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Mary Ibeso
c. 1856 to 1945
Anglican
Nigeria

Mary Ibeso, like Anna of the New Testament, was a woman of the temple (or church). She threw her whole energy into maintaining and cleaning the church. Indeed she assumed the role of a woman in the household of God. She was the epitome of Christian widowhood, a model for today's Christian widows.

Her early life was sorrowful. She lost her only daughter one year after the death of her husband, Mr. Iselegu. She was from the Ogbe Onodi quarters of Emu Uno.

She understood well the Pauline teachings of celibacy, with respect to serving the Lord and not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. Following the death of her husband, she had the courage to refuse every non-Christian suitor who came her way. For this non-Christian men hated her. But Christians admired her virtue. She was called Nne Uku (mother of the church). Associated with this, it was her custom to wear a white cloth, a symbol of purity and of being set apart for Jesus Christ whom she often called her husband. She was the first Christian mother of St. Peter's Anglican Church Emu Uno and she was in charge of instructing young women converts.

Madam Mary Ibeso was a woman of prayer. She was often seen around the mission house praying for countless hours. She was known to pray for Mr. Godwin Okeriaka and Mr. Abraham Osaele, for grace to be multiplied unto them. An observer reported that she often prayed for generations yet unborn. Her whole life was given to intercession for the growth of the church. She often prayed that the good reports, which she heard from other lands (Isoko, Urhobo, Abraka) also become a reality in the Emu church.

Such was her zeal in evangelism that some men reportedly warned her to stay away from their wives for fear they would be converted to Christianity. Mary Ibeso spared no opportunity at the cassava mills to speak of Christ to the women. She was also involved in house-to-house evangelism. If any woman visited the church, Mary Ibeso took her on as a "challenge" and would follow up her visit and become involved in the woman's life until she became a committed member of the church.

Mary Ibeso led the women in the cleaning of the church, going on a three kilometer trek to obtain uro-ocha (white clay) from a stream. They used this clay to rub the church walls every Saturday and they rubbed the mud benches with cocoyam leaves. (These do not stain when dry.) They dug the white clay with broken calabashes. Mr. Peter Okogbue a post-pioneering indigenous agent, always accompanied them.

The Anglican converts in Emu Uno took care of Madam Ibeso during her later years. She died in 1945 at the age of eighty-nine.

Jones Ugochukwu Odili



Selected Bibliography:

Primary Sources (personal interviews)

Abandi, Gloria, age 45, farmer, interview in Obodeti on 15-06-02.
Abandi, Pius, age 61, retired civil servant, interview in Obodeti on 14-06-02.
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Agbadaba, Paul, age 76, Ndichie priest, interview in Obodeti on 5-01-02.
Amaweh, John, age 75, farmer, interview in Obodeti on 9-01-02.
Agwamm, Johnson, age 86, retired civil servant, interview in Emu Uno on 14-07-02.
Ayanbine, Benedict O., age 76, retired teacher, interview in Emu Uno on 8-08-02.
Eke, Johnson, age 87, farmer, interview in Obiogo on 5-07-02.
Enudinuju, Ozeh, age 83, priestess, interview in Emu Uno on 23-03-02.
Idu, Comfort, age 43, trader, interview in Obodeti on 10-06-02.
Idu, Ikechukwu, age 36, civil servant, interview in Obodeti on 12-06-02.
Idu, John, age 66, lay leader, interview in Obodeti on 01-06-02.
Idu, Rudolf, age 28, civil servant, interview in Obodeti on 12-06-02.
Igor, Godwin, age 42, clergy, interview in Emu Uno on 16-04-02.
Igwala, Andrew, age 72, farmer, interview in Emu Uno on 30-06-02.
Ilu, Johnson, age 48, HRH, interview in Emu Uno on 10-07-02.
Izege, Beatrice, age 68, priestess, interview in Emu Uno on 7-02-02.
Johnson, Diabiagu, age 45, farmer, interview in Emu Uno on 17-02-02.
Kpolokpolo, Diana, age 93, trader, interview in Obodeti on 18-01-02.
Maduagu, Alfred, age 78, retired civil servant, interview in Obodeti on 25-06-02.
Maledo, Comfort, age 48, trader, interview in Emu Uno on 13-07-02.
Maledo, John, age 43, civil servant, interview in Emu Uno on 15-07-02.
Maledo, Richard, age 30, civil servant, interview in Emu Uno on 13-07-02.
Nwafiri, Steven, age 32, catechist, interview in Obodeti on 11-06-02.
Ochonogor, Andrew, age 75, retired teacher, interview in Emu Uno on 4-04-02.
Ochonogor, Angelina, age 47, trader, interview in Emu Uno on 06-06-02.
Ogbom, Idiagbon Y., age 82, clergy, interview in Obodeti on 12-04-02.
Ojuma, Chukwu, age 110, Ada, interview in Obodeti on 06-01-02.
Okolie, Samue, age l38, catechist, interview in Emu Uno on 28-07-02.
Okoligwe, Anamali, age 44, trader, interview in Emu Uno on 26-07-02.
Okoligwe, Enuknekwu G., age 63, retired teacher, interview in Emu Uno on 26-07-02.
Okongi, Mathew, age 58, catechist, interview in Iyasele on 28-06-02.
Okoro, Celina, age 50, trader, interview in Ebendo on 07-07-02.
Okorocha, Johnson A., age 96, clergy, interview in Ebendo on 08-06-02.
Okoyoku, Paul, age 57, clergy, interview in Ebendo on 08-06-02.
Okuegbe, Akpogbue P., age 63, retired teacher, interview in Emu Uno on 13-06-02.
Omesa, Mary, age 83, Egine, interview in Emu Uno on 13-02-02.
Omoso, John, age 54, farmer, interview in Ebendo on 07-06-02.
Omojo, Comfort, age 38, trader, interview in Obiogo on 19-07-02.
Onyefuniaga, Osa, age 92, Okwa, interview in Obodeti on 03-03-02.
Osabiku, Andrew, age 56, retired teacher, interview in Emu Uno on 15-07-02.
Osademe, Mathew, age 52, clergy, interview in Emu Uno on 19-07-02.
Osaele, Osuam Chukwuka, age 65, farmer, interview in Emu Uno on 23-07-02.
Osaele, Osuam, Innocent, age 45, farmer, interview in Emu Uno on 23-03-02.
Osifigbhor, Grace, age 70, retired teacher, interview in Obodeti on 24-03-02.
Owete, Okobi E., age 89, farmer, interview in Emu Uno on 24-03-02.
Patrick, Nwaesunaka, age 58, farmer, interview in Obiogo on 20-07-02.


