John (Yahaya) Alangasa was born in Iyakan Kasa, one of the villages of Auna, Niger State, in 1948. He was from the Akimba people of the Kambari.
Pastor Alangasa was not able to go to school as a child but he learned to read and write in the church Adult Education Class. After he accepted Christ in 1968, he went to the UMCA Bible School at Salka for the Hausa and English programmes from 1969 to 1974. Then he taught for a year as CRK teacher at Kirho Primary School.
In 1975, Pastor Alangasa went to the United Missionary Theological College in Ilorin for the Certificate Programme, graduating in 1979. During his days as a student of UMTC, he spent some of his long vacations doing missionary outreach in the Genu area, which is between Kontagora, Yelwa and Rijau. The people there are Kambari, and most of them had never heard the gospel before. What follows is what he wrote about that time.
My Own Personal Testimony
I was a Muslim before. I became a Christian because of the contradictions in Muslim teaching. They base their teachings on good works, especially the five daily prayers. According to them, if someone fails to pray one of the five times, all the prayers are useless. They teach that Muslims should pray continually so that when a Muslim dies, these prayers will help to take him out of the fire from time to time. I was taught that the prayer at 6 a.m. would permit a Muslim in the next world to be out of the fire as long as the prayer lasted. After the prayer, the person would be taken back to the fire until 2:30 p.m., the next prayer time. This teaching confused me.
Then I started comparing the teachings of the Muslims with the teachings of the Christian pastor, Pastor Langashi. I realized that Christian teaching is true, and I became a Christian.
I loved the Bible very much. However, I did not understand it very well. When I went to church and the pastor preached it, I was surprised at the way he could explain the Bible. I decided that if I could read the Bible and explain it like that, I would preach Christ everywhere to unbelievers.
After I went to the Theological College, I had to put into practice what I was learning. During our first evangelism trip (March 1978) we went to Genu. The Lord drew my attention by blessing my ministry. Wherever I went, I got new converts. This made me very sure that God had planned it even from the beginning that I would be an evangelist. I decided to go back to Genu whenever we had a holiday. I realized that they were lost physically and spiritually. The instruction and testimony of Rev. Sloat helped convince me of this.
In June 1978, Rev. Dauda Bako and I went to Genu as ambassadors of Christ. We lodged in the primary school and visited most of the places which had been evangelized in March 1978. After that, we did not know where else we should go. We decided we would go and live in the bush. When our money ran out, the people could feed us and that would also be a good way for us to teach them effectively.
First of all, we went to the new converts’ place. It was evening when we arrived in the village. We found children playing and the girls were splitting firewood. When they saw us coming, they started shouting and jumping, saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” When I heard children calling us “Jesus” I was filled with joy. I was smiling and thinking, “I am like Paul.” On that day, I was sure of my call to carry the gospel to those who do not know. I did not know that my partner was thinking the same thing.
When we arrived at the house where we were to stay, I looked inside the zaure (gate room) and it was very dirty. They had brought their cows and sheep inside and it was the room I was expecting would be our room. As we were sitting down outside the house waiting for the men to come back from the farms, Mr. Bako was thinking out loud and said, “When I was in the army, I used to sign out a government car and take my own driver. I used to pass through the bush and see the inhabitants of this place. At that time if somebody had said, ‘Mr. Bako, you will some day come to this bush and live with these people,’ I would have said that he was a madman. For all that I was doing and all that I had, I did not thank God. I thought it was my own strength and my own power that gave it to me. But now I am here. Thank you God for making it possible for me to be here today for your sake.” These statements really built up my faith for the work of God.
When the men came back from the farms, they took us into the house and gave us a mat. They greeted us very happily and built a fire in the middle of the compound. We sat near the fire because it was cold. Then they greeted us again. The last greeting was the key of opening the way of conversation. We had a little talk before we ate. After we ate, the men, women and children gathered around us.
