FROM LADIES’ MAN TO MAN OF GOD: JOEL UGWUOKE
CELEBRATING SUPER-JACKSONITES SERIES
I am so happy to present to you this edition of our popular series in which we tell inspirational stories of graduates of the Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. This edition features Joel Ugwuoke of the 1999 class. Joel is a Reverend Canon in the Anglican Communion and a lecturer in our department.
I am very grateful to Joel for sharing his heartwarming story with us. I pray for greater grace and higher heights in his service both as a minister of the gospel and as a lecturer in Jesus’ name.
Do read, comment and share on various social media to get many people, especially our youths, inspired.
FROM LADIES’ MAN TO MAN OF GOD: JOEL UGWUOKE
In the journey of life, only God knows exactly where our path will lead because He made us and plotted that path before we arrived on earth. I saw this clearly in the life of Joel Ugwuoke, the subject of this edition of our popular series in which I celebrate graduates of the Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) or the Jackson Family as insiders call it. Joel, a member of the 1999 class, is a good example of the fact that God can “arrest” the most unlikely and commission them to work in His vineyard.
When I first met Joel, he was an undergraduate student of the department. He was what we call in the popular vernacular, a “fine boy, no pimple”. With his natural good looks, fashionable clothes, mental smartness and having ready cash because he came from a fairly comfortable background, Joel was popular on campus. He was loved by the ladies and he loved them back in the manner of the world. Girls were even fighting over him, bringing food and gifts. In his final year, he served as the Hall Governor of Mbanefo Hostel. He was also the President of the Mass Communication Association (MCA), as the student body was then called, and graduated with a Second Class, Upper Division degree.
As someone who came from means, Joel was open-handed towards other students, drawing on his allowance from home to assist them as much as he could. It is really nice to see an attractive young person who is not vain and selfish but willing to share what he or she has with others. It’s easy to buy another suit, another pair of shoes, etc.; or to say, “I’m not working yet”, rather than reach out to the needy.
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We have an association of believers in the department called Mass Communication Brethren. Joel, by his lifestyle, wasn’t the sort of student to be found in that group. You can imagine my surprise some years later when I met him again and he told me he was an Anglican priest. And take it from me, Joel is not the kind of priest who just reads prayers from a booklet, he is the charismatic type. You have heard of the Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion (EFAC). He was a member.
It is guys like Joel that God used and is still using to bring revival to the Anglican Communion in Nigeria and see the priests and members operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’m talking of speaking in tongues, praying and fasting, going for missions, withstanding the devil and occultic powers, conducting deliverance prayers, in fact the whole nine yards of charismatic ministry.
It was a lot to take in. I just needed to hear how his conversion and call to ministry came about. According to him, it was in the year 2000, at his youth service orientation camp at Wanune, Benue State, that he wanted to “toast”* a female corps member but she rebuffed him, saying she wasn’t part of the moral mess going on in camp. The words she used were, “Esoro kwam na mpito a unu n’eme ebe a.”
That was a new one for Joel (the rejection) and he felt really bad. Later, while thinking about it, a voice asked him if it wasn’t time for him to stop the unholy relationships with women and he vowed never to approach a woman for that purpose ever again.
Subsequently, when he started his primary assignment, Joel went to Christ Church, High Level, Makurdi. Before that time, he seldom went to church. As he was entering the hall, the Rev. Canon preaching was talking about chasing women and other youthful lusts. It seemed that the sermon was directed to Joel and the Holy Spirit convicted him. He, therefore, handed over the reins of his life to Jesus. That was the turning point in his life.
Thereafter, he developed a hunger for God and His word and began to attend fellowships, like EFAC. He also attended Gbile Akanni’s Discipleship training. After his youth service, Joel moved to Abuja in search of a job. At that period, he began to receive dreams and visions about ministry which confirmed a vision he had in his third year on campus when he wasn’t even going to church. For instance, he would see himself in full priestly regalia ministering to people. He also heard audible voices telling him that he had some work to do for God.
He began to preach on the streets and go for outreaches even beyond Abuja with a group of other zealous brethren. At this time (2004), he had left his position as National Assembly Correspondent for a privately-owned newspaper to work as a contract staff with the NTA, Area 11. He was anchoring a housing development programme and his monthly take-home pay was about N150,000. That was when the burden to make ministry his vocation became so heavy, it seemed like he was going mad. After seeking counsel from older servants of God, he resigned and returned to Nsukka. (His home town is Obukpa in Nsukka LGA of Enugu State.)
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The process of becoming an Anglican priest is rigorous. You either go straight to the Seminary for four or five years, do apostolic work for one year, before you are made a deacon. After one successful year of deaconship, you will be ordained a priest. But in the case of people like Joel who are already graduates, one will be sent to work as a Teacher (Cathecist) in a local church, usually in a remote area, to test his call and willingness to serve. Joel’s posting as a Cathecist in 2005 attracted a stipend of N5,000 per month. He served in such rural locations as Alor-Uno and Eziani for two years. But Joel held on to the God who called him for sustenance.
In 2005, while he was still a Cathecist, he got married to Ifeyinwa (née Ozioko). It wasn’t easy then. They lived in just one room with a foam on the ground. Funny enough, this made it easy for them to move during his frequent transfers. As of today, they have four children and are much more comfortable.
In early 2007, he was sent for ordination training at the Trinity Theological College, Umuahia. He earned a diploma in Theology there. Thereafter, he was made a deacon and after serving for one year, he was ordained a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Nsukka on July 5, 2009. He has since served in such parishes as St. Luke’s, Amufie, Enugu-Ezike; Emmanuel Church, Ezimo-Uno, Udenu LGA and St. Matthew’s, Ohemuje, Igbo-Etiti LGA. He has also gone for missionary work in remote places like Ugbene-Ajima and Akuyi-Umulokpa, both in Uzo-Uwani LGA. (All these places are in Enugu State).
