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Daniel Edomwonyi Aisagbonhi was the first lay person in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Edo and Delta States to take advantage of the coming of the Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM) to Nigeria and begin an exceptional Phone Prayer Ministry.
Aisagbonhi was born in 1934 into the family of Pa and Mrs. Aisagbonhi of Idumodin in Igbanke, Delta State. He was the youngest of his mother’s six children. He completed standard six and attended Igbanke Grammar School where he likely obtained the West Africa School Examination Certificate. He proceeded to Lagos where he specialized in Electrical Engineering. Thereafter, he served in different electrical workshops before he eventually joined John Holt Leasing around the time of the dawn of Nigerian Independence. He retired in the year 2000.
Daniel became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) in 1972, when the SDA faith came to a town known as Ughelli in Delta State. After studying the fundamental beliefs of the Church for a considerable period of time, Aisagbonhi was baptized into the faith in 1973 by Pastor J.A. Adeniji. This was not unusual: records show that it was the practice of the early missionaries to teach their potential converts the fundamental beliefs of the SDA Church for at least six months and up to six years before they would baptize them into the church. Among the SDA pioneer missionaries there was a culture of taking considerable time to teach would-be members, and of waiting for their candidates to start practicing what they had been taught before they were baptized into the church.
In 2001, two years into the tenure of Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, GSM came to Nigeria. This had a positive and negative impact, especially regarding people’s social behavior. From a Christian perspective, God is the author of all science and technology, even the Global System of Mobile Communications, and so it should be used for business, education, entertainment, passing information, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, evidence suggests that as much as it has enhanced human development in Nigeria, it has also been used to perpetrate evil in Nigerian society. It has been found that people using it began telling lies, perpetrating fraud, organizing kidnaps, spreading militancy and committing robbery, as well as other criminal activities.
In contrast to these ill-usages, which were raging in Nigerian society, Aisagbonhi began the Phone Prayer enterprise, an outstanding and exemplary invention for believers in Christ. He started this ministry in 2003 at a Koko camp meeting in Delta State where he was assigned to the prayer and counseling committee, which was made up of a mixture of clergy and laity. It is recorded that some newly taught church members, awaiting their baptisms, were in attendance. It is customary to be expectant for miracles at these yearly camp meetings and on this occasion, some sick people who came for prayers were healed. A few others, who were troubled with the ‘water spirit,’ came for prayers and God answered them miraculously. These events encouraged Aisagbonhi all the more in his prayer ministry. He began to make prayer a great priority as a means to reach out to everyone he came in contact with. He got a phone in 2005 - not everyone could afford one when they first came to Nigeria in 2001.Once he had a phone, he began to reach out to SDA members and nonmembers, especially when he began his pioneering work. He was able to soothe frayed nerves in troubled homes, and prayed with efficacy for singles, couples, general members and even some of his ministers. Evidence reveals that he was a pioneer in being the first to bring this ministry to Ugboroke and that he worked with Agbarho churches with the utmost devotion.He was fond of calling each of the people he was praying for on the telephone any time of the day to find out how they were and to receive their prayer requests.Aisagbonhi once testified that though he was not rich enough to fund the ministry, God sustained it through the different members who appreciated it.
Sometimes Aisagbonhi would visit the homes of those he prayed for: he would walk in and say “let us pray.” Other times, he would call on the telephone at midnight, exchange greetings briefly, and then say “let us pray”. A member testified that he became a Seventh-Day Adventist because of Aisagbonhi’s persistent prayer ministry and counseling on his family issues and conflicts. He was probably not the only one.Aisagbonhi’s phone prayer ministry could be described as this generation’s version of Aaron lifting up Moses’ hands, a role which is always central to the work of the laity. It was a missionary approach because he showed love to people of all ethnic backgrounds --Urhobos, Itsekiris, Aniochas, Ibos, and Yorubas, to mention a few. Borge Schantz, a missiologist, wrote about the way in which Aisagbonhi demonstrated that a missionary should respect and give consideration to all people, no matter their social, financial, educational or spiritual status, when proclaiming the gospel of Christ. As Schantz acknowledged, it was amazing that even though Aisagbonhi was not rich enough to fund the prayer ministry, he managed, and mixed with the younger generation, in spite of resistance and discouragement that he encountered while pursuing this rare independent ministry.
