GOODNIGHT, BRO CHRIS IBEAWUCHI
For a long time, I could not fix his tribe. His hand was clearly Esau's but his voice contested copiously that he was Jacob. His deep mastery of Yoruba language and gestures gave him up to that tribe but only an Igbo could bear Ibeawuchi. And that must even be from Owerri. That was by brother, Rev. Chris Ibeawuchi: brother in Christ, brother in the Scripture Union ministry and brother in cowl, though of the Anglican Communion and my humble self of Evangel Pentecostal Church.
Chris believed so much in me, sometimes, to my hurt, but it helped in growing God's work in the Scripture Union, Lagos Area, during our time. Anything I suggested in the Area Board or anywhere, Chris supported it. Things we did as a matter of exigency before getting the Board's approval included the hosting of the International Secretary and also of the Training Consultant, which was the responsibility of the General Director. When the praise came from the Council, it was to me and the Travelling Secretary, none to Chris, an Andrew that always worked behind the scenes.
Convinced that since the Deeper Life Bible Church could run free camps, the first that was doing that, we in the Scripture Union, Lagos Area, would also be doing the same. I sold the idea to Chris who swallowed it, hook, line, sinker, boots, all. With his support, it sailed through the Area Committee and for nine years we had free Camps. We also held Banquets on Easter Sundays, a strange phenomenon for people on retreat! All these helped in building our membership.
Chris succeeded me as the Area Pilgrims Coordinator when I became the Area Chairman. Our symbiosis became more pronounced. One year, we had obtained permission to use one school for our Easter Camp, when Lagos State Government banned the use of public places for religious purposes. Chris, the Travelling Secretary and myself, tied our heads with strong rope and went ahead to do so. Chris never grumbled behind me. To save her job, the Principal chickened out at last by opening the doors for us without giving us the keys! On the first night, a little girl, Ogechi Okoroego, disappeared from the Camp. Chris was one of those who labored tirelessly on the knees till the next day. It is good to have an assistant, anywhere and anytime, like Bro. Chris Ibeawuchi. Would we report to the Police? If they asked what we were doing, how would we explain? We braved it all and went from one Police Station to the other. It was at Alaka Police Station we found her.
Always coming late… always apologizing for writing his reports during the Area Committee… always rebuked… always accepting the blame with his Scripture Union smiling face. Chris Ibeawuchi… He always overworked himself at his Rank Xerox Company from where he attended the all night's Area Committee. When I ministered at his Anglican Communion Church at Maza Maza a few years ago, I observed that age had not robbed him off his zeal for God's work. The matchless zeal with which he served in the Scripture Union was still there, yielding fruits.
Chris succeeded me again as the Area Chairman. The single vote that brought me in was the same single vote that brought him in. That was an unusual vote from the same man – the same contestant - Engr Charles Ndefo! When Nixon was elected the US President, someone told him not to depart from his predecessor's footsteps. His response was that if he did so, there would have been no need for his election. But that was what Chris did, doing things exactly as I did, but his Board could not be driven sheepishly. Would you blame him for following the footsteps of a man he loved, or the Board for using their brain?
As if the Scripture Union, Lagos Region was aware that Chris would return home soon, he was among the brethren who were appreciated at the Scripture Union, Camp at Ijede in Ikorodu in January this year. Chris was one of the people who had been on sabbatical for a long time and had not been appreciated by the Region and yet, he never complained. It was a great opportunity God gave us, in particular myself, to appreciate this great man of God, who was always 'shmiling' even when he was 'shuffering'.
It was difficult to decipher whether Chris was more intimate with Ify, my wife, or with me, for while he copied me, he confided in her. In my home, he was a household name. I wonder how my wife would cope without him! Rev. Chris Ibeawuchi passed on in the hands of his young graduate daughter, Amarachi, a name he gave to his child, because 'Bro. Osondu did the same'. Bro. Chris, we will meet at the feet of Jesus one day. Goodnight.