Happy Birthday Pastor Sarah Omakwu! A tribute to a spiritual titan at 50.

Most people who have followed this blog know that I moved to Abuja from the USA just about a year ago. I had visited two churches here before a very close friend suggested that I visit Family Worship Center (FWC) in Wuye Abuja. She assured me that I would love it. I had never heard of the church, but I decided to try it and see. First of all, I was very impressed by the building! Okay, the building is not supposed to mean anything, but the

FWC building

main auditorium is impressive. It is well maintained, it is neat, and super organized. I was intrigued. And then I think Pastor Wale Afelumo – the resident pastor preached the first Sunday I was there. Then I was hooked. Pastor Wale is a very intellectual preacher – very much my cup of tea. As I continued to attend the services, I learned that the senior pastor was a woman – Pastor Sarah Omakwu, and eventually, I also heard her speak. Unlike Pastor Wale, she has a more folksy approach to the preaching and teaching of the word. She is very funny, and very real. But more on her teachings later.

The first few weeks of attendance were a little confusing for me. They kept referring to a Pastor Ina, but I could not figure out who he was. Eventually, I learned that Pastor Ina Omakwu was Pastor Sarah’s husband who started the ministry. Unfortunately, he died of cancer in 2003, in what was described, in Pastor Sarah’s own words, as a devastating blow to the church. A lesser woman would have crumbled under the weight of grief and responsibility, but the church right now is thriving and growing from strength to strength – very impressive!

Pastor Sarah’s coffee book cover

This last week, Pastor Sarah turned 50, a very young age for what she has been able to achieve as a pastor, administrator and mentor. There were quite a number of activities lined up to celebrate her including a concert, a party, and a novelty match. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any of these events, otherwise I would have given you some first hand amebo. Well, the party was invitation only, so that one dem no call me!  LOL! However,  in church today, there was celebration of her life and ministry, and a coffee table book was sold that detailed her life and ministry. The book was expensive but I bought it because basically I was curious, I wanted to write this article and I wanted some background.

Let me start by saying first of all, that Pastor Sarah is someone I would love to interview. She has lived a full, rich, varied and meaningful life. I would love to be able to ask how she coped in those first years when Pastor Ina died, as a mother and as a pastor – all by herself. I have done some lower (MUCH LOWER!) level  ministry and I have a vague idea what it takes. Believe me, I admire Pastor Sarah. She planned to be a Pastor’s wife, playing a supporting role in ministry, and suddenly found herself on the main stage, as the main act. And she rose up to the occasion splendidly.  What can you say to such a woman, but BRAVO!!

Pastor Ina and Pastor Sarah at their wedding

Now to some background on Pastor Sarah that I was able to glean from my lovely coffee table book:  She was born in Nassarawa Kaduna State into a very poor family. In fact, her mother headed back to the farm with her the day after she was born, resulting in an infection that nearly killed her. She survived, and grew up, attending both primary and secondary school in Kaduna.  As a youngster, she and her sister would hawk bean cakes before going to school in the morning. Her spiritual foundation was laid in the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) church, where she was mentored in the Sunday School and she sang in the choir. She also attended the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, where she studied Sociology. She met

The Omakwus when their kids were younger

Pastor Ina while she was at University and they fell  in love as they ministered together in the same ECWA church. She was in the choir and he was head of the Youth and Drama ministry.  One interesting little titbit – they faced opposition from her family when they wanted to get married because he was from a different tribe and state (He was from Benue State). Pastor Ina traveled to the USA to attend Oral Roberts University , and she joined him in 1985 when they got married. They returned to Nigeria in 1993, and began their ministry in Abuja. The rest they say is history.  One of the last things Pastor Ina did before he passed away was commission the current very impressive auditorium where we all currently sit.

