When I was invited to go to Nigeria several years ago, I prepared myself by reading the story of an early missionary to Africa, Andrew Stirrett. I would like to share some impressions from the book Stirrett of the Sudan, by Douglas C. Perry.
As an unmarried man, Andrew Stirrett was a successful businessman in Toronto. He was a pharmacist who owned two drugstores, real estate, and stocks and bonds. He was studying medicine at the University of Toronto. He became burdened to go to Africa through reading a pamphlet by Roland Bingham, “The Burden of the Sudan.”
He believed the Lord was calling him to be a missionary. He finalized his commitment by selling his businesses, property, and stocks and giving the proceeds to the Sudan Interior Mission. He traveled to Liverpool in England to study tropical medicine.
At the age of 38, he went to the Sudan in 1902, travelling at his own expense, without having been officially accepted by any mission board. In Africa he lived simply. Wherever he travelled everything he owned could fit into one trunk which could be carried on the head of a native porter.
“The little man was clinging to his call with every fibre of his slight being and his giant faith,” wrote Perry. “God would use the seemingly weak things of the world to confound the mighty.”
He spent years in language study eventually becoming fluent in the Hausa language. The British colonial government restricted missionary access to the Hausa speaking territories in the north for political reasons, So Stirrett opened a mission station on a trade route that gave access to thousands of traders heading north and south, in and out of the restricted area.
His “campfire talks would long be discussed and remembered, passed from mouth to mouth, unknowingly being used of God to spread his word. He had found an open door into the north that no man could shut.” Perry told the story of one woman who had heard about the white doctor at the Wushishi camp. She travelled 650 miles on foot to hear the message of God’s salvation. She became a Christian. When she disappeared it was believed that she was martyred for her faith.
Stirrett went out on long treks, often outwalking younger men. He went from village to village, preaching the gospel. His regular practice was to rise at 3:45 am for prayer. He usually prayed out loud. He said he never wanted to see the sunrise until he had had two hours with his Master. He scheduled definite days for fasting and prayer.
An online article says, “He never missed an opportunity to give out the gospel. For many years at his headquarters in Jos, Nigeria, he would go daily to the large marketplace, stand upon a rock so that he could better be seen, hold up a large picture of Jesus and preach Christ to those who would give him audience.”
He was one of the translators of the Bible into the Hausa language. He said the crowning joy of his life was when the British and Foreign Bible Society sent the first shipments of the newly-published Hausa BIble in November 1932. He also wrote Hausa hymns and a Bible concordance.
Dr. Andrew P. Stirrett died in July 1948, having served faithfully in Nigeria for almost 47 years. It was said that “his stature was short, but his shadow of influence over the work of the Lord in Nigeria is profound.” He is buried in Jos, Nigeria.
Pastor Randy Faulkner