First I asked them to sing some choruses which we had taught them before. They were able to sing five choruses, which pleased Mr. Bako very much. Then I opened my Bible and found a Christmas card in it. I held out the card and said, “Who wants it?” This card was very beautiful and garnished with gold and silver. They saw the picture of camels and some people on them. They were surprised and afraid, and they drew back.
I said, “Take it. It is just a picture. It won’t harm you.” Then one little girl stretched out her finger to touch the card. When it didn’t harm her, she took it and showed it to her father. They were all surprised to see the picture of camels and people on them. We taught them some choruses and how to pray and the story of the birth of Christ.
About eleven o’clock, I fell asleep. I left Mr. Bako with them until midnight. Then they woke me up and took us to a room which was a kitchen. By the light of my torch I saw three boys in the room and four goats with kids. We put down our mat and laid down but I couldn’t sleep. The door of the kitchen was not covered and there were clouds of mosquitoes. The next day we decided that we should go back home because we felt we could not tolerate such problems. There was no proper food or place to sleep and it could affect our health.
We walked from the village to the main road – a distance of about 26 kilometers. When I got to Ilorin the next day, I was unable to walk, my feet were so swollen. I spent a day treating my feet. Even Rev. Harman, the Principal, did not know that I had come back.
Second Journey to Genu
The next day, I was called by the General Secretary, Rev. Oloyede, because he wanted to know how the work was going. I reported everything to him. He was very sorry and expressed sympathy. He started telling me his own personal testimony. This really encouraged me because he spoke to me very gently, with kindness and love. After he finished, he asked me, “Will you be able to go back?” “Well,” I said, “My partner has so many things to do. I do not know whether he will be able to go back.” “Can you go back alone?” he asked me. I said, “Yes.” I just said yes but I did not know what to do. He gave me more transport money and a letter to Salka. When I left his office, I was thinking, “What shall I do? Why did I agree to go?”
As I was thinking, I remembered his statement, “I have suffered for the work of evangelism, and nobody supported me. I sometimes went on foot – no bicycle – but I kept on doing it. I did not stop because of lack of a sponsor. Even now I’m still doing it by writing tracts because I’m not someone of eloquent speech.” I was struck in my heart and I was encouraged also.
I remembered the missionaries who worked among us. Some of them even died for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was convinced even to die. I promised that I would go. Immediately, I made a new plan. My plan was to go and live among them in the bush. This is the way the Apostle Paul did his own ministry. I believed that the Lord would protect me in whatever I was going to eat and wherever I was going to sleep. The Lord can even shut the mouths of mosquitoes.
I went to the Principal requesting Bible pictures. He directed me to Miss Fuller. She gave me 29 pictures including Christmas cards, because I told her of my experience. It seemed to me that most of the people had never seen pictures. I felt they would be very helpful in my ministry.
I went back to Genu and I arrived there about four o’clock. I went straight to the Alura’s house. I met an old man working on the farm, but I did not know he was the Alura’s father. I greeted him in Kambari fashion so that he would know that I also was a Kambari. I also told him I was a Kambari from Salka or Auna.
He said, “Oh yes. Ye hulloho?” meaning “What is your name?” I answered in Kambari, “My name is John Alangasa.”
Immediately he took me into the house because he was convinced that I was a Kambari. I started witnessing to him. I showed him the picture of Jesus.
He said, “Mallam, I have heard all that you are saying and it is true but I am very old.”
I told him that Jesus likes old men. Then I showed him the picture where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He said, “Teacher, I cannot forsake the gods of my forefathers.”
“Who are the gods of your forefathers?”
I asked him, “Did Magiro create anything? Did Magiro create the earth, animals and human beings?”
“Who created all these things?”
“Do you know that God is our Heavenly Father?”
I asked him, “Is it good for your son to disobey you or to despise you and go to somebody else who is not his father and say, ‘This is my father’?”
“That is exactly what our forefathers did to God who is the Creator. They forsook him and they worshipped another god who did not create them. Is that good?”
