Emmanuel Adagadzu Envuladu was a teacher, pastor, evangelist, interpreter, and church planter in Eggonland, Nigeria. Born around 1920 in a village called Wazhi, in Nassarawa-Eggon Local Government Area, Nasarawa State, Emmanuel’s father, Envuladu, was a staunch adherent of the traditional religion, and Emmanuel was initiated into all the customary religious rites along with other children his age.
When Christianity came to Nasarawa State around 1916 through South African and Dutch missionaries, early converts had experienced harsh persecution. Emmanuel and some of his friends wanted to become Christians but their parents didn’t want them to convert. Whenever Emmanuel and his friends heard the missionaries singing Christian songs or preaching using their microphones or gramophones, they would sneak out to listen. But when they were caught doing this, they were beaten or denied food in order to stop them from becoming Christians.
Soon the community leaders devised stronger ways of preventing them from listening to the missionaries. On Sundays when it was time for service, the leaders ostracized them and made things difficult for Emmanuel and his friends in one way or another. At times they would take them to a farm and give them a large amount of work beyond their abilities. Other times they would all be taken to the house of the village head to be given corporal punishments. The leaders would ask questions like, “Whom do you love, your parents or Jesus?” Whoever answered, “Jesus,” would be subjected to more persecution, like being cast out from the community after severe torture, whether they were girls or boys. And those who said they loved their parents more than Jesus would be rewarded by the community leaders and warned never again to associate with the Christian believers.
One of the strongest persecutions Emmanuel faced before he publicly declared his intention to follow Jesus came one Sunday when traditional worshippers from the Izzi and Anmebwashenta communities went and spread some items used in traditional worship on the road at a place called Eklu. The community leaders performed rituals and put charms on the road with the hope that any Christian who stepped on them would die. A group of people, including Emmanuel, his friends, and some Christians, prayed, gathered their courage, and began to sing Christian songs and march on the charmed objects. They passed that spot on the road, and nothing happened to any of them. Actually, instead of the Christians dying, some of traditional worshippers died, and many people began to fear the Christians. To prevent further deaths the people consulted their gods, who told them that it was the curse of what they did to the Christians that was killing them.
In this event and in other ways Emmanuel experienced God in his life, and he accepted Christ as his Lord. He was then tortured and banished from his home by his parents. Since he had nowhere else to go, he went to the missionaries’ home in Agbro so that he could continue living out his new faith, and was later baptized in 1928 by Dr. Jackson. While in exile he had no contact with any of his family; he didn’t even know when his parents and siblings died. He was left with no close family and without any heritage.
While in exile at Agbro with the missionaries, Emmanuel Envuladu fell in love with a Christian lady, Abmomzhi Azhi, who was also in exile for her conversion to Christianity. When they expressed a desire to be married, the missionaries organized and contracted the marriage for them. God eventually blessed them with eleven children. When their first four children, all boys, died, some people–even some who called themselves Christians–told Envuladu to forsake Christianity. They said that his children’s deaths had happened because of a curse from his parents that was on his family, killing his children, and that he would never have a child, especially a boy. After the death of their fourth child, Envuladu and his wife fasted before God, asking Him to protect any other children who would be born. God answered their prayers; after that, none of their children died, and all of them were blessed professionally.
Envuladu did not receive a formal education. He learned how to read and write from the missionaries while serving as an attendant with them, and also gained basic Bible knowledge from them. He served as a teacher and translator to those who could understand neither Hausa nor English and was the main interpreter for the missionaries, along with two helpers. These three interpreters were indispensable to the missionaries, who did not understand the local language, and they traveled with them wherever they preached in Eggonland. They also helped the missionaries translate Mark’s gospel into the local language, as well as the booklet “Ahogbre Alu Odolo” (God Has Spoken). Later on, Envuladu and the two others helped Cyril Sanderson in translating the gospel of John into the Eggon language.
Even without a formal education, in 1936 the missionaries sent Envuladu and two others, along with their wives, to a pastoral course in Gindiri, Plateau State. After this Envuladu traveled all over Eggonland in the roles of teacher, pastor, evangelist, and church planter. When there wasn’t as much need for interpreting he would go to the various churches to encourage, pray for them, and counsel the members if there were problems. Envuladu planted churches in different places, and at one point he was pastor of a church in Wazhi. He was sometimes considered Eggonland’s “Apostle Paul.” Envuladu and the two others were also inspirational to the founding of the Boys’ Brigade in 1938, an idea that came to them during their training at Gindiri.
Envuladu became one of the first Christian teachers in Eggonland. Some of the village school teachers, including Envuladu, sometimes acted as evangelists due to a shortage of manpower. Members of this group were apostles to the villagers. Monday through Friday they were full time teachers, and on Sunday they became preachers at no extra pay. And they considered preaching to be a part of their normal work, since every Christian should be a preacher of the Word.
Because of Envuladu’s hard work and dedication he was given an honorary grade three Teacher’s Certificate. When a primary school was built in Wazhi, his role as class teacher changed to that of headmaster. He was the headmaster at Wazhi Primary School from 1945 to 1980 when the school was upgraded and divided into senior and junior sections. And because of his role, Envuladu was given the junior section, while someone with a National Certificate of Education handled the senior section. He held the position until 1985 when he retired, then taught for some years on a volunteer basis. Envuladu eventually stopped teaching, though, after he fell sick with diabetes.
Envuladu’s influence in Eggonland was great. His interpreting for the people of Eggonland made him very popular, and his assistance to the missionaries in translating some of the Gospels into the local language also made a strong impact on the area. The Boys’ Brigade, which he helped to start, is still alive today (2008), and he was very inspirational to both Christian and Western-type education in Eggonland. Envuladu was a church planter, pastor, and a source of encouragement to many families in sending their children to school and in accepting Christ as their Lord. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to his people and the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ is the book he wrote entitled Bishara a Kasar Eggon Daga 1920-1980 (The Gospel in Eggonland from 1920-1980).
After Envuladu fell sick with diabetes, he never completely recovered his health, experiencing ups and downs for several years until his death on April 22, 1993. On the day of his burial, many people of various professions talked about Envuladu’s marvelous contributions to different aspects of his people’s lives. People lamented how difficult it would be to find someone to fill his many roles, for they all saw him as their greatest achiever so far in Eggonland.
Patrick Alambaga Khaty Opah
Envuladu, Emmanuel Adagadzu. “Bishara a Kasa Eggon Daga 1920-1980.” Ayimon Magazine: An Eggon Official Magazine (1983).
Envuladu, Joseph E. Adagadzu, son of Emmanuel Adagadzu Envuladu. Interview by author, September 24, 2006.
This article, received in 2008, was researched and written by Rev. Patrick Alambaga Khaty Opah, student at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Oso State, Nigeria, under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.