Amuda Isuochi at best can be described as a village. Set on a plateau in the rolling ranges of Umunneochi LGA in former Okigwe in the Eastern part of Nigeria, it is a boisterous town of beautiful people with equally beautiful heart. Their historic hospitality dates back to the fore fathers whose fame was legendary within the area. Predominantly a pagan community as it was the case in those days; they had their system of law and order which, in the main, bordered on moral ethics. Their system of governance was essentially on a seniority ranking which of course took great cognizance of a person’s moral standing in society. The white men came and brought their system of government which in their wisdom at the time was better served by blending it with the traditional order of leadership selection. The church fought a hard battle in winning converts, as it was a struggle. Education followed along with church to give colouration to the entire picture.

As this cross cultural conflict raged on in my home town, in 1937, I found myself in the embrace of Egbo Esiobu, a warrant Chief, and his wife; Ukaegbu, amongst two earlier wives. As Chief, my father was wealthy by the standards of those days. Having that number of wives (another was to follow later on) meant children aplenty. Living was communal, in the zinc house and the expansive ancestral compound, so I knew the love of parents, brothers and sisters. Indeed in those days, our unity was legendary and the envy of many within our immediate environs. It was hard to believe that we had different mothers as we fetched water and wood together. Woe betides you if you should fight any family member. It would be fight without end. The others would team up in defense.

Even though my father doubled as customary court judge then and mingled with the white district officer, it was hard to convert him to Christ. He let his wives and children go to church, since his exposure to the advantages of the Whiteman’s ways had caught up with him.

However, a turning point came in his life when his first son, Ramsey, whom he had even named after a certain Whiteman came home from school one day and died mysteriously. Even though there was no hospital then in the neighborhoods, as such no autopsy was done; everyone believed the young boy had been poisoned.

This event made so tremendous an impact on the chief that at a time he contemplated withdrawing all his children from school. Common sense later he prevailed. But he thought of how to secure us (his children) to some extent. That was how I came to live with my teacher; Mr. Ette Inyang, the games master, a talented footballer. He influenced me a lot. I took to playing football while not forgetting my main hobby which was athletics. I could run real fast in those days; a talent which my brothers and sisters knew well. I would taunt, beat, joke and flee. I soon discovered that football needed speed. I excelled in this game and with this, fame came in school. I was popular in school for reasons of sports and birth. To crown this, I was appointed head boy of one of the houses.

The school at Isuochi was founded by the Methodist Church which was the very first church to arrive Isuochi. Every scholar attended the Methodist Church as a rule. Oh, how they sang hymns in those days!

In 1954, with all these thrills, the thought of leaving behind my mentor and the amiable headmaster Mr. R.W. Iteke, who loved me dearly, was painful. I had by that time passed entrance into two post primary schools: one at Arondizuogu and another at Enugu. I chose to go to Enugu. I had two other mates when who made the same choice as I had made and we prepared with great expectation. At that time, I had a wealthy cousin who was a merchant, who, thrilled by my performance at school had notified my father that he was going to be responsible for my education thenceforth. On that promise, my father relaxed and made no provisions for me.

The unexpected happened the morning we were to board the bus that would take us on the first leg of our journey to Enugu. The bus would leave by 6a.m and my two other friends had slept with me to make our departure to the bus loading point easy. At about 5a.m, my wealthy merchant cousin arrived in our compound and instead of bringing me the expected promised money and other provisions, he announced that he was sorry he wouldn’t make good his promise. That, at the eleventh hour! That meant that my mates had to go to Enugu without me. My father and other members of the household were shocked beyond words. For me it was like waking from a nightmare.

I understood my father’s despair and since I had lost the chance of attending this all important interview and registration, I made up my mind that “to Enugu I must go”. At that point, it did not matter what was in Enugu for a young school leaver like me at the time. A few days later, having assembled my few belongings and unable to withstand the humiliation from probing villagers, I left home.

Amuda Isuochi at best can be described as a village. Set on a plateau in the rolling ranges of Umunneochi LGA in former Okigwe in the Eastern part of Nigeria, it is a boisterous town of beautiful people with equally beautiful heart. Their historic hospitality dates back to the fore fathers whose fame was legendary within the area. Predominantly a pagan community as it was the case in those days; they had their system of law and order which, in the main, bordered on moral ethics. Their system of governance was essentially on a seniority ranking which of course took great cognizance of a person’s moral standing in society. The white men came and brought their system of government which in their wisdom at the time was better served by blending it with the traditional order of leadership selection. The church fought a hard battle in winning converts, as it was a struggle. Education followed along with church to give colouration to the entire picture.

As this cross cultural conflict raged on in my home town, in 1937, I found myself in the embrace of Egbo Esiobu, a warrant Chief, and his wife; Ukaegbu, amongst two earlier wives. As Chief, my father was wealthy by the standards of those days. Having that number of wives (another was to follow later on) meant children aplenty. Living was communal, in the zinc house and the expansive ancestral compound, so I knew the love of parents, brothers and sisters. Indeed in those days, our unity was legendary and the envy of many within our immediate environs. It was hard to believe that we had different mothers as we fetched water and wood together. Woe betides you if you should fight any family member. It would be fight without end. The others would team up in defense.

Even though my father doubled as customary court judge then and mingled with the white district officer, it was hard to convert him to Christ. He let his wives and children go to church, since his exposure to the advantages of the Whiteman’s ways had caught up with him.

However, a turning point came in his life when his first son, Ramsey, whom he had even named after a certain Whiteman came home from school one day and died mysteriously. Even though there was no hospital then in the neighborhoods, as such no autopsy was done; everyone believed the young boy had been poisoned.

This event made so tremendous an impact on the chief that at a time he contemplated withdrawing all his children from school. Common sense later he prevailed. But he thought of how to secure us (his children) to some extent. That was how I came to live with my teacher; Mr. Ette Inyang, the games master, a talented footballer. He influenced me a lot. I took to playing football while not forgetting my main hobby which was athletics. I could run real fast in those days; a talent which my brothers and sisters knew well. I would taunt, beat, joke and flee. I soon discovered that football needed speed. I excelled in this game and with this, fame came in school. I was popular in school for reasons of sports and birth. To crown this, I was appointed head boy of one of the houses.

The school at Isuochi was founded by the Methodist Church which was the very first church to arrive Isuochi. Every scholar attended the Methodist Church as a rule. Oh, how they sang hymns in those days!

In 1954, with all these thrills, the thought of leaving behind my mentor and the amiable headmaster Mr. R.W. Iteke, who loved me dearly, was painful. I had by that time passed entrance into two post primary schools: one at Arondizuogu and another at Enugu. I chose to go to Enugu. I had two other mates when who made the same choice as I had made and we prepared with great expectation. At that time, I had a wealthy cousin who was a merchant, who, thrilled by my performance at school had notified my father that he was going to be responsible for my education thenceforth. On that promise, my father relaxed and made no provisions for me.

The unexpected happened the morning we were to board the bus that would take us on the first leg of our journey to Enugu. The bus would leave by 6a.m and my two other friends had slept with me to make our departure to the bus loading point easy. At about 5a.m, my wealthy merchant cousin arrived in our compound and instead of bringing me the expected promised money and other provisions, he announced that he was sorry he wouldn’t make good his promise. That, at the eleventh hour! That meant that my mates had to go to Enugu without me. My father and other members of the household were shocked beyond words. For me it was like waking from a nightmare.

I understood my father’s despair and since I had lost the chance of attending this all important interview and registration, I made up my mind that “to Enugu I must go”. At that point, it did not matter what was in Enugu for a young school leaver like me at the time. A few days later, having assembled my few belongings and unable to withstand the humiliation from probing villagers, I left home.

When my two friends who slept with me later left with tears, I too burst into tears. I tore all the school apparatuses that had been bought for me. Misery and death threatened my life. The world began to be meaningless to me. I tried to kill myself but couldn’t.

One day, I decided to go to Enugu where one of my sisters was living with her husband. I had little money but I had never crossed Okigwe in my life before. I hired a cyclist for 3 pence to go to Oji and paid off the bicycle rider. What I had left was one penny. The driver called Ibe Isiba, who is now an elder in the church, saw me and asked me where I was going. I told him “Enugu.”

“Is all well?” he asked me.

“All is well,” I replied.

He asked me to enter the jeep. I entered and he drove off. When I got to Oji junction, he dropped me. The confusion then was that I didn’t know my way to Enugu. Remember I had only one penny left with me.