He said, “Well, you can speak to the Alura. Whatever he says I will do, because I do not know anything.”
After we had eaten, they took me to the Alura’s house. The children were very happy to have me come live with them. They rushed to carry my bags, because most of the children were school boys and girls. They remembered me from the town during our first and second evangelism trip. They gathered around me and I greeted them according to the normal tribal greeting. Then I continued with teaching. I taught them about the creation and showed them pictures of Adam and Eve.
About 10:30 they took me to the room where I was to stay. It was the kitchen of a woman who had a new baby. According to their custom, a new mother must go to her father’s house and stay there for two months, so the woman was not around. The door of the kitchen was uncovered. I slept there for two days with an open doorway. Mosquitoes! I cannot say how many there were! Only the Lord protected me. The next day I went to the market and bought a curtain and put it on the door. The room looked very nice. The people were surprised to see the door of a room covered with what they felt was clothing.
The Alura himself loved me. He used to come early in the morning and greet me and I also used to go around in the house greeting everybody. Children mostly came to me day and night.
One day the Alura’s child was very sick. That night they couldn’t sleep. The child cried throughout the night. I woke up early in the morning and found all the people of the house in the mother’s room. I did not greet them as usual, I just asked, “What is wrong?”
“The child is very sick.”
I went in and touched the child. His body was very hot. I said, “Oh, it is malaria fever.”
The Alura said, “No, it is the rabbit.”
I understood what he meant because our people have this idea that a rabbit can also cause a child to get fever. Then I said, “How will you get help for this type of sickness?”
“We are going to the herbalist right now.”
I said, “Wait.” I went to my room and got some aspirin and nivaquine. I took the correct dosage and gave it to the child. Then I told the father not to go anywhere.
He said, “Shall I leave my child just with this type of medicine?”
I said, “Yes, just wait.”
It was not very long before the child got better. His body became very cool. They were very happy, especially the women.
I continued teaching them every day. I started with the story of creation and by the fifth day got to the birth of Christ. On that day, I had Christmas cards with me and I distributed a card to each individual. However, I did not know that the Alura was afraid. He asked me, “Mallam, won’t you come some day and take back your books?” I said, “No sir. This is a free gift.”
The next day I went to the town. I was there with some of the boys from my hometown. When I went back home I took with me the radio of one of my friends. When I got to the house, it was 7:30 p.m. I tuned to Radio ELWA. Everyone in the house kept quiet. The man on the radio spoke about the outcome for those who repent and for those who reject Christ.
When the program was over, the Alura called me and said, “Teacher, will the radio speak continually?”
I said, “Yes, at 7:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.”
Then he said, “Teacher, this is your third time coming here.”
I said, “Yes.”
He continued, “This Jesus that you are teaching us here – have you ever got someone who accepted him in this Genu area?”
I kept quiet and started thinking, “If I say ‘yes’ maybe he has a wrong motive in asking and the converts will get into trouble. If I say ‘no’ maybe that will discourage him because he might be ready to accept Christ.”
I said, “Well, I hope we shall have some, in God’s will.”
He said, “No, I just want to know if you have already got new converts here.”
I said, “Yes.”
“Where are they?” he asked.
“In Argida,” I told him.
He spoke to me very forcefully, “Teacher, this will never happen in this Genu area and it cannot be done. How can just a few people accept a very new religion which we do not know? It’s not our custom, and they accepted it without the knowledge of our chiefs and elders.”
I said, “Yes, what you are saying is true. There was someone in our area who tried to bring Magiro worship without contacting the elders, but he failed because Magiro worship needs permission and cooperation from the elders before people can accept it. It is a community thing.” Then I told him that Christianity is not like this. Even one person can practice Christianity in his home and be the only Christian. However, if all the people of the Genu area accept Jesus as their personal Saviour, it would be even better, and God would bless them. A person need not ask permission of anybody, not even his father or his brothers. If anyone tries to persecute him, God fights for him. Nobody can fight God. I asked him whether he could fight God. He said, “No.”
