I grew up in a household where my immediate elder brother was 7 years older than me. I did not have the privilege of having fun with my immediate elder brother because he was mentally retarded. So even though I had a family, I was always doing my own things outside the family circle.
In fact, for nearly ten years now, I have lost every member of my first family—my 3 brothers and my parents who where buried 4 weeks apart. I had to shoulder a lot of the responsibilities on my own when I buried my parents; I was just 32 years old, then.
It did not start then. I decided to get married much earlier than all my friends; I was 26 years old, then, and my wife was 24. Many of my friends did not have much then; many were Youth Corps members like me. Others were newly employed and could not offer much assistance.
Unfortunately, the day I married was the day a lot of them were to report for service. Only two of my friends were there. Only my cousins—Jimoh Oma Egbejule and Uncle Paul—came. My two eldest brothers did not come. In fact, I did not see them for 5 years after marriage. I paid for everything, from kola nuts to transport fares for my village folks that came; I still have the list in a file.
There were days when I had to consult in a chemist at Ngwa Road, Aba, to get money to buy the drinks needed. I would trek from Ngwa Road to Park Road, near Hotel Unicoco—a distance of over 1 kilometer—so as not to spend the 10 Naira consultation fees for the two patients I saw.
I got married as an unbeliever and my wife was pregnant. We slept on the bare floor after the marriage with my wife’s wrapper as the curtain.
I had to buy drinks on credit from Chief Emore. I paid for them after the ceremony. I had 52 Naira left and I decided to go for National service with a pregnant 24-year-old woman. The soup we ate on December 13th, 1985, had been in the refrigerator since November 23rd, 1985. Thank God electricity was much more regular then.
I had a six-spring Vono bed in the clinic, where I was doing locum in addition to my place of primary assignment. My wife would sleep on the bed and I would sleep on the floor beside her, because there was not enough space for three of us—my wife, the pregnancy, and I. We were alone for months, even after she delivered. In fact, I used to take her deliveries.
The day my in-law, Angela, came visiting was so joyous. Later, my classmates in medical school came as Youth Corp members and visited. I looked strange because I was quite rascally previously, and now I was a father.
There was none of my tribesmen in about a three-kilometer radius from me; even if there was any, I was a new kid in town. I had to search for locum in several hospitals in a new city. I worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. some days.
When my wife delivered, I lifted her to the bathroom and gave her a warm bath. I washed the blood-soaked clothes. I had to learn how to change nappies; there were no disposable ones then. I used to shut the bathroom door and wash nappies when my wife went to the market. IN FACT, SHE WENT TO MARKET ON THURSDAY EVENING, JANUARY 23RD, AFTER GIVING BIRTH BY 2:35 A.M. THE SAME DAY.
When I got born again, none of my friends had gotten born again. In fact, they mocked me and said I had become SU—which was a description of a “boring” Christian. That’s how members of the Scripture Union were called then. It was not fashionable to be born again then. My friends, at a point, thought that it was the effect of marriage. But I just wanted to thank God for His love for me.
REMEMBER MY WIFE WAS AS, AND I WAS AS GENOTYPE TOO.
I DARED TO WALK THAT LONELY ROAD.
At the end of National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, I stayed behind in Aba and became the medical director of a 40-bed hospital at Royal Hospital. I was just 27 years old.
At 29, I dared to walk alone and opened Petra Hospital. It was not easy. I remember the day a lady, who had delivered in a maternity and was referred to us, died in our hospital. The whole street was milling round our hospital. I was alone with my wife and children. Thank God the cause of death was not out of negligence on our part. However, it took all my strength to face such a crowd speaking a language I did not understand then.
When I decided to go into full-time ministry at 40, sell the hospital, and come to Ughelli, it was like a suicide mission. I left Aba, eastern Nigeria, and came to Ughelli, southern Nigeria, with my wife. Some called me a mad man.
One of the most difficult parts of ministry is loneliness.
The step I took was very strange. My lawyer friend, now a SAN, asked if my decision was irrevocable and I said yes. There were very lonely trips I made to Kenya, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Uganda to villages in the remotest parts of Africa with people I never knew before.
There were days I would leave Ughelli by 5 a.m. so as to reach Aba by 9 a.m. to preach. There was a day I left Omoku by 5 a.m. to Ughelli in order to avoid “sticker boys” who hold buses. People were usually afraid of driving that time. There were days I left Ekpoma by 5 a.m. to arrive Ughelli by 7:40 a.m.
When I finished preaching at the Reformers Global Prayer Camp at Aba, a lot of my old friends came to greet me. I was shocked that many of them did not know I had left Aba for 18 years. Others just imagined that I failed and faded away. They don’t really miss you. The Christian crowd doesn’t really miss you. Too many of them think you are disposable. I had wanted to go visit some of my old friends, but I knew they were aware I was in town but I was not in their agenda and they had no use for me then. I had to abort the trip. Moreover, they will think I had come so that they could invite me. Others who wanted to rekindle the friendship was because they saw that I was still very relevant and doing well.
I learnt very early in ministry that you are disposable to many pastors. They will not even call you to know if you got home safely. I have gotten so used to it. Any time big pastors call small pastors together, know that it is, most likely, not for the benefit of the small pastors.
I called my pastor friend, Raymond Ugochukwu, when I was in Lagos, last year, that I wanted to visit him. He was shocked because most of his friends and colleagues had not called him for months since he started his own ministry.
I have learnt to walk alone. I have never hooked my relevance and happiness to any person or anything. My wife and children know that I love them, but if they choose to say they don’t know me, I will walk away.
Apart from my Faith in the Lord Jesus, there is nothing and nobody I cannot walk away from if I find out that I am no longer relevant or needed.
I have dared to chart my own course in life.
I dare to succeed; I also dare to fail if it does not work out well.
I have also preached in such a way that I am faithful to the calling the Lord gave me. I am not a bandwagon preacher. I dare to be different and truthful.
Recently, a tribe wanted me to preach in their Annual Praise Night, but a group of their pastors who did not like my face ganged up to remove my name as the guest preacher. Who cares? They came to beg me to preach. The next day I was speaking to a University audience with several professors. I spoke the truth though I know they will never invite me again. Who really cares? We are not called to make fans but disciples for Christ. The major problem you will have in life is to get lost in the crowd without distinctive identity.
EAGLES DON’T FLOCK. I AM AN EAGLE; I DARE TO FLY ALONE.
One pastor in Ughelli said he would not invite me to his church because his income dropped after I left his church. He forgot that salaries were not paid for 8 months in Delta State. I don’t preach to raise incomes for pastors; I preach to raise men for Jesus. I have raised several business men and women in several denominations and nations. What privilege do I derive from preaching in an Ughelli church? How many times has he seen me in a public gathering in Ughelli?
If you must dare to walk alone, learn not to be a beggarly pastor. Have your work to take care of your needs. Be frugal with what you have and don’t imitate people in their frivolous life styles.
DARE TO WALK ALONE. WHEN YOU SUCCEED, THE CROWD WILL WALK WITH YOU.
I don’t follow the crowd and their fashion trends. I won’t grow beards because other men are growing beards. I don’t belong to clubs or associations. In fact, I detest meetings. I don’t have a prayer partner; not even my wife. I pray alone.
In the Parable of the Talents, the servants went their own ways. Each invested his talent and they came back with their results.
DON’T GET ME WRONG. I LOVE FAMILY LIFE AND BUSINESSES. GREAT FAMILY BUSINESSES ARE USUALLY EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE INNER UNIT.
God Bless You.
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