THE oldest independent Christian mission in Ireland, Mission Africa, is to celebrate its 125th anniversary with a special thanksgiving event in Belfast on Saturday.
Local couples, Richard and Laura Morrison from Mosside, and Paul and Lesley Ann McAuley from Portrush have been working in Nigeria for the past few months with the mission.
The Morrisons are based in the rural village of Ogugu, about six hours drive from the capital, Abuja. Laura is involved in HIV testing and counselling at ADVANCE’s Donegore Centre, and the development of support groups for people already infected with the disease.
Richard is involved in a range of community development initiatives and manages the maintenance of ADVANCE’s buildings and any new construction projects.
Paul and Lesley Ann McAuley are based at Holley Memorial Hospital in Ochadamu. Paul assists with the practical needs of the hospital, involved in the maintenance and upgrading of buildings.
Lesley Ann works as a nurse, promoting improved standards of care and infection control in the hospital. She also facilitates staff training.
Once known as the Qua Iboe Fellowship, named after a river in Nigeria, Mission Africa was founded in 1887 by Samuel Bill from the Ballymacarrett area of east Belfast.
It later became one of the largest and most successful missions in the UK, and the church that Mr Bill established, the Qua Iboe Church, has grown considerably, now numbering at least 2 million people.
Today Mission Africa has expanded its work from Nigeria, to Chad, Burkina Faso and Kenya, while still maintaining its headquarters in Belfast. An international team of around thirty missionaries is involved in evangelism, theological education, medical, practical and compassionate ministries.
The evening celebration will be a mixture of music, stories, prayer and worship. George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, will be guest speaker at the event, which will be hosted by the Church of Ireland Bishop Ken Clarke.
Musician Alistair Hamill will lead the praise and worship and there will be music from an African choir. Former and current missionaries and African church leaders will share their stories.
The special anniversary event will take place in Carnmoney Presbyterian Church, Newtownabbey, her home church this Saturday at 7pm.