Dr. Felicia Chinyere Priest is a Nigerian missionary resident in Nairobi Kenya. About two years ago, she had an out of the body experience where Jesus shared some life truth with her. She narrates her experience with Church Times Nigeria and also talked about her Ph.D dissertation findings on why some Igbos are now embracing Islam.
How did you come to know Jesus as your Lord and personal saviour?
I came to know the Lord through a book written by Emmanuel Eni. The man was in the occult before he encountered Jesus. In the book Eni tells the story of a man who was miraculously delivered from where he was kept by some kidnappers. There was a strange hand that came to unlock the room where the kidnappers kept the man to make way for him to escape. That story made a lot of meaning to me and I began to ask question about the power of God and his ability to deliver. It then dawned on me that God still delivers as in the time of old. I was in secondary school then. After reading the book I went to one of my school teachers to make inquiries about God. It was the teacher who later led me to Christ.
So how then did you come to become a missionary?
Well while in secondary school I became fervent in the service of the Lord and was at a point the president of the Christian fellowship. I remember some of us did not go home after we had vacated. We stayed behind to pray and seek the face of God concerning our future. We had a three-day retreat. It was in that retreat that the Lord told me he had called me to be a missionary. But I did not put it to heart as such. I got a job with a university and was being encouraged to pursue secular education. In the process I fell ill and the Lord visited me in the hospital and reminded me of his call upon my life. That was when I changed my mind on my personal ambition and embraced what the Lord had for me. I went to Wesley Bible College which later changed to WATS for my training in missions. And here we are today.
So you went to missions as a single lady?
Yes. I was in my 20s. I was on short term missions. I served in Liberia, served among the Koma people in Northern Nigeria . I served in Sudan and several other places through missions’ agency like Capro. But I got married in 2008 before going to Sudan.
So cumulatively for how long have you been on the missions’ field and what has been the experience?
Since 2001. It’s been quite a while. I find it fulfilling. I feel comfortable when I go to missions’ field sharing the gospel with people that I am not familiar with and leading them to know Christ. I was happy helping out on the farms with some rural dwellers. There had been some risks though but God has been faithful. God had delivered me from being molested in some cases. I see people with great potentials and future on the missions’ field but the environment they find themselves have been the great hindrance for many of them.
Because many are not educated in those rural areas they do a lot of things in ignorance and this can be painful. Some end up marrying early. In Nigeria for instance there are people who have not gone beyond their hamlets and villages. They don’t even know what is called Nigeria. Some of the Koma people live on the mountain. Some live on the plain. They still go about with leaves covering their body as at the time I was there. Though light is coming to many of these places the challenges are still enormous and places to reach are still many. The interesting thing is that some of them have great intellect. It’s just that they don’t have access to modern facilities. The Koma people were usually on the farm and they come to church at night.
Particularly, what was your experience in Sudan?
While in Sudan we worked with Sudanese Church of Christ. We train indigenous missionaries. There are some of the people who were into witchcraft and the Lord delivered them. There was a case of a woman who was supposed to undergo operation but God delivered her and set her free miraculously that she did not have to do the surgery.
What would you regard as the greatest need on the missions field?
The greatest need on the missions is people need. Also there is lack of support. Some who have decided to go don’t have support. Many missionaries have their family back at home but nobody is supporting them. Finance is a major issue. There are no funds to sponsor and empower people on the field. Education is power. But it is a scarce commodity on the field.
Have you at any point been disappointed and wanted to give up your call?
There were days I got discouraged and sometimes wondered what was going on. There were times I felt lonely. You know what it means to stay in a strange land. But the Lord has been faithful. He has seen us through the challenges.
You live in Nairobi, Kenya still as a missionary?
Yes. But this time round we work among the responsive people. I did my Phd at the African International University in Kenya. So beyond the missions I am into training and academics.
Now let us talk about your out of body experience. What really happened?
It happened in 2016. I used to have severe pain in my abdomen. After all the tests the doctors said I had ovarian cyst and was given an option between operating it or taking drugs that would shrink it. It was supposed to be a minor surgery so I opted for the surgical option. I underwent the surgery with faith that all would be well. After the operation things took a different turn. I began to feel some headache when I gained consciousness. I also began to feel great discomfort. If I drank water I would vomit it. Whatever I ate I would vomit.
The doctors then decided to take me back to the theatre so they could go to the root of the problem. It was not up to 24 hours that I had to be wheeled back to the theatre. They discovered that my colon was perforated so air was entering my stomach and whatever I took would spill into my entire system. So they had to carry out another surgery that lasted for hours to correct the anomaly.
I was on gadget for two weeks after the second surgery. I was in a bad shape. I was living on oxygen and was lying down in a particular position. I was not eating. Eventually I saw my spirit coming out of my body while lying on the bed. I saw that I came out of my body and suddenly I saw Jesus held me as if he was trying to catch a baby.
Immediately I started praying and asking him to allow me see my family and made all kinds of plea. But Jesus began to show me the resentment in my heart, the anger, the pain that had welled within me. I was surprised I had such intense anger in me. I knew I was angry at the doctors for what they did to me by messing up the first surgery. But it was not as it was being presented to me by the Lord. It was presented in such an intense way that I began to wonder at my anger.
