Why I Renounced My British Citizenship For Evangelism In Nigeria —80-Year-Old Ruth Elton

Mama Ruth Elton, the only child of Pa. S. G. Elton, a foremeost evangelist and Area Superintendent of the Apostolic Church of Nigeria, then, under Prophet Joseph Ayo Babalola, was brought to Nigeria in 1937, at age two and a half years. Since then, she remained in the country as a naturalised Nigerian. 

Getting to Sharon, headquarters of Coming Kingdom Outreach, Ilesa, Osun State, was not all that difficult since the city where this octogenarian woman of faith, popularly known as Mama Oyinbo, resides is a familiar terrain. There was no protocol in meeting Mama, a polyglot, who speaks English, Yoruba and Ebira and missioner of note, as she was ready for Tribune. The interview, which held in her moderately furnished apartment, in a compound that houses three complete buildings and other adjoining apartments, was built in  anticipation  of her  retirement. 

The large expanse of land houses Mama’s bungalow and other bungalows that take care of the administrative block as well as another bigger one, enough to be a modern day duplex  for the evangelism arm of her ministry and other services. In an appreciation to God for her foresight, she said: “I thank God that I was able to put this in place for my retirement. I doubt if God had not laid it in my heart then, the money I used for all these wouldn’t be enough to build just one bungalow.”  

The chat actually started while exchanging pleasantries with the octogenarian who was gaitely cladded in mint  green skirt suit which she designed and sewn herself with earrings of the same colour. As Hersay was applauding her parents’ feat in Ijesaland, she quickly pointed out that her dad’s work did not start and end in Ijesaland, but all over Africa. The 35-minute interaction Yemisi Aofolaju had with Mama Elton, was as lively as no one thought of an 80-year-old. Her responses betrayed her age as she never lost memory of any date and happenings.

Your father, Pa S.G Elton, brought evangelism to Ilesa in 1937……

Cuts in…

No, not only Ilesa, but all over Nigeria.

How old were you when your father came to Nigeria?

I was two and a half years old then.

Did he come with all the members of his family?

No, he came alone. He came in February 1937 and at that time, we were told that no Oyinbo person was in Nigeria, West Africa; so my mother and I stayed back, but surprisingly, white children were in Ilesa then. So my father sent words and we came to join him around July or August of that same year.

So, how has it been since?

Well, I am a Nigerian.

A Nigerian?

Yes, I am a Nigerian.I have Nigerian citizenship. I got my citizenship correctly.

When was that?

1975, I think it was.

How will you describe evangelism in those days to what obtains now?

Well, in those days, things were down, as people then were backward. There wasn’t much civilisation so to say. Going to your question, it was basic evangelism, preaching the gospel to those who didn’t know it at all. They were preached to and they were converted. They were followed up as disciples of Christ. But now, in the cities, evangelism has become purely business! Evangelism has been made business while churches are now making money. It is not as it was in the old days. But now, many of my contacts and I go to where the gospel has not reached.

There are still communities in Nigeria that are still backward where we go to preach the gospel. There are about 70 tribes in Nigeria today where there are no Christian believers at all. I’m not updated with the current figure, that is why I used the word about. But about two years ago, a Christian body puts it at about 70. To me, this is the work to be done, because people preach that Jesus is coming any day. But Jesus is not coming yet, because Christians have not done the work committed into their hands. It is read in the book of Revelation that before the throne, there will be from every tribe, language and nation, but there are some tribes in Nigeria who are yet to receive the message. The Lord cannot come yet.

With Pa Elton’s efforts in changing the orientation of Ijesa people…

Cuts in…

Not only Ijesha people. My father was the Superintendent of the Apostolic Church in charge of Ilesa, Ekiti, Akoko and Kabba, now in Kogi State.

What were the practices then that were anti-Christianity?

Idols. My father met Babalola at Oke-Oye, Ilesa. I met him too when I was a young girl, burning idols because people were predominantly idol worshippers. All sorts of charms retrieved by Babalola were brought to the crusade at Oke-Oye and were set ablaze. But I can tell you that this is still going on in the communities where the gospel has not been heard.

Can you compare Nigeria of yesterday with what we have now?

Well, Nigeria is more civilised now. The world is changing, so Nigeria must change.

You earlier said that Christianity is now business, how was your dad, and lately you, able to cope with the challenges of settling your converts?

My father, don’t forget, was with the Apostolic Church initially, but had to make his outreach interdenominational when he left the Apostolic Mission. We survived on God as He was providing for all our needs. When you are doing something for God, He knows much more than you know about it and He will provide. Since 1963, I have not been under any denomination. I have been out on the field trusting God to provide for all my needs and He has provided for all my needs, including car, food and everything I need. God has been faithful and He has remained faithful.

Where did the Christendom miss it?