I stayed at Oji junction for several hours, and later I saw one man called Mbonu; brother to my father’s first wife. He shouted and called me by name and asked me what I was doing there. I said I wanted to see him. He took me with him. We got to his house at Oji, a one room apartment. He catered for me and fed me. Later I told him that I wanted a job. He tried and got me a job at Leper Colony as a labourer to demolish old concrete foundations. We are about 20 labourers in all. After a day’s work, my fingers and hands were swollen. My host was scared and took me the following day to the site and they paid me off: one shilling, six pence. That was the pay for a day’s job. After many days without an alternative, I decided to proceed to Enugu from Oji since the road was now well described. After spending about three weeks at Oji, I left for Enugu with only six pence.

It took me five hours to get a vehicle that would take me to Enugu and accept a fare of six pence. The man I was staying with had already bidden me goodbye. Around six in the evening, I flagged down one lorry carrying coal. The driver charged me one shilling but I told him that I had only six pence. He pitied me and asked me to come in. When we got to Nkwoagu Udi, it was night. He branched into Umuabi Udi. There, in front of a deadly juju, the driver went naked with so many others dancing juju dance with other rituals. I thought it was the end of my life.

We finally boarded again and proceeded. I was later to understand that the driver was a native and it was customary for him to associate with his local masqueraders. When we got to Enugu, it was already late in the night. I was arriving a new setting in far away Enugu at night! Later, through the assistance of the lorry driver and others, found my way to my sister’s address. My brother-in-law, Mr. Joe Halliday, received me with mixed feeling. While rejoicing with other members of his household for my safe arrival, he knew I had run away from home and not wanting to incur the wrath of my father, he quickly suggested that I prepare to return to Isuochio soonest. He was embarking on a journey to Omoba by train the next day. As he was leaving, he handed me the transport fare back to Isuochi – all these just within hours of my arrival. I was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, as the saying goes. That was the beginning of my trouble in Enugu. Deep down inside of me, I knew I was rather to choose death than return to Isuochi unaccomplished. In the period he was gone on his tour, I was at loss on what to do.

Days passed and my sister who held her husband in such awe didn’t know what to do with my case. It was within this period of days that another townsman of mine by name Charles Achugbu, who was a big man in the firm of E. M Michelleti and Sons heard that I was in Enugu, apparently through my sister. He knew my father well, and was ready to help. He invited me to his office and offered me a job as a motor boy attached to an Austin Tipper, number E III that brought in sand and stones to building sites. I was placed on a salary of £I.I per month. Though I didn’t do manual labour, I followed the vehicle daily on its rounds, recording our performance, and assisting the driver when he had need of it. I also collected and deposited the key and particulars of the lorry with our master at the end of each day.

When my in-law returned, hell was let loose as he discovered I hadn’t gone. I then informed him of my new job. If he was pleased he didn’t show it. He was silent.

Since the driver saw me as “Oga’s brother” he treated me with love. Because of this, in our spare time he took me on driving lessons. This continued for a long time. By the time I spent my first three months; I had applied for and obtained a driving license. Not knowing how my master, Achugbu, would feel about my new status, I proceeded to inform him of it. He, contrary to all my expectations, received the news with cheers and decided there and then that he would buy me a taxi. My joy knew no bound when he made good his promise. I quickly went to work with my new 103 Peugeot. At least I was making a living and all seemed well.

I become quite popular in town. I was always clean and courteous to my passengers. Not knowing what next to do, I continued on my job with hope. My in-law who knew the stuff l was made of introduced me to the regent correspondence college of London. With my little savings, I applied. I again went and notified my master and mentor, Achugbu. Once again he demonstrated rare understanding. He graciously permitted me to close daily at 8p.m to enable me get some time for my studies. I used this time to great advantage and made satisfactory progress on my studies in salesmanship. After few months, Mr. G.A Dudley of Regent College wrote me a nice letter from London saying I was a star and that my future was bright in my chosen career. Emboldened by this commendation by a whiteman, I put in more hours of studies, abstaining from anything young men called enjoyment. My effort paid off as I completed the 3 years course in 18months. By that time, I had left my sister’s house and took up residence at number 111 Zik Avenue, Uwani, Enugu.

Armed with my Diploma in salesmanship, I applied to Messrs Mandilas and Kalaberis Limited, an auto dealership in Enugu. I got the job. My new job meant that I was severing from my mentor Achugbu.  He received the news with great jubilation. He personified love, simplicity and orderliness. Though he has now gone to be with the Lord, I still remember him with nostalgia.

At M and K, as our company was then fondly known, the new salesmen were charged to sell the most unpopular brand then; the Volkswagen. It was so unpopular that Igbos had nicknamed it “Ogbu ara obara”, meaning the one that kills and drinks blood. Even though I can affirm that the Area Sales Manager loved me, there was little he could do for me since my remuneration was based on my sales. We were commissioned salesmen. The probation period of three months was very hectic. I ran around from office to office from people to people, prospecting everyone and anyone I thought ought to own a car whether or not I knew he had money to buy it or not. This aggression was later to assist me in ministry. If a prospect said ‘No”, that meant I would return the next day to remind him of how badly I felt he needed the car. Yet I made no sales. And no sales meant no money.

At that time, all I had for clothing was a long sleeve shirt, a tie, a trouser and loincloth. I would wash these at night with the base soap called ‘soda’ dry them the best way I knew, and iron-dry them in the morning. Food was scarce, and at times, I would go on for days and weeks on few akara balls. Yet I borrowed to travel as far as Nsukka, Afikpo and Abakaliki to prospect for buyers. If I could manage on food and clothing and debtors, my biggest headache was the house rent. I was already in arrears, and mercy was not in the lexicon of my landlord and caretaker. At a time, they cut my one and only point of electric light. I was barred from the use of water. It was as if the end had come. Matters came to a head the day I saw a quit notice on my door. My landlord  had gone to court and obtained judgment to sell my belongings to defray rent, and recover the room. The bailiff arrived and attacked the little that I had, including my one shirt, one tie, one trouser, one wrapper, and one under pant to his list. What that meant was that by the bailiff’s next visit, I would not only be homeless, I would step into the street naked. I thought of suicide. All the tenants laughed. I could see them jeering at me. Oh, how some of them laughed at me in those days.

However, I soon discovered that instead of the thought of death, I began to sing to the God that delivered Daniel. Since coming to Enugu I had, influenced by the piety of my mentor, attended church services at virtually any church near me; including Faith Tabernacle, Apostolic Church, and Assemblies of God, the later making the greatest impression on me.

On that same Friday, calamity had also struck at M and K which had complicated my case even though my stay in M and K was of no good to me. Mr. Equere had called all the salesmen on probation and sacked all of us for non-performance since none of us was selling. I was later to know that my caretaker had foreknowledge of this development in my workplace, and that may have made him to take such drastic action against me.

I went through hell in the days preceding that faithful Friday. It got to a point when, because of the jeers and taunts of neighbours, I only entered the yard through the back entrance. Each time there was a knock at the door, it was either to remind me of unpaid rent, electric bill or water rate. ‘I was finished,’ I thought.

A sharp knock on my door on Saturday morning following my Friday of doom, jolted me from a deep sleep I had wished I never woke from forever. It soon dawned on me that I was still alive to all the trouble. At first I thought the end had come as the bailiff would be coming to end it all. I said a little prayer, opened the door behold, not the bailiff, but a total stranger. He introduced himself as Chief Christopher Ibe, and inquired if I was Samuel to which answered in the affirmative. He said he had just returned from Cameroon and asked to know if I could help him purchase Volkswagen Kombi bus. I told him I couldn’t help him since I had just been sacked.

“However, the only way I can help you is if you have cash,” I told him. He said he had cash, which he showed me. Satisfied that I could at least be able to penetrate M and K with cash sales, I took off with Chief Ibe. When I got to the Area Sales Manager’s office, he, Mr. Equere was with two white Reverend Sisters. As I entered with Chief Ibe, Mr. Equere rebuked me calling names such as ‘scavenger’ before the sisters. If I felt any disappointment, I concealed it.

I informed him that I had a cash customer who was there with me, ready to pay. He brightened up and referred us to accounts office, I noticed that in the whole premises, people jubilated as they became aware of what had just happened. One of the impossible cars had been sold! While these people jubilated, I pondered on what had happened in the Area Sales Manager’s Office. I admitted my importunity, but to call me scavenger? That was it. After payment, I collected my commission, seven pounds, ten shillings.

At that point also, the Are Manager, Mr. Oyekanmi sent me from his office and urged me to also convince my customer to insure with Lion of African Insurance, which he was friendly with. It didn’t take me time to get Chief Ibe to agree.

