As part of her 70th birthday celebrations, Bishop Peace Okonkwo, in this exclusive interview, with the Dunamis Publications team of Rev Lizzy Ikem, Cami Ezenwa, Den Malachy Ndubuzor, Buehl Ubany, Eze Monday Udeze & Success Nwaogu talks about her life @ 70.
How do you feel now that you have turned 70?
I am asking myself, is it really 70 years? But it is. I give Glory to God that His strength has kept me and keeps on keeping me.
Everyone I told that I am turning 70 doubted me; it is just the Grace of God. He has continuously taken me from Glory to Glory.
I was at Apapa on the 1st of May, 2022. You couldn’t believe what happened:. I stood up for about 3 hours to the Glory of God. I left Apapa Church by past three 0’clock, and I didn’t
feel it. You will know it is not me because when HE calls you, He equips you for what He has called you to do. They gave testimonies of the last time I visited them, and there were also immediate testimonies on that particular day. I return all the Glory to God. It is not the work of anyone but the work of the Holy Spirit.
You are involved in so many outreaches, which of them is so dear to you?
I would say all of them because they came differently. The International Women’s Prayer Conference (IWPC) came because I have been Counseling the women over time. And each time a woman came to my counselling desk, she would start crying.
If you come to my Counseling desk tomorrow, you will see a box of tissue paper because many of them come so burdened. So, the Lord said to me, bring them together, let them pray, and I will answer. You heard the testimony. Daddy shared on Sunday.
Rev. Rose told me about one of the women who came with her; I couldn’t recognise her. It happened when I was in Enugu; she hadn’t had a child for six years. So, she found out about the hotel I was staying in and paid for my hotel bill.
When I checked out of the hotel room, she checked into the same hotel, and she told them not to change the bedsheet I slept on. She slept on the same bed and took her bath in the same bathroom. The rest is history. By the time we went back the following year, she was already pregnant.
She testified, but I couldn’t recognise her.
She was sharing with the rest of the people how she could have her child. So, God has been faithful, and that was how IWPC came about.
The Cancer screening programme came about when I went for a similar cancer screening; this gave me concern about the way women were dying. The turning point was a statement I heard: They said it is treatable, and I took that statement. I said if it is treatable by the Grace of God, I will do as much as I can on my 60th birthday, and I said I would volunteer for Cancer Screening. With all the money and gifts I received, I pushed it to ensure the free cancer screening programme was a reality. What is money without you helping people? I can’t forget when we went to one village; the Vicar said I wished you people came last year; my women’s leader died of cervical cancer. It pained me. We were able to screen about ten thousand plus. We went with doctors; that was the origin of the cancer screening programme.
The Word of Power Group of schools came out of a burden. There was a time the schools in
Nigeria were so bad; I mean bad. So, I started praying. I asked God, what do we do? He said you set up one; then I called my ladies. We have a lot of gifted people in the church, both male and female. I called an educationist and said, can’t we set up a school, so that our children can go to a better school? Discussion started among those that responded to my call, which gave birth to the Word of Power Group of Schools.
Rehoboth Homes and Skill Acquisitions was birthed when a lady died in a restroom in a church. The lady did not have accommodation.
She went to a church, and after service, she had nowhere to go; she went and slept in their restroom and died there. I said no, God, what are you telling me? He said you must do something. That is how my leading comes. So, I started praying; I said, okay, we will get a home for those who are stranded, and that was how we got the one at Ketu that could take about 90 ladies or thereabout. We started in a small bungalow, but God expanded it, and that is how that one came about. So, we started bringing them in; we even trained them; some of them are graduates now. Those who said they wanted to go to school and my women are so supportive because they knew, if I said, this is what I am going to do, that is precisely what I am going to do. I would not change it.
If I said, this money is going to this place, go and check all around, that would be the place it would go. So that was how we started the home.
There are twin girls; their mother is partially blind; she came for the skill acquisition in the church, so one of the ladies met me and said those girls are young girls and could be sexually harassed owing to the challenge of partial blindness facing their mother, coupled with the fact that they live in an area with the potential threat from hoodlums; So, I took them to Rehoboth Homes and Skill Acquisitions.
They are in their homes now; they are in secondary school now. That is how I do things: once there is anything. I will start praying to ask God what do you want me to do? How do you want me to be part of it?
Then, widows in the village, you know it is very difficult for widows, especially those with children, it is challenging for them to train their children. So, I started years ago to send
foodstuffs, money, and clothes. The first time I did it, the women were outside praying for me for six hours. You see what God is doing; people did not understand that they were praying, but I understood, they were even surprised that we were able to reach out to the widows during the pandemic; they are the uppermost in my heart.
That is how it all came about. So, widows’ empowerment is from Glory to Glory.