Pastor Sarah with 2 of her kids today

So why do I admire Pastor Sarah so much? I enjoy her teaching – it is very relatable, easy to understand, and yet life-affirming. You learn spiritual lessons from her very folksy, everyday examples. I love the fact that she has surrounded herself with excellence – She is in no way threatened by Pastor Wale’s eloquence – she celebrates and encourages it. I love her devotion to her family – she always talks about her children with obvious pride, and almost 10 years after the passing of Pastor Ina, she is still carrying on his vision. I admire her courage – she speaks up passionately for what she believes to be right. I admire her life trajectory – as she is living proof that no matter your beginning, with the right decisions and GOD’s blessings, you can be whoever you choose to be. And I must also note, Family worship church is the most ethnically diverse Nigerian church that I have ever attended.  While the senior pastor is from the North, the other pastors and deacons are from all over Nigeria. We can coexist beautifully if we have good leadership. Family Worship Center is proof of that. It is apparent that Pastor Sarah does not see tribe, she just sees good people. I love it!

I will end this tribute with a poem I heard on Oprah many years ago. In fact, I had to go dig into google to find it. Oprah was interviewing Diana Ross, and she was telling her how she had influenced her life and how Diana Ross’s success had opened doors for so many other women of color in the American entertainment industry. Then she recited this poem by Nikki Giovanni titled Poem for Flora.  It was almost 20 years ago, but I will never forget it. It says:

Pastor Sarah!

When she was little

and colored and ugly with short

straightened hair

and a very pretty smile

she went to sunday school to hear

‘bout nebuchadnezzar  the king

of the jews

and she would listen

shadrach, meshach, and abednego in the fire

and she would learn

how god was neither north

nor south east or west

with no color but all

she remembered was that

Sheba was Black and comely

and she would think

I want to be like that!

I want to be like that. Just like  the queen of Sheba was to little Flora, so is Pastor Sarah to those of us who learn at her feet. I want to be like that!

Happy birthday Pastor Sarah!

 

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10 Comments

  • hannah erinosho

    YES!!! This lovely, and it is all truth. God bless u

     
  • hannah erinosho

    Nice Poem

     
  • rynyx

    I am privileged to learn under dis great woman and I can totally relate to all of this. What more can I say, happy birthday my very own Pastor. God bless you.

     
  • Ms Lynn

    WOW!!! Yes, we do walk among kings (and Queens)in the land. Pastor Sarah knows her place of authority…and
    I’m sooo desperately seeking mines. I’m so impressed!
    Happy belated Birthday Pastor Sarah! I wish you many
    more to come. Keep up the good fight of faith.

     
  • ogechy

    thank GOD for family worship centre!!!!!!

     
  • Ebuka

    You have written well my dear. God has been really behind this wonderful mother and Pastor. I see love all around her. Much more grace to your elbows.

     
  • I have visited Family Worship Center 2007 I love Pastor Sara so much. She is very funny and she preach with lots of jokes. Pastor come visit us here in Namibia please we need you to plant good seeds in our country too.Happy birthday and many more years.

     
  • Pastor Ngozi

    Pastor Sarah makes me proud of what God can do with a woman,
    When we yield wholeheartedly to His calling, regardless of all odds.
    I wish she gets in touch with me in London .
    I’ll like to plan a programme where Londoners can hear her.
    God bless you & your ministry pastor Sarah. I wait to hear from you, my email is enclosed.

     
  • abraham

    Pastor sarah for me has made me know that their is no miracle more than the power of love.

     
  • Kyom Timothy Ayuba

    I must have to comment past Sarah, She a woman with passion, loving & care nevertheless she is full with the words of God I love it.
    I have attended FWC about 2 mount before relocating to my hometown in kaduna state,
    I will like to say FWC is the base amount the base churches in Nigeria, Africa & world wide, why did I say that they are the base church , is because of the way they treat their members & everyone that visit them,
    (1) They look at everyone is equal.
    (2) You’re always welcome as you step into the premises of the church.
    (3) is the uniqueness of the pastors & Sarah herself in the church.
    (4) The way they preach the words of God is fantastic, honestly everything about the FWC is unique.
    Well I will like to ask a favour from everyone who see this comment,
    (1) I need your prayers
    (2) I roght a JAMB and they have given me an admission in to kaduna state college of education to study biology geography, but honestly I don’t even have a one naira to secure the admission, my brothers sisters uncles & auntie’s, please in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ if you can help me with five naira or any thing, here is my Account number. { Timothy k Ayuba (0067082361) Diamond bank } I am from southern part of kaduna, I am from ECWA Church family, always remain bless, I love FWC.

     
 

 

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