Barrister Isaac Okpanachi

Isaac OkpanachiSPARED FROM DROWNING   

My name is Isaac Okpanachi, and I was born into a strict Christian family in the village of Agojeju in  Kogi State of Nigeria, I was the first male of six children.  My father was an elder in the church and it was compulsory for us to be in church every Sunday with our parents for the morning service, Sunday school at 3 in the afternoon and the evening service.  In addition, we had family devotions morning and evening everyday. So I grew up knowing a lot of scriptures by heart and seeing good examples of Christian living but all that meant nothing to me. I had a good but not exactly a comfortable childhood by my village standards. My family moved from Agojeju to a larger town, Ejule, in 1968, where because of the business vacuum that was created following the departure of the Ibos at the beginning of the Biafran civil war in 1967, my father became rich (by our standards) and at a point owned two 911 Mercedes Benz trucks with his two partners.

 

I left high school in June, 1975, but the Principal refused to give me my testimonial because I owed the last term's school fees. I owed the fees because I actually used the money my father gave me for fees to buy marijuana for my friends. I had no idea in the world where I was going to get the money to pay and collect my testimonial but I really did not care. So I went to Kaduna to look for work that June. I found there was a possibility to get a job but anywhere I had a chance, they asked for my testimonial. They wanted to see what the Principal said about my character. I was frustrated. However ,  there was a coup in July that year that removed Gen. Yakubu Gowon from office. When Gen. Murtala Mohammed and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo came into power, their first program was the Universal Primary Education scheme. They wanted to increase primary school enrolment all over the country and so they began by hiring all sorts as teachers including primary school leavers and for that reason I left Kaduna for my own local government headquarters at Idah. I got the job of a teacher in August that year.

In December of 1975,  I came home for the Christmas holiday. One of those days I went with a friend into the bush for three hours to smoke marijuana.  I was out of my senses when I returned about 5 p.m. to our home only to be accosted by Andrew, my uncle who looked me straight in the red sleepy eyes and said, “Isaac, from the way you are living your life, are you sure if you die, you are going to heaven?”  I did pause for a few seconds then walked on saying to myself, “Who is going to die at the age of 17, me? No, I wasn’t going to die at 17, what have I done yet to die at 17?” However much I tried to dismiss this question, it kept coming back. “What if you die?”  Now, such a thing would bother me because I had heard of hell and heaven all my life but how to avoid going to hell I never heard. That evening was a struggle. When we went to bed, my eyes would not close because the question kept coming back.

Then I remembered that one Saturday morning in March 1972 I was a student in my high school that was located at Idah on the eastern bank of the River Niger opposite Agenebode in Edo State something had happened to me.   In those days, anytime a person drowned in the Niger at Idah somehow the news will spread and we would hear 33 miles away. So when I was leaving for school father severely warned me to stay away from the river because he knew I could not swim. Then one Saturday in March 1972,five of my friends were on their way to the Niger and they came to our house to invite me. Quickly, I packed my dirty clothes in a bucket and followed them. I didn't forget my father's warning but, the best boy in our class was one of them that came. I wanted to be in that company, so I followed them. When we got to the river, I found a shallow part and began washing my clothes.  But then , … Friday! Friday, my former elementary classmate who I felt was inferior to me in every way – with girls, with studies, in sports - Friday jumped into the river and started swimming.  The whole of my world came tumbling down that Saturday morning. Then one of the five said, "Isaac, you are a lazy man. You have been here two years and you can’t swim. This boy who just came is swimming.   Lazy man!"  So I said, "You think I cannot swim -  just because I don't want to swim?"

"If you can swim show us, show us!" they challenged me.   In my foolish pride I left my washing, took three steps back, ran and jumped into the river and sank straight to the bottom like stone  - all in my attempt to square up to Friday.

As it is commonly known, before one drowns, the water will normally throw you up three times.  I was thrown up thrice but after a while I found myself on the sand by the river. What happened? That best boy in my class, Paul Omaji, (now a Professor of Criminology, Perth University, Western Australia) when he saw I was struggling, risked his life and jumped in the river after me, a most dangerous enterprise. He saved me when I faced certain death. You would think such an experience would sober one up. Not me. It was after this incident that I ever learned to smoke cigarettes at all and later became a marijuana addict and an outlaw in the school.

And now, after the challenge from my uncle about going to heaven, I was I was lying on the bed unable to fall asleep and I suddenly remembered this event. I had already come face to face with death then at the age of 14 and now at 17 I was saying it was too early to die?  I had to get out of bed and review my very vile and depraved life of sheer emptiness.  That night I had to talk directly and consciously to Jesus for the first time in my life. I felt the weight of guilt for my sins which I had not been aware of before.   I asked for Jesus’ forgiveness but I had no knowledge of His blood having anything to do with me or my sin. But that night something happened to me. How did I know? First, I slept  like a log immediately after I prayed;   then I woke up on cloud nine next morning.  I felt so light. I fell in love with everything my eyes saw - people, houses, trees, the sky, the brown earth, sheep, goats and everything - It was a glorious happy day. I began to wonder, what is happening to me? Then I remembered the prayer I had prayed the night before. Oh my!  What joy filled my heart!

