Ray Crowder sits atop “Miss Lottie.” The motorcycle was purchased using gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and Crowder used it to take the gospel to remote villages while serving as an SBC missionary in Nigeria.
Photo courtesy of Anne Lucas

First person: ‘What took you so long to tell us about Jesus?’

By Anne Crowder Lucas
Director of medical and short-term trips, e3 Partners

Many years ago, my parents, Ray and Jeannie Crowder of Alabama, and our family served as missionaries in the small town of Keffi, Nigeria.

Daddy spent a great deal of his time each week traveling with pastors deep into the bush country to share the story of Jesus and help start new churches. The average temperature was hot — 100 degrees and higher! We had six months of rainy season and six months of dry season.

The first few years we had no running water or electricity and no telephones either. Most of the roads were almost impassable during the rainy season. There were no paved highways. These villages were accessible only by foot, bicycle or motorcycle. It took hours, perhaps days, to reach the remote villages.

Daddy learned of a special village several days from Keffi that had not heard about Jesus. The village had very strong pagan leadership. It would require many hours to reach the village even if one could travel there by vehicle.

Our family began to pray for a way to reach the village. For several years, Daddy submitted his missions budget to include the purchase of a motorcycle. It could make the difference in getting to these very remote villages which were impassable by car.

The extra funds for a motorcycle were continually denied because the Southern Baptist mission funds through the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for missions had not reached their goals. There were more important needs.

A motorcycle named ‘Miss Lottie’

After several years of praying about how to best get to that village, Daddy received the notice: Southern Baptists in the USA exceeded the Lottie Moon Christmas goal for missions! Funds are available for a motorcycle!

With great excitement, we were able to purchase a small motorcycle. She was immediately named: “Miss Lottie” in honor of those who gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Shortly after the purchase, Daddy and a local pastor loaded some supplies and headed out to this special remote village.

After many hours of travel in the jungle, Daddy and Pastor arrived in the village. Children and dogs ran screaming and barking as they arrived. No one had ever before seen a motorcycle or a white man. As villagers peeked out from their huts and from behind the trees, Pastor found someone who could speak a dialect similar to what he knew.

Pastor explained they had an exciting story to share. Daddy and Pastor began clapping their hands and singing. Those who knew my Daddy remember he always took his accordion with him. He began to play lively music, and villagers started cautiously gathering around. More than likely, he began with his usual selection: the lively music of “The Beer Barrel Polka.”

After some music, Daddy began telling the simple, powerful story of God’s love and Jesus. Pastor and the villager who spoke the local language each translated what he said. As they spoke, Daddy noticed what he described as a very old, wrinkled, skinny, dusty woman sitting on the ground. Her facial expressions and body language showed she was not happy with what he was telling them.

As he finished sharing, he told the people he and Pastor would be glad to tell them more. This little lady had men pull her up. She dusted off her threadbare skirt, and slowly came toward Daddy. She got very close to his face and pointed her finger at him, obviously angry! Her words were something like this:

Why did it take so long?

“I have been the priestess of this village most of my life. My family has been priests and priestesses for many generations. I go from village to village searching for any new god to be sure my family and village are worshipping the right gods. I have always known in my heart there had to be a God who loves us. Look at these beautiful flowers and the birth of a baby. They have to be from something beautiful.  We are afraid of our gods. We sacrifice goats, chickens and fruit to make them happy so they will give us what we need. It doesn’t work!”

With her finger wagging in Daddy’s face, she said: “What took you so long to come tell us about this man you call Jesus? Why haven’t you come before now to tell us about this God who really loves us? We are very angry that you were slow to come!”

The priestess grabbed Daddy by the arm and pulled him with her toward a little thatched roof hut. He had to bend over to enter the tiny doorway. As he did, he was overwhelmed with the stench of dead animals and rotten food used to sacrifice to hundreds of idols made from all kinds of materials. The idols were stacked all around.

The priestess said in an angry voice: “You see these gods? They do nothing but sit here! We pray, we beg, we plead, we sacrifice what we have. They don’t love. They don’t care for us. You tell us about a God of love who has existed since the beginning of time. What took you so long to come tell us this wonderful news?”

Once again, the priestess grabbed Daddy’s arm and pulled him through the doorway outside. She grabbed a piece of burning wood from the fire just outside the door. Daddy was truly not sure what she had in mind.

She set the idol house on fire and said, “Sit and tell me about this God and His Son, Jesus.”

A village changed

The priestess became a follower of Jesus and an avid learner even though she was illiterate. Others in that village became believers that day too.

A couple of months later, Daddy and Pastor returned to the village on “Miss Lottie.” The people came out laughing and happily inviting them into their homes. The whole village had become believers. The priestess excitedly told Daddy and Pastor: “I have visited all the surrounding villages and told them this amazing story of a God who loves and His Son Jesus. They have burned their idol houses and are now following Jesus. Thank you for coming!”

The summary of this story is simple. One year in the late 1950s:

  • The mission’s goal for Southern Baptists went above and beyond.
  • A missionary in the bush of northern Nigeria was able to get a small motorcycle that took him and a Nigerian pastor far into the jungle.
  • A very influential villager heard about Jesus for the first time.
  • An idol house was destroyed.
  • A village became followers of Christ.
  • Surrounding villages became followers of Christ.

Your donation to missions makes a difference. This is one of hundreds of stories about individuals and churches impacting whole villages for the Lord because people gave sacrificially.

Giving to Lottie Moon changes lives

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a primary way in which Southern Baptists financially support their missionaries. It was started in 1888 in memory of Miss Lottie Moon who served as a missionary in China from 1873–1912. As a teacher and evangelist, she laid a foundation for traditionally solid support for missions among Baptists in America.

Today, some 70 years later, someone is still asking: What took you so long to tell us about this man named Jesus?