When you were growing up as a young lady, did you have any idea that you would get married to brother Mike and become an ordained Pastor with this kind of Grace upon your life?
I came from a very struggling background. My dad died when we were young. So, my grandmother brought me up and her daughter, who lives in England. You might have seen her here once. They were the ones that trained me, sort of. So, it was a very hard time, but God was faithful. My grandmother prayed a lot. So, I did not think of it; I did not dream of it. I just followed God. On Sunday, you must read the Bible; that is how my grandmother brought me up; I did not know I was going to marry Bishop Mike. That time, they were seeing something I was not seeing. They were seeing the hand of God upon my life, but I was not seeing it. I was just following God, going to church, serving God, that was all.
When you said it was hard and difficult, can you break it down?
It was hard; you know the way it is when a grandmother is training you. A grand mum, not even your mother training. She had a shop in Ogbete, Enugu market, to pay school fees. My grand mum does not joke; anytime she came back from the market, you started pounding and preparing food. She did not believe in all those things we use in grinding. We would pound Egusi and pepper. You know pounding pepper is very difficult; After pounding, she would cook, and it was when she cooked, all of us would eat, but we kept at it, trusting God.
As a young woman growing up, you had your aspirations of what to become in life. Did your aspirations work out the way you had it in mind?
I wanted to become a nurse, but at the time, I wouldn’t say I liked seeing blood. That one was out of it. I would say that I just wanted to leave my life in the hands of God. You know, no father.
My father died very early, and my mom was not around. It was my grandmom. So, I would not say I wanted to become a doctor or a lawyer, no, no she would say; where would you get the money for that?
I just followed my grandmother. She was the one who would tell you what to do.
At a time, I was working and going to school because I also wanted to help my younger ones. I went to school in the morning and went to work in the evening. That is what I meant by it was not easy but look at what God has done.
So, I would not say I wanted to be this or that; I just followed God as HE leads.
Even when you were following God, did it ever occur to you that you would become famous in the body of Christ and beyond?
Do not go there; I did not become famous; it is God. I would not say I became famous. No. I just do as I am led because when Late Dr Morris Cerulo came to Nigeria and was ministering in the church, and one of the men that came with him called me out and said, do you know there is healing anointing in your life? I did not know what to say. He said I should wait, He called the people that were sick, and they came up to the podium there. He said to me, “pray for them”. I was shocked at what God did. I was taken aback.
People were healed of eye problems and different things. I even started questioning myself. You see, what is in you; use it to bless people. So, I started praying because I do not just pick something and started running with it.
I started praying, asking God how to go about it?
Some of my women said Mummy, it has to be on Saturday so that people would not go to work and attend, “but I heard the Holy Spirit say Thursday morning. They were all taken aback, but I said Thursday morning between 9 am-12 noon once a month. That was how we started IWPC. Few believed in it. I do not blame them at all.
So, we started, and people began to come from different parts- Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja.
People began sharing their testimonies, and people flew down to attend. So, the Lord said, anointing is progressive; go to them. That is how doors opened for us. We were going to Abuja three times a year, going to Port Harcourt, and going to places, but as the door was opened, we had to cut down Abuja and Port Harcourt to once. We even went to Aba and to some African countries. We did not stop there; we went to European countries and the United States of
America. So, that was how it came about.
Is it possible that one will have a ministerial calling without knowing it?
I will say I do not know because I do not know much. I know that I love to pray. That is my calling. I love to pray, and I do not love to see people suffering. My 60th birthday, impacted, and now it’s my 70th; you heard them saying impact again.
Would you say that your background prepared you for what you are doing now?
Maybe, it is possible because my Aunty used to tell me ‘Peace’ JESUS is using you”. I would just laugh whenever she said such a thing become I knew it was not the work of any man, but whether I have seen something? I have seen something. I just give all the Glory to HIM. I have seen God do incredible things. One of them was when I went to the Houston programme, and there was this boy in intensive care. His mother had an IWPC testimony booklet. She read it and prayed and that was how she was able to conceive. The boy became very sick and was in intensive care. That day, I was in Houston, and I think his father flew in saying that his body was already white and covered with cloth and in intensive care. The Holy Spirit said, send the word of healing to him before you finish the meeting, he would be fine, and that was precisely what happened; before the meeting came to an end, they called back that he was out of intensive care. You can see the hand of God, not man.
When you talked about your father’s death, can you tell us your specific age?
I do not know because I was a child; I do not know my age because I did not meet him. I did not get to know him. My father was a manager in one of the companies. You know these things are real. He went home to put up a building, but he did not come back from there. He did not return back to his place of work; he had stepped on Poison. If you noticed, before my mother died, one of her legs was bigger than the other one because she stepped on something that was kept for someone else; that was why she did not die of it.
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