I got my commission immediately; five pounds! Business over, Chief Ibe asked me to drive his new bus home to 21 Onyiuke Street in Enugu. I did, and got another one pound. Total sum; thirteen pounds, ten shillings. ‘Not bad for a ready-to die dismissed itinerant salesman,’ I thought.

God was not through with me yet. As we got to Chief Ibe’s residence, excited neighbours jubilated, sang and danced. After the light entertainment, I made to go when Chief Ibe asked me if I could sell him another bus. I told him I could only if he had cash. Of course he had cash.

When I returned to the Area Sales Manager and informed him of my second sale in a day, the man who called me a scavenger earlier in the day, called me ‘Sammy sparkle’. Once again we went through routines and I got my seven pounds, ten shillings for the bus, five pounds. The Lord be praised!

I returned majestically to a yard I had left timidly in the morning.  What baffled me then was that on my return, the bailiff’s paper which was pasted conspicuously on my door had disappeared. Till date I never knew who removed it. Needless to say that I paid my debts that night and of course went to a nearby eating house for my first decent meal in many days. Two plates of rice and stew with meat immobilized me for over an hour. I rested at the canteen until I got relief. Can anything beat that? Our God is a miracle working God. I returned to my room that night and for the first time in several nights, I was not afraid of a knock on the door.

What began as a huge joke soon became a wild fire. On Monday, just two days after, Chief Ibe brought two of his friends, also just back from Cameroon. I sold again. Another two came in that week also, I sold four buses in a week! The news went out and soon I could return to 111 Zik Avenue to smiling faces and friendly gestures. Soon I changed my wardrobes, and I became ‘Sammy sparkle’ to all again.

With my new found fame, I soon got in touch with some of my sacked colleagues, who then transferred their prospects to me. In the course of time, some of their prospects bought. As I became the champion salesman, M and K recalled me, only this with mouth-watering conditions. Salary of twelve pounds, ten shillings and a license to do my proceeding job with any of the brands of cars in our stable and of course, my commission of seven pounds, ten shillings from every sale. So, where I used to borrow money to travel to my prospects, I then went around in an array of brand new cars.

Another door opened to me late in the year when a certain Sister Catherine, a white form Nsukka, bought a car from us and it fell on me to deliver the vehicle at Nsukka. She was so impressed with my services that she offered to sell her former car. The company gave me a loan to buy the car; number E 326 U. I wasn’t thrilled that much at that development because it was the last thing on my mind at that time. All I wanted was sales. I lived sales, sales, and sales.

By that time, I had sold a total of eighteen cars and buses and had been commended as best salesman in Nigeria for that period. At that point, my Area Manager, who was also my friend, hinted me of management’s intention to send me to open our Onitsha branch office with the rank of ‘Supervisor’. With this new dawn, it was easy for one to see himself as having arrived.  At last Enugu had yielded. I had broken records amongst colleagues and contemporaries and I was financially healthy.

As I lay face-up on my bed that night, considering the new door of hope opening for me at Onitsha, a thousand thoughts flashed through my mind. I remembered all I had gone through in my period of pennilessness. I remembered one Mrs. Grace Madu who sold me my daily ration of one cup of garri on credit for nearly three months without one day asking for her money. Rather, she greatly encouraged me to persevere. This woman has since become a mother in the church. I remembered equally Mama Ejima and her second who sold akara to me on credit until the bill became too high, at £1.5. When they couldn’t stand my not paying up any more, they began to lie in wait at the front door each time I was leaving the yard, to ask for their money. It was to avoid them and the co-tenants who taunted and haunted me that I began to use the back door as my permanent entrance. I remembered the day I was escaping through this gateway in a hurry having sensed that Mama Ejima had way-laid me, and I fell into the deep open concrete drainage and wounded myself severely.

As I lay that night, I remembered the sneers, the jeers, the taunts. I remembered how I used to pack garri into one pocket of my trouser, groundnut in the other in search of building sites where I could drink directly from running taps, since I had been barred from making use of water in the yard. That happened for so long a time that the thought brought shivers down my spine.

I re-lived those days of shame. My meal of garri, groundnut and water, and occasional piece of coconut, in a building site used to draw a lot of pity from construction workers who must have thought me mad. I remembered how one day, a young girl in the yard had openly, without provocations, told me to my face that I was a disgrace to manhood. Those who heard her, laughed. By then, I was already immune to such things. I took it with me, then studied calmness.

I remembered how my townsmen had struck out my name from their membership register because I was unable to pay my dues.

Remembering my townsmen meant remembering an occasion when a certain townsman, son of another prominent man from my home town; Mr. Eme Achara, (he has since become a medical doctor) was proceeding overseas on further studies. We were attending his send off party when he jokingly advised me to endeavour to be a good driver so that I could, at least be his chauffeur on his return to Nigeria. Everyone present heard him. How hurt I was at that remark. I had since forgiven him that arrogance. It was quite coincidental that he was returning from overseas once and the Plane that brought him back was the one that was to take me to Lagos en route an extensive US trip. As he was coming in, the airport was filled to the brim with jubilant brethren who had come to bid me farewell. We greeted each other and he apologized to me for his offence of years passed.

I also remembered how I was walking along a street in Enugu at a time, and not knowing that my townsmen were meeting, I had stumbled on them. As I made to pass, one of them, who was well known to me, followed after me and began to urinate on me. I was startled. I called him by name and asked him whether he was out of his mind. He said that he was doing what he was doing with clear eyes. He called on me to do my worst. I took it then, not wanting a street show. That indeed was the climax of it all. I went home and cried. I had become the laughing stock of my people who knew my predicament, and preferred to do away with me, than help. The lesson had been learnt.

As I lay on my bed that night, those and several other events of my inglorious part flashed through my mind. I thought and thought, thanking God for giving me favour. Then I slept off.

I used to dream sometimes, but the dream I had that faithful night was as baffling as it was amazing. I woke up in the middle of the night not knowing what to make of a dream of white men speaking Igbo; my native tongue, who had clearly ordered me to leave Enugu for Port-Harcourt. I had never been to Port-Harcourt before. I had never even thought of it as a possible place of residence. I had heard of Port’, as we fondly called it then. I even had few relations there, but to leave Enugu and go to Port-Harcourt and stay? No.

I went about my business the next day full of zeal, as before, though a little more elated by the news of my imminent promotion and transfer to Onitsha. Days passed, and I was gradually approaching departure time. I had even hinted a few persons whom I felt ought to hear. On a certain day I was walking along Isuochi Street, a Street named after my home town, in Uwani area of the Enugu, a car knocked me down. I was taken to a hospital where the doctor examined me and found no injury whether external or internal. He told me that what I had was a shock, and discharged me almost instantly.

That same night my Igbo-speaking white men were back in my dream. They warned that that was last chance to leave Enugu. I woke up the next morning, trembling. It was obvious that the game was up. I had been trained as a member of the Assemblies of God Church, who read my bible quite regularly. I had learnt that God moves in mysterious ways, but that one, I could not explain. Coming at a time when I had begun to make progress at work, and life was beginning to have meaning; when I could pay my bills, dues and obligations of living in a township. I despaired. However, having been warned severely, I began to inquire about Port. I got all necessary information and fled Enugu, having disposed of most of possessions including my car.

I believe that God calls his ministers as exemplified by instances in the Bible – God calling Samuel, David and even Saul of Tarsus. I also know that God has men who, out of zeal for him labour day and night in his vineyard. He accepts their labour since he uses everything available for the furtherance of His kingdom. His wisdom is too deep for man to comprehend. He says in 1Cor. 1:27-29:

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. And base things of the earth, and things which are despised, has God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are. That no flesh should glory in His presence.

In this passage, we see a God that chooses anyone, anything and everything to serve him. He does not choose whom you expect him to. He searches the heart. He is not man that looks on the outside. The calling of David was symbolic. In 1 Sam. 16:16-13, even the prophet Samuel had thought to anoint David’s goodly brothers, but God rejected them. He rather chose a youthful David who was in the field shepherding his father’s flock. In verse 7 of this scripture, God said to Samuel concerning Eliab who appealed to him.

“…Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

The Lord who chooses is our father. He knows us one by one, character by character. He knows who would be used for what purpose, more so, for the work of ministry. No gift of the Almighty is small because we all function as little units in a whole – the body of Christ.

In the church, he has called men to various duties that are of equal importance to him, even though some have larger responsibilities than others. Ephesians 4:11, 12 says:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”.

Strictly speaking, the order of listing of the gifts is not hierarchical, but all working together, in love, towards achieving God’s purposes of perfecting the saints, performing ministerial duties and edification.

I have heard a man of God describe the five-fold of gifts analogically with the five fingers of the hand.