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Journal Articles

Adogbo, M. P. "The Search for the Biblical Satan in Urhobo Traditional Religion." The Nigerian Journal of Theology 17 (June 2003). Pp.27-38.
Ajayi, J. F. A. "Bishop Crowther: An Assessment," Odu (1968). Pp.3-19.
Ajayi, W. O. "Aspect of Protestant Missionary Work in Northern Nigeria" Odu 3:1 (July, 1966). Pp.41-55.
Akama, E. S. "The Initial Growth and Problems of the Pioneering Mission Churches in Isokoland of Nigeria (1914-1944)" Journal of Religon, and Culture (2002). Pp.7-23.
Aiman, Jean. "Making Mothers Missionaries, Medical Officers and Women's Work in Colonial Asante, 1924-1945" History Workshop Journal 38 (1994). Pp.23-47.
Ayandele, E. A. "The Missionary Factor and Northern Nigeria, 1879-1918." Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 3:3 (Dec. 1966). Pp.503-522.
Bevans, S. "Doing Theology in North America: A Contextual Model." The Gospel and Our Culture. Holland Western Theological Seminary (1993). Pp.43-67.
Danmole, H. O. "The Crescent and the Cross in the Frontier Emirate: Ilorin in the 19th century." Orita Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies xvii: 1. (June, 1985). Pp.23-36.
Fisher, H. "Conversion Reconsidered: Some Historical Aspects of Historical Conversion in Black Africa." Africa 43 (1974). Pp.128-152.
Haney, M. S. "Issues of Contextualization: Christians and Muslims" Studies in World Christianity 3:2 (1997). Pp.154-179.
Horton, R. "African Conversion" Africa 41 (1971). Pp.85-108.
Ifemesia, C. C. "The Civilizing Mission of 1841." Journal of Historical Society of Nigeria 2:3 (1962). Pp.138-157.
Ikenga-Metuh, E. "Religious Concepts in West Africa Cosmogonies." Journal of Religion in Africa xxxii: 1 (1982). Pp.11-24.
Kenny, J. "Religious Movements in Nigeria: Divisive or Cohesive? Some Interpretative Models." Orita Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, xvi: 2 (Dec 1984). Pp.111-128.
Kolapo, F. "CMS Missionaries of African Origin and Extra-Religious Encounter at the Niger-Benue Confluence, 1858-1880." African Studies Review (Sept 2000). Pp.87-115.
Liu, William and Beatrice Leung. "Organisational Revivalism: Explaining the Metamorphosis of China's Catholic Church." Journal of Scientific Study of Religion 4:1 (2002). Pp.121-138.
Mills, J. O. Commentary. New Blackriars[sic] (Jan. 1984). Pp.1-5.
Onaiyekan, J. "What We Saw and Heard at the African Synod." Bulletin of Ecumenical Theology 6:2 (1994). Pp.1-12.
Raheb, M. "Contextualizing the Scriptures: Towards a New Understanding of the Quran--an Arab-Christian Perspective." Studies in World Christianity 3:2 (1997). Pp.180-201.
Schlorff, S. P. "Muslim and Christian Apologetic." Missiology: An International Review (April 1993). Pp.289-301.
Strayer, R. "Mission History in Africa: New Perspectives on an Encounter." African Studies Review 19:1 (1976). Pp.1-15.
Thomas, S. "Transforming the Gospel of Domesticity: Luhya Girls and Friends African Mission, 1917-1926." African Studies Review 4:2 (Sept. 2000). Pp.1-27.
Turner, P. "The Wisdom of the Fathers and the Gospel of Christ: Some Notes on Christian Adoption in Africa." Journal of Religion in Africa iv: 1 (1974). Pp.45-68.
Wilson, F. R. "The San Antonio Report: Your Will Be Done--Mission in Christ's Way." WCC Publications, 1990.

This story, received in 2003, was reprinted with permission from "The Role of Indigenous Agents in the Advent and Growth of the Anglican Church in Emu Clan of Delta State 1911 - 2002," a Masters thesis (Department of Religious and Cultural Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Choba, Rivers State, Nigeria) by Mr. Jones Ugochukwu Odili.