Rev. Odinakachi Okereke is an Anglican priest, a missionary who has traversed a number of churches in the 20 years of his service in the Church. He shares his experience with Church Times Nigeria in an online interview. Below are excerpts:
Congratulations on your 20 years of priesthood in the Anglican Church. Kindly give us a brief run-down of your background?
Thanks so much, it’s not actually 20 years of priesthood, but 20 years of missionary work in the Anglican Church. That is both as a commissioned evangelist for 13 years and a priest for 7 years. Throughout this period I was doing rural missionary work.
I’m from Umunohu Nsu in Ehime Mbano LGA of IMO state. I was trained at St. Andrews School of Missions and Trinity Theological College Umuahia. By God’s grace, I have been a missionary to Abuja Diocese, Evo Diocese, Arochukwu Ohafia Diocese, Ahuda Diocese, Niger Delta North and Northern Izon Diocese and now Okigwe South Diocese, I’ve also done missionary works in Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and South India. I am
married to evangelist Mrs. Goodness Okereke, who is also a missionary. Our marriage is blessed with five wonderful children. Four girls namely Divinemercy, Divinefavour, Gospel, Godbest and a boy SAMUEL.
What in the first place informed your being a priest?
It is my passion to touch lives, especially those who are forgotten or abandoned. I believe that every Child of God has a responsibility to save the lost. We need to revive that burden in the church. We were saved so we could save others.
What were your life ambitions in your growing up years?
As a little boy in the Anglican Children Ministry and latter Anglican Youth Fellowship I loved the things of God so much that I was living with almost every pastor posted to our local church. I remembered an incident while in the seminary school when I left school without permission to attend a program and before I could return, the principal had prepared my expulsion letter but fell sick after that. When I got to school they told me that the principal had decided to expel me by Monday, so I ran to his house with fear but on reaching there I was told that the principal was very ill, so I went in, laid hands on him and prayed seriously for God to heal him and by Monday morning he came to the chapel to tell everyone the testimony of his healing through my prayer instead of announcing my expulsion from school. So I had always loved to stay around anything that has to do with God.
You started off in Abuja as a priest. What were your initial experiences?
My first year in ministry in Abuja Diocese was very tough, because I started in a community called Mabishi. The small community though situated very close to the city, was the home of criminals and prostitutes. They dealt with me. I remember an incident where I went into the makeshift bathroom to bathe in front of the vicarage, only for the harlots to remove all my clothing and towel hanged on the bathroom and were outside there laughing at me since according to them I’m behaving as if I’m the first pastor to come there. Again in 2000 I came home one day to discover that the then FCT minister had demolished both the vicarage I lived and the church the same day. These were times I cannot easily forget in my missionary journey.
You have pastored 17 churches in 19 years. That sounds really incredible. That means you pastored an average of one church for one year. Why such high mobility?
Yes, 17 churches in 19 years. You know as a missionary, most of the Bishops will want to use you to either revive the church or move to the next church. There are times they want you to plant a new church, strengthen it and move to the next one. So I never spent two years in any particular church except my last church in Bayelsa where I spent exactly two years.
You have worked mostly in the south south and in the north. In what way will you describe the people in these places and their commitment to church work?
Most of the communities I worked in the North, were places where the gospel was still very strange, if not new at that time. But when I was in Bayelsa for instance, their over familiarity with the gospel was a major challenge, coupled with many years of pastoral neglect of the people in the place.
It’s interesting to note that you have also been involved in planting churches. What has been your experience in this regard?
I love church planting so much because with it everyone will have access to a nearby congregation to worship.
Though church planting is not that simple but when properly done it can set the church on a very good foundation to grow very fast.
What is your strength in the ministry and what has been the challenges that have confronted you so far?
By the grace of God, I’m a teacher and a deliverance minister which has helped me a lot in ministry.
I’m also a music minister which is a very important ingredients in church growth.