He likened the smallest finger, which easily fits into every nooks and cranny of the body, to the teacher. The teacher searches into every truth, and elucidates dark corners of the word of the people.

The gentle third finger, he likened to the pastor. The pastor is to be gentle, attending to the needs of the flock on a daily basis.

The middle finger, he likened to the evangelist. The finger is longest and as such reaches further out than all others. So the evangelist shoots out into the unknown to spread the gospel and win souls, and leaves a trail of fire behind for the teachers and pastors to ‘perfect’ as it were.

The first finger he likened to the prophets. The prophet is the pointing finger of the Lord that declares ‘thus says the Lord’, as is the case with the first finger.

The thumb, he likened to the apostles. The apostles, like the thumb, can be used in all these offices, and must have been at one time or the other. The thumb, you will notice, is the only finger that most easily reaches all the others.

I have gone to this extent to help you understand the calling of God, and how my whole life changed in a moment, and with it all my dreams and aspirations as a young man.

When I finally got to Port Harcourt, it was as if by divine placing, when on alighting, the first man I saw was the only man I knew in Port Harcourt; Obioha Iwe, a man from my clan who had lived in Port Harcourt for as long as I could remember. A fine gentleman, he spoke flawless English, with an accent that made him easily passable as whiteman of sorts. As he took me in his Volks Wagon Beetle car that evening heading to his 10 Onwenu Street residence, he inquired of my mission and even though I couldn’t impress him with the story, he still allowed me to stay.

I was well-received by him and his household. Not impressed with my seemingly “aimless” and “senseless” reason for living Enugu, he took me to UTC, the Multinational company distributing Opel cars amongst other goods, in those days. The whteman, Mr. shoes, was impressed with my credentials and track record. He easily employed me. The devil can make things easy at times, especially when its outcome will be outside of God’s will, and in disobedience to his command.

I went to work in town in a business that was second nature to me. I made very many sales in Port Harcourt, and made some money as it were for commission. Even though I made those sales, all that I wanted to hear than were things about God. I had quickly picked my way through the city and found my niche yet again in the Assemblies of God, after trying out many of churches around.

One day, I fell into a trance and was told that the Lord will visit me. I had enough of God’s word to know about visitation but how that was to happen, I didn’t know. However, I continued in my normal routine: prospect customers in the day, go to church in the evening, and come back to a troubled sleep. Not too long after, my host with whom I had stayed with for months moved to a new premise at #2 Ihiala Road¸ where he gave me residence in a storeroom in front which he notified me he would use as provision store in the near future after I had found my feet. It was in this storeroom where I slept on a mat on the bare floor with my Bible and few belongings that the Lord’s visitation took place.

From the moment we parked into that building, I began to experience something. All my efforts to sell met with negative results. All my reserves dried up. For two to three months, I was dried up. Money wasn’t easy to come by. I knew I had been through that before at Enugu – an experience I had loathed. Well, I felt I knew how to survive it all. But one thing that you never know its formula is living in penury. If you have no money, you have no money. If you are hungry, you are hungry.

Then one night, I was in the storeroom wide awake at night and suddenly, the whole room was filled with light of blinding intensity. At first I thought to run, but I had been too dazed to make a move. I made to assure myself I was alive and awake. I began to open my eyes and right before me was a man immaculate as the sun, whose face I could not behold. Then I knew I had had it. All that I could vividly remember was that he poured some oily substance on my forehead and said “you will preach the gospel and you will be known all over the world”. He opened and showed me his bleeding palms and charged me with a piercing but gently voice “feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Feed my flock. The church would be known all over the world by miracle sign and wonder”.

Knocked out, as it were, I woke up the next morning to a very high fever and thenceforth neither ate nor drink for three days. Strangely enough, my skull was pumping like that of new born baby. I couldn’t understand. When the case began to get out of hand, my host alerted other townsmen. Without my knowledge, they went to Isuochi and brought my elder brother; Joseph. When he came in, he cried helplessly saying that I had been either poisoned or bewitched. I cannot forget his shrill cry on seeing my condition. Before then, I had told no man what had happened, but I had rejected all suggestions of hospitalization. It was then that I told my brother what I had gone through. Though he could hardly understand the depth of this, it gave him hope, that at least, his earlier diagnosis was unfounded. If he was unconvinced by my story, not being learned into spiritual things at that time, my pulsating head shocked him to his marrows, since adults are rarely found in such conditions, if at all. He later told my host my story, and he, surprised and shocked, began to avoid me. This head condition was to be with me for about forty days.

From then on, I would have one divine visitation after another, only those times, gentle than the first.

One day, I was walking along Aggrey Road and the Lord open my eyes to behold almost hundred masquerades down the road. A sight I was sure no other person saw. He asked me if I knew who they were, and I said I didn’t.

“They are saints taken over by money”, He said to me. I told him I didn’t understand and He added, “Never charge anyone money in your ministry. Preach salvation and deliverance.

As I got home, I pondered on what I had heard and seen, all in broad day light.

Soon after, as I continued in my daily duty at UTC I began to make big sales again, more than ever before. After about one month of consistent good sales, Mr. Shoes, my Manager called me and notified me that I had qualified for company Opel Cadet for my use in prospecting. It was a Saturday and as I waited to take delivery of my new Opel Cadet, two white men whom I had never known before walked over to me. I couldn’t make head or tail out of what they had said, but I was dumbfounded. Before I could regain my composure to ask them for explanation, they were gone. I was startled, to say the least. Was that another divine visitation? I was not to know till date who those men were, as I never say them again.

Deflated, I left the office, to spend another of my lonely weekends, without ‘my’ car. On reaching home that faithful Saturday, something happened that was to affect my life for a long time. One neighbour, Mr. Onwuegbu, who lived directly opposite with who I had been on talking terms was running up and down in his compound, shouting orders to his household in panic. On inquiry I discovered that his daughter had very high fever and they were trying to rush her to hospital. Spontaneously I said “let us pray before you proceed to hospital”. They accepted.

I meant to say a short prayer, but discovered I went on and on in prayer, my whole body vibrating uncontrollably. By the time prayer was over, the girl had been relieved, totally well, and asking for food. They never had to go to hospital again. News of that healing spread like wild fire and by evening, about fifteen neighbours were in my storeroom apartment for prayers. By the next morning, the number had increased, and many of those attending were testifying of healings and deliverances. That continued, and soon my room became a beehive of activities.

If I was elated at the testimonies of what God was doing to confirm his word which we shared at each prayer session, then what happened the following Friday shook me to the marrows. As we were meeting as usual, about fifteen people came in, who reportedly were arriving from Okrika. They joined us in prayers and sharing of the word. Prayers over, they told of an epidemic of conductivities (Apollo) in Okrika and requested me to bless some water they were carrying, for them to carry home. I said I wouldn’t do that, since I didn’t believe in such things then. They pleaded that I should just say something over the water. I said, “Jesus bless this water, Amen”. The water instantly turned into a gel-like fluid. I ran away in astonishment. They left, only to return a week later with more and more Okrika people who testified of how the ‘transformed’ water instantly cured any ‘Apollo’ victim who applied it on his or her eyes. I was quite stunned, but God had shown that he was alive and well and ready to honour his word. I began preaching repentance to anyone available anywhere I was. A church had begun. And Port Harcourt had become my Bethel.

We continued in unbroken fellowship. Many people came and testimonies were many, of what the Lord was doing. I must admit that because what was happening was totally beyond my wildest imagination, mistakes were made. I was later to know that when God speaks to His people, He does not take any mutilation or dilution of His command to suit us, nor can head knowledge be of any use to us.

My brother; Joseph, who had come to see me when I was sick had wanted to go back, but I persuaded him to stay with me awhile to know the head and tail of what I was experiencing. As the Lord began to move mightily among the people, I felt I needed him, and I did. He later went home and brought his wife and two children. As they moved in, our one room was no longer enough for all of us. The fellowship blossomed even more. All that time, we had no name. As we moved into our new place, without asking the Lord for a name, timing, and all that every new ministry ought to ask for before take off, my brother suggested a name, “Morning Star Church”. We put up this name. The Lord was angry for my not asking him. He said the church was called by him, “The United Church of Christ.” The church, He said, would blossom after the war.

At that time, the drums of the Nigerian Civil War were beating. The Lord revealed to me that Port Harcourt would fall to the Federal forces. I told my brother to arrange to send his family home in time. He obeyed. A few days later his wife, who was quite pregnant, returned to Port Harcourt. She delivered soon afterwards. About three days after her delivery, Port Harcourt fled under the barrage of Federal fire power. And soon, all of us were heading back to Isuochi – me for the first time in many years. My return to Isuochi was received with joy by my immediate family, but not quite without much probing and inquiry into my affairs.

