Celebrating God’s General, Bishop Mike Okonkwo At 70

imageThe Presiding Bishop and Founder of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Mike Okonkwo, who turns 70 today, has every cause to glorify the Almighty God for His benevolence in his life, family and ministry. Born at Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, he started his primary education at Salvation Army Primary School, Enugu, but later moved to Lagos with his parents, where he enrolled at Ijero Baptist Primary School, Ebute Metta. He later transferred to St. Mark’s Primary School, Offa, Kwara State, where he completed his primary educa­tion.

The little Okonkwo, however, gained admission to Mayflower College, Ikenne, Ogun State, but had to return to Anambra State to complete his secondary education at Merchants of Light Grammar School, Oba, Anambra State in 1963.

He began his working life at the Nigerian Ports Author­ity (NPA) in 1964. However, he left after only three months for the banking industry with his employment at the African Continental Bank (ACB). As a pioneer member of staff of the Martins Street, Lagos branch of the bank (1964-1966), Dr. Okonk­wo due to the civil war was deployed to the eastern branch of bank, which eventually inter­rupted his banking career.

As a man of destiny, Okonkwo was conscripted into the Biafran army during which he under­went military training, but had no opportunity to go to the war as the war ended the night he was deployed to the warfront.

After the war, he went back to his banking career, when he was deployed to Ogbete Road branch of ACB, as a pioneer staff.

Okonkwo’s first encounter with Jesus dates back to Novem­ber 1970, when for the first time, he started attending church services regularly at the United Church of Christ (UCC), with headquarters in Enugu. Accord­ing to him, the call of God upon his life was evident and he was ordained in 1971 into the min­istry, while he took up his first pastoral responsibility in Lagos in November 1972. On June 20, 1976, Okonkwo was released as an Evangelist and was instru­mental in the establishment of most branches of the UCC in Lagos under the leadership of Apostle Egbo. However, Okonk­wo, owing to circumstances beyond his control, had to leave UCC to found The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) on January 4, 1981. From a small beginning, TREM has since become a household name in the Christendom throughout the world.

In 1980, Dr. Mike Okonkwo received a certificate of license from International Deliverance Churches, Dallas, Texas and he indeed graduated in 1981 with a Diploma from the Morris Cerullo School of Ministry, San Diego, California, USA.

Still on his journey to equip himself with the words of God and serve the Almighty, by 1982, Okonkwo obtained a Diploma at the International Bible Institute and Seminary, Orlando, Florida, the same year he obtained a Bachelor of Bible Theology in the same university.

For his performance and the hands of God upon him, the Cov­ington Theological Seminary, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, USA gave him a waiver for Masters Degree and he enrolled for a doctorate degree programme in Divinity, which he completed and was awarded the Doctor of Divinity with all rights and privileges.

Also, in 1984, the Board of Directors of the International Bible Institute, Orlando, Florida, USA, on recommendation by the faculty conferred on him a Doctor of Letters Degree. Three years later, the United Christian International Bible Institute, Cleveland, Tennessee, USA awarded him a Doctor of Divin­ity certificate.
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Dr. Okonkwo, a holder of the Ordination Certificate and the Certificate of Fellowship of World Ministry Fellowship Shreveport, Louisiana, USA, also holds Ordination Certificate from the National Christian Fellowship Conference (NCFC), USA; the Church of God Mission International Nigeria and the United Christian Church and Ministerial Association, USA.

Following his thirst for the knowledge of God, Dr. Okonk­wo was awarded Attestation of Pilgrimage by the Government of Israel, thereby authorizing him to bear the title Jerusalem Pilgrim.

He holds a Meritorious Achievement Award from the International Affairs Leadership Parliament bestowed on him by the Golden State University, University of Honolulu, Ephraim Moore University; International Theological Seminary; Spiritual Life Ministries in the USA and the Trinity College of Ministerial Arts in Nigeria.

Besides, in 1989, the Bishop was awarded the prestigious Scenic Centre of the South Certificate by the City of Chat­tanooga, Tennessee, U.S.A, while the Faith Christian Fellowship International Church Incorpo­rated, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.A through its leadership, awarded an Associate Church Certificate to TREM.

He also added another feather to his cap, when in 1997, he and his wife, Peace had their names inscribed on the Jerusalem 3,000 scroll number 6,571. Consid­ering his contribution to the Christendom, Dr. Okonkwo, on May 7, 1988, was consecrated the Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission.

