May 4, 2023
It was an absolute delight when I heard my first cousin Ife, lived in the Greater Vancouver area in 2021. I had been in the area for more than a year, although travelling intermittently with no idea I had any blood relation in Canada, talk-less of Vancouver. I immediately scheduled a visit to her family and myself and her husband( Wale), who I was meeting for the first time hit it off instantly as he not only attended my alma mater(Titcombe College, Egbe), he is also a native and is connected to the family of the leading missionary that brought the gospel of Christ to the Yagba people of Kogi state and founded our school (The late Rev. Tommy Titcombe).
In my time in the school that played a significant role in my formative years, I had read a bit about the founding missionary (Tommy Titcombe) in a book I found in the school library titled ‘Tread upon the lion’. Wale immediately got me a copy of the book which I began to read as soon as I got home. I came to understand how anywhere beyond the West African coastline was known as Sudan in those days, hence the organization under whose banner Titcombe operated was known as “Sudan Interior Mission”. Most African nations were yet to be christened by colonialists in the pre-partition of Africa days. Tommy Titcombe arrived Yagba land to find it steeped in animism, idolatry, superstition and witchcraft practices. He met the people in many fears of unexplained phenomena like lightning and the difference of his skin colour. So also were they afraid of their witch doctors who were full of magics and tricks. Extra knowledge was leveraged upon by the witch doctors to hoodwink the people and make a living for themselves.
One thing that was however certain was the existence of supernatural power in the worship of the people. The display of such power lent weight to the people’s belief in them. Converting them to Christianity was only possible by demonstrations of the superiority of the power of the ‘Christian Deity’ over theirs. Tommy Titcombe had several opportunities for such confrontations of power. In one of the incidences he mentioned in the book which is not with me as I write this article in the UK; there had been severe drought in the land and adherents of the three faiths represented in the village of Egbe, namely, traditional, Islamic and Christian agreed to pray for rain for three weeks in succession. The traditionalists started, sacrificing a goat and dancing, singing and chanting throughout the week to no avail. Their explanation to Titcombe was that his presence had hindered them from offering a girl as sacrifice. Their failure was attributed to the use of the wrong sacrifice. The following week yielded no results from the second faith and in the third week, Titcombe organized a Sunday evening prayer meeting for rain, asking only those who believed to come. Curiosity however brought everyone and within 15 minutes of prayers, it rained torrents in a place where there had been no clouds for months. It led to the conversion of many to the Christian faith.
On an occasion, tired of the interventions of Tommy Titcombe in saving lives that ought to be killed, a group of people surrounded his accommodation, threatening to kill him and several men who were with him. Tommy and his team spent 12 days in prayer in the hut and remained unharmed till they dared to come out, only to be told when they inquired why they were not killed that ‘Men in white with their swords drawn out’ had surrounded the hut and protected them all the while. On another occasion, trying to take the gospel into ‘Ponyon’ town, a line of human skulls was strung at the village entrance to deter Titcombe from entering, only for him to pass under it and arrive the village alive. Ideally, he ought to have dropped dead. I also read a testimony of the missionary stepping out of home on an occasion, only to hear a game trap unlock when he was about to step on it. It had been hidden there by the natives to trap his foot as was done by farmers to catch animals that attempted to eat their crops. God had intervened miraculously. On the day of a festival, a young lady suspended from the ground and moved towards him in a large village gathering: he cast the devil out of the lady and she fell down from her suspended state and was well at the end of the day. These and several more miracles gave Titcombe access to the heart of the Yagba people of present day Kogi state.
It breaks my heart to see a return to the very dark practices that the gospel of Christ rescued our ancestors from. ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ is a term for internet fraud in Nigeria today. It has grown into such a huge industry with an informal organization to it that authorities now arrest scores of young people at ‘graduation ceremonies’ from their apprenticeships under experts. However, when you hear the term ‘Yahoo Plus’, it is a reference to those not only into internet fraud but have it combined with ritual practices including the wearing of charms, offering of animal and human sacrifices and engaging in various occult practices. Preaching the gospel of Christ without the demonstration of the power of God cannot succeed in this day and age of such resurgence of dark practices. A disillusioned African youth population is resorting to a renaissance of ancient witchcraft practices for solutions to the hopelessness that characterize our economic landscape. On the other hand, intellectualism has not satisfied youths in the industrialized world either. The quest for the supernatural remains in their souls and so contacting mediums, psychics, astrologers and eastern mystics has become the order of the day. Wherever you turn in the world, only something beyond the natural can interest and satisfy this generation.
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2‬:‭4‬-‭5‬ ‭KJV‬‬
Like Paul, we must rediscover how to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit so that it will be believable for this generation. Like the Lord Jesus Christ said 2,000 years ago, so it is now; ‘except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe’(John 4:48).

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