Islamic Scholars pushed me to Jesus
By Gbenga Osinaike
By the time Ven. Banji Egbinola made a decision to go into priesthood; He did not hesitate to burn the bridge behind him. He walked away from a plum contract job with Agip Oil.
He had earlier worked in UAC computer department upon his return from the UK where he studied Computer Science and had resigned to run his own business.
But when God called him, he had to abandon the business as well as the contract from Shell. “God did not give me the option of selling the business. I simply gave all the properties connected with the business out and turned my back on it”, he said.
That was at the twilight of his decision to serve God as a priest in the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion. He retired on May 11, having clocked 70 years; the mandatory retirement age for priests in the Anglican Church. His last place of assignment was the Anglican Church of Resurrection, 1004, Victoria Island.
But the testimony is that he was not born into a Christian home and when he became a Christian; he did not start out as an Anglican. “I was a young man when I decided on my own to be a Christian. I was born to a Muslim cleric but he allowed me to be a Christian. My becoming a Christian is divine because I was so committed to the Islamic faith. At the age of 7; I was already calling prayers. I could recite a great portions of the Koran at the age of 12. But later in life I told my parents I wanted to be a Christian and they did not object.
Islamic scholars: They quote from the Bible
“What actually made me have interest in the Christian faith was because some Islamic teachers used to quote extensively from the Bible when they preach. Their constant reference to the Bible made me develop interest in Christianity.
“My parents thought I was going to Christianity for a while and come back so they did not bother me. But I fell into the hands of the Catholics and I was there for 31 years. I was still in the Catholic Church when I got married and had my children. But my wife was going to Anglican Church.”
But a change happened when on one occasion he followed his wife to the Anglican Church. It was during the Bazaar of the Church. He had opportunity of meeting the priest then who on impulse said he was going to be the chairman of the Harvest Committee.
“My mentor, The Very Revd Yinka Omololu was posted to the church of my wife and we went to welcome him to the church and I was introduced to him. Without much hesitation he said to me that I would be the chairman of the harvest committee. I told him I was not an Anglican. He said right from that day I had become an Anglican. That was 1993.”
Without hesitation, he became a member of the church. Egbinola’s romance with the Anglican Church created a deep hunger for God in him. ”I began to have a deep longing for the Bible. Because of the hunger to know more of God I attended Faith Theological Seminary in Ota. I was ordained a pastor at the second year of my training but had no congregation. I started enjoying being a Christian. It was after that I applied to the Anglican seminary. All this while I was just interested in knowing more about God.”
Looking back, Egbinola said the real change for him started with a hymn. When he was new in the Anglican Church, the hymn “More love to thee; More love to thee” meant so much to him. “That song impacted my spirit soul and body that I began to see reasons why I had to surrender my all to Jesus. Before that encounter, I had not known Christ intimately. While still savouring the impact of that song, I ventured to a friend’s place one night.
I got to Ojuelegba and checked the time it was 8.45pm. I decided not to go again because it was late. I just went to the bus to take another bus back home. When I took another bus to go back home I asked the time from a fellow commuter who told me it was just few minutes to 7, I was surprised at the way God stopped me from going to the friend’s place by making it look as if it was late. It was there I began to be a new person. I realized that the friend had the tendency to pull be back from my new found love for God. That was the day I surrendered my life to Christ. That brought the urge to serve God more.”
Since that time he had not looked back. While noting that it was quite challenging going full time, he said, “I had financial constraints. One thing I can recall vividly was when I could not meet domestic demands at home. There was a time my wife called me to share her experience of lack when I was in the seminary. That experience touched me a lot. But I had satisfaction and peace of mind.”
He said further, “As a Priest in the Anglican Church, the calling is beyond reading the Bible and preaching the word. It calls for a lot of commitment and dedication. I don’t switch off my phone. I’m always waiting to do God’s bidding and attend to people. I realized also that my family did not have the whole of me because of the care of the flock. But I had to find a way of balancing both the church and family so that none will suffer.
Blessed with successful children, Egbinola says his time in the Anglican Church as a priest was quite fruitful and rewarding. “God has a way of blessings his servants who serve him with sincerity. I do not have any cause to regret the decision I took to serve the Lord in the Anglican Communion though I had initially been ordained a pastor in the Faith Seminary in Ota. I believe that experience was not lost.’
Commenting on his experience in the church he said, “What I find out is that many church people respect their pastors so much. That made me to resolve not to misbehave as a priest. When I look at parishioners I look at what they are missing. I look at ways of being a help to them. Some parishioners believe I am arrogant because I don’t make demand from them but it’s just that I resolved not to be a burden to them. I once had encounter with the Lord in the dream where the Book of John 21 v 15 where Jesus asked Peter, loveth thou me than this was replayed to me. In my dream the Lord came to me and said to me, “feed my sheep”. I have been standing on that word since then.”
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Recalling an experience he said, “One of things that give me joy is the way my mother who is now 98 was miraculously healed while I was a priest in the Christ the King Anglican Church, Ajegunle Apapa. She was so sick that she could not do things on her own again. She could not go to the toilet on her own, she had difficulty sleeping. The doctors gave her drugs but the situation did not abate. But when she was brought to me while I was in that Church we organized prayer warriors to pray with her. She came out of the sickness miraculously thereafter.”
He counsels new entrants to priesthood “to endure and wait on the Lord all the time not minding what they may go through. They will laugh at last. Challenges are just for a while
Egbinola does not see himself tired. “I am still strong and I really look forward to do more in God’s vineyard not necessarily as a priest but in other ways.”