I, Ibrahim Langashi, was born around the year 1918, shortly before the first missionaries came to Salka in 1923. I was born into a very strict traditional religionist village, tribe and family. At that time, there was no primary school, so I had no opportunity to go through formal education. Farming was the main occupation of my parents, so I also took up farming. And even though my village, tribe and family were traditional worshippers, I did not fully participate in the religion of my parents, for not long after I was born, the missionaries came.
When I was a young man close to 20 years old, I enrolled in a class along with others, like Sule Magaji and Matthew Sundu, to learn how to read in the Hausa language. I was one of the first Kambari-speaking indigenes in the Salka area to be taught by Rev. Russell Sloat. At that time I had not yet given my life to Jesus. I was only influenced by the white missionaries who gave me the desire to learn to read. Others, such as the late deacon Dandodo and Baba David, had started learning before me.
Around 1947, as I continued to learn under Rev. Sloat, I decided that I would give my life to Jesus. Because of my zeal, my effort in reading, and the understanding God had granted me, Rev. Sloat allowed me to preach at Sunday worship services from time to time. This gave me practice in speaking before the congregation in the church.
I married my wife Ladi around 1947, and afterwards, was admitted to the Hausa Bible Training School in Salka. In fact, that was the beginning of the many persecutions I underwent. My parents treated me with contempt and meted out severe persecution. For instance, my parents even denied me a place to live in the house. I was denied food, and was asked to choose between dying or returning to traditional worship. But I was adamant in the face of their threats and remained loyal to my new faith in Jesus.
While in Bible School, I never went home for anything. I was living and going to school by faith and working on my own to keep life going, despite the fact that when we were farming as a family, we had a common family purse. I must confess that it was only by the grace of God that I managed to complete the Bible School training in 1954 along with Rev. Sule Magaji and Matthew Sundu.
Having completed the Bible Training School I was posted to UMCA Koso where I pastored for four years, then I was in Tungan Sara for two years and Tungan Jatau for three years. I was transferred to Shagwa where I also stayed for two years and later to Auna where I pastored for another seven years. Finally, I was transferred to Salka, my home town, in 1973. There I did serious pastoral work, in spite of severe opposition and persecution.
Of all the places I pastored, I have never been blessed spiritually and numerically like in Salka. Salka had been a traditional worship town. The inhabitants, Kambari by tribe, were bent at all costs on seeing that the white men never did away with their traditional worship. This was why early converts were seriously persecuted by both their parents and the village at large. Because of the zeal in traditional worship of the Salka people, the missionaries at first were almost discouraged at the response. There were few or no converts from 1923, when the mission station in Salka was opened until the early 1940s. The mission almost closed down but in the 40s people started responding to the gospel. By 1973 when I was transferred there, the converts were not more that 200 or 300, despite the fact that Salka had a population estimated at seven to ten thousand then.
When I was in Salka during those years, I worked hard, not only as a pastor but also as an evangelist, to see that my people were converted. Many young men began to give their lives to Christ, though mostly ladies and elders did not.
But the situation changed in 1978. A tremendous spiritual vacuum was created in the town as a result of a serious problem and fight among the traditional worshippers of the Migiro and Agunu cults. A man lost his wife and many were seriously injured. I personally saw this fight as God working for the betterment of the Kambari people, making the way for them to receive Him. Many of the fetish members began to expose the secrets of the fetish to the women, which was an abomination, and many decided that they would have nothing to do with the traditional religion again.
The Muslims tried to get those who had given up traditional worship to turn to Islam, but God did not allow it. The Christians seized the opportunity, realizing that God’s hand was at work to bring the people of Salka to Himself.
We worked very hard preaching day and night. Many of the inhabitants began to search for the spiritual life they had seen among the Kambari Christians in the town. Many people began to come to me, saying, “Pastor Ibrahim, will you help me to find Jesus’ way?” God used the fight among the fetish people to remind us of the work of God the missionaries had done and to take it up as our own task.
Before the end of 1978, the number attending the church had increased to almost 650 people. The church continued to grow spiritually and numerically, A bigger church building was erected in 1978, because the one I found there when I took up the pastorate could not contain the growing population. This was a year I will never forget.
All this success was not without trouble and opposition. Just as there has not been a place so fruitful during my pastoral work as Salka, so also there has not been a place where I faced such serious opposition and persecution. As Jesus said, a prophet is not regarded in his home place. This has been my experience in Salka. I suffered serious physical and spiritual attack from those who opposed the gospel. For instance, here in Salka, the devil tormented me at one time with a certain sickness. The traditional worshippers said they would kill me, so they brought this sickness on me, but the Lord God whom I worship and serve delivered and healed me through serious prayers and fasting. This led even more traditional worshippers to give their lives to Christ. At another time, someone met me and said to me, “You think you have survived that sickness? You will see something worse before the end of the year!” That same year, the person who made this threat died, but I continued the work of God.
When all their efforts to get me failed, they turned to my wife. She was attacked by strokes. I suffered and prayed for her recovery, but because God knew best, despite prayers and efforts by doctors at hospitals for six years, she went home to glory on the 25th of February 1994.
Despite these problems, the work continued to grow so that most Salka people today are Christians. Before I left pastoral work, two other big churches were built, in the Farar-Kasa and Ketaren Daji sections of Salka town. Today there are four large UMCA churches in Salka, and the fifth is being started.
In 1987, when Salka district was created I became the District Evangelist rather than pastor of a church. I again continued the work of God through evangelism and above all, overseeing evangelistic work in the whole district. I did this until 1995 when I retired.
Since I married in 1947, when I gave my life to Christ, I have been blessed with seven children, three sons and four daughters. Though none has taken up my work, I have always prayed that Yakubu would do so. I thank God that he has finished his degree in our famous UMCA Theological College Illorin. Although he is not a full-time pastor, he is helping the students in the Salka Bible School as a part-time teacher. I pray that one day he will become a full-time pastor or Bible teacher.
Since November 22, 1998, I have been seriously sick. I had surgery (prostatectomy) and since then the sickness has persisted. Pray that God should heal me. I know that I will continue to glorify God both in life and death.
Langashi Ibrahim Alkali
This story, “Forty-Eight Years in Ministry in UMCA,” was translated by Rev. Alkali’s son Yakubu Langashi Alkali.
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.