Henry Ndukuba: Ministry is a matter of life and death
The Primate of Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, The Most Revd Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba has recounted his experience with Boko Haram while serving in the north saying for him, ministry is a matter of life and death.
In an interview with The Guardian on Sunday, Ndukuba noted also that many young ministers have lost their bearing because they followed men rather than follow God..
He said the issue of persecution and challenges in ministry in the North is very real adding however that “When you make God’s priority your own priority, God has a way of helping and supporting you through it. Indeed, God likes to be challenged. For example, when you say Lord, this one, I am not going anywhere until you do something for me, and you stay put, you wait on Him, I have never seen Him fail. It may not be easy; it is one of the most difficult and trying things.”
Sharing his experience on Boko Haram, he said, “In 2013 the Lord asked me to organise a prayer that would embrace all the pastors within Gombe metropolis. We were to use ECWA Church and not Anglican Church. So, we threw it open and invited all the pastors, Pentecostals, Anglican, Roman Catholics, ECWA, Baptist and all the other churches, and we started the prayer.
“We met every Monday by 7 am to pray, and we did that for almost three months consistently. Sometimes, we were few and sometimes we were many. After some time, we stopped, but some people agitated that we should keep on praying, because by then, everywhere was burning around us— Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and sometimes they would come into Gombe to attack.
“On February 14, 2014, they landed, and even the soldiers ran away with their uniforms and guns. They attacked the army depot, attacked where they stored their ammunition and looted the place before the Air Force intervened. Everywhere was thrown into confusion, but we asked the pastors to be in the place of prayer. What we did was to evacuate the women and children. We arranged and moved those who ran from the town into the Bishops court to the southern part of the state-building.
“While all this was happening, the Lord spoke to me and said: “Henry, I will not give this city to the enemy, I will deliver you.” He said He would not give His heritage to the wicked. When that word came to me, I held unto it. In fact, I wrote it down on a small card. As the word was coming to me, I was writing it down like a covenant word I held unto. I remembered the Lord prompted us to pray for three months, which we just finished and were waiting for the next direction.
“When this was happening, this word came: For every move, for every attack, for every manipulation of the kingdom of darkness, God knows, and He has a plan. His plans for us are of good and not of evil, to give us hope and to bring us to an expected end, and we need to hold on to Him. I came to the realisation that oftentimes when we are pushed to the wall and we depend on Him, we see Him opening doors and ways.”
While declaring that ministry is a matter of life and death he said, “we need to walk with the One Who called us. Just be faithful. Oftentimes, I tell people that I may not be as faithful as He wants me to be, but He knows my heart. My desire is to always please Him. I know the flesh will always be there, I may fail but He will never fail.”
He admonished young priests to eschew god-fatherism saying they don’t need to have any connection, know the Primate, the Archbishop or the bishop. “Just be who God has called you to be and let your loyalty be to Him.”
Ndukuba who said he was paid a monthly salary of N12,000 as Bishop of Gombe, recalled that there were several pressures on him from 1987 till when he became Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Jos, to leave the North and go to the East or the South.
But he made ministry a matter of life and death “to obey the Lord, to follow Him, to be where He wants me to be. I don’t really need to know everything before I do what He wants me to do. Both as a priest and a bishop, He has been there to instruct us, to tell us what to do and what not to do.”
He said believers should be troubled and worried if they don’t hear from God. “In all things, both great and small, in difficult and challenging situations, even attempts on our lives, we have relied on Him and He has never failed us. So, as far as I am concerned, the ministry is about walking with God, moving with Him along this narrow way of life, and also He helping us to do what He wants us to do. We are not in competition. You have your ministry and I have mine. You have your calling and I have my calling. He is the One Who will judge us; the One Who will reward us and bless us.”
Ndukuba was elected Bishop of Gombe in September 1999, consecrated in November 1999 and enthroned that same month. He went back to Kano as the Archdeacon of Kano and served in the Cathedral. He was in charge of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, and from there, was transferred back to St. Francis to be the Dean of St. Francis in 1999. When he was transferred to be the Dean of St. Francis he said “people agitated. Some of them complained about the way I was being treated, that it was a place of punishment.”
He recalled: “a delegation came to me that it was ready to fight for me. I looked at them and asked the businessman, “Can I come to your business and tell you how to treat those who are working for you?” I said to the worker, “You are a worker, can I come to your office and tell them how they should treat you?” I asked them, “If I want to resign today as a priest, can you keep me?” They said no.
“I said: “As far as this ministry is concerned, leave me alone. It is between the Lord and I. Even if the church leaders are making decisions that are not favourable to me, leave me alone. I am the servant of the Lord. Let God do what He wants to do with me, even if it means to punish me, to kill me, or to deal with me, leave me alone. Never you put your mouth again in anything that concerns my ministry and me. I am not looking for sympathy. I will go, I will do what God wants me to do. I will remain where He has sent me until He tells me to move.”
He said his wife has been quite supportive noting that he would have missed what God was planning for him if he had allowed people to fight for him. “I would have lost what God wanted to do in my life. So many ministers have lost their bearing, their calling, because they have followed men rather than obeying God, especially in the face of challenges.”
The primate said things were tough for him when he was Bishop in Gombe. “Being a pioneer, we started with nothing. There were people who promised to support, but nobody came forward to do anything. I came two or three times to see the former Primate, Most Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola. I begged him to tell me who these persons were. He said: “What you will need to build that diocese is in Gombe. Go back there and do your work. I will not beg any person.” I took him by his words. He is a mentor and a friend to me. I went back and the Lord proved Himself over and over again. By making God’s priority my priority, doing what I believed God wanted me to do and trusting Him to help, God did prove Himself. When we went to Gombe, we prayed and said: “Lord, give us people, raise people to build this place,” and the Lord did it. For every person that passed under our ministry, we made sure that our focus is on the Lord, on what God wants us to do and at the same time, being the best we can for Him, both in training and admonition.”
Ndukuba is the 5th Primate of the Church of Nigeria. The office had been occupied, since the inauguration of the Church of Nigeria as a Province of the Anglican Communion in 1979 by the Most Reverends Timothy Olufosoye (1979-1988), Joseph Adetiloye (1988-1999), Peter Akinola (2000-2010) and Nicholas Okoh (2010-2020).