One of the world’s largest unreached population groupings is found in Nigeria. There are over 15 million Fulani people. I became interested in how missionary work has been carried out in Nigeria over the years after learning about the Fulani people, so I began investigating Nigerians’ involvement in missions.
What role have missionaries played in Nigeria? In the late 1800s, missionaries worked in Nigeria by evangelization training for young men and advancing women’s rights among the tribal population. In order to spread the gospel, missionaries have brought healthcare, educational institutions, and holistic development centres to Nigeria.
Beginning in the late 1800s, missionaries have lived among Nigerians.
From the early 20th century to the end of the 15th century, Nigeria saw a large influx of missionaries. Conversion campaigns were launched by the Catholic-run governments of France, Portugal, Britain, and Italy. These endeavours brought Crowther, Slessor, Townsend, Waddell, and the rest of the missionaries into the nation. This article will give you a thorough list of early missionaries in Nigeria if you want to read more about any of these people.
Here is a complete List of Early Missionaries in Nigeria, in no particular order:
REVEREND SAMUEL AJAYI CROWTHER
In 1841, Samuel Crowther participated in the first British-backed Niger Expedition. Being a freed African slave of Yoruba heritage from Freetown, Sierra Leone, he played a crucial role in the establishment of Christian missions in Nigeria. He wrote songs and translated the Bible into Yoruba while serving as a missionary for the Christian Missionary Society. He received his ordination in 1845 and his bishopric in 1864.
Scottish-born Slessor served as a missionary for the United Presbyterian Church. She was the first missionary who arrived in Nigeria alone in 1876. Her missionary activities were mostly focused in Calabar and the neighbouring areas. She fought for the rights of women and the defence of kids, as well as the outlawing of twin homicide in the Efik areas.
REVEREND WILLIAMS ANDERSON
Anderson served as a missionary in Scotland for the Scottish Presbyterian Church. Later same year, after receiving his ordination, he travelled to Nigeria, specifically Duke Town in Calabar, where he assumed leadership of the mission until his retirement in 1891. He supported several social reforms, including the outlawing of human sacrifice in aristocratic funerals, together with Rev. Hope Masterson Waddell.
REVEREND HOPE MASTERSON WADDELL
In 1846, Hope Waddell, a missionary for the Scottish Presbyterian Church, arrived in Calabar. For an additional seven years, he persisted in both teaching English and converting the locals to Christianity. He and other missionaries were responsible for the abolition of human sacrifice in the Calabar region. The Hope Waddell Institute recognises him.
REVEREND HENRY TOWNSEND
Townsend travelled to Nigeria in 1843 as a member of the Church of England’s Christian Missionary Society. In Abeokuta, he constructed the Ake Church in 1844. After being ordained in England in 1843, he returned to Abeokuta, where he and his wife Sarah Townsend lived until 1867. The couple relocated to Lagos from 1871 to 1872 to take on the role of co-principals of the Christian Missionary Society (CMS). He is also credited with helping the Rev. Ajayi Crowther write Yoruba hymns and launch a Yoruba newspaper in 1859.
Sarah Townsend worked as a missionary for the Christian Missionary Society while she was the wife of the Rev. Henry Townsend. For almost two years, she helped establish a mission presence in Abeokuta.
REV. Henry Townsend
She and her husband, Rev. Henry Townsend, shared leadership of the C.M.S Female Institution of Lagos from 1871 to 1872.
THOMAS BIRCH FREEMAN
When freed slaves of Yoruba and Aku heritage from Freetown who were residing in present-day Lagos requested a pastor, the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society sent Thomas Freeman, a missionary, to Nigeria. Together with other missionaries like William De Graft, he constructed a Mission structure and Chapel that was completed in November 1842. He visited Dahomey, Abeokuta, and Egba on missions.
She was a participant in the Nigerian missionary expedition and the wife of Thomas Birch Freeman. Up until her death in 1838, she worked as an evangelical missionary in West Africa.
He arrived in Nigeria as a missionary from Sierra Leone in September 1859. He was in charge of the Rev. Henry Townsend-built Ake Church in Abeokuta. He was consecrated a Priest and the Ake Church grew to have 188 members because of his dedication to its growth.
A Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) missionary from the United States named Henry Nau and his wife started preparing for WELS in Nigeria in 1936.
William Schweppe was a missionary for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod who travelled to Nigeria in 1937 to oversee WELS’ mission work. He established congregations in Ibesikpo, Akwa Ibom, which later developed into the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
Leola was Dr. William Schweppe’s spouse. Her and her husband’s duties as missionary expedition leaders in Nigeria were assigned to them by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. They successfully established churches in Ibesikpo, Akwa Ibom.
During the mid-1940s, he was a missionary with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and he worked in Ibesikpo.
Between 1944 and 1948, Baer arrived in Nigeria as a key member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s missionary staff stationed in Ibesikpo.
Edgar Greve served in Nigeria as a missionary between 1944 and 1948. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, of which he was a member, is an ELCA body.
Since the late 1800s, missionaries have made it their personal mission to serve the Nigerian people. Hearing about how Johanna Veenstra and Mary Slessor cared for and served Nigerians can inspire us. They genuinely surrendered their lives to Christ, allowing Him to use them as He saw fit.
Examples of how God has sent workers to Nigeria faithfully include Katie Morrison and YWAM Nigeria. His work in Nigeria is not finished, and we can keep praying for new missionaries to be sent there to live among the locals.