Meet King Eyo Honesty

Well, today I’m wearing a beautiful shirt from Nigeria that was presented to me by some believers when I was last in Africa training various leaders from Nigeria and around Africa. This was back in 2018 or 2019 before COVID came. They honored me with this shirt and I’m wearing it today because I am preparing In just a few days to return to Africa for the first time, since the lockdown of COVID 19. I’ll be going to Zambia and will be there for about a week. I’ll be meeting again with leaders who work in pregnancy help centers all over Africa. I think there are people invited from 23 different African countries. So I’ll be there also to teach a number of pastors, most from Zambia, but others who really want to learn how to teach our Four Questions to networks of churches throughout their own country.

In many ways this trip to Africa could be one of the most impactful trips I will take this year.
So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying about it. One of the things I wanted to do as far as preparing to go to Africa was to raise up examples of heroes or people that we would want to model ourselves after, who have done in previous generations what we’re trying to do now.
Because the call to rescue the innocent is not new. It’s just our turn to carry it out and to answer that call. It’s not even new in Africa. It’s just a turn for us and for the African believers to take up the call that scripture gives us to rescue the innocent, defend the weak and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

So I really did some research and one of the heroes I came up with was a man by the name of Eyo Eyo Nsa. He lived from 1788 to 1858. If you want a time frame, he died right before our civil war period of history in America. He became known as King Eyo Honesty II. He was the ruler of that tribe of people in a town called Creek Town, which is in the Biafra region of Calabar, which we know today as Nigeria. He was called King Honesty because he became very well known as a man of integrity, a man who could be trusted. He ruled during a time of great transition along the Gold Coast of Africa. Remember, Africa for many decades and generations was involved in the slave trade. Tribes would raid another tribe and capture slaves and children, especially little boys. Sometimes they even sold their own children to European slave traders. So the economy was built around slavery. But the slave trade came to an end and so much of this part of Africa was in a time of transition. King Eyo Honesty helped make that transition, creating new contracts and treaties with various traders and companies selling palm oil and basically generating new sources of income that were very beneficial to the people in that part of Nigeria.

The other thing that he did that is so commendable is that he welcomed Western missionaries when many others did not. He really saw them as bringing resources and value to the culture. He learned some of the things that Europeans did that were admirable, which advanced and helped develop communities, families and economies and therefore prosperity. So it was very open for the missionaries to go into old Calabar as it was called at that time. There’s a debate among the things I’ve read as to whether he ever became a Christian. Some people seem to suggest he did, others strongly suggest that he never himself converted to Christ, but he did value the missionaries and the message of the gospel as something that would transform lives and therefore improve the community. He was certainly right about that.

He is historically connected to the most famous missionary of Nigeria and in all of African history and perhaps in all of world missions today. That is Mary Slessor. Mary Slessor worked with the children too and even rescued a pair of twins from being killed. What you need to understand is that Mary Slessor today is highly honored and revered within Nigeria. In many ways she was called the mother of Calabar because she arrived in this part of Nigeria where King Eyo Honesty had ruled and immediately started to challenge the practice of twin killing in Africa and in Calabar. Now you need to understand that the killing of twins was a deep-rooted demonic evil within the culture, like slavery itself. It was perceived that twins were the work of the devil, something untoward was going on and it must be evil. So often, the twins were immediately killed once they were born. And very often the mother was also killed because if she had twins, by the help of demons, she herself needed to be killed. Another practice that was common, especially in the years before Mary arrived, was human sacrifice. Oftentimes when a tribal leader died, at his funeral other slaves were sacrificed so that the leader would not be lonely in the afterlife, for example. So these are deep seated examples of the shedding of innocent blood that went back many generations within Old Calabar. Mary is famous for coming against this practice as she actually began to go out and do what we’re doing today with abortion. Whenever she heard that twins were born, she would rescue them. Then of course, she had to build a home for them. She adopted some of them herself and helped others get adopted or be provided a home to grow up in and to be trained to be useful in society. So eventually this ended the tradition of killing twins and at about the same time the practice of human sacrifice was also ended.

But here’s the thing that I want to point out. Twenty years before Mary Slessor arrived, King Eyo Honesty had already begun to use all his efforts and all his influence to bring about the end of both of those evil practices on his own watch. In fact, I think we can go so far as to say that Mary’s success and why she wasn’t kicked out, killed or opposed, is because King Eyo Honesty had already begun to take an axe to root out these evils and chop away at them. King Eyo Honesty sounds to me like he was in many ways just a tremendous heroic figure in the history of Nigeria. He understood the slave trade because he grew up with it as a boy. He spent time on slave ships as a young boy learning English, understanding the business, diplomacy, and trade. So by the time he assumed power from his father, he was in a position to know both the European mindset and his own people’s culture and mindset. He was a bridge between the two and he was receiving what was really valuable and good in European culture and bringing it into Nigerian culture while at the same time upholding the traditions and customs of Nigeria that were worthy of preservation, such as family life, business, honesty, and things like that.

So, I just wanted to introduce you to somebody that I had never heard of. We as Europeans and Americans probably won’t hear about such people like this in Africa. But with a little digging you find out that what we’re doing today isn’t really new. God has used people throughout history to do the work of rescuing the innocent on their watch. This is not even new in Africa. It’s just time for our African brothers and sisters to rise up and begin to emulate the heroes of their own culture that God has used. I’m very excited about going to Zambia and meeting with our African brothers and sisters. I welcome your support and prayers. If you’ve got something to contribute, please do. And most definitely, keep an eye on our updates that we’ll be sending out by text messages every day. If you want to sign up for our text messages, please go and visit our website, passionlife.org, and you will find there an opportunity to sign up to receive a text message right on your phone. We’ll send a little short video or a picture or an interview of some of the people that I meet in Africa. Very exciting times. Let’s go forward with the gospel of life and go to the neediest places and let’s do it together and let’s do it in prayer.

Thank you.