I think that people came in and they made evangelism business instead of giving themselves to Christ and let Him make them, rather they see it as a business venture. Instead of giving their lives to Christ for the Kingdom for God to meet their needs, the devil brought them in to be making money in the name of Christ. Jesus taught us how to pray “Our father, who art in heaven hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come” That was the first practical request, “May your kingdom come” and that is what has been prayed for over 2,000 years and the kingdom has not yet come, but it will come, even if in your life time(Hersay), though I’m 80 now, likely I know I will not see this come to pass in my lifetime, but I will come back. You are younger, you will see the Kingdom come because at the end of this age, God will move by His spirit and people will stir up to do the work of God, so that people will evangelise and the King will come to establish His kingdom on earth.

What is your stance about women ordination?

Well, we need to be careful because some do this out of ambition, but I am of the opinion that the work must be done. I am of the opinion that if God calls me to do the work, I think I have proved this. I can say that if God does not see a man and a woman responds, He will use the woman and He will give her what she needs and sometimes, a woman can do what a man cannot do. If I was a man, it is likely that I would not have done what I have been able to do in Nigeria, because others would say that I’m a man so the men would be interested in the position. But as a woman, I did what I could do to push the men forward wherever I worked and working.

As a young girl, what were your dreams? Did you ever think of becoming a missioner?

When I was young, I was attending church regularly and very much involved in all the youth activities. Then the time came when I thought that my mates at the Technical College were atheists and a time came that I had to think of what to do to prove my Christianity. I looked at the members of the congregation where I worship and I found out that they were hypocrites and I made up my mind not to be a part of what was going on. God saw my heart and I began to pray seriously to know the truth about my Christian life and He made Himself real to me. I didn’t get much education because I was in Nigeria. In those days, there were no schools as there are now, so I missed schooling and my parents were always travelling. So, I didn’t get the formal education that you are getting these days, I took what I got and went ahead believing and knowing Jesus Christ, to do what He wanted me to do and God opened the way for me to go into the missionary work.

So you’ve been involved right from a very tender age in evangelism?

I think so.

At what level of formal education did you stop?

Before I finally left the UK for Nigeria, I was in technical college learning sewing and handwork and arts; that’s what I was educated in.

What informed the decision of your parents to just have you as their only child?

Well, my mother was much older before she got married to my dad.

How old was she?

My mum was 40, I don’t know my dad’s age, but I remember my mum telling me that they said she was too old to have a child. That was the reason they had only me.

Why did you decide to remain single?

When you give your life to Christ, you go ahead and do what He gives you to do, I didn’t decide to remain single, I decided to follow Jesus to do whatever He wanted me to do and He didn’t bring me a husband.

There were no suitors?

No, I never met a man who had the same call as I had to do gospel work, how can I marry and leave Christ work? No.

You never saw or were not satisfied with any of them?

I never saw a Christian man, now there is a difference, in those days, the whites were educated, the Nigerians weren’t that educated in those days. I never met a man who had the same call, even till today. I will say If you want to marry, marry someone who has the same call with your call, if not, you will fail God; I will not fail God because I have known Him. Paul said in the scriptures, “ I know whom I have believed” and I know whom I have believed and He is everything to me, I know him , I have trusted and given Him my life, whatever He directs, that’s what I do and He didn’t direct me to marry.

Why did you decide to pitch your tent in Ilesa, of all the big cities in Nigeria?

Well, my parents were in Ilesa till they died.

Were their remains taken back to Britain?

No, they were buried here in Ilesa. I lived all my younger years in Okenne, now in Kogi State. I only retired to Ilesa.

When did you relocate to Kogi?

I relocated there in the 60s. I was near Egbe and later on went to Okene, when I saw the need there. There were many villages there then with no churches and the need for evangelism was very crucial. In 1961, I went to Ebirra, Okene. I have a house there on the mission compound. We had evangelists and where there were no churches we sent evangelists which led to formation of churches, then it became a big group and later a denomination, I didn’t intend to make it a denomination but that is what it is till today, Gospel Assemblies is its present name now with headquarters at Okene, and I have a house there. I also went to Koton Karfe, where there are many tribes Gwari, Egbura Koto, Igala, and Igbira among others. Very few Ebirra are Christians till now; they are predominantly Muslims but very nice people. I lived mostly with Bassa people who I felt needed the gospel most. Till date they still believe in the worship of idols.

Aside evangelism, how were you able to empower your converts?

We teach them from the Bible, and disciple them. Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations,” that is the new translation and that is truly what He meant, not just to go and preach the gospel, you have to make disciples, preach, but if you just preach and leave them to go back, that is not good, when they are converted, you have to teach them how to live like Christians, that is what form churches.

How do you cope with loneliness?

Well, when you belong to the Lord, you have His presence. I was always going down to town to talk to the people. Whenever I felt lonely, I would come down from my mountain top house to go to town; however, even at home, I felt the presence of the Lord at all times.

And you never thought of adopting children?

Well, I would have loved to, but my work didn’t give time for that. If I had adopted children, they would need food and care, and my work — preaching the gospel — has no consideration for this. Nearly every morning then, I was always at home unless I went to town; but every afternoon, I would go to the villages, only to get back at seven in the evening. How can one look after children with this schedule?

When did you retire from Kogi to Ilesa?

