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Mission effort in 1912 helped bring Christianity to Nigeria

It’s quite possible that a small, rural Lutheran church outside of Kenmare is responsible for Christianity in Nigeria.

8/16/16 (Tue)

Nigerian Christian family . . . The Bitrus family from left; Pasy, Tguy, Julie, Ibrahim, Falnyi and Tunary, were part of the 100th anniversary of the Trinity Lutheran Church mission to Nigeria on Sunday. The Bitruses, who are from Nigeria, are currently living in the Twin Cities.

By Marvin Baker

It’s quite possible that a small, rural Lutheran church outside of Kenmare is responsible for Christianity in Nigeria.

On Sunday, Trinity Lutheran Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Christian mission to Nigeria with guest speaker Ibrahim Bitrus, a professor of theology in Nigeria, who is currently the Nigerian theologian in residence at the Minneapolis Area Lutheran Synod.

The history of the mission is well documented, but according to Bitrus, the synod sees the Kenmare church as an important link to Christianity in Nigeria and the parishioners of the Lutheran churches in Nigeria also see its importance.

“Indeed it was worth it to connect with the people who have done so much for the mission,” Bitrus said. “It’s very inspiring. We are very grateful to the people to use their time and money to establish the mission.”

In 1912, during a difficult farming season, several parishioners of Trinity Lutheran got together and donated $2,000 so Nels Bronnum, a Danish missionary, could go to Nigeria as a Christian missionary.

He went to Nigeria in 1913 and the church he planted has grown remarkably, according to Bitrus.

He said the original church has grown to 300 members in a mostly Muslim nation, but more importantly, the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, as it is known today, has parishes in many places across Nigeria with an estimated 3 million calling themselves Christians.

Bitrus said the people in Denmark interested in the mission didn’t have enough money so the Kenmare parishioners chipped in and have built a strong Christian following in Africa’s largest country in population.

“We are a product of the mission’s work,” Bitrus said. “We are the second generation of those who have received the Gospel. The news has spread across Nigeria.”

He said his father was a member of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria in Jala, in the state of Adamawa.

In 2011, Bitrus and his family came to the United States to attend the Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul. Since then, he has finished his Ph.D in systematic theology and remains at the synod while his wife Julecy “Julie” studies her biology and chemistry degrees at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

The Bitruses have four children, Pasy, age 15, Tunary, age 13, Falnyi, age 11 and Tguy, age 9. They all accompanied their parents to spend a couple of weeks in Kenmare and all attended the celebration at the church on Sunday.

“Sunday was a celebration to God and the ministry within and outside the United States. We came to the church to see amazing things,” Bitrus said. “And the worship; I got the privilege to bring the word of God as I stood before the congregation.”

One of the things that Bitrus said is vitally important is that the synod in Minneapolis contacted the Kenmare church to say that they would send someone to speak on behalf of the Nigerian parishioners.

And he was the one chosen, but then part of his job with the synod is to travel to various churches associated with the synod.

While in North Dakota, the Bitrus family stayed with Pastor Cole Bentley in Powers Lake and also with Bryan and Jean Quigley of Kenmare.

In fact, Ibrahim Bitrus said the Quigleys were their “chief hosts” while they visited.

“We went around to other places,” Julie Bitrus said. “Last Sunday we were at Bethlehem in Ross and also in Stanley. In Powers Lake we stayed with Pastor Cole.”

And while the parents went to Mohall for a visit, the children went to two separate summer camps. Tguy and Falnyi attended the Camp of the Cross in Garrison and Tunary and Pasy joined Metigoshe Ministries.

All together, they visited the International Peace Garden and were able to say they crossed the border into Canada.

However, Julie said the flowers at the Peace Garden are an amazing sight to see.

On Thursday, the Bitruses attended the Customer Appreciation dinner put on by Kenmare’s Association of Commerce.

“We visited with people in the park,” she said. “We also went to see John Deere.”

On Monday, the family returned to St. Paul and back to what they called a normal routine.

“If we did not come here, otherwise we think the rest of the United States looks like Minneapolis and St. Paul,” Ibrahim Bitrus said. “This broadens our horizons.”

He said he will always be grateful for being included in such a monumental celebration for himself, his family and on behalf of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!