Diverse meetings saw me answering questions about why I left my thriving carrier at Enugu and went to Port Harcourt to do ‘nothing’. I tried to explain my call to God’s work, all to no avail, since they were predominantly pagans. Those who went to church at all were nominal church goers, and they did not see why if God wanted people to work for Him it would be me of all people that He would choose. Their disappointment was very obvious. They persuaded me to have a re-think, and find something worthwhile to do. Due to the fact that the Lord had wanted me concerning money, I had returned from Port Harcourt with little or no money to prove that I was on the part of success. In a society, such as the Igbos’ of Nigeria where I come from, one is a man of means only if one has money to show that whatever he is doing is worthwhile.

Those were days in which I asked God many questions in prayer. I knew the cause of worry of my people, but I also knew the instructions the Lord had given me. After some time in this dishournable environment, the Lord had given me. After some time in this dishonourable environment, the Lord ordered me to go to Umuahia. The war was raging, and even though Umuahia was the then Capital of Baifra, I had neither lived there nor did I know anybody there. To make the matter worse, I had no money on me, save six pence, and it would cost much more that that to get to Umuahia. But I knew better than disobey God as I thought on what to do, and how best to get to Umuahia at the least cost. I hadn’t enough money on me and I wasn’t ready to borrow from anyone.

On the Lord’s leading, I began to trek the more than twenty kilometers to Ishiagu railway station to board a train to Umuahia. I had, on inquiry, found out that the fare from Ishiagu to Umuahia was six pence.

At Ishiagu, I met Mr. Ugochukwu; a salesman colleague at UTC Port Harcourt. Apparently, he had fled Port. He was a native of Ishiagu. He embraced me and invited me to his home. He told me that he had been told in his dream the previous night to expect a visitor who he should receive and host. In this home, I had a bath and a good meal. I spent the night with him. He narrated all he heard about how God was using me in Port Harcourt and wished me well.

We prayed together that night. Even though he wished I stayed longer, I proceeded to Umuahia the next morning. He paid my fare. The Lord be praised!

At Umuahia, I had nobody in mind and I didn’t know where I was going to spend a night. I was led to meet a man who was passing; I introduced myself as a prophet of God. I told him I wanted a place to spend the night. He took me to his one-room home which he shared with his wife. The man’s name is Pius Nwanze, and he live at #61 Aguiyi Ironsi Street.

That night, we prayed together after dinner. By morning, when we began to pray again, many people, apparently neighbours gathered. It was a joyous occasion, and the Lord was among His people. There were instant healings and testimonies of deliverance.

The Nwanzes played host to me for a few more days, and he assisted me to find a room at number #15 Aguiyi Ironsi Street. As all the people from number #61 trooped for prayers, others followed. Soon #15 became too small for the adherents. They, on their own began to find a place of worship. It was in this #15 Aguiyi Ironsi Street apartment that we put up the signboard of The United Church of Christ for the first time. Since we were looking for a biggest facility in the heart of town, we found a demolished building which we rented, cleared and erected a temporary structure with zinc and wood at #34 Eket Street. At last with space enough to seat people, the heavens opened its showers of blessing warn the flock of Jesus, I hinted the congregation. Everyone got ready to flee. My only tangible possession was a Vono bed and mattress. I made these ready.

At that time, about seven of the regular members; all boys, had said they were going to swim or sink with me. I obliged them, not knowing how to ward them off. On the D-day, as anarchy broke loose and the stampede began, we bundled all we had and set off on foot towards Oriagu, my seven boys and i.

As we went on, one of the boys called Ben began to insult me. He said, “Sam if God has given me the power He has given you, I will do something about the present situation and avert the fall of Umuahia and the misery of the people of Biafra.” In no time he had all the other six boys on his side, saying similar things. I wasn’t in the mood for arguments and explanations, so I kept mute.

When we got to Oriagu, I asked them to put their load down. I quickly sold my bed and mattress to natives, since that was the only thing of substance that I had. With my medium-sized suitcase, I felt light. To further free myself from much encumbrance, I asked everyone to find their way. I shared the proceeds from the sales between them and they left me.

As I made to move to the road junction, a Peugeot 403 saloon car pulled up and a voice called out my name from within. I approached the car and found Engineer Adibe from Achi who I had known at Umuahia. He was in charge of one of the Biafran directories. He called me into the car and said that they had been looking for me. He took me to his place at the State House Oriagu, where I had a bath and a good dinner.

Dinner over, he informed me that they were heading for Nnewi the next day, and asked if I would join them. I had no choice than to accept and thank him, since any destination that put one farther away from war front was acceptable, as it were. God be praised!

Nnewi, at that time, wasn’t the Industrial City it has become in recent years. The rather sleepy suburb was just awakening to the influx of refuges from the fallen cities of the Biafran enclave.

As days passed, the town witnessed an upsurge of immigrants that swelled her population, and soon Nnewi became one of the most important cities in Biafra. It was as Nnewi was awakening that I became one of its numbers.

At Nnewi, Engineer Adibe took me to one Cecilia Odumodu whose brother; Gab used to come to me at Umuahia. She was then, Principal of Girls’ Secondary School, Uruaga, Nnewi. She offered me a place, but for fear that I would be conscripted into the army. She took me further inland to Okpunyo Otolo which was not as exposed as her Uruagu residence. At the residence of Christopher Ekwulugo, the only accommodation I could find was a disused kitchen which I quickly took, free of charge. While there, Cecilia and a few others, including his brother; Gab, came in for prayers at times.

I will not forget the trails of those days. When we came from Umuahia, I had little money on me and I soon ran out of funds. Since I did not charge people, I left them to do as God prompted. Few people had enough and to spare in those days and here was Nnewi, the seat of Igbo tight-fistedness which was legendary.

I remember with tears in my eyes how, one day, Gab Odumodu, whom I had known at Umuahia, and through whom God had blessed me severally before, came and brought prayer requests. I quickly embarked upon a seven days dry fasting and prayer to bring his petition and others like his before God. At that time, it was easy to embark on long fasting anyway, since I didn’t have much to eat ordinarily. On the day we were stopping the fast, we prayed more earnestly. Gab used to love praying the psalms. I went on and prayed the longest psalm in the Bible: psalm 119, amongst others. At last he had peace and was satisfied.

As he made to leave, I felt at least he would make an offering to enable me eat something, having gone without food for seven days because of the prayers. I escorted him to his car still hoping that he would do the expected at any moment. He put his hand in his pocket and fondled something. My hope rose. With the other hand he opened his car, slid into the driver’s seat and off he went. As he drove off, I screamed in disgust. Pangs of hunger were all over me. I felt I would die, and really wished I did.

In total confusion, I made for the eating house of Aunty Yoyo where I used to eat akpu when I had money. The only difference at the time was that I had no penny on me. I thought of what to do as I got there. I couldn’t eat on credit and there was no help in sight. I made to go for leftovers in Aunty Yoyo’s trash basket, and then a voice called me from behind. I turned to see a man beckoning on me to follow him. As I made to follow, I begged him to give me three pence to enable me eat. He ignored me and urged me to follow him. As I followed him, he told me I had just become a soldier. A few steps further, I saw conscripts sitting on the bare ground and a few armed soldiers guarding them. In frustration, I cursed the soldiers to their face and turned, wishing they would even shoot their gun, or do something to end it all. Their big man simply said, “bye-bye sir”.

I went back home and on getting home, I went straight to my landlady and asked for two cups of garri which she gladly gave me. I drank it and slept off.

I cannot easily forget an occasion soon after this first one when a woman came with her prayer request. She was on her way to a serious court case. Since I wouldn’t charge her for my services, I asked her to make a vow before we prayed, which she did. We prayed so intensely and earnestly. God heard and as I had prophesied, the case was struck off. When she returned, she had a bag which I had imagined contained some items that may minister to my famished body.

As she began to testify, I asked her about her vow. To my utter consternation, she opened that bag and brought out a small fowl that must be about a month old and was not fit for table yet. She handed over the little chick to me. I accepted it but soon let go off it. It scurried into the yard. I never saw it again. Hunger and anguish grew in leaps and bounds.

On another occasion, a man who was always coming for prayers had brought a request concerning his landed property he was about to sell. He told me his asking price was £60, 000. I asked for 24 hours to seek the face of the Lord on the matter. By that time, I had people living with me who also would feed. We went into prayers immediately.

