Daniel Lot was from the Maghavul ethnic group, one of the largest ethnic groups southeast of the Jos Plateau. The Maghavul, a horse riding and a warring tribe, had successfully resisted and repelled the invading forces from Bauchi (in the northeast) under their Muslim Fulani leader Yakubu, the Emir of Bauchi (1805-1845). Later, in 1905, another invader appeared, the British forces. Having been victorious over Bauchi, the Maghavul thought they would drive these enemies out also. Lot, then in his thirties and armed with his bow and arrows, was among the Maghavul warriors who went out to defend Panyam, one of the fierce fighting Maghavul villages. The Maghavul were so confident of defeating the British that one of them said, “We heard that the white people were coming into our land, but the news did not alarm us at all. We had not forgotten how our fathers had treated a former foe who had wanted to come in, and we knew that we were in no wise inferior to our forefathers.” But the Maghavul could not withstand the superior weapons of the British because from a distance one shot of a British gun bought down many men and their horses. In spite of their superior weaponry, the British still met the fiercest resistance from Kerang, a village about 15 kilometres from Panyam, with a great number of Maghavul casualties. These encounters with the British probably left a lasting impression on Lot.
Lot was not the Biblical name but a Maghavul name meaning “a path or alleyway between houses.” Two years after the British invasion of Maghavul land, other white men came to Panyam, but these did not have guns. At least they did not come to fight. They taught about peace and reconciliation with God, whom the Maghavul call Nan. These missionaries from the Cambridge University Missionary Party (CUMP) were affiliated with the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) to do mission work among the “pagan” peoples of northern Nigeria. The preaching of the missionaries made a deep impression on a few men in Panyam. One of them was Dakwa, a prince who had become a member of a little congregation of ten adults in 1911. He later became the chief of Panyam but died in 1918 of influenza epidemic. Others, who were perhaps influenced by Dakwa, included Yavuruk, Lot and his brother Lohor. About Lot, E. Hayward writes he “was somewhat short of stature, stocky in build, with an intelligent look, and keenly interested in everything… From the first he manifested a keen interest in the message of the Gospel.” The church was not only a place to worship God but it was also a place to learn the white man’s mysteries of reading and writing. These three young men had to leave their home to live close to the mission station due to persecution from their parents. The persecution was intensified because they would not go the farms on Sunday.
Later, Lot introduced his wives to the church and they were the first women to become Christians. At first, the Maghavul thought the new religion was for men only, but the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. E. Hayward in 1911 changed their thinking. After attending catechism class, Lot was ready to be baptized. But there was a problem. He had two wives: the first, Piyaswat, who had three small boys and the second, Naorong, who had two children. One of Piyaswat’s sons was David Obadiah Vrengkat, the first Maghavul pastor and the leader of the Panyam district church. Lot prayed about his situation, because he had to send one of them away if he was to be baptized.
One day, however, Piyaswat came to him and said, “I can’t say no to what God is saying to me. I don’t want to be a hindrance to you. I want to leave you and go to my father’s house. Then you and Naorong can have a Christian marriage, and we can all be baptized.” Lot’s joy knew no bounds. He thanked Piyaswat for her courage in taking such a stand. Lot gave her everything she owned and built a house for her in her father’s compound. Then Lot, Piyaswat and Naorong were baptized in 1916 and confirmed by Bishop Isaac Oluwole in 1918. Lot took the name Daniel and Piyaswat and Naorong were christened Hannatu and Saratu respectively. Lot and Naorong were married in the church. In December of that year, St. John’s Church, Panyam, was officially opened. Worshippers numbered 229, eight of whom were communicants.
With this hurdle behind him, Lot was now qualified to become an evangelist. It was E. Hayward who invested him with the evangelist garb in 1917. Daniel Lot told one of his missionary friends, Christine Cheal, how he was called to be an evangelist:
Suddenly it seemed as if a Voice spoke in my heart saying, Get up! Go forth! Get up and go! This sort of following isn’t the real thing; this is only a half-and half experience. Come out with all your heart and soul, and your home and your family, and let the world know that you are God’s man, and let God know that you are His.” Thus the word came to my heart and it was like a fire blown up red hot with the bellows. I went on and joined the others, and on the way back I spoke to Chading who was our teacher in those days. I told him what had happened on the way and how God had spoken and called me. He said to me, “Is this really true?” and I said, “Yes, it is the absolute truth.” So he said, “Whatever is going to happen now?” But he only took me to Malam Hayward’s house and said, “Now you tell him what you told me.” And Malam Hayward said, “Is this really true?” I said, “Yes, it is true.” He said, “We can touch your body but we can’t touch your heart. We can only wait and see: if this is really of God, then we shall see the work of His Spirit in your life.”
