In our country Nigeria, studies have identified the Ijaw ethnic group as unreached. We in this ministry have adopted them as our target group for the immediate future. The Lord wants all the ethnic groups evangelized and discipled before He returns.
We have helped start churches in the villages of the niger-delta, we are also currently supporting many on a monthly basis
The Ijaw missionary project involves the following:
- Evangelistic radio outreach in the Ijaw language dialects
- Manpower/financial/material support to the very few bible-believing churches in Ijaw land.
- Short term missionary activity for students / workers on vacation / holiday to Ijaw land.
- Long term missionary work to areas in Ijaw land without bible-believing churches.Education / medical / social transformation of Ijaw land
- Research and language development for the Ijaws.
The Ijaws are a people group that does not have enough of its members as Christians to evangelize the rest. According to the 1963 census, the Ijaws are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria. An estimate of their present population is in the neighborhood of ten million people “for whom Christ died”. The Ijaws are made up of 40 clans or Ibes that correspond respectively to dialects of the main language. Ethnologically they are referred to as ethnic Ijaw, Ijon, Izon, Uzo of Ezon. They engage mainly in fishing and are found along the coast of Nigeria, which is the third largest delta in the world. Ijaws are found in the following states in Nigeria: Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Ondo, Lagos, Cross River and Akwa Ibom. There are also Ijaw settlements in Gabon, Cameroon and Liberia. The Ijaw land is a very difficult terrain, with a lot of creeks and rivers. The islands are swampy and are the most undeveloped in Nigeria. Yet over seventy per cent of Nigeria’s crude oil comes from Ijaw land. Very few social infrastructures exist in a few places. This has alienated the majority of the people from western civilization, keeping them illiterate, rural and essentially traditional in their lifestyle. Very few schools exist among the people.
Idol worship, Polygamy, Intra and Inter Ijaws conflicts are regular features of the people. Recent aspirations of the Ijaw to attain a befitting development of their area (the Niger Delta) have resulted in massive riots and disruptions of economic life without a positive response from government. During our research tour of the Gbaramatu clan for example, we never found one medical facility. Every research into unreached people groups has always listed the Ijaws. Yet very little if any missionary effort has been expended in this regard. This is said to be due to the difficult terrain and harsh environment in which the Ijaws live. This compounds transportation problems, and wherever transportation is difficult the gospel is scarce. This should not be so.
With over 500 Ijaw amas, there exist several entire amas without a single bible-believing church; the need for church planting is so great. Most villages and towns do not have a single Born-Again believer. Although it is possible that some indigenes who resettled elsewhere might have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. During our first missionary research tour, we were horrified to find people who have never heard the name Jesus. According to usually reliable sources, every hour seven Ijaws die. They will spend eternity in hell without learning about a God who loves them and died for them.
The Church Missionary Society of the Church of England passed through Ijaw land over a hundred years ago in its missionary activity. First arriving Akassa, the mission moved to Nembe and only succeeded in translating the Bible into the Nember dialect of the Ijaw in 1956. The other 39 dialects have no Bible in their language to date. Convert wise, the mission was also not that successful.
A brand of indigenous, white garment wearing ‘Church’ group is spreading among the Ijaws currently. But is not different from the traditional and fetish beliefs of the people. It is not a Christian group. It permits and engages in Polygamy, Soothsaying and Divination, Idol Worship and several other unbiblical practices. This is becoming a stumbling block to the evangelization of the Ijaws today.
The very few evangelical and Pentecostal churches that exist among the Ijaws are struggling. We must all reach out to the Ijaw people with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.