherents burgeoned. The December Eastern camp meeting brings together ever-increasing thousands of people from the entire eastern part of the Niger. Those that are unable to make the very long and distant Lagos August convention are ever so glad to enjoy communion with the saints in this mega-meeting. It was Reverend Paul Ibikunle that saw the need to build a sanctuary that would be able to contain the crowd overflow of these meetings conveniently. He broached on the subject with the board and got their approval. Thus it was that on October 1, 1984, the foundation of this mighty building project was laid. It seemed that the role of Ibikunle was just to give these people a glimpse of what could be done. Having sufficiently opened their eyes to the possibilities, God saw it fit to take him home, as he died on January 1992.
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