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Sweet are the Memories of the Righteous

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''A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing..." 

That hymn by Martin Luther was my chosen recessional song. As we marched piously out of the sanctuary, singing joyously while gazing with hope to our new future together,

I took my eyes off my beautiful bride and the popular hymn briefly to check the people that trailed our procession. Among the clergy that was mostly clad in Agbada was this foreign minister from Abuja in blue suit. He had traveled by road to Ilorin that year to join the couple together. 

His name? Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili!

We joined TEAP in 2004 and left in 2014 on posting as Assistant Pastors. During that 10-year period, we rose to be heads of departments. My wife for most part was the head of Levites while I served with the teenagers and publications departments. Among people of my generation who got married outside Abuja, very few can boast of having the honor of hosting Pastor Chinedu at their wedding. Those were the days when Pastor Kate Onyeanakwe was the head of publications that had Fred Iteogu, Oyinda Adedokun (nee Kolapo), Ebere Ikegwuonu, myself and Yinka Oyinwola of blessed memory as members.

Yinka was just a lovable young man that came to Abuja to hustle after his graduation from the University of Ilorin. He was in the choir and publication departments. Yinka it was who got the call from Pastor Chinedu that for some strange reasons, he left his blue suit that was meant for officiating at the wedding. Against all odds, Yinka brought the suit from Abuja to Ilorin that Saturday morning, in time for the uncommon minister to join us together. Nobody knew except those close to pastor. It was later Yinka regaled me with the tale of his journey from Abuja to Ilorin with the apparel.

"We lost Yinka!" that was the short, direct message that morning in 2010 when Pastor Chinedu called my wife. The moment I heard, I burst into uncontrollable tears. I wept like a faucet. I remember my junior brother rushing out to find out what happened to me. My mom had been sick at the time and I had to quickly dispel his fear owing to the horror on his face. Story had it that Yinka was travelling in the company of his family from his hometown when herdsmen or hoodlums started shooting sporadically. Bullets penetrated their vehicle and our Yinka fell in his prime.

As we celebrate 20 years of TEAP, we cannot but remember these lovely people that we met and who left a great impression on us. They will never be forgotten. I can remember quite a few and can write a long essay about how each and every one of them touched me and my family. Pastor Faith Omosefe was my wife's predecessor HOD. Aunty Mfon Essiet was a huge blessing and encouragement to my family in many ways. Brother Charles Egelebe, Sister Hajara Obayemi, Sister Funke Ibitomi, Sister Mustapha, Sister Kemi Ademakinwa, Sister Chichi Itulua, Sister Kelechi Osuji, Mr. John Omoera, Aunty Eniola Onafuye and others. These were not just brothers and sisters but family. Sam Anya, a young bassist was ‘bad’ on the guitar according to his generation’s lexicon. Each of these people who departed early touched us and while they could, served the God with the Everlasting Arms. I pray continual comfort for the families they left behind.

That was the time Aunt Liz and Dcns Dupe Aladesanmi held sway as HOD of Children/Teens Department and we had Aunty Faith and myself serving. Then we had Ope Matthews, Chinedu Azodoh, Chidinma Azubuike, the Ezekwesili twins and many others as teenagers. Thankfully, all the children in that set are successful with great testimonies of advancement in their chosen fields. They have made their parents and the church proud. I think their story should be highlighted as one of the reasons TEAP is rolling out drums to celebrate.

Pastor Kate was many things to many people in TEAP. Apart from being a minister, she oversaw the workers’ department as well as publications and marriage counselling. Very few sisters and brothers escaped her scrutiny during marriage counselling. We passed through her, Mama Kwakwa and Dcns Aladesanmi. Where she got her strength was always a question everybody asked. Those were days of many meetings and we had to attend. TEAP Media was a recurrent topic in our meetings back then. It was a struggling department trying hard to meet the high standard set by Pastor Chinedu. I hope the present crop of TEAP Media crew were told about the efforts of pioneers like Kabiru Raji, Kwame and pretty Jessica who had Seun Teru’s attention, when we thought he was busy on the drums!