The Lord began to name some sins. Impatience, fear, anxiety were named to my hearing several times. After that he showed me a throne that was covered with thick smoke. He also showed me how somebody had anger towards me in the world. When I came back to consciousness I had to send a message to that person to seek for forgiveness. That showed me Jesus is concerned when people are angry towards us. It brought to mind the scriptures that when your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar and reconcile with your brother before coming to present your gift.
After that I saw the Love of Jesus. I began to see the magnitude of the love of Jesus. It is indescribable. The Love of Jesus is intense. The knowledge of his love that we have is not comparable with the kind of love that I saw in that encounter. I found out that Jesus is concerned about those who are grieving. He brought up my late sister in-law. She loved Jesus but died in a ghastly motor accident. I had dreamt she died and I did not know it would happen. But it happened anyway. Some people were saying she was attacked by a witch in her father’s house. Jesus brought her up. Jesus told me no devil can kill any child of God if the time of that child of God is not up. He then made me understand that when we die we should realise that it is time. My sister in-law’s death was a shock to me. So when Jesus brought her up and we had the conversation, it was a good way of healing my pain. Jesus is concerned about our grief. He is the father of all comfort.
After giving me assurance on the loss of loved ones he began to take me towards hell and I said to him I do not want to see hell and that I believed all I had read in the book of Revelation. He stopped and turned. I made that request because I was scared I would see those that I know in hell. He began to give me instructions and he asked me to withdraw from an academic group I belonged to in the university. I was doing a research on the issue of witchcraft and I had joined a team to carry out the research. The Lord asked me to withdraw from the group.
I saw children in the encounter and they were looking up to me for answer. It was Jesus’ way of making me realise I have a great role to play in the lives of children. He then told me he would engrave my experiences in my heart at the end of the encounter. That is why I was able to recall what happened later after my healing. Back in the hospital the doctors were still battling to save my life. Because I was not responding to treatment they were planning to take me to the theatre for surgery for the third time. But as God would have it, I passed out gas and later became conscious. The doctors were so happy. I became conscious of my surrounding. But I lost my memory anyway and did not know anything again. I was asking questions about people. I could not recognise my husband again. I did not even know myself. I was misbehaving and exhibiting all kinds of funny traits. But gradually I came back to my senses. It took me eight months to come out of the whole trauma after I became conscious.
For the purpose of emphasis, would you call your experience an out of the body experience or just a vision of the night?
The fact is that I saw my spirit leave my body. I saw the other body there and saw that I was conversing with Jesus with another body. Before I used to think and question some of the experiences of people who go to hell and heaven. But I have stopped questioning those experiences because it is their experiences and not my experience. I know that my experience is true. But sometimes we don’t believe because our human mind can’t comprehend what we are being told. Scriptures is our standard to test some of these experiences. The Bible says we should test the spirit whether they are true.
So what has been the outcome of your experience since 2016?
What happened to me brought revival to those around me. When people visit me there was a way God would tell me about those people and people were glad when a word of knowledge is revealed about them. It has also made me to be deliberate in my walk with children. I have been walking with children but the experience helped me to be more intentional. The experience has also made me realise that Jesus is also interested in our vocation. In that encounter, Jesus warned me to be focused on what brought me to the university. It made me understand that Jesus is interested in what we study. My dissertation topic while doing my Phd was on why some Igbos are abandoning the Christian faith.
For the benefit of our readers, what has been your findings as documented in your dissertation?
What I found out are many. Just for this purpose I would say many of them who go to Islam feel this fatigue and feel like trying something new. For them they feel that Islam makes more sense because they can’t comprehend the issue of trinity in the Christian faith. Islam makes the issue of God clearer to them in the sense that there is no go-between like we have in the Christian faith where we talk about Jesus being the mediator between man and God. So their lack of understanding of trinity made them go to Islam.
Some can’t understand the kind of life that fellow believers live. They can’t understand the lack of love among brethren and easily fall to the love being shown to them my Muslims. For instance a woman kept being paid what they were paying her husband when her husband died. They were people who were converted to Islam. Her husband was involved in some work for the Muslim community. If they were Christians and her husband was working within the church, she believed she would have been pushed out of the system. So they feel widows are not being given adequate care in the Christian faith unlike what obtains in Islam. Some of them have been discouraged by sundry dues. Many of the people going back to Islam are from Catholics, Anglican and the Pentecostals.
Some can’t understand this idea of not carrying out burial service to those who died because some church dues had not been paid. But that does not happen in Islam. There is a place in Afikpo. It has the largest Islamic centre in Nigeria. And they give free education to indigenes. There is a school owned by an orthodox church in that same area. Some natives in that land can’t afford the school. So many of them gravitate to the Islamic school. It was Brother Gbile Akanni that had to buy acres of land in that area and built a free school for the children. So now there is a reversal. Some of them are coming back.
Some of them said they had encounter where they saw Jesus using the prayer bead. It’s a misconception to think Igbos who become Muslims do so because of money. That is not the primary reason for some of them. Majority have sundry other reasons for abandoning the Christian faith. My findings also revealed that more men are being converted to Islam. A good number of women who got converted do so because of marriage.
Some of them when they become Muslims experience change by adhering to works. You know Islam emphasises work. So they actually see change in behaviour and become truthful and honest. I think my findings should make the church wake up. We need to stop all the ceremonies we do in church which do not build believers and go to basics of disciple making. We need to disciple our children and teach them the basics of faith.