ABOUT MY PASTOR
I once accompanied a neighbour (and his family) to a Sunday morning service in their church. This happened many years ago. His children and I were friends, and I was always welcomed in their home. They had attempted unsuccessfully to take me along to service in their church on many occasions, but on this day, I yielded. I had never attended service in any church other than my family’s, so I didn’t know what to expect. Those were the early days of Pentecostalism in Uyo (I am referring to the early-to-mid nineties), and such churches were often referred to derogatorily as “new generation churches”. I was used to the more orthodox style of worship where the Pastor (or “Reverend” as they were fondly referred to then) enters the church as part of a procession led by the choir. As the procession makes its way into the auditorium, the congregation will rise and remain standing until the Reverend and the choristers took their place. There was nothing similar to that in this church service. When it was time for the message, the pastor simply appeared from nowhere, took his position at the lectern and began to preach. If the routine of the service leading up to the message was strange, the persona of the preacher was completely out of the ordinary. He was elegant, yet effable. You could tell that he was a “graduate”, because he spoke the Queen’s language with so much ease and finesse. His tall, dark and trim build graced the pulpit, from whence he dished out “God’s word”, his preferred and well-chosen designation for the Holy Writ. I had never met him before then, but I could tell that he was a very good-natured and gracious person.
Sadly, that didn’t last long as I and my contemporaries were soon whisked away to the “teenagers church” (the reason I don’t like separating teenagers from the adults during church service). I have since forgotten whatever I got from the message (assuming I even got anything), but that impression has stuck with me till this day. Back then I had this knowing that I will have something to do with that pastor. I didn’t know what that would (or should I say could) be, and in time I forgot about that incidence. Fast forward to 1997. I am again in an evening service, and that same pastor is preaching again. The meeting was called breakthrough seminar (if my memory serves me) and the theme of the meeting was “winning by the word”. Again, elegance and simplicity shone through, and I felt the same way I felt when I had that nudge that I will have something to do with him. I thought, “this man will be my pastor”. Well, that was never to be until 2005 when I eventually joined Insight Bible Church fully as a member. I am sure you now know who I am talking about. I flourished under his pastoral leadership and soon my siblings joined me. I got to know him as more than the amiable personality behind the pulpit, and what was previously an impression became an experience. His simplicity, kindness and unflagging commitment to people won me over. The rest they say is history.
After I completed my national youth service in 2009, I felt God nudging me to serve him in a specific way. I had heard some stories of unsavoury practices that went on in the name of ministry, and I didn’t want to be a part of those. Like most young people setting out into ministry, I felt that if this is what I was going to do I’d better do it well. I was concerned about getting a false start. But I had great confidence in the integrity and skills of my pastor, and this is not an exaggeration. I knew I could learn under him, and that I will not be misled. A decade has passed since I took that step, and again I was right. As I look back, I have no regrets that I decided to learn from him. When I say no regrets, I mean no regrets. Virtually everything I know about ministry (and they are not much, actually), I learnt from him. From private counsels, teachings and his personal example, I have garnered invaluable ministry lessons. Apart from ministry, God has graciously used him to help me navigate every important moment in my life, including marriage and family. At every turn, I will go to him and draw from the rich deposit of God’s wisdom in his life. So, when I call him “Pastor”, I am not using a cliché. It’s been fifteen uninterrupted years under his pastoral oversight, and I can say that he has been a gift of God to me (and my wife).
Sir, as you celebrate 60 years of God’s faithfulness, eulogizing you will not be enough as I am sure you will have that in abundance. I will rather take this moment to register my gratitude to God for giving me, and many others like me, a gracious gift in you. I pray that God will continually uphold and keep you in His loving care.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIR!