All of my life I have known about my grandfather and grandmother’s work in Egbe, Nigeria…and their love for the people there.   I didn’t get to spend a great deal of time with my grandparents….as they were living in Canada when I was growing up in New Jersey and then in Virginia.  But we did visit back and forth on occasion…and I saw my uncles and cousins as well.  I heard about their work on these occasions.  My mother periodically spoke about her parents’ work.  I saw pictures…and I read Tread Upon The Lion many times.

Egbe seemed very alive and real to me in many respects…and yet totally foreign as well.  It never occurred to me, as a child, that I could actually GO there…and to see first- hand the place where my grandparents lived and served.  But as I grew older (and wiser?)….I began to think about this possibility.  I actually attempted to go on two different occasions…for the 2008 Centenary Celebration celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the first missionaries arriving in Egbe…and later, for the Hospital Revitalization launch.  But plans never materialized and it did not seem to be God’s timing for me.

Rick and Martha Bradford, current SIM missionaries serving in Egbe, came to visit my mother and me last spring.  It was a blessing to meet someone actually living there….to see the photos they brought…to receive the greetings and love that they relayed.  It was at this time, that Rick suggested that I try again to visit Egbe. I prayed about it…proceeded to make plans to go…and if God willed for me to go this time…I asked that He would please open the doors for me.  Well!  Not only did He open doors….He took the “doors off of the hinges”!!!!!!  I was AMAZED and humbled by His provision for EVERY detail…beyond ALL of my expectations!

To begin with…during Rick and Martha’s visit to Vancouver….I discovered that there was someone FROM Egbe living here and working downtown!  He did not know that anyone from the Titcombe family was here…and we did not know that anyone from Egbe was here as well!  But God brought us together through Rick and Martha Bradford, as he was providing a place for them to stay during their visit.  Wale Adedoyin (our new friend’s name!) is a Titcombe College graduate and his father, Chief Adedoyin Bolaji, continues to live in Egbe and is the developer, owner and principal of Heritage School there.  In His abounding grace, God opened the door for Wale to accompany me from Vancouver to Egbe and back home again.   SUCH a gift!  He was able to get time off of work to correspond with Unity Day Celebrations (where I saw Don Campion, the Egbe Hospital Revitalization Project Leader, become a Chief!)…. and special ECWA Hospital events such as the opening of the new Dental Clinic.   Wale went out of his way to help with the many arrangements and details….and it was a comfort to my mother (AND to me!) knowing that I was not embarking on this long journey alone.  Such a blessing…and such FUN to travel with a friend!

You Are Welcome Ma!

I don’t know about other big cities…but in Vancouver…it is VERY common place for people to walk past each other and not acknowledges each other.  I don’t think it’s a matter of being rude…people are just pre-occupied perhaps….or in a hurry….or wary of strangers.   But NOT in Egbe!  The moment I stepped out of the hospital bus and onto the soil of the palace grounds…it was “You Are Welcome, Ma!”  It was big smiles (the kind that MEAN something).  It was genuine welcome…and hospitality…and joy…

This continued throughout my entire visit…whether I was walking along the hospital grounds to join the missionaries and volunteers at the Guest House….or visiting the town with Rick Bradford….or visiting a local school…or church….or place of business.  Everyone took the time to say hello…to acknowledge that you were passing by…to make you feel that you mattered.  I loved that!  And I never took it for granted.  Every time I heard “You Are Welcome, Ma”….my heart warmed up and I broke into a huge smile.

Since I’ve come back home?  I make a POINT of saying hello to everyone I pass….not with the familiar Egbe words “You Are Welcome” perhaps….but with the familiar Egbe warmth and care!   It is fun to see people respond back…or at the very least…look at me curiously.  Maybe it will catch on!

 A Hospital Family

I was profoundly moved by the work at the ECWA Egbe Hospital…in terms of the hard work and commitment of all who work in the hospital and for the hospital….and in the way they are being God’s hands and feet…His eyes and ears…His very heart….to the people of Egbe.