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Joel had another desire all the while and that was to get a good job to support his family with. So, he decided to further his education to enable him get the kind of job he can combine with ministry without either side suffering. He wanted to be an academic. Through hardwork and persistence, he obtained a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from his alma mater in 2007. Combining full-time ministry with studies is not easy. So, although Joel got that second degree, the grade point average was a little short of what he needed to pursue a doctorate programme.
He, therefore, enrolled for a second Master’s degree in Mass Communication at the Ebonyi State University in 2011. He earned that degree in 2013 and continued to the doctorate level. To the glory of God, he has completed the Ph.D programme, successfully defending his thesis in April 2018.
In early 2016, while he was studying for his doctorate degree, Joel was employed as an Assistant Lecturer at his former department in UNN. What he went through before securing the position is an evidence of his doggedness. I don’t know how many applications he sent in and how many doors he knocked on without success. But he didn’t give up and in God’s good time, he got a positive answer. Currently, he is a Lecturer II. But his fervour for the work of God remains and right now, he is the Reverend Canon in charge of St. Philip’s Parish, Echera, Nsukka.
Besides Joel’s commitment to serving God, his diligence and tenacity, I personally know Joel to be assertive and yet, humble. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? I will explain. His humility has already been demonstrated by his agreement to leave his well-paying job as a graduate to go and start at the bottom in ministry. That is humility in his relationship with God. How about humility in his dealings with fellow human beings? I want to touch that based on his interactions with me. But first, I want to elaborate on his assertiveness.
Joel is the sort of person who speaks his mind on issues, both with his peers and superiors. He doesn’t do this rudely but would often preface his statement with,”With all due respect, Sir/Ma” or whoever else he’s addressing. This trait has not endeared him to many people in authority because such people often detest contrary views, which they usually label a sign of insubordination. We see this playing out in schools, offices and politics everyday. All of us are witnesses to how the executive arm of government in Nigeria is muzzling dissent from the other two arms of government, the opposition and the populace in general.
True, there may be a price to pay when you’re outspoken. You may not get everything as easily as others who choose to be lap dogs. But the truth is that, as we commonly hear, delay is not denial. Eventually, what God has planned for you will get to you no matter who constitutes themselves into obstacles to it and sometimes, when it does, it’s bigger and better than you anticipated. Without going into specifics, this has been Joel’s testimony over time.
I promised to share with you how I have experienced Joel’s humility. Joel describes himself as my “son” but talk is cheap. It is how someone relates with you that shows what is real and what is not. I will give three relevant examples here which will make better sense to you if you remember that on a normal day, Joel’s plate is full. There was a time I was ill and needed medical attention. I confided in Joel and he prayed for me. When I was referred from Nsukka to Enugu, Joel took me in his car, sat with me in the hospital waiting room to encourage and calm me down and brought me back later.
There were occasions when I reprinted my books in Enugu and he ferried me in his car to collect them. There was also a time when if my car needed major maintenance repairs, I’ll just call Joel and he’ll take the car to the Mechanic Village, personally supervise the job and ensure that I don’t spend a kobo more than necessary. At the time he was doing this, he was already married and with children. If that is not humility, I don’t know what is.
I earlier told you that Joel is kind and now that he’s working in the department, I see it in how he blesses both students and non-academic staff. He still does this in his big boy style, giving what will astound the receiver.
You may be wondering if Joel is perfect. No one is and he’s no exception. For example, he is still asking God to teach him how to correct people in gentleness. He is praying for Gods grace to teach him how to give people the benefit of the doubt or cut them a little slack when they misbehave without encouraging them in their wrongdoing. This quality is highly needed in his roles as a husband, father, pastor and lecturer.
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Joel’s service to God has been very fulfilling. He has seen many saved, healed and delivered in his family, the congregations he has pastored and the outreaches he has held. He recalls a lady who was brought to his church in 2015 with an HIV-positive result. He prayed for her and she went back for testing. The test came out negative. She has since married and has a baby. The lady, her husband and their child are all HIV-negative.
Also, in December 2017, an eight-year-old girl with a hole in her heart was brought to Joel’s home by her family from Port Harcourt. She looked so gaunt and dark. When she breathed, people in the neighbourhood would hear. She was to be flown to India for surgery. Following the Lord’s direction, Joel held the little girl to his chest and commanded the hole in her heart to close. Before the next day, that horrific noise that the girl made when she breathed stopped. By two days’ time when they got to Port Harcourt, the girl was hale and hearty and has remained so. The testimonies are just too many to recount here.
Joel believes that, “Every human being is a divine project, regardless of the circumstances in which he or she was born.” He reminds us of the Lord’s words to Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5) and encourages every child of God to “keep your faith and remain focused, for all things shall surely work together for your good.”
Joel holds a miracle and healing service every first Sunday of the month in his current parish. It is a time of sharing revelations from the Word of God and impartations of the Spirit of God. Joel is not very active on social media but for whatever it’s worth, his Facebook profile is Joel Chlnedum.
I hope you’ve been blessed reading his story. May God guide each of us along our life’s journey and use us to His glory in Jesus’ name.
*To toast a lady is to ask to date her
Hi! Care to share what you are taking away from this story?
Do you do any work for God, whether in an ordained capacity or not? If yes, please share to enrich others.
You are highly blessed in Jesus’ name.
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