Soon, the man returned with good news. He had sold at a price of £130, 000 – far beyond his earlier imagination. As I had earlier told him to make a vow, I was expectant. As he was leaving, he told me he was returning the next day. I quickly reminded him about his vow. He said he would show me something the next day.

I was expecting big so I asked my assistant to prepare a list of food items for market the next day. Since I had imagined big, I asked them to include a bag of rice, a bag of garri, yams and soon. We waited. Finally he arrived with his whole household including his wife, mother and children. As he stepped out, I noticed that he was looking at me with amazement –or so I thought. He showed his family members the great man of God through whom God had blessed the family. They all greeted me reverently. He then handed me a big parcel.

Immediately they drove out.  I hungrily tore through layers upon layers of the Daily Times Newpapers wrapping on my gift, expecting to expose the large amount of money. As I got closer, I tore more gently and carefully. At last I got it. It was a picture of an angel holding a sword and standing over a trampled Satan. I turned the heap of newspaper singly and careful to see if I had missed the real thing mistakenly. I made sure no paper was on top of the other. Satisfied that I had had it, I cursed under the breath.

Frustrated but resolute, I knew that the Lord was teaching me some lessons about trusting in man. I soon resolved that I was never to trust man to help me again. I have never till date put my trust upon, or hoped for reward from anyone. And the Lord be praised, who has remained faithful to us.

It wasn’t too long before Nnewi became a kind of melting pot of Biafra. Many of the people who knew me in Port Harcourt and Umuahia began to fill the town and of course, the church. We began to hold big services outside. The landlord saw the situation on the ground and gave us a piece of land adjourning his compound. We quickly put up a make-shift structure.

It was 1969 and the “enemies” was pushing from all fronts into the Igbo heartland. We continued seeking the face of the God and the children of God testified of the Lord’s mighty move among His people. Food was scarce, and so was medicine. People learnt to put all their trust in the Lord. Faith in God became first nature, and God who answers to our faith healed, comfort and delivered His people.

There were quite a number of Sabbath churches in Nnewi in those days, and we became their envy and target because we preached salvation through Christ and His shed blood, instead of blood of rams and pigeons. The persecution got to a frenzy.’

I came face to face with them in the closing months of 1969. I woke up one morning and saw policemen who had instructions to arrest me. when we got to the station, I discovered that the heads of churches other than orthodox churches were there. For days, I shared residence at Mburi police station with these strange men. They segregated against me and my members numbering about eight, holding their prayer sessions and meeting without inviting us. They were quite many of them and since they wouldn’t even as much as talk with us, we became more like persons in solitary jail or sorts. Police took days interviewing us individually to ascertain our identities.

One day, after one of my long prayer sessions, I got word from the Lord that by 4p.m that day all of us including the police men and Sabbath leaders would run helter skaters.

I told everyone my word of prophesies. They sneered and jeered. I left them alone and waited. By 4p.m, hell was let loose. Nnewi witnessed its first air raid. We never had it so hot. Police ran into their bunker and were shouting threats to anyone who dared try to escape. Everyone ran for cover. We were saved by the grace of God. Since the place was walled round, and I had girls among my members I wouldn’t have tried to escape. Moreover the Lord had assured that there would be no casually.

When everyone cautionally came out of hiding as the piercing noise of the fighter plane receded into the horizon, I called for prayers. Since I had become a leader of sorts, everyone came and I led the prayers, binding, as it were, all fake demon spirits, masquerades as angels of light.

Thereafter, everyone; police and Sabbath leaders, cleared with me every morning. The police chief would invite me to ask if there was any revelation. The fighter air raid had put the fear of the dear Lord into them. Praise God for air raids!

Our ordeal continued until one day was an unusual movement around the station. Orders had come that we all, excluding the girls, should be shaved and made ready for the war front. I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to be part of the bloodbath that was going on. One Doctor Nnamdi who came to examine us shed tears profusely. He took me aside and said he was going to refer me to the hospital from where I could find my way.

To make my anguish worse, the girls who were with me; Serah Okike, Tabitha Okike and Cecilia Oragwu were now being readied for transfer to Orlu where they were to be put to use in the food procurement efforts of the army. I knew the implications of this to the girls. I cried the more.

As I stood in the open yard that evening, my eyes fixedly looking up to heaven in prayer, I notice as a mass of white cloud and black clouds travelling in opposite direction diffused into each other. At once the word of God came that it was all over. Not knowing what was all over, I went back to my cell room.

The next morning, as we were getting ready for our movement to destination unknown, a lorry arrived at 5a.m. by 6a.m, there was no police man around as was the practice earlier. It wasn’t until 8a.m that the first police arrived. We were all called out and asked to go home and be ready to report whenever we were summoned. As we came out, we saw officers and men standing in groups discussing. The war had ended. Biafra and Nigeria had become one Nigeria. It was indeed all over! Praise be the Lord who will never do a thing without first alerting his prophets.

The crowd of released detainers at the Mburi Police Station that morning received the news of end of the war with mixed feelings. Disappointed that the Biafran experience had ended in such a debacle and disgrace, most of us felt some kind of relief that at least, we had seen the end of what had become a mammoth waste of young lives which no one could really justify, no matter how hard they tried. Moreover, we had been saved from an almost certain death in the killing fields that the war fronts had become.

As I departed the station with my colleagues, my thought was on something else, other than Biafra. I determined that that was the end of the ministry. The persecutions had become so unbearable for me that all I wanted to do was run away to wherever I could find cover. As I returned to the church, the members numbering over a thousand sang and danced, glorifying God. I joined and pretended, as best as I could, to be with them. In the flesh, yes but in spirit I knew I had gone. I made to run to Isuochi with excuses that I had not seen my people then for three years. I meant never to return to them, even though I had said that I was just going to see my parents and possibly have a little rest. One Mrs. Onwuagba volunteered to take me in her car. On the day we were to leave she had a burst tyre. We postponed the journey to the next day.

The next day, she lost another tyre in similar manner. We postponed the journey again. By the time she lost the third tyre in similar circumstance, it was clear to the members that God didn’t want me to embark on the journey. To me it was clear that I wasn’t the journey per se that the Lord was against, but my run-away motive. I began to confess this sin to the Lord. However, I told him that if I would continue, I needed to rest a while. I later travelled home to Isuochi.

At Isuochi, I met the disheveled, war-ravaged remnants of my people and home. Houses had collapsed, and those still standing were in various stages of ruin. Anguish was written on the faces of all the war weary villagers who had just a few months earlier crawled out of the hellholes that were their refugee camps. The first people I met were my mother and my father’s youngest wife. They burst into tears; tears of joy that at least, I of the many family members that they had lost contact with, was alive and well, and tears to announce to me that my father had died in the closing months of 1969, probably as I was facing my ordeal at Mburi in the hands of the Biafran police.

I wept profusely; I loved my father so much. I thought of all he had been through in his closing years, with all of us scattered, as it were. I had seen him three years earlier. He had then been torn in thought as his children, dispersed by war and circumstances were not to be by his side when he needed them most.

As if to soothe me, my mother and others calmed me and informed me that my father had been buried by his house where he had wished to be buried. I went and saw the grave side. I prayed and gave thanks to God, that despite the raging war at Isuochi then, He made it possible for the Chief to be buried in his home according to his wish. Many others were not that fortunate.

Having counted me returned, they continued the long wait for other returnees. Some never returned, including my younger brother; Onwubiko, who had enlisted in the Biafran army at Enugu as soon as the war had begun.

I met with as many of the villagers as I could. I consoled and prayed for them as well as ministering to their monetary needs as much as was in my power. I was glad to reunited with all again, including my elder brother; Joseph, who had stayed back at Isuochi when we ran home from Port Harcourt. He informed me that he had established his Morning Star Church at Umuaku Isuochi, a section of the town that was still in Biafran hands then. I gave thanks to God and prayed with him.

Soon, I left and returned Nnewi; only this time not willing to stay any longer. I had all these days been making all excuses I could before God, including returning to Enugu to begin a new life. Two weeks later under the pretense of still going to rest, I took just a few of my belongings. Together with my younger brother, Uzo, whom I had brought with me from home, and one brother Luscius, we boarded a free ride which Mr. Okudo, A.C.B Bank Manager at Nnewi, had graciously offered. I was free at least. At least, so I thought.

When I got to Enugu, it didn’t take me time to locate my cousin, Ejim Uwazuoke at his #3 Onubogu lane residence. Enugu was familiar terrain, so we easily settled into the one room which our host had offered out of his three-bedroom apartment. We were well received. I had last seen this cousin of mine when I was a salesman in Enugu in the mid-sixties. He was happy to host me. I rested a few days before I would decide what to do.