During my visit to Egbe, I was able to tour the beautiful facilities…surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees and vegetation.   I was introduced to the many different services being offered there.  I saw before and after pictures of what the hospital once was and how it has grown and developed.  It was astonishing!   I witnessed the love and the compassion of the nurses, doctors, and staff for all those they receive and treat.   I was privileged to meet some of the patients…and could sense their vulnerability and struggle.  It was humbling.  I didn’t want to intrude….

I love how the workers and staff pray for EACH patient.  I love how the Bible is one of their staples in caring for patients and how God is a part of every story.

The Campion children are continuing the wonderful work that their parents began in the 1950’s.  Because of their commitment, energy, hard work and obvious love for the people of Egbe…and because of God’s provision, guidance, and grace….the hospital continues to grow and to bear fruit for the Lord.  His presence is there.  His blessings are everywhere you look.

I am home now…but I think about the hospital every day.  I pray for it and for the people who work there…and for the people who go there for help.  I look at how MUCH we have in North America….how much we take for granted.   I think about the continuing needs of the Hospital….and especially the Benevolent Fund which has been set up to help patients with hospital bills they cannot afford to pay.  God has placed this on my heart…and I want to help…

We Are Grateful

When my friend came to the Vancouver Airport to pick me up as I returned to Canada from Egbe…I asked her to drive me straight over to the nursing home where my mother lives.  I didn’t want to go home and freshen up or have a rest or grab a bite…I wanted to see my mother.

My mother is one of the twins that was born to Tommie and Ethel Titcombe 97 years ago.  She is the only one left of the immediate family.   She, along with her two brothers, lived in Egbe at the beginning of their lives.  Clarence was born in Egbe.  Mom and her twin brother were born in Hamilton, Ontario, but returned to Egbe as infants.   They lived there until they were 4 years old (Clarence was 6), at which time they returned to Canada to attend school there and to learn English.  My mother doesn’t remember Egbe or Africa at all….but it is dear to her…because it was so dear to her parents.

I walked into my mother’s room that afternoon and I told her I had SO MANY stories to tell her…and MANY photos to share…and that I would do that slowly…a bit at a time so that she could absorb it all.  But I had an immediate message that I needed to tell her right then and there before I got home and even unpacked my suitcases.   And I knelt beside her wheelchair and I took her hands and I said:

“I cannot tell you HOW MANY PEOPLE told me how thankful they are that Grandpa and Grandma came to Egbe 108 years ago.  I cannot tell you HOW MANY PEOPLE told me that they love Tommie and Ethel…that they are grateful that they brought the good news about Jesus to them…that they appreciate the sacrifice your parents both made in coming.  Time after time again…wherever I went…people took my hands…and often with tears in their eyes….expressed these sentiments.  AND they always added:  Tell Mommy Edith that we LOVE HER.  And we give thanks to God….and to her mother and father…because now, here in Egbe, we have Jesus….”

My mother was so moved.  She was emotional as I held her hands and related these messages of love and appreciation (in my very SAD “Nigerian accent”! )   As the people in Egbe love to say:  GOD IS GOOD.   ALL OF THE TIME!

And now?

Many faces…many wonderful sounds…many special celebrations…many moving sights…many delicious flavours….many meaningful words shared…all fill my heart as I sit here in Vancouver, Canada again.  It all feels so far away…and yet it is still right here with me too.

I think that one of the most significant “take aways” from my experiences that fills my heart the most…is how God has CONTINUED to work in Egbe….to see how He CONTINUES to bless…and to grow the people living and working there….how he CONTINUES to provide, cover, and protect.  The work God began with my grandfather so many years ago was but a small page in the book God was beginning to write in Egbe. God’s grace has never ceased in all the years since.

Ephesians 2:8-10     For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this was not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

By Diane Martin, grand-daughter of Reverend and Mrs. Tommie Titcombe