I told him the story of King Herod and how the angel of the Lord struck him (Acts 12:19-23). I saw that he was very wise. He was angry with me, but he did now show his anger in public.
He said, “Teacher, you will never get anybody in this Genu area who will follow this Jesus that you are teaching about. If you continue teaching us about this Jesus whom we do not know, I will go and ask the Hausa chief to enlighten me if this religion is something acceptable. Also, I will go and tell the headmaster that there is another teacher in my house teaching something new to the children I have given him.”
When he said this, I realized that he had already contacted the Hausa chief and had received a warning. There is no other place he could have got these new ideas. I told him that I was not a thief and I had not been hiding from him since we started preaching in Genu. We had gone to the Chief of Genu and had permission from him. We had also gone to the Hausa chief and the headmaster. We were well known to them. I further told him I had gone to Magama local government authorities and had permission from the CEO to teach in the primary school. “Don’t tell me I am sneaking in,” I said. “I am not. I came to your house because you are of my people.”
He said, “That is why I haven’t reported you, because you are one of ours. If not, I would have reported you.”
Now I could see that his attitude toward me had changed. He was very sorry to talk to me like that, but he had already hardened his heart. He told me, “Teacher, you can live in my house as long as you want, but don’t teach us or these children about Jesus. But I know a time is coming when we shall accept this Jesus.”
Then I took up my radio and went back to my little room. All the children and the young people kept quiet in the house. The Alura collected the cards which I had given them and sent them to me. I cannot describe how I felt. I tried to pray but I couldn’t control my spirit. I turned on the radio to comfort me with some music. They sent a girl to tell me to turn off my radio.
I asked the girl why. She said, “My mother has an evil spirit and she doesn’t want to hear any radio music. If she hears radio music the evil spirit will arise and trouble her.”
I turned the radio off. I couldn’t sleep. My heart continued wondering, thinking, “What shall I do next and where shall I go?” I decided I should go to the town and lodge there.
The next day the Alura’s eldest son came to me when his father had gone out. He asked me to teach him more about Jesus and show him the Bible pictures. I asked him, “Didn’t your father say yesterday that I should not teach you any more?”
He said, “Don’t mind our father. It is because we are very stupid; that is why he is saying all those things. But the time is coming when we shall accept this Jesus.” Then I gave him the pictures and taught him. However, the school boys and the other children ran away from me. I had taught them songs though, and they continued singing them to others.
The Lord directed me to the house I lodged in. It was the house of the Councillor. He is a Kambari man and he accepted me as his brother. He loved me very much but he was a Muslim. I did not teach in his house even though many people came there – visitors and school boys. I didn’t want to offend him, even though he knew I was an evangelist.
I started visiting the villages. I went to their farms because it was rainy season and all men go to the farms then. Sometimes I helped them with their farming before I started preaching to them.
One day I went to a village named Matere. When I arrived, a little boy recognized me from the time I was there on the first evangelism trip. When he saw me he shouted, “Daddy, daddy, look! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” I was holding my Bible with my Bible pictures in my left hand. The father was in the blacksmith’s hut with seven people, some of them elders. I greeted them in the traditional way and put my books down. As I was talking to them, the wind blew the pictures open. They were very eager to see what was in the books. I think they had never seen a picture before. I started showing the pictures and explaining the story of Elijah and continued with the story of the death of Christ. When I finished, a man came to me who had disturbed us during our first evangelism trip in the village.
Now he started again, saying, “This Jesus that you are preaching here, you will never get anybody in this area to follow him, because it is very contrary to our custom and it is something new to us.”
I asked him why.
He said, “Because it is not our custom.”
“What is your custom?”
“Worshipping Magiro, traditional marriage (polygamy), traditional dress and drinking.”
“Have I asked you not to worship Magiro, not to marry, to change your dress and not to drink?”
“If we accept all that you are teaching us, you will soon demand it.”
