Qua Iboe Church
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Qua Iboe Church
The name “Qua Iboe” is a peculiar one. It is the name of a river in South Eastern Nigeria. Samuel Alexander Bill was the first missionary to the Ibenos, a fishing people in the coastal village of Qua Iboe River. As other missionaries joined Samuel Bill, it became natural to speak of Qua Iboe as their location in Nigeria. The name was eventually adopted by the Missionary Society and the indigenous African Church.
The Man Samuel Alexander Bill (MBE)
How Samuel Alexander Bill, a young Ulster boy at the age of twenty three became a missionary in Nigeria is indeed and interesting one. His father John, who had a flourishing building business in Newtownards Road, Belfast, brought him up in a Christian way and also taught him many practical skills. Samuel was also influenced outside his father’s home by Dr. William Rogers of Whiteabbey whose lectures to Christian youth on un-evangelized areas of the world provided him a wider vision outside his activities in his Belfast home environment. In a bid to broaden his vision he spent some time in a missionary training centre. His future wife, Grace Kerr, was a student at Doric Lodge, the women’s college.
A Call and his Response
Similar to the story of Peter and Cornelius in God’s plan of reaching out His free grace to the Gentiles, and that of Philip in the Ethiopian eunuch’s acceptance of Christ, it all started with a “Macedonian call,” this time by Ibeno chiefs at the mouth of Qua Iboe River. In the course of their trading contacts, they heard about the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. The chiefs, in their desire to hear more about Christ, wrote and asked for a messenger of the gospel to come over and live in their midst.
Mr. Foster, one of the Scottish missionaries, who incidentally was a former student of Harley Missionary College in London, then settling in Calabar, was kind enough to forward the Ibeno people’s request to Dr. Grattan Guinness, the Principal of Harley College, London. One morning at breakfast table, the principal read the letter to his students. The providential birth of Qua Iboe Church is ultimately traceable to the young Ulster seminarian of Harley Missionary College, London. Samuel Alexander Bill responded to the call as a missionary in Ibeno, a small coastal village in a “wild country with treacherous climate” along the South Eastern tip of Nigeria.
The First Missionary in Ibeno
On 14th September 1887, Samuel Bill, like Abraham of old, left the home he knew from childhood, environment he had been accustomed, friends and relations, including his mother, to Ibeno. After spending few weeks in Calabar, with his missionary friends of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, he finally proceeded to Ibeno. At Ibeno, it was indeed an uphill struggle with inclement weather, mosquito infested jungles, foreign culture, language, food, fetish worship and various other unnerving pestilence. He had a lot to miss back home, and more to give up such a trip, but for his being possessed of a strong moral resolve to press towards the mark of his high calling in Christ.
He set up a little school on the veranda of his house where boys learned to read and where he learned to sound and meaning of the vernacular language. Also a small church building with palm roof and a mud floor was erected. Here the first converts, David Ekong, a young boy of fourteen, who later became the first pastor of Qua Iboe Church, and Etia, a woman of forty, were among the worshippers. An influential chief, Egbo Egbo, a trader who abandoned his trade in native gin on becoming a Christian, was also added to the Church.
Qua Iboe Mission
During Mr. Bill’s first furlough, interested friends rallied around him and founded in Ulster, the “Qua Iboe Mission” taking its name from where Samuel Bill had been working as a missionary along the Qua Iboe river basin. When he returned to Nigeria with Grace, his wife, they lovingly laboured together in Ibeno to bring spiritual and physical health and enlightenment to the people. By God’s grace, their labour of love and service spread from Ibeno to centres like Okat, Eket, Ikot Ubo, Etinan, Mbioto, Uyo, Ikot Edong, Ankpa, Ikot Akpan Anwa, Ibesit, Aba, Oloko, Ika Annang, Igala, Warri, Bassa, Calabar, Idah, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Makurdi, Kaduna, Kano, Abuja, and many other towns and villages with encouraging responses.