Read also: WHY I LEFT RCCG FOR ANGLICAN-ARCHBISHOP AKINYEMI…MY TOUGH BATTLE WITH OGBONI CULThttps://churchtimesnigeria.net/why-i-left-rccg-for-anglican-archbishop-akinyemi-my-tough-battle-with-ogboni-cult/
Having to move to many churches in a space of 20 years one begins to wonder how you and your family coped. Kindly tell us how you carried your family along in the missionary journey?
Yearly transfers have been a major problem for my family, especially my children who were changing schools almost every year, but I’m very lucky to marry a wife who is also a passionate missionary and that made the situation a bit easy
Tell us about your South India experience?
My south India experience was a great one. Had outreaches in 32 communities. Seeing Hindu worshippers coming to give their lives to Christ gave me great joy. I escaped assassination two times and had to eat strange foods for weeks.
What is the state of Christianity in South India
Christianity in India is gradually growing and if more missionaries continue to go there, soon many Indians will be converted to Christ.
You were also in Togo. What was the experience and how strong is the Anglican Church there?
As at 2004, you could hardly find any Anglican church in Togo, I don’t know about now.
Moving from one diocese to the other you must have experienced different bishops. What is it like with all the Bishops you worked with?
One my greatest gains in mission is the opportunity to work with many bishops. I learnt so much from all of them, but late Bishop Anga Fred Nyenabo, who took me to Bayelsa, made so much impact in my life family and ministry. He was like a Father to me.
You planted 11 churches. How is it about planting churches and what has been the experience?
Planting new churches in different communities requires different strategies and approach, so it gives you the opportunity to do a lot of mappings, research and prayers. It also helps you to do a lot of networking and team play
What is the state of the churches you planted?
To the Glory of God, most of the churches I planted are doing very well except two of them that I’ve not been able to follow their development closely. But the remaining 9, I’m always being updated about them. I still visit some of them once in a while.
What were your high moments in the last 20 years of ministry?
My experience in a community called Zigakuchi in Buwary area council of Abuja, where no member of the church could speak even pidgin English nor Hausa. But God gave me the grace to communicate with them through signs until I was able to raise an indigenous helper from there whom we trained and sent back to be their pastor when I left. It was also from there that I left for foreign missions.
Another one is the church that started in my parlour in Eleme Port Harcourt that grew within weeks to become the envy of many pastors. There are so many of them that I can’t mention here.
Did you face any attack, near death experience? How did you survive?
Yes, so many near death experience. In year 2000 I was in a bus from Abuja to Owerri. Few minutes to departure the Holy Spirit asked me to change to another bus, I forfeited my money and entered another bus and mid-way to the journey the first bus had a terrible accident that claimed about 37 passengers. 2001, I was sent to prison for two weeks, went to Court for 1 year. In 2003, a woman gave me the worse beating of my life for preaching to her daughter and I was hospitalized for 3 days.
In 2004, I escaped assassination twice in India but God gave me miraculous escape. In 2005, I was in a bus that summersaulted three times but I came out unhurt. 2010 I was seriously beaten in Bayelsa. In that community my third daughter was sick for 1 year and 3 months.
In 2011, my entire family escaped a speed boat mishap.
2012, I was beaten again in another community in Bayelsa. In 2015, my 20 year-old boy leaving with me drowned in the river in Bayelsa.
What are striking lessons in your 20 years of doing ministry in the church?
One major lesson I’ve learned all these years is that God’s work done His way does not lack His provision
Having moved around a lot, what would be your recommendations for the Anglican Church?
I sincerely will recommend centralized payment for all Anglican clergy. Full recognition for the five-fold ministry in our church so as to encourage full time lay ministry. The church should invest more in our youths and make welfare a major part of our churches annual budget. The church should also translate Bishops after 10 years. Intra diocesan transfers for the clergy within their province should be encouraged.
What has the movement to all these churches and meeting with all kinds of people done to you as a person?
Moving around so much has made me de-tribalized and given me more passion for the unreached