I attended a small primary school in the village of Ejule in my home State of Kogi. From there I proceeded to St. Peter’s College, Idah (1971 – 1975), then to Murtala College of Arts Science and Technology in Makurdi from 1976 to 1978.
When I gained admission to a day secondary school in January 1971, my father had only one fear – that I might play the fool and drown in the River Niger. So he warned me to avoid anything to do with the river. Throughout the first year, I did avoid River Niger, but one Saturday morning in March 1972, I accompanied 5 friends of mine to the river to wash clothes, in my bid to square up to Friday – a boy who had come from my village to the school in January 1972 and that day jumped into the river and swam – I tried to show that I could also swim. I nearly got drowned, but God showed me mercy.
As a secondary school student, I lived on the “other side” of the law and my life was nearly ruined by substance abuse. I was also guilty of every vice young people indulged in. I left secondary school in June 1975 without a testimonial because I had used my last term’s school fees to buy marijuana. On the evening of the 15th December 1975, being high on marijuana, I was accosted by my elder brother as I entered the house. “Isaac,” he said, “the way you are living your life, are you sure you will go to heaven if you die?” Me, die I said to myself – at 17 years of age? What have I done yet? But his question haunted me for the next several hours so that when we went to bed at about 10 p.m. my eyes would not close. I tried and tried to reason that I could not die because I was too young to die.
Then I suddenly remembered my near-death experience in the River Niger three years before and other instances when God actually saved me from dying before that day. I saw the futility of my argument. This was the reason I climbed down from the bed that night, knelt down and surrendered my heart to Jesus. When I awoke the next morning, my heart was light. I fell in love with everything I saw – l loved people, houses, the sky, goats, sheep, trees, even the ground! I wondered what happened to me and then I remembered the prayer I prayed the night before. My life has never been the same. That was 32 years ago and for me this journey is getting sweeter by the day.
Then on July 3, 1983, I boarded a Nigeria Airways plane for Kano. As the aircraft was flying above Bauchi, while awake I suddenly saw a vision of myself sitting in the midst of white people – at my left, at my right, in front of me and behind me. My immediate conclusion was that since I was on my way to Kano where there is a sizeable population of Lebanese people, maybe the Lord was going to give me a ministry among them or perhaps God was going to open a door for me to go into some business where I would become a manager over them. But for the several years that I lived in Kano, my path hardly crossed that of any Lebanese person.
In Kano, I stayed with Chris Ikone who was my senior by 2 years at the Faculty of Law at the University of Lagos. He had become the state coordinator of the Deeper Life Ministry in Kano and I used to attend Bible studies with him. One night as we were waiting for the Bible Study to start, two tall girls walked in – one an Igbo girl and the other, a white American. Immediately as I saw them, the Holy Spirit ministered to me: “that white girl is going to be your wife.” I laughed in my heart and responded, “Holy Spirit, me? If You have something serious to say to me, say it please, but not this.” I did not even give it a second thought. I just forgot it.
I saw this white lady again about 2 years later at Daura in the present-day Katsina State where we met in a students’ fellowship. I then learned that she was a missionary teaching at Government Secondary School, Daura. Over the next 7 years we became friends, serving together in the Associate Fellowship of Christian Students, but I still rejected the thought of marrying her. To completely rule out the possibility of marrying her, I got married to another girl in 1987, but sadly she died in 1989, due to complications in childbirth. As I got to know this missionary better, one thing led to the other and I found I felt affection for her. The Lord also revealed to her that it was indeed His plan for us to come together and thus on July 20, 1990, we got married in Kano and moved to Abuja.
In Abuja I started my law practice while Jan, my wife, worked with me as secretary. Being out of job, we started attending a discipleship course in the house of a professor friend, the Director General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development in Abuja. That was how she took a job as his personal secretary and worked at NIPRD for one year.
In the course of working there, one day a Polish man came looking for her to teach his son Matthew who needed help with his American home schooling. While she was teaching this boy, the boy’s parents got to know that the American Embassy was trying to open an international school in Abuja and without her knowledge submitted her name to them to be considered as a teacher. This they did and she taught at the American International School for two years, then served as the school’s principal for three additional years.
