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Source: Christianity in Borno State and Northern Gongola . Rev. Raymond Hickey. 1984.
CHAPTER THREE
 
MISSION TO SOUTH BORNO: THE CBM
Kulp and Helser 

Stover Kulp was above all else a visionary. Unlike other visionaries he had the determination and application to give his whole life so that the vision in which he believed should become reality. Born in 1894 in Pennsylvania (U.S.A.) he was ordained a minister of the Church of the Brethren and felt the call to serve as a missionary. The Church of the Brethren had been founded in Germany by Alexander Mack in the year 1708. It was part of the Anabaptist movement which rejected infant baptism and was oppressed by princes of the established churches. The Brethren came to the U.S.A. in 1719 and that is where their Church is strongest today. It was through the preaching of Dr. Karl Kumn, secretary of the Sudan United Mission in the U.S.A., that Kulp's vocation was directed to Africa. There were many obstacles ahead of him but he was always faithful to this calling and followed it with single-minded devotion until his death in 1964. 

Kulp arrived in Lagos in December 1922, accompanied by his missionary colleague, Rev. Albert Helser. Their aim was to secure a site for a mission anywhere in the north-east of the country. This choice was probably influenced by Dr. Kumm's insistence on the urgent need for a line of Christian missions in the savannah parkland of West Africa to form a barrier to the southward expansion of Islam. Their plan was received sympathetically by the governor, Sir Hugh Clifford, and they received further encouragement when they met Lieutenant Governor Gowers of Northern Nigeria in Kaduna. It was he who advised them to investigate the possibility of establishing their mission among the Bura people of the Biu Plateau in Bornu. So far all had been more than favourable and Kulp and Helser set out for Zaria, Jos and Biu. They arrived safely in Biu on 12 February 1923. 

All school history books tell us of the system of Indirect Rule or devolved colonial administration which had been devised by Lord Lugard and his successors in the government of Northern Nigeria. It greatly enhanced the prestige and influence of the traditional Muslim emirs and contributed to the rapid spread of Islam during the colonial era. Although the Bura hadnever been subject to their northern neighbours, the Pabir (Babur), the colonial administration placed them under the jurisdiction of the Pabir Chief of Biu in 1908. This was in accordance with Indirect Rule by which pagan' communities, who had no system of centralized authority, were placed under the authority of neighbouring Muslim chiefs and incorporated in their emirates. The forced merger of two antagonistic communities could never be a satisfactory arrangement and the independent-minded Bura resented both the British administration and their newly-imposed overlords. Their homeland was classified as an 'unsettled district' until 1932 and even then they continued to assert their independence. 

This was the background to the sharp opposition that Kulp and Helser came up against from the British administration. Both the Resident of Bornu Province, Sir Richmond Palmer, and the District Officer for Biu Division, Major Frank Edgar, were staunch advocates of Indirect Rule and of buttressing the authority of the Muslim emirs. Although the Bura followed their traditional religion and had never been Muslim, Bornu Province was considered to be one of the strongest Muslim regions in the country. The administration did not welcome a Christian mission to the province as it was felt that it might alter its Muslim image and lead to social unrest. 

This hostility was not apparent at first. Kulp and Helser trekked Biu Division and then decided to apply for a site for a mission just outside Biu town, where the Roman Catholic and EYN churches are now situated. Their application was referred by Major Edgar to the Resident of Bornu Province. It took Kulp and Helser nine days to trek the 120 miles to Maiduguri to present their case and there they met the suave but hosThe Richmond Palmer. Without making a formal refusal, as their venture already had received the blessing of the Governor, he pressed them to accept a temporary site at "Gar Kidda" (Bamboo Hill), a tiny village on the edge of Bornu Province and separated by the River Hawal from the rest of Biu division. There was no bridge there at the time and once the river began to flow they might well find their position untenable. If this was Palmer's hope, he had failed to grasp how resolute were these missionaries. 

Foundation at Garkida 

And so it was in lowly Garkida, rather than Biu, that ground was dedicated and broken for the first Christian mission station in Bornu Province on 17th. March 1923. It had very little to commend it as headquarters of the new venture. Compared with the bracing air of the Biu plateau, the enervating humidity of the Hawal valley would sap the health and vitality of the American missionaries. They had come to, preach the Good News to the Bura. Now they would find themselves on the fringe of the Bura homeland and cut off from the hinterland for many months each year by the River Hawal. Their line of communication with Jos and Maiduguri was also made precarious but undaunted the two missionaries built the first~two round huts of mud and thatch. A beginning had been made. 

All beginnings are difficult and so it was with the first permanent mission to Bornu Province. It was the hot season in Garkida and Kulp and Helser worked hard to complete the mud buildings before the first rains. It was their first experience of a tropical climate and of living in a malarial area and it proved to be too much for them. Helser went down with yellow fever in April and although Kulp did all in his power to nurse him, his health continued to deteriorate. Then Kulp came down with fever also. Luckily a doctor arrived from Maiduguri and soon he was cured. His strong constitution and resilience would see him through many more crises during the next forty years. Helser was not nearly as robust and his fever persisted  They finally decided to leave Garkida for the remainder of the rainy season and to make for the hospital in Lokoja. They travelled the 565 miles on foot, by dugout canoe and by river barge and then went on to Jos where Helser slowly regained strength.  

Hostility of Major Edgar 

It was not until November that the missionaries were able to set out once more for Garkida.  By then their wives had arrived to join them and they also had purchased the first mission truck. They found that the mission had been well cared for in their absence and they set out cheerfully to consolidate their work. But they had not reckoned with the hostility of the British District Officer who was determined that no Christian mission would be established in Biu Division. Within a few days of their arrival they received a message from Major Edgar which seemed to shatter all their hopes and plans. It read: 

    PROPOSED SITE FOR MISSION IN BIYU DIVISIONI have today received an urgent telegram from the Resident, Bornu Province, dated 5th. inst., instructing me to inform you that His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, has decided you cannot now be permitted to reside at Garkida. I am directed to inform you also that you should return to Bauchi forthwith.I need hardly say that I shall be glad to assist you in any way in supplying carriers for your loads. To save time I suggest that you inform the Clerk at Biyu at once of the number 6£ carriers you require, and they will be sent to you.
Edgar could not get the Christian missionaries out of 'his' division soon enough! Kulp and Helser discussed their expulsion order, they prayed earnestly to the Lord and they decided to stall the Major and bid for time until the Governor could be contacted. There followed a series of curt messages between the missionaries in Garkida and the Major who was then on tour in Shani district. Thus on 13th. December, Edgar wrote: 
    I regret that I am not in a position to supply you with further information than that given to you in my memo, No.28 C and 30C of 10th . instant - that His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, has decided that you cannot now be permitted to stay at Garkida. I must therefore request that you leave Garkida.... You should take all your belongings with you.
But Kulp and Helser stayed put and appealed to the Governor's earlier permission for them to stay. 'The Major must have felt exasperated at this stage" by these thick-skinned Americans and he replied curtly (17th. December): 
    I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 15th. instant. The decision of His Excellency, the Governor, is given you in my memoranda, Nos. 28 C and 30 C, of 10th. and 13th. December respectively.
 
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