When the first documentary preview of “Genocide 66” ended, a former Southern Baptist missionary to West Africa, Steve Seaberry, said to a luncheon colleague that he had never heard the story.
The untold story – to which he referred – was the story of what missionaries did in northern Nigeria in 1966 amid several days of genocide that took 30,000 lives.
Seaberry, now director of volunteer missions for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, had served in the early 1980s as a missionary to Liberia.
Yet he had not heard what his colleagues had done 20 years earlier in neighboring Nigeria.
He had not heard the story in no small measure because missionaries did not talk about it and denominational agencies used euphemisms about what happened as a way to avoid drawing attention to the experience.
For the first time, the story is being told in our documentary, “Genocide 66,” which will be released in the fall of 2016.
And we have yet to piece together the entire story. We’re still making calls to missionaries and missionary children who witnessed the events. We’re still doing interviews and gathering archival material.
Virtually every day we hear a new account or uncover a new piece of evidence.
Nonetheless, we wanted to share with goodwill Baptists what we were working on. We used our annual ethics luncheon during the CBF general assembly to do so. We showed a 15-minute short to introduce the topic and the characters.
The response via Twitter was energizing.
Here’s what luncheon attendees tweeted:
“Great event. Eager for the release,” tweeted Shaun King (@PastorShaunKing), pastor of John’s Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Wade Smith (@PastorWadeSmith), pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, tweeted, “This tragic untold story of Nigerian genocide must be told.”
“Powerful @EthicsDaily documentary,” wrote Matt Sapp (@MattPSapp), pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Canton, Georgia.
Taylor Sandlin (@TaylorSandlin), pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, said, “The new documentary looks amazing. Can’t wait to see it.”
Sandlin tweeted, “Powerful look at both evil and the subversive work of love.”
Another pastor also used the word “powerful.”
Doug Dortch (@DougDortch), pastor of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted, “powerful documentary on tribal conflict in Nigeria in 1966 and the role of missionary heroes.”
Danny Chisholm (@ChisholmDanny), senior pastor at University Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, noted that missionaries struggled with their guilt over how such events could happen.
“Harrowing and moving preview,” tweeted Christopher Mack (@cmackonthemove), minister to young adults at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.
Jim Somerville (@SomervilleJim), senior minister at First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, wrote, “hearing the story of what happened in Nigeria in 1966. Shocking.”
He also underscored the expressed hope that the documentary would “re-ignite the American church’s commitment to missions.”
The executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, David Hardage (@dwhardage), gave thanks to the EthicsDaily.com staff for challenging people of faith.
The luncheon was a splendid event on several other counts.
It included the recognition of Don Sewell, director of Faith in Action Initiatives at Baylor Scott and White Health, who was EthicsDaily.com’s Baptist of the Year for 2014.
In the latest update on Baylor Scott and White Health’s distribution of medical supplies and equipment around the world and throughout Texas, he shared that later that day he would pick up 420 canisters of baby formula from the U.S. Post Office for distribution through its warehouses in Dallas and Waco.
Another example of faith in action.
The luncheon also drew a number of clergy and laity who had never attended an EthicsDaily.com event. Many knew little about our organization. Their enthusiasm suggests the potential for greater support and growth.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.