I said, “I am not the one to demand it, but God will demand it if he wants you to stop it.” The Spirit quickly reminded me of the story of Adam and Eve.
I picked up the picture of Adam and Eve and showed it to them. I started teaching them the story. When they disobeyed, they became sinners. Their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.
I said, “As you see your women are doing now, wearing leaves, it was started from the beginning. So don’t say, ‘our custom.’ It is not only your custom, it has been everybody’s custom. Englishman, black man, everybody you know, it is his custom, because we are all born from Adam.”
I continued, “When they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve were ashamed and hid themselves. Why were they afraid and ashamed?” They gave me the right answers. I said, “The same thing is true of you. You are trying to hide your sins from the presence of the Lord. You have heard the voice of the Lord today. God sees everywhere. God sees people’s hearts.” The elders kept quiet. They were saying, “Exactly, exactly.”
I asked the man who had challenged me, “Do you understand?” He said, “Yes, but let me tell you teacher, we Kambari of the Genu area, we are very stupid indeed. We automatically hold to our customs. We cannot change them, but the time is coming when we must accept this religion that you are teaching us.” I said “Amen” and the elders also said, “Amen.”
I made friends with the teachers. Unfortunately, none of them were Christians. I just made friends with them because of loneliness, even though their life didn’t fit me. They smoked, insulted one another, swore and talked about sex all the time. I was always sweeping cigarettes butts out of my room.
One day I was in deep thought concerning my family and I saw them in a vision. I started thinking of how much I was missing my wife and family. But the Lord gave me a great desire to continue with my ministry even though it meant I had to be far away from them.
When Satan tried me once, I broke down. I started thinking, “It is a waste of time to continue preaching the gospel to them, because as far as I can see they are determined to reject Christ.” I decided that I would not continue going to the villages. I did not go anywhere for four days and I planned to go to Tungan Magajiya on Friday and spend a few days there before I went back to Genu.
If I told you how the Lord appeared to me on Thursday you would not believe me. I asked the Lord, “Am I the only one you trouble like this? Look at those who call themselves pastors and evangelists and don’t even go outside of the church to preach. They only go from church to church.”
The next day was Friday. While I was waiting for a lorry I heard someone call my name. I turned and saw Pastor Langashi from Salka. He was coming to visit me. He asked, “Where are you going?” When I told him I was going to Tungan Magajiya he was quiet for a moment and then he said, “What are you going to do there?”
I did not hide it from him. “I am going to rest for a few days.”
“Is that all?”
“Well, I want to go get some tablets too.”
“Okay, let’s go together and tomorrow we shall go back to Genu. I want to spend a night with the new converts.”
Then we went to Tungan Magajiya together and then returned to Genu the next day. We spent the night there with the new converts. They were happy to see Pastor Langashi visiting them. Pastor Langashi was also very pleased to see their faith in Jesus.
I know God planned it like this, for me to meet Pastor Langashi. Even now I still see Genu in my vision and I think of Genu all the time. My spirit is willing but my flesh is not.
The End of the Story
After his graduation from UMTC, Pastor John Alangasa became a teacher at the Bible School in Salka. Two years later he became the school’s principal and did this work until 1987. Also during this time he started and pastored the English Section of the First UMCA Church in Salka.
In 1987 Pastor Alangasa was appointed Principal of the UMCA Bible College in Tungan Magajiiya and elected Church District Vice Superintendent for the new Salka District. He was working faithfully stimulating pastors and students for outreach and gospel work until illness took him home to be with the Lord on the 18 of December 1988.
Pastor Alangasa left behind his wife, Ladi, five of their six sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Yakubu, is carrying on his work and has been teaching at the UMCA Bible School in Salka.
Compiled by L. Fuller from the writings of Pastor John Alangasa, 1978, and interviews with his family collected by Rev. Michael Auna.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Faith of Our Fathers: Life Stories of Some UMCA Elders, copyright © 1999, edited by Lois Fuller, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. All rights reserved.