Thursday, May 17, 2007


I arrived in the USA in November of 1991, full of hopes and dreams of making a difference in my native homeland of Nigeria. My purpose in coming to the States was to pursue a degree in Christian Ministry that would prepare me for the rigors of what might lie ahead on my return to Nigeria. I had already started a small group which had grown into a church a few years earlier. That process had exposed my significant weaknesses and I was determined to acquire all the necessary skills and knowledge that would make my next foray into ministry a resounding success.

Bible school was not what I expected. For some otherworldly reason, I had this notion that everyone in Bible school was sold out to the service of the Kingdom and had little or no time for frivolities. Imagine my horror when I discovered that a group of the guys had stayed up all night in the room next to mine trying to record my snoring. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I woke up one morning a couple of weeks after arriving in South Bend, IN, only to find toothpaste smeared on walls, doors and carpets all over the dorm. While I had slept blissfully, a completely ‘unspiritual’ toothpaste fight had taken place.

This was my intro to American Christianity. As I attempted to process this with my Dean, his completely ‘unwarranted’ and ‘unsolicited’ counsel to me was, “lighten up already!” I knew right then that I had inadvertently come to the wrong place. Or had I? My next four years would bring me face to face with many of my errant perceptions about God. I quickly learned that God was more interested in developing character in me than He was in developing my speaking skills. I protested vehemently to God about the lack of a commitment to extended prayer times and Bible studies by my fellow students, and He protested to me about my lack of commitment to building relationships with the very people that I claimed I was called to love and serve.

I discovered that my education would turn out to be more practical than I had ever imagined. In an attempt to support my small but growing family (my wife and I had a son who turned one a few months after our arrival in the US), I got a job working at a factory. My job?…capping aerosol cans as they came down the assembly lines. My work hours were 11.00pm to 7.00am, and pretty soon this exacting schedule (I had school from 8.00am till 12.00noon and had to stay awake until I picked my wife up from work at 4.00pm) began to take its toll on me. One evening, with a lull in the aerosol can traffic coming down the assembly line, I dozed off standing up, and was rudely awakened to the sounds of commotion at the end of the line. A group of cans had passed me by as I dozed and the uncapped cans had to be cleared off the assembly line and manually packaged. Needless to say, I was summarily fired the next morning. My shift manager called me into his office and handed me the proverbial pink slip (This is the first and only job I have ever been fired from).

I was beside myself. Me, a college graduate working in this menial job just so I could pay the bills, fired? Unknown to me though, God had other plans, but He also had issues with my pride and needed to teach me a thing or two. I had read somewhere that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Well, He must have had to deal with a ton of stuff in me ‘cos it felt like a brick wall was pushing against me. This was my first ministry practicum.

I ended up taking a position as the head soccer coach for a High School girl’s team. My first meeting with the parents and players provided me with my second ministry practicum. One of the kid’s parents was none other than the foreman who had fired me from my inglorious can-capping job. At the end of the meeting. He asked to speak with me, and voiced concern that I might make his daughter pay for the fact that he had fired me, by marginalizing her. The carnal side of me wanted to gloat at my new found authority over him, but I was reminded of Esther’s story. As Mordecai (Esther’s uncle) encouraged her to present herself before the king in defense of her people, the Jews (it was certain death to go before the king uninvited), he reminded her that if death came to the Jews it would no doubt eventually find her out even though she was in the kings palace. His word’s, enshrined for eternity, “…For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

I assured him that, as a Christian I couldn’t live with my conscience if I resorted to such unfair and immoral tactics. As it happened, his daughter turned out to be one of the better players, as well as one of the best behaved people on the team. She was an asset to have on our team, and I learned so much about her family and their commitment to Jesus over the course of the year. The lesson for me became clearer by the day. I was not called to live my life by the dictates of how I perceived that people had treated me, but by how the Scriptures instructed me to live. It occurred to me that, if I hadn’t been fired from my capping job, I would never have gotten the job as a coach. This job provided me with tremendous opportunities to be a witness for Christ in the lives of so many young people, as I went on to coach with a travel soccer club and with the University of Notre Dame soccer camps. Who would have thought that Bible school training happened outside of the classroom?