December 15, 2016, marked forty-one years since I began walking with Jesus. In forty-one years I have seen God’s mercy, His favor and extraordinary protection. I have experienced Him in preservation and divine advancement on every front.   Order, discipline, purpose and direction came into my life.  Of course cigarettes, marijuana, the occasional beer and fornication left for good. If Andrew were to ask me that same question again now, I have a perfect answer for him. Yes, I will be in heaven with Jesus!

Shortly after that encounter, I gained admission into Murtala College of Arts, Science and Technology, Makurdi in 1977 and from there I proceeded to the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos.  I was called to the Nigerian Bar in  July, 1982 and was posted to Yola now the capital of Adamawa State, Nigeria for compulsory national youth service for one year. It was in June that year I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at GSS Garkida.  Before my service year ended, I was employed in the Chambers of Dr. Suleiman Kumo in Kano.  I flew on Nigerian Airways from Yola to Kano, the commercial capital of Northern Nigeria.  On that flight, somewhere over Bauchi State, I fell into a trance which probably lasted less than twenty seconds.  I saw myself sitting as a boss in the midst of white people. I quickly surmised God was either going to give me a ministry to the Lebanese in Kano or give me some big time business there in which I would employ them in good numbers. Well, I lived in Kano for seven years, and neither of these things happened – but something else happened.

One evening I attended a Bible study with a friend, and while we were waiting for the Bible Study to start, two tall girls walked in - one an Ibo girl and the second, a white American girl. I heard the Spirit whisper in my heart, "Isaac, look at that white girl, she is going to be your wife."  Right there in my heart, I replied, "Sir, if you have any serious thing to say to me, I am all ears, but this - I am not the one you are speaking to, Sir."  This was how I flatly dismissed what I actually concluded was my own mind playing tricks on me.  I never saw her again until about three years later at a secondary school in Daura, Kaduna State where she was teaching Bible as a missionary. The Associate Fellowship of Christian Students which I led then in Kano had gone there to visit with the students. We became quite friendly thereafter because of the fellowship activities but the question of marriage was out of it. I actually married another sister in the same fellowship but she died after 18 months from some strange ailment called "Mystinia gravis" triggered by pregnancy.  It was then I decided to obey God.

This American girl Jan agreed and married me on 20th July, 1990. We left Kano that same day to settle in Abuja. It has been pure bliss. After we settled in Abuja, one thing led to the other until she became the Principal of the American International School, Abuja in 1995. She brought tremendous progress to that school.  However in December, 1997 the school staged a Christmas Carol event during which the children sang well over twenty songs but in two of those songs the name of Jesus was mentioned and that is how the problem started.  Why should the name of Jesus be mentioned in carol songs at Christmas in an American school?  The controversy led to her forced resignation in June 1998. It was a devastating blow for her but the Possessor of heaven and earth was actually pushing her into her destiny and purpose.

She didn't want to do anything apart from teaching. She had found her niche in that school and was in love with international education. That is how we were led to open a Christian school of our own in September that year - the International Community School, Abuja - on empty pockets.  But God has prospered that work and this year it is celebrating its 20th anniversary.  ICS is truly international.  God has given us over 520 children from over 40 different nations over time.  We have by His help hired teachers and staff from America, Britain, Finland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Egypt, India, Lebanon, , the Philippines and Liberia.

And then it happened - in December, 1999 as we sat waiting for our own Christmas Carol service to start (mind you, the name of Jesus is freely and deliberately mentioned in every song now) suddenly I noticed that I was sitting in the midst of white people to my right, left, front and behind - all on my payroll, a fulfillment of what God had shown me sixteen years earlier.

Also in my legal practice, I have seen him open tremendous doors.  In September, 2005 I sowed a seed of $2500 in the days of famine.   This was a lesson I learnt after joining Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International-Nigeria (FGBMFI) in August 1985 - to give to God without reservation.  Four days later Marilyn Hickey prayed after challenging us on TBN to ask God for only one thing that is God- sized.  I asked Him to intervene in my practice and in a week I got a job from the National Universities Commission in which the Lord enabled me to recover a debt of over $1.26 million. That same year He also enabled me to make the recoveries of over $400,000 for twelve shop owners whose land had been forcefully taken from them and a second similar recovery of nearly $300,000. Then in 2010, we sold a client's property for just over $1.29 million and in 2007, another judgment was obtained for nearly  $3 million. In December 2014, we won the landmark Abalaka/HIV case against the Federal government, then a recovery of $33,332 for a widow and children in 2015. In the same year we also got an absolute order against CBN for just under $1 million. There are many, many, more great favors from God but I testify only to give Him glory.  He hasn't finished with me yet.