It is hard to tell our story now and how God has helped us without making reference to TEAP. Many of our friends and close confidants are people God brought our way in TEAP. Onyekachi Kanu and his wife blessed us while in England, so did Bukola Emilolorun and her husband. Bolaji Teru and his wife in Vienna remain friends closer than brothers. Mayowa Onare in Texacana visited us when the road was rough. Mrs. Toyin Adeoye left our house for London only to call us to guess who she just saw at Heathrow. It was Pastor Evaristus Azodoh. Henhen...Daddy, na so you dey pass without saying hello?

We had a good laugh and had had good times being checked upon by our father in the Lord many times after that.

Yes, good times we had. Those were the days when Pastor Azodoh used to visit from Lagos. That he later became the senior pastor was a brilliant idea of a transition. He was the man that understood the vision of the founding fathers of TEAP and capable of carrying on the peculiar tradition that made TEAP different from other parishes of RCCG.

Back to where I started. There is no way anyone can write the story of TEAP, especially the spirit that distinguished the parish without the mention of Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili. I was privileged to work with him and can attest to his good heart. I tell people Pastor Chinedu is a Christian. He is kind and generous and loves the Lord with passion. Myself and my wife are direct beneficiaries of his kind generosity. None of the young men in my generation escaped his "wardrobe allowance." He was always buying us shirts. Pastor Oby faced the ladies with a special focus on my wife. Return from DC then was always followed by ‘Kemi, come to the house’. That Pastor Chinedu attended our wedding was a huge honor that we will never forget. Such is the impact the Ezekwesilis have left on us and indeed a whole lot of people they encountered. They taught us. Wherever we go now, it is difficult for us not to see things through the prisms they handed to us. It has to be excellent. It has to be neat. Check out the sitting arrangement. It has to be 'governmental'. Now, if you missed that last part, you missed a lot.

The story has been told by people who have not met us but heard about the God of TEAP. How we continued like Zechariah in service as Levites and Teens department away from the main sanctuary without a child. We struggled with infertility but held on to the God that said none shall be barren. Well, God came through for us in a big way. He will come through for anyone who is trusting Him for such breakthroughs. It is thanksgiving time for TEAP. It is also thanksgiving for me and my wife as we celebrate our 15th anniversary. Yes, it’s been 15 years since Pastor Chinedu made that arduous road trip to Ilorin. It is also time to say thank you to the good people we met who stood by us through the challenge of conception. Prominent are Pastor Chinedu and his family, Uncle Olusegun Adeniyi and his wife who practically adopted me and my family into their immediate and extended families, Aunty Tina Omoera, Mama Ujubuonu (God rest her soul),Pastor Bola Olanubi, Aunty Liz Ekpenyong, Mummy Garuba, Pastor Andrew, Pastor Abegunde, Pastor Kofo Ayodele Davis, Sis Idowu Aboderin, Pastor Azubuike, Pastor Bolaji Teru, Pastor Seb Okonofua and Pastor Azodoh who not only prayed with us during the period but whom fate brought to work at the theater on the upper floor of the same building where the children were delivered at the National Hospital.

The wedding reception was great. Uche Okoro nee Anya was the MC. Sis Flora Biu was spiritually present. Toyin Adesina was there along with Pastor Onidarafunmi. Levites were well represented in Ilorin at the wedding. I quickly jumped to the last stanza of my favorite hymn. Remembering those we met along the way is pretty awesome memory. Remembering those who have passed is overwhelming and really painful. But I found the words of the song extremely comforting.

That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God's truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever! 

Congratulations, TEAP! We are glad to be part of this unusual family of God.

• Olusesan Adeniyi and his wife Olukemi live in Laurel, MD, United States, with their children.

 

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