A member of the founding fathers of the Pentecostal Fel­lowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the pioneer National Secretary General and former President of PFN, Dr. Okonkwo is currently a member of PFN National Advisory Council. He’s an ex­ecutive member of the National Ministers Conference (NMC) which organizes conferences for ministers of God in the country; a convener of the Communion of Covenant Ministers International (CCMI) as well as ex- National Vice President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

While recalling that he relocated to Lagos and settled at Apapa with his parents at the age of five, Dr. Okonkwo said his father, a disciplinarian and a staff of the P&T, vehemently opposed his Christian calling, particularly as he had to leave his banking career for ministry work as an evangelist. Tracing his calling, which he described as not being smooth at the initial stage, he said: “In the entire family only my immediate younger brother (who is now late) supported my calling and vision.”
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Okonkwo, who noted that he was resolute about his calling, despite his family’s opposition and that nothing could change his mind, said the ministry began at Akoka, Lagos before he relocated to its present location at Gbagada.

“Throughout my school days, my father, a retired Assistant Director in the P&T made sure I attended Anglican Church regularly, but in the true sense of religion, I did not have the experience of who Jesus Christ is,” he said. attended Anglican Church

On his aversion for corrup­tion, he said “My father was a disciplinarian. He neither took bribe nor gave one. It was one of the rules in the family not to take whatever anyone brought to the house. But, there were certain things that happened in my life during the civil war while I was working in the bank as some people offered me bribe to exchange fake money for them, which I rejected. Back in Onitsha at ACB and when the civil war intensified, they conscripted and recruited young men by force into the Biafra army and even from the bank. I escaped being conscripted on one occasion, when I went out to buy cigarette. But my brother and I later went voluntarily to join the army , because other­wise we might be captured. We trained for three months and throughout those months we never fired one shot, they never give us any gun. However, one day , they decided to move us to the military headquarters and in the night they distributed guns to every one of us, but I told my brother not to take it. As God would have it, the next morning, the war ended and it was ‘One Nigeria’ song everywhere.”

Okonkwo, who recalled that he came back to Lagos with Dr. Ilo who had already received Christ and one of his cousins, noted that at night while praying they did not invite him, a situa­tion which made him feel lonely.

“Right there that night, I said to myself when I went to bed that God, if there is anything you want to do with this life I give it to you, I did not know what I did, but the next morning I was in church. Then some of my friends said my new found love in Jesus Christ would not last, but to God be the glory it has since lasted till today,” Dr. Okonkwo stressed, adding that since then he has never looked back from serving God.

A responsible father and fam­ily man, the Bishop, who praised God for giving him the woman of his heart as wife, Dr. Peace Okonkwo, said his wife has played wonderful roles in his life and the growth of the ministry.
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“I cannot thank God enough for the type of wife He has given me. But I always said to myself that if God did not give her to me, I don’t think I could have been able to achieve the much we have been able to achieve over the years,” he said.

According to his assignment as minister of the gospel, he is not only husband to his wife, but husband to every woman in the church and as a minister of God, he is also the father to every member of the church. “If I have a wife that does not understand this fact and who is possessive, she could have destroyed the ministry and work. Indeed, for me, I do not know how I would have been able to survive, if ev­ery day we are fighting at home. With the huge responsibility I have, there is no way I would have been able to survive. I am lucky and I want to thank God that I have an understanding wife, who has been a huge con­tributor to the work of God.”

Dr. Okonkwo, who said fund­ing is one of the major con­straints of the ministry, said the church which was built on God’s faith, has continued to survive on faith.

“Where we are today at the headquarters of the church (Gbagada), a swampy area, which required a lot of money and resources before we could erect a building, we thank God, because the way He is doing it is beyond our understanding,” he said.

He said another challenge he faced in the course of the ministry was the death of his first daughter and his younger brother who stood by him de­spite their parents’ opposition to his ministry.

“I left my daughter’s corpse in the house on December 26, and went to preach in the church without telling anybody and letting anyone know what hap­pened to me,” he said, stressing that it was devastating, but he thanks God for being in control.

Determined to enhance the quality and contribute to the development of the nation’s edu­cation sector, the Bishop in 2004, instituted the Mike Okonkwo Essay Competition for second­ary schools as part of activities for the commemoration of his birthday.

The competition, which en­tered its 12th edition this year, is being sponsored and funded by the Bishop using his God- given talent, strength and resources to bless the younger generation in pursuit of academic excellence.

