Homepage
Home Read stories Africa maps The Project Resources Our Writers News

Arongol, Elisha Agai
1938 to 2001
COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria)
Nigeria

Elisha Agai Arongol (popularly nicknamed "Pastor Godiya") was one of the early pastors in Kulere land whose immense contributions to the growth of the church enhanced the Christianization of the region. Arongol started ministerial work at the age of thirty-three and retired at the age of sixty-one. [1]

Born on the 20th of June, 1938 in Ambul to Mr. and Mrs. Arongol Arumuh Adiak, his parents were predominantly farmers, living in a house with a thatched roof. His parents practiced the local traditional religion. Agai, as he was named, followed all the traditional rites of his people, since he grew up in that environment. His commitment to "Fat" (the worship of the "Sun god") had a lasting effect on him, and it was present even in his new faith. His father belonged to the ruling clan of the village. As a child in the ruling clan, he therefore had the credentials needed to ascend the throne as a king one day.

Family Background

Agai experienced loneliness and frustration as a child, as he lost his father when he was only six months old. His mother went on to marry two different men in two different villages. Abandoned by their mother, Agai and his brother Arumuh were brought up by their uncles in extreme strictness and hardship. They often went to sleep on an empty stomach, even after hard labor. Later on, both were sent to the fields to work with the Fulani herdsmen, and his brother got married. [2] When Arumuh died a year after having gotten married, it felt like Agai's world was collapsing, and indeed, his life was characterized by catastrophe. He was overcome by shock and depression, and it seemed like he was destined to be lonely. Since he was an orphan, the question that dominated his life at this time was, "Who then shall I go to for companionship?" That question was soon answered, and he married Miss Hinnatu Awugbwek Alangbwang in December of 1958. She was a pious woman, and she later gave him all the comfort and joy a man could want. Through her, God blessed them with five children who are committed to the promotion of God's kingdom.

Conversion

Agai Arumuh became converted before his marriage through the work of evangelist Zechariah Alangu. After his conversion, he was led in discipleship by Samuel Ahuriyos and by the evangelist Alangu at Tamoso (the mission station). The mission station served as a place of separation from pagan affiliation and dedication to the new faith. Converts were often taught there by the missionaries, as one of his contemporaries reported, and they used to gather and hear these preachers sing, Yesu ma reid migyan, ku boh ngyah fa ta tittingean, [3] which literally means "Jesus our great Physician is here, come let us go to our Father." It presents Jesus as a superior leader who is able to cater to their needs far better than any traditional spiritualist could. That particular song revolutionized his perception, especially in light of his family background, and challenged him to fully adopt the new faith with zeal and commitment.

Agai gave his life to Jesus Christ in 1948 and was baptized in 1959 in Richa by Rev. Manasseh Toma. He was then asked to change his name to Elisha, according to the practice of the time, as a change of name was considered to be one of the manifestations of conversion. During those years of Christian formation in Ambul, new converts were asked to settle at the mission station out of fear that they would revert to the worship of primitive gods. He remained there and served in the church for eleven years as deputy assistant pastor and later as assistant pastor under Pastor Solomon Asiau.

Education

Since he was an orphan, there had been no opportunity for Arongol to receive a formal education. However, Samuel Ahuriyos organized evening classes for them, even though he only taught them how to read and write. Later on, as a pastor, he attended a certificate course in the 1970s at the Regional Bible School, Daffo. He did with much stress and labor however, because of his health and financial constraints. Immediately after he completed the course, he settled down to subsistence farming, and was able to send his children to school with small stipends. In view of his background, his determination to succeed through his children made him somewhat of a shining example of what education can do.

Ministry

Having experienced a divine call to full time gospel ministry, he was commissioned by Rev. Titus Machingo Chondol in 1971, and was posted to EKAN (Ekklisiyar Kristi a Nigeria), in Horom. The chief of Horom was converted through his ministry, and through him, Arongol had the opportunity of introducing modern farming to the community. He would raise sugar cane in large quantities and transport it to Richa, the nearest market. He conveyed the bundles of sugar cane to market by getting his children and the children of his friends to carry the bundles on their heads. He thought that later, when his children had more experience, they would contribute to the growth of church and society. It was because of his work that people started farming on a commercial scale. They were eventually able to erect a befitting church and to meet some financial obligations they had incurred. In 1972, he used Horom as a base while reaching Kuru Ambaka, in Nasarawa State. Almost everywhere he went, he also introduced zinc roofing systems which are not only resistant to fire, but which also help people get some relief from the constant labor of grass roofing.

On the 18th of January, in 1974, Elisha was transferred to Kwarukwah, within Kulere land, where he served for ten years. He opened new prayer cells there (wanze), and one of them is an independent congregation today. As a farmer, he introduced "dry season farming" to assist the people with their financial base, and also encouraged them to plant palm trees for the future generations. Since a good number of them were drunkards, Arongol did some evangelization that has had a lasting influence, since some of them became pastors. He also taught them how to raise animals, not only for their immediate food needs, but also as investments which would help them finance the education of their children. In this way, the church not only grew numerically, but also financially, and the people had the means to send their children to various schools.