Eventually she had to leave that school because of the religious restrictions. She said that the only profession that would give her fulfilment was teaching and we then put our resources together to start a school. To our amazement, the professor who she had previously worked for offered to help with a plot of land for the school and became our business partner in the venture!
We started building immediately. One of the parents from the American International School, who wasn’t happy about how my wife was treated, became interested in helping her. He helped us to construct the first section of the school structure and enrolled his four children in the school before it even became a physical reality! My wife, an Indian lady, Yerusha Benjamin and Mrs. Sylvia Umoh, who left her position as headmistress of another school to join us, were the first three teachers in our school. As time went on, other children came and some of the teachers that we hired decided to bring their children though they were not paying fees. So the first year, we had 9 children for most of the year but only two of them were paying fees. It was tight financially but God encouraged and sustained us.
The following year, God blessed us and we had 17 children, the third year God gave us 46, etc. This year the school is ten years old and we now have 250 students from about 36 different countries. We have excellent Nigerian teachers and we also have hired teachers who are American, British, Indian, Filipino, Bulgarian, – and of course, if I don’t sign the cheques, none of them receive their salaries!
God has been good to us. One evening at school as we were waiting for the Christmas Carol to start, I suddenly realized that to my right were white people, to my left were white people, in my front and behind me, white people, just what I saw in that vision in 1983. The best thing is that we are free to proclaim the name of Jesus in the school and in any programme we present. In such programmes, it is always a pleasure to stand before the parents and pray for their children. Although we enjoy having many Christian families in the school, we also have Moslems, Hindus and some others who do not have any religion at all. God has given us the opportunity to expose them to the gospel. If you knew the village I come from, you would know that only God could do such a thing as He has done for us!
God has raised us up to be helping other people. When I got to Abuja in 1990, I was elected as an elder in my church and my first assignment was to be in charge of evangelism. As I led the team to villages to preach the gospel within the FCT, I saw that the people have a lot of health problems. So when God began to put some funds into our hands, we began to implement another vision that God gave me in April 2002 – to reach out to the rural communities, especially women, with the gospel. This includes teaching many to read so that they can read the Bible. This vision was further confirmed when I was invited to a medical outreach at a village just before Zangon Kataf in November 2004 which opened my eyes to the deep medical and spiritual needs of the rural people. We eventually started going out towards the end of the year 2005 taking Christian doctors with us to do medical outreaches in Kogi State. We started with ordinary medical problems, but then one of the doctors noticed that many of the patients used to complain of eye problems. We then started going out with opthamologists and actually, the person who has done most of the operations for us is Dr. Emeka, a member of FGBMFI. For the medical outreaches we get the cooperation of all the churches in any village we are going to. They provide counsellors and we bring preachers and doctors.
Those with minor eye problems are treated while those who need operations are taken to a nearby hospital for surgery. In this way about 60 eye operations have been performed and by the grace of God, not one single operation has failed. Cataracts are removed, glaucoma patients have also been operated on. The most outstanding event for me was in April 2007 when we went to one village called Alloma in Kogi State. About 200 patients came and 16 people were operated on. Of these, 6 were completely blind and were led by the hand to the arena to see the doctor. The doctors operated on these 16 patients throughout the night. By the evening of the following day, when the cotton wool was removed from their eyes, all the operations were successful and those 6 who were completely blind could see. One of these was a woman who had been blind for 19 years! This woman started shouting when they removed the cotton wool from her eyes because she started recognizing her children and other people she had known before she became blind! Others who received their sight again also shouted for joy. There were intense emotions in the hospital, but it was a joyful commotion for us. It is an experience I’ll never forget. So many people are going around blind that can be cured. Many of us have turned God down thinking that it must be by miracle alone that God must heal people. Sometimes, the key to the people’s miracle is inside your pocket!
I want to encourage other Christians to help people in this way or any other way God may put in your heart because we have so much poverty in this country. People are going about with chronic illnesses because they don’t have money for treatment, while it may not be more than 500 Naira worth of drugs that is needed to save someone from premature death. The eye operations that have restored sight to the blind cost only about 11,000 Naira.
Time and space will fail me to tell how God has helped me countless times in the courtroom and greatly prospered my legal practice. So God has really, really thrilled us and we have determined that whatever it will cost us, we’ll continue to do these programmes and serve Him all the days of our lives.