Remembering Brian Anderson, Friend of Oasis

Brian Anderson went to be with the Lord on Thursday, February 19th. Brian was a godly man, a good man, a man who cared deeply for his family and for Nigeria. Twice, Elaine and he chose to live with the people of Nigeria, their friends and coworkers. They served God with their whole hearts. Brian lived well, a life pleasing to the Lord. Though they may not have known him, many Christians in Nigeria have access to Bibles and Christian books because of his efforts.

What follows below is an adapted section of the eulogy given at Brian’s funeral, which speaks of the Andersons’ journey in Nigeria:

The Anderson family first left for Nigeria in January 1966, arriving in Kano the day before the first military coup when the whole country was in an uproar. When things calmed down, they flew to Jos, and Brian Anderson was introduced to the Bookshop ministry. Challenge Bookshops was a chain of 35 stores throughout the country. At that time, Nigeria was prosperous, and the shops provided Bibles and Christian literature to the Christian population. In addition to the shops, Brian Anderson managed book-mobiles which went out to the small towns and villages, showed Christian films in the evening and provided bibles and Christian literature to people who were a very long way from the shops. Brian managed shops in Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, and Port Harcourt, and then became Purchasing Manager in Lagos when the business was taken over by the church denomination which had grown from the ministry of SIM.  

In 1977, the Andersons returned to New Zealand for a while. Brian had trained his Nigerian replacement, and the family settled in to stay for a long time. 

But in 1995, Brian was asked to go back to Nigeria to rejuvenate Challenge Bookshops. Nigeria’s economy had slumped dramatically, which affected all businesses. In 1977, the Nigerian currency (called a naira) was worth more than the American dollar, but in 1995 the Naira was worth less than a cent. Ed Elliott, the founder of Oasis International, offered to help with the project. He and his wife Ginny visited New Zealand in January 1995 to discuss details—at that time the biggest problem was that Nigeria did not allow funds to be paid from Nigeria for imported goods. They tossed around ideas like buying cocoa or peanuts and selling them in America—a very complicated procedure! Ed and Ginny were in New Zealand for ten days, and during that time the law changed in Nigeria to allow payment for imported goods!  To Brian and his wife Elaine, this was a miracle. They left for Nigeria in June 1995.

It was a difficult job. The bookshops had very little stock, mostly locally-produced books, and Bibles were in very short supply. Dad ordered Bibles by the container load.  Business in Nigeria is never easy and clearing goods through customs is a nightmare!  One container of Zondervan books took 18 months to clear from the docks and when it finally arrived on the compound in Lagos the staff stayed behind to unload it—manually of course—carrying the heavy cartons of books on their heads—and they were singing and dancing as they did,  thanking the Lord that the container had finally arrived! All without electricity in 90 degree heat and 85% humidity! Amazing people!

I write with full knowledge that the grief is temporary and only for those who are left behind. Brian is experiencing life as it was meant to be. We weep with his family but rejoice with Brian. And at the same time, we rejoice with his family whose hope is true and eternal.

Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns! How precious in his sight is Brian, now in his presence!

Maranatha!

—Ed Elliott, Chairman and Founder of the Oasis International