The mission made the evangelist robes, which consisted of a black gown and a hat worn for itineration and a white gown for ministering in the church on Sundays. For twenty-three years, Daniel Lot traveled the length and breadth of Maghavul land preaching in all the villages. In some of these villages he was the first Christian resident. The CUMP believed in providing continuing education for its evangelists, so it opened an evangelist school. Every evangelist returned to the school and spent one year after working in the mission field for three years. The curriculum of the school included subject matter like the rudiments of education, Scripture, and Christian Doctrine. Daniel Lot took his first son Vrengkat to every new station, and as a result, the son developed such an interest in Christian service that he was admitted into the same class as his father.
In 1930, the CUMP decided to hand over its areas of operation to the Sudan United Mission (British branch) because it lacked missionary staff to continue the work. Having a different operation policy, SUM did not provide uniforms and had no evangelists’ retraining program. There was a problem among some members who would not obey the injunction of the SUM missionaries banning intoxicating drinks. So Daniel Lot and other evangelists struggled with these lapsed Christians. Each month, their reports were filled with a number of these backslidden Christians. They were then placed under church discipline at the monthly evangelists’ meeting in Panyam.
At the age of sixty, Daniel Lot was not tired and was still eager to preach to his people. He was sent to open up an unevangelized area called Jipal where the people were a hostile group. In order not to take chances, Daniel Lot went to this village with the Bible in one hand and his spear in the other. Contrary to his expectations, the people of Jipal warmly received Daniel Lot and the members of his family and helped them to settle down among them. Since the evangelist was also a teacher, receiving him also meant having a school in the community.
Daniel Lot labored in Jipal for three years without being attacked. Nevertheless, he was attacked by tsetse flies, the flies that cause sleeping sickness, which made him so sick that he had to send his son, David Obadiah Vrengkat to Panyam,–a distance of about 30 miles,–to tell the leaders of his illness. Eventually he was taken to the SUM hospital in Vom. When Daniel Lot was told he had sleeping sickness he said, “Please don’t tell anyone what is the matter with me; if the young men hear that I have sleeping sickness they may be afraid to offer for God’s work, AND JIPAL MUST HAVE THE GOSPEL.” Jipal did indeed hear the Gospel and the church there became a local church council in 1970. After he was discharged from the hospital, Daniel Lot was transferred to Kopal, about five miles from Panyam. In Kopal, Daniel Lot retired from full time evangelistic work.
After he retired, his health improved. He was remarkably strong and worked on the farm with his heavy iron hoe. He loved to ride his horse until a few years before his death. Daniel Lot also loved to pray. He always attended the early morning prayers where he prayed for his converts, evangelists out in the field and his children. Sometimes he slipped into the building used for early morning prayers to pray alone. He told Christine Cheal, “It is easier for me to pray here in the quiet. And if I hear of anyone in the villages where I have worked who has fallen by the way and forgotten God, then I pray for him without ceasing until he repents. If I see the evangelist from that village then I ask him how that particular man is getting on.” Even at an old age, Daniel Lot had a remarkable memory and could quote Scripture verses by heart with ease. His favourite book was St. John’s Gospel and his hero of the faith was Caleb. He loved to read the Maghavul translation of the Bible. He read without glasses.
In April 1962, Daniel Lot’s strength began to wane. He said, “I don’t know what is the matter with me. My body doesn’t seem to belong to me any longer; it won’t do what I want it to do any more. Perhaps I am about to go hence.” He shared his property among his children and then called his sons, grandsons and great grandsons and blessed them. The night of May 16, 1962, Daniel Lot went to be with the Lord at the age of 92. At his burial, women defied the Maghavul tradition and came to the grave site to join in the singing of a Maghavul song taken from John 14.
Musa A. B. Gaiya
Christine Cheal, The story of Daniel Lot: His Workmanship (Jos: EKAS/SUM, n.d.).
Pauline Lere, Rev. Dr. David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot: His Life and Church Development on the Jos Plateau (Jos: Jos University Press, 1996).
Nanwul Gutip, Church of Christ in Nigeria, COCIN: Birth and Growth (Jos: COCIN, 1998).
Anonymous, “Tarihin Kafawar Panyam (Piyania)”, unpublished local history of Panyam.
This article, received in 2003, was researched and written by Dr. Musa A. B. Gaiya, Senior Lecturer in Church History at the University of Jos Department of Religious Studies, Jos, Nigeria, and 2003-2004 Project Luke fellow.