Sunday, October 10, 2021

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of Jonathan Udo Ekong and Christianity in Nigeria.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 10th of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

So today we head to Nigeria and I don’t want to insult anyone's intelligence, but let me do the basics.

Most populous black nation- 7th most populous country in the world- over 200 million people speaking over 500 languages.

The largest economy in Africa.

Created in 1914 by the British as a conglomeration of 400 ethnic groups

Gained independence in 1960- has been a mix of military rule and the occasional democratic republic.

Religiously they are about a 50/50 split between Christian and Muslim

The first Muslims to contact the peoples living in what today we call Nigeria were likely traders from Baghdad. North-Western Africa was dominated for centuries by Middle Eastern traders, raiders, and the occasional holy man.

The first contact with Christianity came in the 1400s with, you guessed it: Portuguese explorers! Of course, “Nigeria” did not exist at this time but the Portuguese made inroads trading their guns for peppers! But Christian nations could only trade weapons with other Christian peoples and so there were some conversions of expediency. The next Christians to come would be Anglicans in the 1800s- this was a pure missionary expedition and what the British saw would lead to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

Today I want to briefly tell you the story of Udo Ekong who was born in 1881 in what would become Nigeria. He was one of the sole surviving children of the chief and was likely initiated into the local and tribal cults.

So when he started attending a nearby Christian mission he was met with everything from disapproval to physical attacks.

In 1913 the United Free Church of Scotland established a local church and it was on this, the 10th of October in 1914 that Ekong was baptized and took the name, Jonathan. But this is just the beginning of his remarkable story. Jonathan would serve his local congregations but there was a dispute over which denominations had the “rights” to set up churches. Ekong would eventually begin to minister with Lutheran missionaries. In 1928, at 47 Ekong decided to leave Nigeria for the United States in order to receive a theological education.

He’s 47 and just a year away from the Stock Market crash and the great depression.

In order to get to college and seminary, he would have to do the equivalence of a k-12 education first.

After a decade he had graduated from Howard University and the Immanuel Lutheran Seminary in North Carolina. Jonathan Udo Ekong would head back to Nigeria as the first indigenous Lutheran missionary and served for 46 years before dying at the age of 101.

He is the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in Nigeria- one of the larger Christian denominations today in Nigeria. Today one of his sons is a pastor, the other a professor who has taught in America and Nigeria, and his daughter is a deaconess in the Lutheran Church Nigeria.

Today we remember Udo Ekong on the anniversary of his baptism and his taking the name Jonathan. Jonathan Udo Ekong was a convert, student, minister, and indigenous missionary in Nigeria.

The last word for today comes from Mark 8:

34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 10th of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man whose favorite Adam Sandler films include: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy Christoper Gillespie.

The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis whose favorite Adam Sandler movie is Funny People, but it’s really long and dark.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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