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Missions Discipleship

Nigeria WMU: 104 Years and Counting

With a history rooted in missions, the Baptist Women’s Missionary Union of Nigeria (Nigeria WMU) brings its 104 years of faithfulness to the Lord in discipleship, missions, and ministry.

A Leader

Nigeria WMU is led by the bold vision of the Rachel Adepate Lateju, who is a product of Nigeria WMU in her local church. She grew up participating in Sunbeam Band, Girls’ Auxiliary, and Lydia Auxiliary before her involvement in Women’s Missionary Society after she married.

“I am married to a Baptist pastor, which makes me an active member of the Women’s Missionary Society in my church,” she explained. That involvement ultimately led to Rachel being appointed executive director of Nigeria WMU in 2009.

A History

In the late 1800s, Nigerian churches began to organize egbe (societies) for education and advancing the gospel. Some societies were for children and youth, while others were for women or men. As the women’s groups grew, the idea also grew that these groups should come together under one unified purpose of missions and discipleship.

On March 4, 1919, the Women’s Missionary League began with 11 women representing 9 western towns. The group’s initial meeting coincided with the sixth annual meeting of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. The women were encouraged by the Nigerian Baptist Convention to organize officially. So they set to it as only a group of women could:

Tightening their wrappers around the babies on their backs and straightening their geles (head wraps), the women left the church. From a small school room, they picked up benches, and balancing them on their heads, they walked to a nearby isin (apple) tree to have their meeting. It was a dream come true for the women as all the women groups were organized into a league.¹

The early stories of an organization’s growth often convey the names of people who served boldly in circumstances we can’t imagine. Their names and stories are told and retold to the generations that follow. Just as American Southern Baptists know Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, so Nigerian Baptist women know the women who bore the cause of missions in the early stages of their organization:

Mrs. R. B. Famuyiwa, Mrs. Ladanu, Mrs. Alake Adekambi, Mrs. Asabi Fagbohun, Mrs. Rebecca Shentan, Mrs. Ikpunyen Eyetsemitan, and Mrs. Victoria Abiola were among the women who served faithfully and tirelessly. These women stood out like bright light. Oftentimes, they were away from their homes for weeks at a time, trekking long distances, wading through deep streams or beaten by rain, and most often with loads on their heads and babies tied to their backs.²

Their tenacity forged the heart and soul of the age-level organizations that now engage more than 265,000 Nigerians in God’s Word and God’s work.

Missions for All Ages

Nigeria WMU has four age-level organizations, designed to guide a woman’s spiritual growth her entire life. The organizations all focus on prayer, Bible study, giving, and engaging in missions to support the Nigerian Baptist Convention. The following are enrollment numbers from 2021:

    • Sunbeam Band for children ages 4 to 9: 99,900 (At age 10, Sunbeam boys go to Royal Ambassadors.)
    • Girls’ Auxiliary for ages 10 to 16: 28,447
    • Lydia Auxiliary for ages 17 and older, until a woman marries: 20,000
    • Women’s Missionary Society for married women: 116,963

Current Missions Projects

Rachel explained, “We are involved in personal evangelism, outreach, and giving to support missionaries. Recently, [Nigeria WMU] built a mission house in Umuahia, Abia State.”

All WMU organizations participate in missions and evangelism:

    • Building church auditoriums and pastors’ homes on the mission field
    • Supporting Nigerian Baptist Convention missionaries, including paying for their children’s school fees
    • Sponsoring the education of indigent children
    • Donating clothes, toiletries, and food items to missionaries
    • Providing free health-care services to those in need
    • Supporting the printing and distribution of tracts and materials

Rachel said they are in the final stages of building the Empowerment Centre for women to receive skills training. Then, several projects at Camp Young (in western Nigeria) include finishing the remaining 60 rooms in WMU’s Centenary Building. In all, 100 rooms will help with accommodations for campers of all ages.

With 104 years of missions and ministry in Jesus’ name, the Baptist women in Nigeria are joyfully writing the story of their second century of missions and ministry. Their website captures their spirit: “WMU of Nigeria is marching on! The gates of hell shall not prevail against her in Jesus’ name. To God be the glory. This is our story!”

Prayer Points

Join the women of Nigeria WMU in praying for these concerns:

    • Pray Jesus, the Prince of Peace, would take over the affairs of Nigeria. Rachel said, “At present, we are faced with many challenging situations: Boko Haram insurgence, kidnapping, armed robbery, poverty, [and] political and religious unrest.”
    • Pray God would send more like-minded mission supporters to help promote and carry on the missions vision to reach Nigeria for Christ.
    • Pray God would help women be fully focused on their commitment to Christ in spite of the challenges and distractions of daily life.
    • Pray God would provide all the financial and material resources needed to meet Nigeria WMU’s missions goals.
    • Pray God would “bring to pass our dream of having our own printing press for production of our publications,” Rachel said.

Cindy Lewis Dake writes from Arlington, Texas, where she is a Sunday School teacher of median singles, a class that includes Nigerian women and men whose faith stories are inspiring.

1 Brief History of Baptist Women’s Missionary Union of Nigeria, supplied by Rachel Adepate Lateju, executive director of Nigeria WMU


This article was originally published in April 2023 issue of Missions Mosaic.