Just as I was beginning to take off one morning, one Chike Nwizu whom I had known at Nnewi came asking of me. He brought along with him another gentleman named Moses Iloh (both have since become successful ministers of God). After exchanging greetings, they asked me to pray. My reply which must have sounded odd to them was that I no longer prayed. They insisted, and I prayed. The prayer was a deep spirit filled one that I knew then I was in error to have taken the steps I was bent on.

After this prayer, there came an endless stream of people who wanted to have me pray for them. We prayed and shared the word of God. Soon my host and I knew that my one room apartment was no longer sufficient. At the nick of time, one Alex Oguejiofor gave us a larger accommodation of a parlour, a room, kitchen and washroom. We began to enjoy some comfort. But our ordeal was far from being over. Soon the place was not enough again. We had prayer and word sessions from as early as 6 O’clock in the morning to as late in the night as mid-night and at time into the early hours of the next morning.

We began to search for larger facilities. There were many bomb-damaged buildings in those days. Other buildings had collapsed out of prolonged neglect. It was in one such building that the Lord led us to at #41 Boardman Street. The owner; Dr. Onwumere gave the place to us at no cost. We quickly erected a make shift structure with wood and zinc. At least owe had a long, wide spacious hall fit for worship. Our new church was now on ground.

I must confess that not being a graduate at any Bible college, and being as it were then, a pioneer of sorts, I had very little experiential knowledge to fall back to. There weren’t much literature at that time, nor were we privileged to have foreign televangelists to copy. Apart from the much I had learnt in the Assemblies of God, which wasn’t flowing much then in the area of deliverance and faith healing, I had nothing else to fall back upon.

My Bible became a map, and the Holy Spirit; my compass. In those days, I learnt to do whatever the Bible says was practicable. If Christ said, “Go to the river and wash,” then since there was no river around, I created a pool and washed people. If Christ anointed the sick, I anointed them accordingly. If Christ laid hands, I laid hands. If he chased out demons from the demons-possessed, I did same. I stopped at nothing provided that it was biblical to do so. The word produced such wonderful results that I was at times overwhelmed by the testimonies of healing, deliverances and salvation that we heard endlessly.

Soon, the Boardman Street became the toast of town synonymous with our church. On our worship days, the entire street would be blocked from end to end by cars of all shapes, colours and sizes. Any taxi then knew where you were heading immediately you stopped them and said, “Boardman Street.”

As the population grew, so were the numbers of young people; called and not quite called, who declared to be ministers of the gospel. With this development came some problems. There arose the need for training of the new group of young men and women who wanted to serve. After that, there was now the need to send them forth to pioneer the church branches in their cities.

There was also the problem of the Boardman street dwellers whom we inconvenienced with our noise and roadblocks.

Of course, with success came persecutions of equal magnitude. Enugu was a city that had received both the catholic and other protestant churches, long before the civil war. The Assemblies of God, salvation Army and others in the Pentecostal class were also there, but there was nothing in the dimension we were coming from. It was fire! Since most of them didn’t understand what we were doing, they resorted to name calling. One could hear them on the air, see them on TV, hear them in the taxis calling us names like the; hand-clapping church, holy water church, hold oil church, Hallelujah church, mushroom church, and any other name under the sun to make us look ridiculous. We were undaunted. We knew we were God’s messengers on a mission.

Praise God who has today made almost every church a handclapping church, jazz band church, Hallelujah church, holy water and holy anointing oil church, even though all are not mushroom churches. We have since been classed among the big Iroko churches with hundreds of churches all over Nigeria. I still thank God today for mushroom churches, provided both Iroko and mushroom churches preach the good news of the gospel of reconciliation. And how I wish every street corner will be populated by men and women mushrooming around praising and worshipping the soon coming King of kings.

Perplexed by what God used us to do amongst his people in those days, I dug deeper into the word daily. At a time it was my desire to be celibate since I felt the marriage and family ties would slow me down in the work of ministry. Though I would not stay, in the least, that my calling was a result of my own righteousness, it was easy to see the connection between holiness and the flow of the spirit and closeness with God. God can use anybody at anytime to accomplish his purpose – including faith healing, but what is more important is salvation and eternal life. Christ said to his disciples in Luke 10:20:-

“Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not that the spirit are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

In my ministry, therefore, I learnt early that if we live right by God, and continue in unceasing prayers, God hears us and nothing will be too hard for God to achieve through us.

I taught my new disciples to study the word and be sure that whatever they did, whether in their ministry or in social relationship, must be word-based.

I taught them that prayer was the master key to God’s heart. In those days we used to pray every three hours round the clock. Sometimes, one prayer round fused into another. As long as we had a prayer burden (which was almost always since we had endless prayer requests), we never ceased to pray until the answers came. Some people who visited me in those days soon ran away when, because of sleep or fatigue of the spirit and body they could not stand the never ceasing prayer sessions. The Lord be praised. Prayers change situations and open God’s loving heart and hands of blessing.

The Lord always honours his word. In prayer, it became our habit to pray the word of God. My love and value for the word was so intense that I owned many versions of the bible until the Lord told me in a dream one day that He would give me a bible. At first I didn’t understand until one man arrived one morning and brought a complete study bible which he said his brother sent him from America. I paid £1 for it.

It became so invaluable to me that I soon became a moving King James Version. In the course of time, all my men became just the same.

By the end of the year 1970, I had a house full of young men and women whom I had made ready during that period. We were not rich in the way the world counts richness, since we didn’t charge people for our services, but we never lacked. Our living on those days was more like those days was more like those of the early church. There was joy, peace and love among us.

To enable the youth let off steam, we began to act on God’s directives to enlarge his Kingdom through new branches – first at Aba, Lagos and so on. To further widen our horizon, many pastors of small congregations began arriving for affiliation with us. What we did in those days was to test their spirits. If it was of God we could take them in for training in our own way of serving and worshiping the Lord.

One such group was my elder brother’s Morning Star Church which joined in the early months of 1971 when I visited home. He turned in his church and ministers including one Pastor Elisha Uche, who is still in the ministry. We took them in for training and reposting. In no time the branch network became big. At this time too, the Lord opened another door unto us. The door of open air crusades became our major avenue for winning converts. Such bold moves were rare in those days. We once again blazed a trial. Praise the Lord! Those crusades became so power-packed that calls for more came from many cities. The Lord manifested himself in saving the lost, healing the sick and hurting, and delivering the demon possessed.

By the middle of 1975, we had had crusades in Lagos, Aba and Enugu and were planning for Kano; the Muslim heart land of Nigeria.

By that time also, our facilities at 41 Boardman Street were bursting to the seams. Men and motor cars could find no place. Most times we had more men outside than we had inside the building. It was time to look for a larger facility.

We found one in a wasteland on Obioma Street. The place was water logged and kind of swampy, being by the bank of the large city drainage that often overflowed its banks during the rainy season.

We soon began reclaiming the land with concrete embankments and intensive sand-filling. I had very many devoted and hardworking men and women that worked devotedly. It was their determination that made our suffering, fun. As long as I got my directives from God they never relented in obeying. Elder H.S.U Olisakwe who doubled as secretary of the Supreme Council (as the church council was then known), and administrative officer was a man of rare talent in handling issues. His military training was quite invaluable in those days.

In 1974, as we began to experience the glorious explosion of membership and rapid upsurge of trainee ministers, the need to begin formal training became imperative. The revelation for a bible school came and we began the search for site. We announced to the entire church to prayerfully begin to search for a large portion of land for the school. Our prayers were answered when my community, Amuda Isuochi, graciously gave us a large expanse of land for the school. When we got through with the normal formalities of feasting that went with it, a launching was fixed.

In the spirit of our church in those days the launching witnessed a tremendous outpouring of funds, building materials, and volunteers form backgrounds. Work began in earnest. We engaged credible contractors, bought duty vehicles.

The speed of construction was tremendous. Isuochi community had never seen anything like that before. The community held their breath, as it were, awaiting the complication of the modern day wonder. Soon, the structure of the hostel stood, the classroom and staff quarters stood.

It was at this stage also that the printing project came on stream. We began construction of the simple structure that would house the press, which we had adjudged a veritable adjunct to the school. Armed with funds which the church raised for my residential building, I went into R.T. Brisco and bought the most modern printing press at that time.

If the first launching was successful, the second planned launching of 1975 promised to be even more so. It was at that time that problems arose. All arrangements seemed to be going well until we began to assemble in Isuochi days before the D-day. It was as we waited that some leaflets began to circulate. The enemy sensing what we were about to witness and obviously aware of what had already been accomplished, took hold of some top ministers of the church. Soon, it became clear that Pastors Onyebuchi, Arisi, Unaegbu and many others were behind handbills dishing out a whole array of unprintable falsehood about my person, the church and school project. They said that I had cited the school in Isuochi for personal reasons. That was untrue considering that we had sought for land from all who could help. Isuochi made land available and we settled.

