The secular world we live in has little but temporary place for the eternal just as the eternal which will last forever has no place for the temporary materialistic and secular world. It therefore requires courage, zeal and unfaltering devotion of spirit, soul, mind and heart to Jesus to be a missionary in the secular and materialistic world and especially in the most Muslim dominated Northern Nigeria. Dr Peter Ozodo, a pioneer and still active missionary with others lost every bit of their temporal comforts but never let their Christian faith go in vain but, ‘with a clear mandate of bringing the transformational message of Jesus to the unreached people of our generation.’ Dr Ozodo have travelled ‘a long way and have arrived at a time, where we have been called to cultivate the qualities of gratitude and love and possess the gentle spirit of determination to hasten the work of Salvation.’ For Dr Ozodo, it is the martyr spirit that burns in his breast and shapes itself into the lineaments of his face. Just like the saints of old, love for truth, love for human salvation and love for the Lord Jesus Christ are the controlling forces that works in their life and mission work.
It was the spirit of faith, of sacrifice, of patience and of hope of eternal life that inspired Dr Ozodo and others to be at the forefront of mission and revival since his student days at the University of Ife during the Revival that followed the Nigerian Civil War. Richard Burgess, in one of his books, Nigeria’s Christian Revolution: The Civil War Revival and its Pentecostal Progeny (1967 – 2006),’ provides some revivalist Narratives that followed the Nigerian Civil war. A sense of urgency to the preaching of the gospel and the need for reconciliation and healing formed the main basis of the Revival evangelical settings especially in the Western and Eastern part of Nigeria. Burgess and Professor Matthew Ojo agreed that aggressive evangelism after the Civil War led to tension with Scripture Union (SU) and this led to the formations of autonomous charismatic fellowships. Just as commitment to mission and evangelism always reflect in the name adopted by evangelical and charismatic movement, different mission and evangelical bodies emerged with names in commitment to the spread of the gospel.
Some challenges in the spread and increase in the formation of indigenous evangelical and charismatic fellowships influenced other revivalists groups and individuals to channel their evangelistic urges into forming indigenous cross-cultural missionary organisation. This aim and purpose was to reach the unreached within and outside Nigeria and Africa, and this led to the vision and journey behind the pioneering initiative of Charismatic missions to Northern Nigerian by Dr Ozodo and others. The history behind ‘Calvary Ministries (popularly known as CAPRO because of her original name, Calvary Productions), started as a spontaneous outreach to the Muslims of Northern Nigeria in 1975. What initially was meant to be a short-term outreach in Zaria City by a group of young zealous evangelists, has grown to become an international interdenominational Missions Agency with over 700 missionaries from 26 countries and with operations in 35 countries in Subsaharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, America and Asia.’ Calvary Ministries was founded in the predominantly Muslim city of Zaria, Northern Nigeria in 1975 by young people associated with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme founded by General Gowon regime in 1973. The scheme ‘created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war,’ was based on Decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 which stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”.
CAPRO as the first non-denominational indigenous mission agency in Nigeria with Dr Ozodo and Bayo Famonure as the two principal actors used their NYSC posting platform for the spiritual reconstruction and rebuilding of Christianity in Northern Nigeria. Dr Ozodo and Famonure were both influenced by the revival in the Western and Eastern Nigeria. According to Burgess, Famonure from the Western part of Nigeria was “born again” in 1967 through the SU and was mentored by Dr Mike Oye. Dr Ozodo from Eastern Nigerian town of Asaba was “born again” through the witness of a Baptist missionary and attended University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife) from 1969 to 1973 where he became the President of the Evangelical Christian Union (ECU) and came under the ministry and influence of Pa S G Elton in Ilesa. Other pioneer members of CAPRO were Gbola Durojaiye, Niyi Beecroft, and Emeka Onukaogu. The story of CAPRO resonates with the saying that the future of any church or nation depends on the youths. Pa Ozodo and others in their youth as Christians acknowledged the need to consistently provide inspiration for rural and Urban Christian mission to Northern Nigeria and throughout the world.
With Dr Ozodo as part of the founding fathers and leaders of Evangelical Christian Union (ECU) in the Nigerian universities, and based on the covenant which they entered with God for a life of holiness and purity, generation to generation of ECUites still enjoy today the foundation of solid discipleship. It is important to note that CAPRO ‘is the story of God making the mustard seed into an instrument for His global kingdom mandate. What started as a Nigerian initiative has both become a missions movement as well as a catalyst for missions movements in several countries. CAPRO has been instrumental in the birthing and development of several mission structures and mission partnerships in Africa. CAPRO is a radical commission that believes that the work of global evangelization must not be done as an option but as a compulsory mandate from the King of the Universe, and no price must be considered too high to pay to execute the mandate of our Lord Jesus. CAPRO missionaries are known for their extremity: extreme devotion to Jesus, extreme commitment to the Word of God, extreme passion for the lost, extreme sacrifice for the missions mandate and extreme commitment to honouring the Bride of Christ.’
In the book he co-authored with Gary Maxey, ‘The Seduction of the Nigerian Church,’ Dr Ozodo points us to what it means to be a true Christian. According to him, ‘the reason for being a follower of Christ extends to the giving of self and means for the growth of God’s Kingdom. A self-centred culture, the type that the neo-Pentecostal message espouses, seems to be fundamentally antithetical to the lifestyle that Jesus modelled and taught.’ On the quantity with quality state of Nigerian Church, PA Ozodo said “remarkable numerical growth in church membership in Nigeria did not amount to a revival … A church that was not spiritually transforming the lives of many of its membership into anything that was significantly different from that of their ordinary non-Christian counterparts was in danger of merely inoculating them with a weakened message of the gospel.” On what resonates with materialistic and secular culture of the moral decadence in the modern world, Pa Ozodos said, “In its spiritual corollary, when people are exposed to one-sided (or partial) truths, they tend to develop resistance to the full impact of the complete truth.”
The life, ministry and disposition of Pa Ozodo based on my personal encounter with him since I sat under his ministration at Eyenkorin Camp (Bird sings Camp) in the late 80s fits to be a pioneer missionary. When I was introduced to him by my ‘egbon,’ Bro Ayo Ladeji, I saw a man of vision and mission. Pa Ozodo through the Word and prophetic utterance promotes extraordinary faith in missionary work. Pa Ozodo took over the mantle of CAPRO leadership in 1988 ‘at a time when the dawn of a new millennium was beginning to focus the minds of many serious-minded people around the globe on the future.’ The testimony at the end of his tenure on December 31, 1996 describe him as a man with great passion for the perishing souls especially through his practice of the incarnation mission theology. Pa Ozodo cherishes trusting the Lord for everything without compromising his faith and calling. As a rugged missionary, he walked the talk from the fields, valleys, muddy grounds, forests in the Western and Eastern Nigeria, and Northern Nigerian hill tops to preach the Gospel. Pa Ozodo’s appeal means of communicating his message helps people to witness the power and calling of God in his preaching and release from nominal Christianity.
Happy birthday sir. The rest of your years shall be the best in Jesus name.