Similarly, in the history of the Seventh-Day Adventist Children’s Ministries, Aisagbonhi’s role in organizing prayer groups in Edo and Delta States cannot be underestimated. He took the lead in the first ever Children’s Ministries one-day prayer retreat at Ogba Zoo in Benin City, Edo State. This was the first SDA retreat in Edo and Delta States, which was organized by Pastor Emmanuel Eregare, who was the Children’s Ministries Director at that time, around 2007.
Alongside his unbeatable phone prayer missionary enterprise, Aisagbonhi always supported the different departments of the church without any hesitation. He sometimes served as either the chairman, or as a member, for the prayer committees in their various yearly conventions. As a result of his wide-ranging work he received awards for supporting various departments of the church through his ministry to men, women and the youth.He was described as a man of prayer who loved to attend the Wednesday Prayer meetings, which he would never miss, both when he was serving at John Holt and after his retirement. He was a man always ready to serve.
He was blessed with eight children and three grandchildren who are, by the grace of God, well placed in society. He was blessed with two in-laws before his call to sleep in the Lord. It was evident that God used Aisagbonhi’s telephone prayer enterprise to bring him, his family and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, enormous blessings before he went to sleep in the Lord in 2014, at the ripe age of eighty.
Emmanuel Orihentare Eregare
Notes1. Funeral Brochure
2. Timothy Aisagbonhi, (son of Daniel Edomwonyi Aisagbonhi,based in Warri, Delta State), interviewed by the author, August 18, 2014.
3. E. O. Eregare, “The Growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Edo-Delta Fields:1948-2010,” (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, 2012), 233.
5. Funeral Brochure.
6. Eregare, 79.
7. P. E. Nmah,Religion and Society in Africa,(Enugu: Rabboni, 2008), 173-4. Also, Charles Akpu,(Assistant Lecturer and Ph.D. candidate in History and International Studies at Babcock University, Ogun State), interviewed by the author, August 19, 2014.
10. This description comes from personal testimony and stories I heard from church members in different parts of Delta Conference (such as Isele-uku, Agbor Isoko districts, and Warri township, where Aisagbonhi resided for years) during my missionary enterprise from 2005 to 2012.
11. Joshua Arebun, (Current Executive Secretary of Delta Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Warri), interviewed by the author, August 13, 2014.
13. This was one of the experiences I personally witnessed when I worked as a pastor in Isele-Uku, Delta State and at the Sabbath-school, and as Personal and Children’s Ministries Director for what was then the Edo-Delta Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church with headquarters in Benin City, Edo State.
14. Borge Schantz A Path Straight to the Hedges: Evangelism in Developing Areas, (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association), 39-40.
15. Joshua Arebun, by the author, August 13, 2014. Also informed by the personal testimonies and witnesses’ shared experiences.
16. E. O. Eregare, E.O.,“A report for the Triennial Constituency Meeting on Sabbath School, Personal and Children Ministry (2005-2008)”. In Edo-Delta Triennial Constituency Brochure, 2008.
17. Funeral Brochure.
18. Bright Nwamuo, Ph.D. (Lecturer in History and International Studies at Babcock University, Ogun State), interviewed by the author, August 18, 2014.
19. Funeral Brochure.
BibliographyEregare, E. O. “A report for the Triennial Constituency Meeting held in Benin City, Edo State on Sabbath School, Personal and Children Ministry (2005-2008).” From an unpublished Edo-Delta Triennial Constituency Brochure, 2008.
Eregare, E. O. “The Growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Edo-Delta Fields (1948-2010)”. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Nmah, P. E. Religion and Society in Africa. Enugu: Rabboni, 2008.
Schantz, B. A Path Straight to the Hedges: Evangelism in Developing Areas. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2000.
This article, received in 2014, was written by Emmanuel Orihentare Eregare, Ph.D., son of James Onorakpene Eregare. Since 2013, Emmanuel Eregare has been a lecturer in the History and International Studies Department at Babcock University, Ogun State, Nigeria, a DACB participating institution. Dr. Abiodun Ayodeji Adesegun is liaison coordinator.
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