William Wheatley first felt God’s call to mission in 1912 when he heard David Ekong speak at Highgate Road Baptist Chapel, London. In 1920, after medical training and service in World War 1, Wheatley reported to Samuel Bill at Ibuno. “Who are you?” Mr. Bill asked. “The new missionary.” “I didn’t know there was one.”
Azuiyi–Oloko was the eleventh QIM station, and in May 1921 Wheatley moved there, to a mud hut. It was to that mud hut that he later brought his wife in 1926. There, in 1927 she became pregnant with their daughter Alison. In January 1930 the Wheatleys moved into the cement block mission house. The area conference chairman now lives here with his family. Fluent in Igbo, Wheatley performed a great deal of missionary work as well as giving medical care. In 1946 QIM posted him to what is now Samuel Bill Theological College. He served there as Principal until his retirement in 1952.
Aside from the mission house, a few other buildings remain. The small primary school is still standing, and Wheatley’s former dispensary is now a chapel and classroom for the college. A new church has replaced the original building. Today only the foundation and some iron posts remain. The former bookshop still bears the “Postal Agency” sign from the days when the station still hosted that service. The road itself still fits Wheatley’s description of local roads.
Wheatley’s legacy in the region is significant. A former student, writing a brief history of UEC/QIC in Oloko, records Wheatley showing a Gospel focused “magic lantern” show in the village church. His daughter, Alison is also remembered with fondness. There are many Igbos whose names include “Alison” or “Allison”.
Wheatley’s compassionate care for Christian and non–Christian alike made an impact among the Igbos. It is for this reason that he is honoured in Azuiyi–Oloko, UEC Igbo area churches, and the surrounding villages. When they named the new theological college after him I wondered why they hadn’t named it after one of the Igbo early church heroes – now I know that they did.