• The Ron Wilmot Comprehensive Senior School in the Northern Nigeria Conference graduated its first senior class.
• Two top students earned scholarships to Africa University, another United Methodist school.
• Graduation day also saw the dedication of a nearby guesthouse for visiting volunteers.
A single day saw the celebration of two major accomplishments in the Northern Nigeria Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The Ron Wilmot Comprehensive Seminary Secondary School, near Pero Shonge Local Government Area, within Nigeria’s Gombe State, graduated its first senior class on Oct. 16.
Nearby, on the same day, the conference dedicated its first guesthouse, which will serve United Methodists arriving for mission work.
The school bears the name of a late United Methodist missionary from Iowa who, from 2002-2008, spent every summer in Nigeria, teaching science, digging wells and installing solar projects.
Ron Wilmot also is credited with bringing refrigeration to rural medical clinics, to preserve medications and vaccines. He taught the benefits of using plants in the genus Artemisia for treating malaria.
Wilmot died in Nigeria in 2008, suffering a heart attack while doing mission work there.
Under the education-minded leadership of Bishop John Wesley Yohanna, the school named for Wilmot opened its doors in November 2015, welcoming 15 girls and 10 boys as students.
Despite widespread economic, security and health challenges in this part of Nigeria, the school has not only remained open but strengthened in its academic and extracurricular offerings, and on Oct. 16 graduated nine young women and 17 young men.
Dr. Rhoda Manzo, principal, welcomed parents and church leaders to the graduation and called it “a step in achieving our dream of providing quality education at an affordable rate for the members of the church and community at large.”
Yohanna was present to congratulate the graduates, and told them their hard work had motivated him to double up his efforts to establish a new university in Nigeria.
The bishop awarded Anna Tanko, the school’s best overall student based on grades and extracurricular work, a scholarship to study at Africa University in Zimbabwe. Peninnah Habilia, named the school’s “head girl” based on grade-point average, also was awarded a scholarship to that United Methodist university.
Tanko and Habilia spoke at the graduation, as did Yakubu Gowon, the head boy in the graduating class. Gowon paid tribute to all those who had backed the Ron Wilmot School.
So did a statement from Jennifer Bond, on behalf of herself and other Wilmot family members.
“My father, Ron Wilmot, was extremely proud to be a partner of the countless people who built your school,” Bond said. “For he would be the first to agree with Mother Teresa: ‘Together we can do great things.’”
Through the years, the school has had significant support from McEachern United Methodist Church and Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in the North Georgia Conference, as well as from the Iowa Conference and the Welt Mission in Germany. The school also receives donations through United Methodist Global Ministries Advance #3022273.
The Iowa Conference sent each graduate a Bible and a bath towel. Jarama Filiya, administrator at the United Methodist junior secondary school in Jalingo, Nigeria, delivered a graduation message on behalf of the Iowa Conference.
“With the gift of the Bibles we hope you will read and reflect as you seek God’s will and purpose for your lives,” Filiya said.
The Ron Wilmot Comprehensive Seminary Secondary School includes an administrative building, two classroom buildings with three classrooms each, separate hostels for girls and boys, an athletic field and a garden/agricultural area. There’s space for a planned library and science building.
Library books, computers and science equipment are high on the list of the school’s needs. Scholarships for the newly graduated students to attend post-secondary schools are also greatly needed.
Manzo hopes the ongoing support from United Methodist In Mission Together partners along with contributions to the Advance will further the school’s academic success and help complete the campus infrastructure.
The principal is credited by both Nigerian and U.S. supporters of the school with being crucial to its success, by enlisting partners and providing accountability and a solid business plan.
A partnership between the McEachern and Mount Pisgah churches and the Northern Nigeria Conference has resulted in the completion of the conference’s first guesthouse. The plan is for Volunteers in Mission groups, missionaries and others to stay onsite while doing service and evangelism projects in the area.
Groundbreaking for the guesthouse took place Aug. 29, 2020, with construction continuing as funds became available. The final touches were done just weeks ago, in time for the Oct. 16 dedication.
The guesthouse includes five bedrooms, two living areas, two kitchenettes, a meeting space and an enclosed courtyard. Staff will include a receptionist and security guards, and in the short term the manager will be the Rev. Salama Hassan, North Conference assistant to the bishop. Hassan has experience running a guesthouse in Lagos, Nigeria, earlier in his ministry.
The nightly lodging fee has been set at 3,000 Naira, or about $8 USD.
The need for the guesthouse became clear as volunteers from the North Georgia Conference and elsewhere arrived to do evangelism, health and dental screenings, infrastructure projects and more, but had no place to stay other than on the ground or in people’s homes.
At the dedication, Yohanna thanked the North Georgia Conference for raising nearly 100% of the funds for the guesthouse.
Jeff Jernigan, the mission coordinator at McEachern United Methodist Church, is a commercial contractor and came alongside the Nigerian partners to plan and execute the building plan.
“What a blessing it is to see the culmination of a decades-long dream to provide infrastructure for the thriving of the Northern (Nigeria) Conference,” Jernigan said in an interview. “It is amazing that 10 years ago this was a bare field of a few ground nuts and now hosts the conference secretariat, pure water factory, solar power, UMCI (United Methodist Computer Institute), and this amazing guesthouse, with security fence and retail shops. Mu Yabi Allah (praise be to God)!”
Jernigan and other partners are eager to try out the new guesthouse. Once COVID restrictions ease and security levels for Nigeria improve, several partners have indicated the desire to travel and continue work alongside their Nigerian partners.
Witte is the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries’ In Mission Together coordinator for Nigeria. Garba is communications director for the Northern Nigeria Conference. Contact UM News at 615-742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.
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