Even those who were closest to me wrote that my practices were occultic. I laughed at them. Spiritual things are difficult for a canal man to understand. Happily today even those who wrote those obscene literatures of those days have mounted podiums variously to proclaim that all they do these days and get result are the same “occultic” practices of anointing oil, healing with water, laying of hands and so on.

What we thought then was seemingly innocuous soon became a major stir in the church resulting in major exodus of my principal ministers. Even though I had learnt not to trust in man but on the Lord, these upheavals had a great effect on my life and ministry. I began to trust people even less, and God more. In fact more than ever before, I became afraid of men. I began to live a life of solitude, devoting my life more to fellowshipping with God in prayer. He gave me the strength to weather the storm.

However, it is important to know that being a man who never cherished  my good Godly intentions being challenged as it was in those days, the allegations had  lived with me in my sub-conscious ever since then, making me unable to even raise further funds to continue and finish the project.

As I write twenty years have passed and those projects remain as we left them. Those who vowed to checkmate the project can visit and see the extent of their success in stopping God’s work. Since the school was not made to be a moneymaking one, nor was I going to be trained there, it still baffles me what gains, other than kingdom gains, that I was supposed to make from it, as the detractors   alleged. One thing I am sure of is that since the foundation of the project is God’s nothing will stop him. Time may pass. People may jeer and swear, but God will triumph.

Notwithstanding the set back we have experience in completing the structures, the school has since the late eighties been training ministers for the church, as well as other ministries. The Lord be praised!

It is note worthy also that on this college ground shall stand a miracle centre which shall be famous worldwide. While we await God’s time on this, let me hasten to say that the delay in commencement of work on this project has been mine. God-willing we shall commence work on this edifice soon.

In Mark 16:15-18, all believers are given the great commission to go and preach the gospel to all nations with all the attendant promises of confirmation of the word.

Also in Acts 1:8 the promise of power to witness was given to us after we have had our encounter with the Holy Ghost. Similarly in Isaiah 61:1-6, we see the purpose of anointing of the Ministers of God; which anointing Christ himself personified and we, being his inheritance, share with them. It is this anointing that enables His children to, as in Isaiah 61:3-6; become:

“…trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations…But you shall be named the Priest of the Lord: men shall call ye ministers of our Lord…”

Each time I remember the promises in this word of God, I cease my mind back to my journey in the last three decades. When I was called into the ministry, I was given certain obligations and responsibilities. Training of ministers was not part of my major charge, but as the work grew in dimensions I never imagined before the Lord began to send young men and women into the ministry. These youths came in from various backgrounds; some with good education, some without. Some left reasonable employments to serve the Lord. One thing that was common to them was the zeal for the Lord which was made manifest in the degree of love of God and man that they exhibited. Not being a bible college-trained minister myself, I choose to train them as the spirit taught me in the art of prayer, ministry of the word and faith made perfect by love.

Some of my children in the gospel who had followed me from Nnewi and Umuahia, and those that joined at Enugu learnt fast and were ordained by laying on of hands and anointing with oil for service. Prominent amongst them are Bishop Mike Okonkwo of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Pastor Gab Halliday of Goodnews Bible Church, Port Harcourt, Pastor Lawrence Anyabuilo, who are all successful pastors of their own churches. There were others like very Rev. Chike Nwizu who rose to become an elder of the church later returned to their former Anglican denomination with the fire of the Lord. There, he received ordination and has since become a successful minister of God. There was also Elder Saint Okoroafor of our Kano Church who has since become a Bishop and founder of his own church, and Elder Moses Iloh, who has also, became a minister. Yet there are others like Pastor Reuben Okongwu, Goddy Onyebuchi, Chinyere Arisi, Eddie and Felix Ndubuisi Alajemba Unaegbu, Eleazar, Amadi, Chris Ujagbor, May Onyebuchi, Ezinne Okike and her sister Tabitha, and many others too numerous to mention who had been under our tutelage, but who left to pursue other calling while still serving god in earnest.

Some of these servants of God left us quietly, while others dramatized their exit. Of particular significance are those that left following the crisis in the church in 1979/80.

However, only two such exits which caused major stirs in the church will be recalled here to put the records straight.

Evangelist Mike Okonkwo (as we ordained him them) was, of all my children, the most beloved. A very dynamic young man, he had left his bank job to answer the call of God. I was sure of his call. He was in a sense different from the others, by virtue of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. When it was time to post him out, as our Lagos Akoka branch was ready, he was the natural choice. He went to Lagos with a lot of zeal and the Lord used him greatly enlarge the kingdom. He, with the likes of Elder Moses Iloh (now Rev. Iloh), Iloh’s wife; Edith, who is Evangelist Mike’s elder sister and Elder Eliezar and many others labored mightily to build, as were, the most vibrant Pentecostal church in Lagos then.

Trouble began when after he had put in six years in the same place, we at the Headquarters felt that he should go on transfer to Aba in a swift lightening speed, a section of the church loyal to him declared autonomy for them, refusing to have any dealing with the headquarters. Spanners were thrown to the works when section of the church loyal to headquarters began to join issues with dissidents. There were police cases at various times following reported incidences of violence. At a point, I was invited to Lagos, the police where I was questioned about the circumstances.

My position then was for all to follow the part of peace, since all were my children in the Lord. I personally handed the bunch of keys to the church building (which the section loyal to headquarters had possession of) back to the police to give to Mike’s ground cannot forget how my men then chided me for being naïve. Most of them threatened to abandon me and the case at that point. Since they didn’t want any case with Mike or anyone else for that matter, I was convinced that that was the best thing to do.

But my shock came when my son, Mike, denied ever knowing me or having any connection with me. I knew then that the devil was behind it all. This case later went to court and dragged endless until the Holy Spirit intervened.

I have since forgiven Bishop Mike. He addressed a synode the church in 1995 and we jointly addressed a rally in Lagos in 1995. The church has withdrawn the case from court, and left the church building and property for Bishop Mike and his church, free of charge. The Lord be praised!

The other and most painful of the exists was that of nephew, Pastor Gab Halliday. Not only did he seize the church in Kano and disband the membership, he also brought untold tension within our rather close Knit family circle. To emphasize my closeness with his mother, who is my elder sister, I had told how on my first ever visit to Enugu in the sixties; theirs was my first port of call. His father equally showed me much love, and was, in many ways, a mentor. My regards for the Hallidays was high indeed, and felt very elated when Gab; then a banker as well, answered the call of God and was ordained a minister in the church.

For many years he was my associate pastor in the headquarters, until we decided to post him to Kano. It was at Kano that he decided to veer off on his own. He has since established his own – Good News Bible Church, and I wished him well.

In all these, I have always tried to maintain an attitude of peace with my erstwhile pastors because I know that God makes ministers and ministries. As far as I was concerned, anything that would enlarge the kingdom of God in righteousness was okay. My word of advice is that people who decide to leave their current church to start pioneering their own church should do so peacefully, obtaining the blessing of their fathers in the Lord. They should not appropriate the church property of any kind as that may become a hindrance to their ministry in the future.

I remember one of my pastors, Joseph Orinya, who wanted to leave. He notified me of his plan. I called him and blessed him and bid him God-speed. We even allowed him to preach from our pulpit whenever he was around. Such exits are glorious and are above all else kingdom-approved, honoured.

I have mentioned this few, which is not an exhaustive list because space will not ne enough to mention all those countless membership of the church in the early seventies who were fired by inspiration from the church, or those who received the revelations of the gospel. When I look back at the endless list, I give God the whole glory for finding us worthy for His use.

Most worthy of mention is my son in the gospel, Evang. Ugochukwu Uwaeme (Ugowems) whose mother rose to become a mother in the church. He was brilliant in the things of the Lord in those days that I wasn’t surprised when God began to use him mightily in the area of evangelism. In fact, his call had been prophesied in one of our meetings in those early seventies.

All my children, both inside and outside, those who have left to chart their own course and those still with me, have all been the crown on my head. I love them all. Indeed they have, as it were, been like Aaron and Hur to me, supporting my arm, especially as I age in the ministry. There are things which I cannot do now which when I see them do, I rejoice, knowing that as they do those exploits I have a share of the reward with the father. They have collectively made my race productive and exciting, and I am grateful to them all. I pray the almighty always to make them grow from glory to glory.