This compound was built in 1995 I think. It dawned on me at a time that my father was not a Nigerian, so his house was in the name of a church, and I could not claim it. However, a time came when I thought I would leave Ilesa totally for Kogi, where I had accommodation, but God saw to it that Ilesa is a peaceful place and many facilities and avenues to see my dentist, optamologist, among other health related needs to be met. So I thought I should buy a piece of land to build my own compound, and God provided the money to do it then. What I spent to build this compound then cannot erect a moderate bungalow today due to the high cost of building materials. God has His time for everything.

You clocked 80 on Sunday, and your memory is still intact because I can see you still remember dates and events vividly, what’s the secret?


Is this your natural hair?


It has not grown grey…


Can you see without your glasses?

Yes, I can see as well without my glasses, but I had an eye disease called macular degeneration which makes one blind, but it didn’t in my case you cannot read. I had to go to the UK for treatment and there was no treatment for this ailment. This means your eyes will just deteriorate and you will not be able to read, my mother had this disease, she was not able to read. As there was no treatment in the UK, I came back, my friend, Mrs Jinadu said,’’ you trust God and Jesus can do it,’’ so I trusted God and things that began to become blurred while reading later became clear, I could read with glasses, God healed me of macular degeneration. I can see you clearly without my glasses; I use them for reading.

How does a typical day in your life look like?

Well, I do whatever God brings for me to do on daily basis.

Now that you are retired, how do you go about evangelising?

I feel retired but I have not put down the work. I still go to Kogi sometimes.

At your age?

Well, I haven’t been there in two years now, but I want to go there if I can. Malaria is troublesome in Ilesa, it’s all over Nigeria and it has troubled me many times, which makes me unfit to do what I like to do. But I continue to counsel people who come for advice, people send me money and I have evangelists on the field who I support. I also train evangelists here sometimes, and then and I have written few books on evangelism and the work of God.

How many books have you written?

Three. The first is the one I use to train the evangelists and it is called ‘The gospel of the kingdom.’ The book gives you the outline of the gospel of the kingdom to preach, so I teach from it. The second book is ‘Your Citizenship: Hell or the kingdom?’ It is not a simple thing to change one’s citizenship because I changed mine from British to Nigerian. In those days, there was something we were asked to do which was very significant for gospel work, I had to renounce my British citizenship before I could become a Nigerian and I remember when I went to the lawyer in Kaduna, to renounce my British citizenship, he said: What? Are you a fool? I have been trying to get that citizenship and I cannot and you want to renounce it, don’t be a fool!’’ I said I want to be a Nigerian, that is what God has called me for, so I must renounce all my British citizenship rights. Now, if you want to become a citizen of heaven, you have to get rid of all your kingdom of hell habits, ways and rights, before becoming a citizen of heaven; that is the basic of my book. The third book is ‘The kingdom has come’ and that is about what could take place in a few years time when the king will come and bring the kingdom of heaven to earth and the kingdom of heaven will be established on earth.

You said you never had formal education, how come you’re so vast with the little education you had?

It’s the spirit of God. The kingdom has come was written from the thoughts that came to me from the scriptures. I later took them to a brother and asked him what he thought I could do and he said ‘’you can put it in a book form”, that was how it came to be. That book is not my thinking at all, God gave it to me to write down.

How do you relax?

I’m a knitter. I also listen to world news on the radio and television, specifically BBC, because what is going on in the world now is very significant. Terrible things are going on and it will only get worse until the king comes to establish His kingdom on earth. What is going on now is in Matthew 24.

What is the secret of your beauty? Are you on any diet?


How many times do you eat in a day?

I eat three times a day.

Three times? What do you eat?

In the morning, it is just milk and Quaker oats; I take yam, rice or guinea corn in the afternoon, I don’t often take eba because garri is not good for health, but I eat local vegetables with egunsi. I have a special vegetable grown on my compound. I take small amount of beans in the evening. (The cook cuts in:…she takes her supper at six.)

Do you have any special beauty routine?


But you are putting on ‘to-match,’ your earrings go with your dress

I only put on earrings for the first time in many weeks because I have been handicapped due to a fracture occasioned by a fall sometimes in July, I believe in dressing well. I specialise in dress design; I sew what I am having on now myself.

You don’t believe in dressing without ear rings, powder, do you?

I don’t believe in that because it is not scriptural. In the scripture, especially in Jeremiah when a prophet was asked to go and wash a woman who was spiritually down, she was dressed with earrings afterwards. God takes delight in dressing well. Putting on of earrings and other accessories are there just to make me look nice.

What do you think is the way out of the insecurity crises in Nigeria?

This is the work of the Antichrist, the trouble is all over the world, Boko Haram is in Nigeria, Al shabab is in East Africa and NATO, last week, had a meeting where it expressed its concern on the terrible activities going on all over the world; what is happening in Nigeria is happening all over the world, and we have to face it; we just need to trust the Lord and follow His directives. I know that God will see us through.

Are you thinking of going back to England?

It has never crossed my mind.

It means you don’t get in touch with your people in the UK?

I have no family in the UK.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I hope I am remembered for the work I have done for the Lord in evangelism and reaching the unreached.

Source: Nigeria Tribune
Ruth Elton 5957221202462019593

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