By Alexander Ogheneruemu
This past second week of August was specially marked by the Olubodun family of Odeda Local Government, Obantoko, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
It was the birth anniversary of their son, uncle, husband, father, and grandfather, Chief Olugbemi Williams Olubodun – who recently clocked 68th.
The celebrations and expression of gratitude came to a climax on Sunday, August 13 with a special thanksgiving service at the African Church, Odeda, Abeokuta.
Indeed, the story of Chief Olubodun, a deaf farm boy turned Doctor of Philosophy reflects that of the proverbial “cat with nine lives”. What’s more, in a spectacular synchrony of names and meaning, the life of this enigma whose middle name, “Olugbemi” (translates as “God supports me”) is a self-fulfilling prophecy of how he would be extraordinarily helped by Providence through his odyssey with an amazing lived experience rich in Divine interventions.
This writer had the opportunity of one-on-one interaction with him in the build-up to the occasion of his 68th birthday Thanksgiving celebrations.
The celebrant, during the interview, overflowed with gratitude as he reminisced on the circumstances of his nearly seven decades of life – the high point of which was its effusive display of contentment from a truly grateful heart. And the Egba chief would reinforce this with a number of uncanny recollections the essence of which can only be correctly evaluated by extrasensory minds.
His is a truly chequered and charmed life (fuller details available in his autobiography “Odyssey of a Deaf farm boy”).
I use the words contentment and gratitude because this retired senior staff of the United States Immigration Service measures success and fulfillment, not by yardsticks of being super rich or living a flashy lifestyle but by a sombre acknowledgment of the more enduring factors that propelled his rise to the peak of academic and career success when he has all but was being written off.
Indeed, one of the things that struck my attention on that visit is the modest lifestyle of the chivalrous chief. Though he has the means for a life of relative opulence, he chose to invest in humanity.
When I asked if he was in the habit of celebrating birthdays or if there was something special about this particular 68th landmark, I got humbling responses that give helpful insights into the workings of the man’s mind. One word aptly describes it: “Gratitude”. Here’s a man who truly knows where he’s coming from and never forgets the circumstances that got him to where he is today.
Incidentally, this is his first marked birth celebration since his relocation from the United States to his Odeda, Abeokuta hometown after his retirement a few years ago. Olubodun says he was particularly moved to mark this one distinctly.
Counting his core blessings with an infectious sense of appreciation, the suave sexagenarian says: “I felt a strong urge within to celebrate, to give thanks to God”. He continues, “Today, I am a retiree but don’t have to worry about sustenance. I have a system in place to enjoy my retirement. I have my own house, food, and good clothing. I eat when, and what I want. I am healthy and blessed with children, grandchildren, and relatives who are doing well in their various pursuits. Tell me, if these aren’t more than enough reasons to be grateful”.
The one-time farm boy who now holds a Ph.D. and contentedly retired from a civil service career is careful to ascribe all his achievements to orchestrations of Divine Providence.
This largely explains his decision to go back to his African Church root for an emotional thanksgiving service for a fulfilled life.
Just about every part of the service – the sermon and hymns, the prayers and exhortations – centered on the themes of thanksgiving and the workings of Providence this unknown journey called life.
Bible text for the sermon was taken from Psalm 103 with references to Psalm 34:1, 41:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, etc. From the scriptures, the congregation was charged to bless the Lord at all times (good and bad)… and forget not all his benefits. It was particularly moving listening to the officiating minister weave the day’s topic around the celebrant’s life story, using his attitude of gratitude and faith-inspired push in scaling the odds encountered in his lived experience as a deaf person to inspire worshippers to a lifestyle of thanksgiving and an unwavering faith in Providence’s uncanny skill to bring out sweet outcomes from bitter realities.
Another special highlight of the service was the rendition of selected hymns for the occasion. There was a visible glow on the celebrant’s face while his favorite Yoruba hymns were sung. In eerie fashion, the spirit and letter of the hymns resonated with the lived odyssey of the man – touching emotional chords that run the gamut of the past, present and anticipated future of an awe-inspiring journey of faith.
Triumph of hard work
Indeed, the story of this man is a repertoire of the triumph of sheer will, hard work, determination, and the God factor. Yet it is incomplete without including at least one of his favorite hymns.
See lyrics and English equivalent below:
Aigbagbo bila! Temi l’Oluwa. On o si dide fun igbala mi; Ki nsa ma gbadura, On o se ranwo: ‘Gba Krist wa lodo mi, ifoiya ko si.
B’ona mi mi ba su, on l’o sa nto mi, Ki nsa gboran sa, On o si pese; Bi iranlowo eba gbogba saki, Oro t’enu Re so y’o bori dandan.
Ife t’o nfi han, ko je ki nro pe. Y’o fi mi sile ninu wahala; Iranwo ti mo si nri lojojumo, O nki mi laiya pe, emi o la ja.
Begone, unbelief, My Savior is near, And for my relief will surely appear; by prayer let me wrestle, and He will perform, with Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.
Though dark be my way, since He is my Guide, ’tis mine to obey, ’tis His to provide; Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail, the word He hath spoken shall surely prevail.
His love, in time past, forbids me to think, He’ll leave me at last, in trouble to sink: Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through
It is this kind of confidence, drawn from past and present infallibility of Divine love that continues to embolden the man as he steps into the relatively new territory of retirement years.
As 2Corinthians 1:10 affirms: “who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us”
Copies of Dr Williams Olugbemi Olubodun’s captivating story “Odyssey of a Deaf Farm Boy” can be gotten via SMS or WhatsApp to 08062397128.