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TEAP - A Fruitful Garden

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I have memories of the good, the bad, and the ugly in my life. But at the top of it all was the good I got from my fellowship at The Everlasting Arms Parish (TEAP). It wasn’t just good, it was great, it was awesome, and it was a period that was used by God to sculpture, paint, re-write, define and ultimately beautify the landscape of my whole life.

I joined TEAP when it was just a house church at Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili’s residence in Maitama, Abuja. I, alongside John Okafor, came for the biscuits and the fanciness of a church in Maitama. Eventually, we stayed because of the love and consistent follow-up of Pastor Chinedu. 

I was a young woman in my twenties then, still grappling with the excitement and adventure of youth in a city bursting with an emerging cosmopolitan life. At such a time, I wanted to try everything, be everywhere and become all things as well. Of course, the endangerments for a young woman of no means thriving in an expensive city like Abuja was always around me. Bills had to be paid. Accommodation, electricity and other monthly utility bills had to be dealt with. Life was no piece of cake. Everyone was busy trying to survive and succeed in the capital city. 

Religion, and all things Jesus was the very last thing on my mind then. It was an encumbrance that would require living up to certain morals and having at least an appearance of rectitude. I didn’t want that kind of bondage upon me. I didn’t want my freedom held to account by religious people who didn’t understand my journey. What the heck! I wanted to be free from all the inhibitions that would make me accountable to a religious institution. Brought up in a religious home, I had come to Abuja to escape all that ‘nonsense’! I wasn’t going to commit myself to a local assembly no matter how loving the Pastor or members were. I preferred to be a back-bencher. You know, keep my distance and be somewhat aloof from all the activities of TEAP. 

But God had other plans. The vagaries of life happened. A tsunami of challenges hit me from every side until I was flat out broken and ready to hear God. It was a very low point in my life. God took away my job, my business, my male friends and all sources of income were abruptly stopped. Only then, did I have time for God. There is something about being broke, wretched and vulnerable that throws you at the mercy of God. In that condition, you feel helpless and even suicidal. And you are finally ready to be rebuilt by God’s love and nurtured back into health. I needed all of that nurturing, holistically. And it was the sisters of TEAP that helped me on my way to recovery. 

I am talking about senior sisters like Tina Omoera, Ngozi Azodoh, Bolanle Onagoruwa, and a whole array of beautiful women I got to know in TEAP. Under the DARE women umbrella of the church headed by Sister Oby Ezekwesili, I learned to become many things. The teachings about the women of the Bible came alive. Under Sister Oby’s fierce leadership, the attributes of the DARE women group, which was an acronym for Deborah, Abigail, Ruth and Esther women became applicable to all the areas of our lives. No woman was allowed to be passive in church. We were all active, lively and practical. We all learned to be daughters of the Most High God in an excellent way. We learned to support each other, visit one another, pray together and especially, demonstrate to each other that LOVE is an active verb. I learned that there was honour in living a life of uprightness, and integrity according to the standards of Christ. 

The DARE women provided a ladder for every woman to climb towards success. We encouraged the birthing of new ideas and we supported and strengthened ourselves. We shared what we had with each other. Provided food, clothes, funds, prayers, shelter and aid to as many women who needed it. We were admonished to be better women by Sisters Dupe, Nkem, Ifeoma, Kate, Ngozi and Mommy Olanubi. We found sisterhood in women like Elizabeth Ekpenyong, Ada Eki, Florence Egopija as well as Sisters Flora, Mfon, Joko, Briggs, Chizoba, ans others. We developed bonds with younger sisters and brothers like Jessica, Reuben, Blessing, Onyeka, Seun, Funmi, Uche Okoro, Rekiya, Precious, Ella, and Bolaji Teru. We learned to relate well with our men folks who served as big brothers to us: Colonel Eva Azodoh (now TEAP Pastor) as well as Brothers (most of who are now Pastors) Andrew Oyenakwe, Williams Onidarafunmi, Azubuike, Aladesanmi, Aki Eke, Debo, Austin, Sunday Momoh, Uche Okonkwo, Faith, Olusegun Adeniyi and others. These were all my contemporaries at TEAP then. Many of them have branched out to start parishes of their own. 

The foundation of TEAP and our DARE women group was the love of Christ; the bedrock of our unity was our Christian friendship and the sustainability of the group rested on the relationships that we had nurtured via house fellowships and DARE sub-groups. On these tripod, we flourished and still do up until now. 

TEAP was, and hopefully still is, a garden that could take a fragile plant and nurture it into a tree. TEAP was a fertile garden where seeds thrived and became oaks, flourishing like Palm Trees surrounded by many waters. 

Thank you TEAP for being a vintner of God’s vineyard. Thank you for being a shepherd of God’s sheep. Thank you for being God’s gardener on earth. TEAP had the ability to take anything on a small scale and tend and care for it until it became a blossoming flower. May the rewarder of faithful servants and stewardship bless every person who worked in the garden called TEAP - whether they planted or watereth.

And on that note, I raise a glass of felicitation with my fellow brothers and sisters at TEAP and say, Happy 20th Anniversary to the TEAP family! If we do not meet again, may we all meet in heaven at Jesus feet. Cheers.

 

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