One of the ministries that I am most proud of here in Nigeria is Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS). Although there were many people who came together to create the organization, it was Sid Garland who primarily developed the ministry.
History of ACTS
The ministry grew out of a brain-storm meeting that was held in Jos in June 1991 over the greatest need in theological education. Obviously, it was textbooks for all our classes in seminaries, Bible colleges and religious studies departments in universities and colleges of education. In October 1995, I invited some people to my house to discuss this and five showed up. We created the name “Africa Christian Textbooks” at that meeting and decided on other issues related to the ministry. Sid Garland, a missionary for North Ireland with a mission known as Mission Africa, had been importing a few books for his students. Also, Timothy Palmer, a missionary with the Christian Reformed Church had been importing and selling NIV Study Bibles. These two men brought their efforts together with the other people interested in Christian textbooks and we formed ourselves into the Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS).
The ministry has slowly expanded. We have 20 branches across Nigeria, a branch in Kenya, one in Cameroon and we just approved a branch in Liberia. We have over 50 employees, have published over 300 books, have a large warehouse and probably the largest and certainly the most well-stocked bookshop in West Africa and probably East Africa as well.
Because that first meeting at the ACTEA conference was in June 1991 and the meeting at my house was 15 October 1992 and a third expanded meeting on 2 January 1992, we have a little difficulty in pinpointing exactly the starting date of ACTS. However, we decided that we would at least have a 30-year celebration this year. Sid, who had to move back to Ireland about ten years ago because of his mother’s health, was able to come back for our celebration. There were celebrations in Ogbomosho, Lagos and Abuja before our big event in Jos, which was Saturday and Sunday, 20th – 21st May 2023. The main celebration was at the headquarters building. We actually did two things that day.
Name of Bookshop: Africa Christian Textbooks
Branches: Nigeria – 20, Kenya – 1, Liberia – 1, Cameroon – 1
Books Published: 300
Dedication of new building
First, we dedicated a new building. We have just completed a new building with four new offices and a large room that mothers can use for their children. Many mothers bring their small children with them to work but we have not had any nursery or other place to put them. So, we have built this nice space for them. It should make life easier for the children, the mothers and the rest of us. Sid cut the ribbon and dedicated the place. We named it after his wife, so it is Mrs. Jean Garland Annex.
The other part of the celebration was to honor ACTS’ 30 years of existence. Though we have a huge warehouse, it is full of books. We therefore had to pitch a tent out in the parking lot to accommodate the 100 or so guests that we had invited.
Rev. Canon Timothy Olonade, the person who published my first book and has been involved in most of them since, gave the keynote address the night before and the sermon on this day.
The celebration was just about what you expect for an occasion like this. There was lots of singing, some dancing up front to put money in the receptacle, and of course the cutting of the cake. You always have to cut a cake at any celebration in Nigeria. The hall was full. I would guess that there were at least 300 people present, including many prominent people who came to help us celebrate this occasion. Of course, we were given packets of refreshments as we left. It was a celebration to remember.