As God began to put His resources in our hands, He directed my wife and me through a vision in April 2002 to start doing medical outreaches in rural areas in my home state in Nigeria, Kogi State.  Since December, 2005 till date we have run those outreaches every December, April and August without fail (except April 2015 when we broke off to refocus). We have been able to conduct 42 outreaches in all with about 18,000 souls won, over 300 eye operations  (including about 30 who recovered from total blindness after the surgeries) and over 1500 other medical operations.  As we prayed not one operation has failed yet. We have seen signs and wonders and diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit manifesting. We have sent doctors and Pastors to Uganda twice who returned with great testimonies. We are right now developing a Christian Centre in my village as He directed us. One day soon, it will host 30 medical doctors from the US who will come to perform operations there free of charge in a major, medical outreach.  A FGBMFI chapter will be hosted there. The youth of Igalaland will be effectively reached and trained there for the kingdom. The rural women will discover hope for life there. Men of prayer will find a retreat there. Finally in the area of protection, our Hiding Place has been marvelous.  My wife, Jan, and I have escaped armed robbers twice. I have escaped death from car accidents twice. On the 18th of March 2008, an assailant attacked me in my sleep in my village to yank my heart out of the rib cage by sheer force but the name of Jesus defeated him.  Our God is an awesome God!

Mrs. Jan Okpanachi

I once saw two photos, one depicting how most Americans view themselves and the other depicting how many non-Americans view them. The first was a picture of a man and his wife casually dressed with two children (boy & girl) one cat and one dog. The second was a picture of a middle-aged overweight couple, the man smoking a long cigar and the woman decked out in expensive furs and jewels.

My family didn't fit either of these images as we were eight children (one set of twins), with several dogs and countless cats living on a farm where we were just getting by. The good thing was that we learned to work hard and made our own bread, butter, butchered our own meat, reared our own chickens which supplied us with eggs, milked our own cows, and raised a BIG garden each summer with all kinds of vegetables, potatoes, etc.  It was a wholesome life and I was a very quiet, but contented child. My ambition in life was to marry a preacher and have six kids and be the best mom and wife I could be. I had not yet met Jesus, but my heart was drawn to God and I believed myself to be a Christian. I used to seek out lonely places to pray, though I can't remember what I ever prayed about!!

But then there were times when I felt guilty knowing I was not able to be as good as I wanted to be, and many evenings my heart would be engulfed with a sad, desperate feeling of emptiness. I would look at the stars and wonder what the meaning of life was, but I had no answer.

At the age of thirteen, my parents sent me to a summer Bible Camp where I became friends with a lovely girl named Donna. Donna was lovely inside and out, and I was so proud to have her as a friend.  But Donna was different. She was so loving, serene and kind and she spoke about having Jesus in her life. That was a new concept to me, but I knew I needed what she had. I saw the truth of God's Word that although I was thought to be a "good girl," all my righteousness was like filthy rags according to God's Word. I saw I was actually a condemned sinner destined for hell, not the good Christian that I thought I was. For the first time I understood that Jesus actually went to the cross because of ME – it was MY sins that put Him there and that now forgiveness and salvation were mine for the asking. I invited Him in and though initially I was not sure that He really saved me, God opened my eyes to see that "Faith is the Victory" - I just needed to believe His promise that if I would open my heart, He would surely come in. Since then I have never doubted that I am His child and that He will take me to heaven when I die.

The next day I woke up with deep peace in my heart and overflowing joy bubbling in my spirit. I picked up my Bible to read a few lines, and for the first time it became ALIVE to me. I was so thrilled that God was actually speaking directly to me personally through His Word. Another change I experienced was that I was no longer trying to be good or look good to impress other people. I now had a sincere desire in my heart to do what was right whether people saw me or not, just to please the loving God who had now become my Father.

Since that day, my life became an adventure. I wanted God to use me to help others find the joy I had found, so I got involved in children's ministry where I experienced thethrill of leading others to Christ. My life could not be lived for anything less than this. In my pursuit of more of God and His Word, I attended Prairie Bible Institute where I prayed daily for missionaries and not surprisingly, the Lord then called me into full-time mission work. How excited I was to come to Nigeria and teach (not English which I had studied), but the Bible itself in secondary schools - something never allowed in the so-called Christian country I was coming from! The years I spent teaching and helping in the FCS fellowships in WTC Kano, FGGC Bauchi, GSS Daura and FGC Kano were precious to me and many of my former students are now my friends, many alsoare in full-time ministry for God doing far more for Him than I ever could!!!

In 1990 God clearly led me to marry Barrister Isaac Okpanachi with whom I had served in AFCS in Kano and that marriage marked the beginning of another great adventure. How wonderful to marry your friend and soulmate! How fulfilling to grow and serve God together. God has blessed us with special children that we love so much.  The Lord has fulfilled His promise made to me long ago in Ps. 16:11 that He would show me the path for my life and that “in His presence” I would experience “fullness of joy.”   I will serve Him forever.

Mrs Jan Okpanachi and her children

Isaac Okpanachi Hearing His Voice Testimony