Meanwhile, the man of God, who believes in absolute development of mankind in all facets of life, has used the essay competition to achieve this laudable dream and desire by encouraging the younger ones to cultivate the habit of reading and effective writing.

Through the essay competi­tion, the Bishop has helped participants in the programme to develop more interest in research work, reading exten­sively and writing constructively. Apart from serving as a tool to encourage reading and writing, the competition has also given students the opportunity to bare their minds on topical issues that are of significant importance to the socio-economic develop­ment of the nation.

The essay competition has contributed towards ICT devel­opment in secondary schools, especially in public schools, where winners are rewarded with various prizes ranging from desktop computers with printers to books for winning schools, while the students receive laptops, cash and plaques as well as scholarships to tertiary institutions.

Dr. Okonkwo, a versatile man of God with over 30 years of dedicated service to the Lord, passionately preaches power in the Word to a multicultural and diverse audience with over 180 branches in Nigeria and 10 countries across the globe.

He is an apostle to this genera­tion, whose life has impacted millions around the world. A father to many and a pastor of many pastors across the globe, Dr Okonkwo is also a dynamic conference speaker, crusade evangelist, author, television and radio host, a strong and respect­ed voice in Nigeria and an advo­cate of balanced Christianity.

A member of the Board of Directors of Arlington Church, Arlington, USA, Bishop Okonk­wo is the Patron and Founder of the Empowerment for the Less Privileged Foundation, a non-governmental organisation com­mitted to alleviating the plight of the less-privileged in the society through donations to hospitals, free vocational training centres, free preparatory schools for students in secondary schools and facilitating regular public enlightenment campaigns on health issues amongst others. He also pioneered a scholarship fund for talented students.

Bishop Okonkwo is an author of several books in English and two translated to French, which include Kings on Earth; Faith is Now or Never; Jesus and Now; The Mystery of the seed; Wis­dom for the Day (annual publica­tion); Overcoming the Siege (2010); It’s Time for a Paradigm Shift (2010); Living Aggressively (2007); Controlling Wealth God’s Way (2005); Obedience: The Key to Divine Destiny (1998); From Zero to Hero (1997); Are there Believers in the Church Today? (1997); Breakthrough on Your Knees (1995); Kingdom Prosper­ity (1993) and Daily Seed for Greatness, which he wrote in 2011.

A distinguished scholar and reputable minister of God, Bishop Okonkwo is a recipient of several honorary and excel­lence awards including that from the Salvation Broadcasting Network; Meritorious Achieve­ment Award: International Affairs Leadership, Golden State University, University of Hono­lulu, Ephraim Moore Univer­sity, International Theological Seminary, Spiritual Life Minis­tries, Trinity College of Ministe­rial Arts (1987); Ifite Welfare Association; Distinguished Role Model Award – University of Lagos Joint Christian Fellow­ship and Bishop Genie J. Evans Memorial Leadership Award. Others are Kingdom Promoters Award; Distinguished Christian Leaders Merit Award; Kwame Nkrumah African Leadership Award; Distinguished Platinum Award – Ogbunike; National PFN Women’s Wing Leader­ship Award; Grand Defender of the Christian Faith Award and Daughters of Dominion Merit Award.

Bishop Okonkwo has served and is still serving as the Chief Executive Officer of God’s Army Bible Training College; Presi­dent, Communion of Covenant Ministers’ International (CCMI); Inaugural National General Sec­retary, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) 1986 – 1995; Deputy National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nige­ria (PFN) 1995 – 1998; National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) 1998 – 2007; Member of Trustees Council, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) 1998; Trustee, Pentecostal Fellowship of Ni­geria (PFN); Member, Nigerian Inter-religious Council (NIREC) 1998; National Vice President, Christian Association of Nigeria, 2003 – 2008 and the Trustee, Women of Global Impact Initia­tive.

As part of his social respon­sibility initiatives, he is the founder of the Mike Okonkwo Scholarship Fund; Empower­ment for the Less Privileged Foundation(ELP), formerly Mike Okonkwo Foundation, a non-governmental humanitarian organization; Mike Okonkwo Educational and Youth Initia­tive (MOEYI); Mike Okonkwo Football Tournament; Mike Okonkwo National Essay Com­petition for Secondary Schools; Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture; Project Forte – A channel for dis­covering and encouraging cre­ativity in young talents and he’s Chief Host of Breeding Leaders for Empowerment and National Transformation (BLENT).

Source: The SUN

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