Secrets Of My Good Looks At 70 – Says Bishop Peace Okonkwo

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The wife of the presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) Bishop Peace Okonkwo celebrates 70 as a septuagenarian. Ever-smiling, vivacious and amiable, she spoke with Saturday Sun recently about life, ministry, marriage with her hubby, Dr Mike Okonkwo and lots more.

Trem

How was life before Bishop Peace?

Life was rough.  I grew up with my grandma. Even when I came into the ministry, it wasn’t easy. When we were young, grandma didn’t believe in ground pepper, you would beat it. You know how difficult it is to beat dry pepper. And we trekked to school. We didn’t have a car. St. Barths to Uwani in Enugu, we trekked it. When we returned from school, you would cook the food you would eat; or else you wouldn’t eat. Life was rough. Even when I came into the ministry, it wasn’t that rosy. I drank gari without sugar and milk. But look at it today. If I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to eat because of weight. You just have to trust and believe in God. It was tough. I remembered when I started working, I was married at the time, I was in a Molue, and a young boy was struggling to come inside the Molue. I allowed the small boy to sit on my lap, not knowing the young boy was targeting my purse. He took my purse, and by the time I got down, I didn’t see my keys. It wasn’t easy at all. People that look at us and say, I want to be like Bishop Peace, get ready, you will pass through the mills but if you are ready to put your eyes on Jesus, you will do more than I am today

What does June 10 means to you or signify in your life?

June 10 means so much to me. It was the day I was born. The day I came into the world. It is a special day. Growing up, I know that June 10 is my birthday.

You really don’t look 70. You walked stylishly upstairs for this interview. Can you tell us the secrets?

Everyone says so. I would just tell you, apart from the few things I do, I think, it is the grace of God. When God gives you grace. When you know things you are supposed to do and He gives you the grace to do them…

I was telling a lady, that last Thursday of every month, I stand for about three hours to minister to women. God has given me that grace. I eat right (I suppose) and I do some walking exercise. That’s all. Not much. I just walk around my compound.

What lessons have you learnt about life?

So many lessons. Where would I start? Life is ups and downs. Good and bad, but you just have to trust God. We have passed through a lot. You just believe God for the best. No matter how bad it is, it will get better.

Let’s look at the good and the bad sides of life as you said. Shall we look at the good side first?

The good side is when I married the Bishop. When I had my first child is the good side.  The bad side was when my first daughter died and when we lost the bishop’s brother (the doctor), it was bad. One thing we have to do in life is, we have to look up to Jesus. If he allows it, why can we question Him? Our lives are in His hands. That is what I have learnt over the years. Everything that comes to me passes through the hands of Jesus. If Jesus allows it, I allow it. I keep on serving. When I lost my first daughter, it was terrible. Women came from the church to sit around me. I said, please let us go to church. David said, my son cannot come back to me, I will go to him. I told them, let’s go to church. The young girl is dead and she’s been buried. The women were like, what is wrong with this woman? Is she off? I’m not off. I didn’t know I was ministering to somebody there. One of our pastors’ wives, when her only brother she was living with died, she remembered what I said. And that kept her going.

What informed your decision to become a pastor? Is it because you are married to a pastor?

No. I didn’t know I was going to be a pastor. When the bishop came to marry me, he was okay, but he was not a pastor. I like to work behind the scene. I like to pray, and help people. The pastorate just came. God has a plan for each and every one of us. He is a God of plan, purpose and objectivity. He had a plan for me, which I can see now.  The way he took me, he was working it out. I just married the Bishop, and the rest started to unfold. Even the day he made me a bishop, I cried my eyes out because I knew I don’t know much. I said, for what, what am I looking for? I just want to serve God. He said God told him. Thank God he didn’t tell me at home because if he had told me, I wouldn’t have come to church.

Was he already a pastor when you met him?

No. He was working in the bank when I met him. I knew the family, I knew the mum, the father.

My grandmother at that time was in the same church with them, so I knew them. I knew Mama Iloh (his older sister) particularly.

After the war, everybody was looking for God. So, we went to the same church, UCC. I love listening to music and also I love to dance. I love music. I just went there to listen to the music and uplift my spirit.  That was where I met him in the youth fellowship.

What was the attraction?

Bishop had an air. When he was coming, he was always flinging his father’s car key. But he’s a pleasant person. He’s very shy. He couldn’t talk to me; he went to talk to the older sister that he liked me. The rest is history.

Bishop Okonkwo looks hard, what type of man is he?

Bishop is the simplest person you can deal with. He is very simple. I’m the hard one. Don’t look at the hard face o. He’s very soft in the heart. If you look at the face you will be deceived. He is very soft.

What do you love about him?

So many things. He’s loving, he’s caring, he thinks about you. So many things. He tries to help.

If there’s anything you want to change about him, what would that be?

Bishop can give you his house. How do I know? Somebody will come to the church and say mummy, thank you so much. I will say thank you for what? When I get home, he would say, that money we kept, he doesn’t have his house rent, I had to give it to the person. But when I have now found out that’s him, I don’t begrudge him anymore. He can pay school fees. Let’s allow him to be who he is.

You said something about Bishop Mike making you a bishop. How do you feel in a position where men feel that they are the ones that should be Bishops?

Who told you that? We have a lot of women bishops. At that time, I didn’t feel I was ready for it or I was fit for it. There are things when the bishop wants to do that he doesn’t discuss. He just came that day and said, the Lord told him to make some people pastors and bishops. When he called my name, I almost fainted. Tears were rolling down my eyes. I didn’t stop. Did I say bishop ke? I’m trying to handle pastorate already. I just gave in and started trusting God. He helps me a lot, in words and in prayers, he told me that God told him so and once you told me that God told you so, you have caught me. I will close my eyes and just follow what God said. So, the bishop is not actually for men. A woman can be a bishop. It depends on your calling. A man can be a bishop, and so also can a woman.

Would you say this development of the good and the bad you just narrated informed your interest in women?

When I started the ministry, I started counselling, I was more tilted toward the women’s side. A woman would come to talk to you about her problem. If you get to my table, you will see a box of tissue. The woman would not talk instead, she would be crying and this will continue for about 15 or 20 minutes. I’m a woman. I believe in prayers a lot. I say, God, this is becoming and becoming too much. I said Lord, what do I do? He said gather them together and let them pray unto me and I would answer. It started like nothing was happening.

The late Dr Cerrullo had a programme in the church. We were in the old building, we had not built the cathedral. His lieutenant, one of his assistants said, do you know you have a healing ministry? I just smiled. He didn’t tell me what they were planning.

When they came to the service, a few minutes into the programme, he called me up, he said I need you to pray for healing for these people. He told the congregation, if you are sick, come out.  I was shocked. I was taken aback by what God did that day. People were testifying of miracles that happened instantly. He said go and use this to work for the kingdom And I started praying that how would I go about this? My women were shouting, mummy, it has to be on Saturday so that people would come. When I went to the Lord, the Lord says Thursday morning from 9 am to 12noon and once a month. People started coming from outside Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other places. Women started sharing the stories themselves. I went to the International Women’s Prayer Conference (IWPC) and this is what God has done. I have not had a child for 25 years and I have four children. News started flying. After a while, God said to me, start going to them not all of them can come to Lagos. That was how we opened Abuja, Port Harcourt and other places.

I have coordinators in those places. As we kept on going, African countries opened up, and European countries opened up. Last month, I was ministering in London. We have to continue to pray for women. Women go through a lot of things.

 


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