On January 5, 1984, Arongol was transferred to Siken I, which was within the same locality, and he spent eight years there. As usual, he was not only a preacher but also a farmer, and some of the trees he planted are still standing in testimony of his tree planting campaign. He began to do house to house visitation, and many traditionalists gave their lives to Christ. One of them, Abazam Monday, later became a pastor. While in Siken I, he initiated the inauguration of a prayer cell called Siken II, which later became a full fledged church in 1990, and which is still growing.

On the 8th of January, in 1992, he was posted to Tagosh. He spent three years there and was then posted to Siken II in 1996, to nurture the prayer cell he had planted. He spent two years in this station, and since he was getting close to his retirement, he was posted to Tomoso in 1997. Being in his village and at the mission station where he had been discipled, brought a nice final touch to his retirement. He spent two years there and retired in 1999 at the local church council in Ambul.

Commenting on his father's ministry, Filibus said:
I am compelled to thank God for my father, because in all the churches he served, he took the initiative to start evangelistic campaigns. I thank God for his humble leadership style, and above all, for the zeal and enthusiasm he displayed. We are the direct beneficiaries of his obedience to God, and he remains alive in our lives.
His Contributions to Church Growth

Evangelism


Elisha Arongol traveled far and wide, on foot, in order to establish churches. Today, some of the churches have not only grown, they have become independent. It is worth mentioning that one of the strategies he employed was to follow people to beer parlors, commonly referred to in Hausa as Gidan Burkutu, to preach to them. Although it was a radical move in those days, it yielded fruit, and some of those people he preached to became pastors. Worthy of mention are pastors Haggai Angyol, Luka Arimbiyal, and Abazam Monday, of blessed memory. [4]

Cultural Transformation

He negated the cultural degradation of women by teaching equality of the sexes through the way he lived with his wife. He not only walked together with his wife, but she was his companion, which was a negation of a cultural norm. To demonstrate equal opportunity, he would allow his wife to slaughter and prepare chicken meat, which was a taboo among the people of that community. For him, gender distinction meant that cultural transformation was necessary. The Bible was a tool for debunking any claims that were associated with degradation. [5]

Promotion of Equal Opportunity

In all the places he went, he emphasized and fought for equality of opportunity. Whether it was evangelism or education, he helped people understand what equality means, from a biblical perspective. In his words, "There is no difference in children. Send both male and female to school. Give them equal opportunity. After all, they have come from you. They are your children. They are your pride. They can both grow to assist you." He set the agenda for equal opportunity in that locality, and in some of the churches today, women work as secretaries.

Education

He taught people how to farm so that they could support their children in school. He always encouraged children to be committed in their studies, and this could be seen in the lives of his own children. Some of the children he encouraged are now in high places in their field of work, and are supportive of the churches in their localities.

Commitment to Service

He used biblical passages (I Thessalonians 4:11-12; 3:10) to teach and to demonstrate commitment to service. He set a precedent by giving prizes to his own children as rewards for their commitments. He taught that the dignity of labor, in any capacity, was a demonstration of Christian commitment and appreciation to God, and that when it comes to service, there is no menial work. He emphasized that God requires only commitment and sincerity, and is always appreciative of whatever you give him and whatever you do well. It is little wonder that he was called "Pastor Nagode" (Pastor Thanks).

Challenges

As a pastor with a small stipend, he often experienced financial problems. These difficulties affected his productivity, since much of his time and strength had to be spent on the farm working. Another challenge was that of a lack of visitation by his close associates. His friends and brothers did not visit him to motivate and encourage him as much as they should have, and a sense of belonging was lacking. And yet, just as Abraham had left everything and had kept moving forward, Arongol did not depend on man, but rather looked to God for his companionship. After his retirement, he faced the problem of family land entitlement, and his right to family properties was denied. This had a terrible effect on him, and when he retired in 1999, he had to buy new plots of land for cultivation.

In Kwarukwah, he struggled with the traditional worshippers (Munjah), especially when it came to their traditional festivals. Because of their brutal nature, he played the role of custodian for Christian women, and they were kept from seeing the masquerades. For this reason, he was often accused and threatened by the traditionalists.

Having worked for thirty-nine years, he retired on the 28th of December in 1999. On the 27th of March, 2001, he went out to cultivate a piece of land that was close to his house in Ambul. While working on that land he had a stroke, and after two days of medical attention, he died on March 29, 2001. He was buried at Tamoso in Ambul, and Rev. Josiah Mallo officiated at the funeral service. May the soul of this man of God, who was a father and a mentor to many, and who was also an innovator and a transformer, rest in peace. May his legacy continue to be cherished and emulated by many!

Patrick Ishaku Akotor


Sources:

1. Filibus Arongol, interview by author, September 15, 2009, Gindiri.
2. Ishaku Ajita, interview by author, December 28, 2008, Ambul.
3. Monday Abazam, interview by author, May 31, 2007, Gindiri.
4. Hannatu Elisha, interview by author, September 30, 2009, Ambul.
5. Funeral Service Program for Pastor Elisha Agai Arongol held at COCIN, Tomoso, on March 30, 2001.


This story, submitted in 2010, was written by Patrick Ishaku Akotor, a student at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso under the supervision of Dr. M. L. Ogunewu and submitted by Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.