Jolly Tanko and Elisabeth Bako first served as missionaries with the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN) in Nigeria’s Niger State almost 20 years ago. Now, eight years after moving on to other things, the Bakos are back to help groom leaders for the expanding church.
When they first worked in Niger State, few people there were Christians. Sliding onto a motorcycle, Jolly Tanko drove from village to village in underdeveloped areas to share the gospel. He told Bible stories and taught villagers to read and write. As one of a few ordained pastors in the area, he also baptized many believers.
Last year, the CRCN sent the couple back to Niger State, this time to teach at Warari Bible School, a theological school for local leaders. Along with teaching, Jolly Tanko is the school’s principal.
“Jolly’s task is to develop church leaders and help disciple the many new Christians into mature believers,” says Matthew Lanser, a Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionary at Warari Bible School.
Since the 1990s, the church in Niger State has grown from a handful to more than 1,000 people.
This growth has opened the door for further evangelism. Many Warari Bible School students, baptized by Jolly Tanko during his first time in Niger State, are now preparing to share the gospel in Niger State communities.
The CRCN has taken increasing responsibility for missions within and outside of Nigeria in the last few years. Recently, the CRCN shared its vision for expanding ministry in the next 10 years into 10 cities, predominantly in northern Nigeria. In addition to Niger State, CRCN missionaries currently work in Taraba State, in northern Nigeria, in Nigerian urban centers like Abuja, in Niger, and in Sierra Leone.
CRWM missionaries in Nigeria rejoice at the CRCN’s move into missions. Mike Van Der Dyke, a missionary, says, “God has transformed the CRCN from a missionary-receiving church to a missionary-sending church with a vision to reach out with the gospel to many other areas of West Africa.”