By Gbenga Osinaike
Though Emmanuel Ijegwa was teaching Christian Religious Knowledge in a school in Benue State, he did not have salvation experience. He was living his own life. Every day he consumed close to four packets of cigarettes and nobody would dare come near him to share the word of God.
But on February 1 1970 in the dead of the night when everybody around him had gone to sleep, a voice from heaven thundered in his direction. He was on the 14th stick of cigarette that night “I heard a clear voice from heaven. It was so clear that I was wondering where it was coming from. The voice said to me he would like to come and wash my heart. Initially I thought my neighbour was playing a prank on me.”
He soon found out that it was not his neighbour but a strange voice from where he could not fathom. The voice came back again and requested that he be allowed to wash his heart. This time he obliged and soon after, the voice said he had washed his heart “And from that moment the voice said I was not permitted to smoke again because if do, I would grieve him and he won’t be able to stay in my body.”
From that moment, Ijegwe quit smoking. The following day it dawned on him that Jesus was the one talking to him. He lost the appetite for cigarette. Students who came to pick his things for school were surprised that packets of cigarettes were not among the things they were taking to school and were soon shocked to realize he was not smoking in school. They thought he was sick.
They came to ask if he was sick because he was not smoking. He said he was not and then seized the opportunity to share the gospel and to tell them of his discovery the previous night. That day some teachers and the students surrendered their lives to Jesus
But the devil would not let go. When he got home that evening the devil tried to encourage him to go back smoking. He actually walked to the point of buying cigarette but as he was about buying the deadly stick; the Holy Spirit warned him and he retreated immediately. But the woman selling the cigarette thought he didn’t have money to buy and she offered him credit. But he declined. That was the last time he ever tried to interact with the poison.
When it was clear the devil could not dissuade him from the decision to quit smoking he went about preaching the gospel around the village. The Bible became a living book for him. His spirit was rejoicing. He soon faced persecutions from his employers. There were attempts to break his spirit and kill him by evil men in the village who felt threatened by his new found faith. But such attempts failed.
“There were several attacks on my life. I was just preaching the gospel. I was denounced by my employers and I was nicknamed the small Martin Luther” he said.
He joined Christian Evangelical Fellowship of Nigeria in Kogi State where he served until he had the leading to start his own ministry known as Bethel Evangelical Ministries based in Dopemu area of Lagos, Nigeria.
Ijegwe who spent about 28 years in his former church sees himself more as a missionary evangelist, “The church is meant to evangelize the world. I have been going for outreaches in Benue and some other parts of the country. The result has been quite encouraging.” He however noted that the poverty outside Lagos is unbelievable
The BEM overseer has also had to live by faith. “There are times I have and there are times I don’t have. “The Bible School where I taught was Faith Bible College and when I was teaching there I was not paid a dime. We were encouraged to live by faith. There was a time I did not eat for four days because I did not have money. And I was praising God during this time. We were trained not to be conscious of money and wealth. God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s blessings.”
Confessing that he has received God’s favour in many areas of life he described as unfortunate the quest for power and position in the church today. “You have to suffer because of the gospel. Things people will give you ordinarily they will not give you because of your faith. If you prove to be a good Christian it is either they kill you or relieve you of your position,” He said.