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Steven Ungbo
1939 to 2001
Nigerian Baptist Convention
Nigeria

Steven Ungbo was born into the family of Mr. Ungbo and Mrs. Luki at Maitozo in Gwantu of Jema Local Government Area in Kaduna State, Nigeria. His father, Ungbo Jatuka, was a traditional worshipper. As a young boy, Steven was an attendant for his father when he participated in the traditional worship even though he did not know what he was doing. He became his father's favorite because he devoted his time to the service of his father's god. He performed functions such as giving sacrifices to the gods to appease them when the need arose, on behalf of his father when the former was sick or traveled.

Luki, his mother, was not a devoted traditional worshipper. She did not believe in the traditional gods, but as a woman [1] she had no choice but to obey her husband. One day, she called her son Steven and said to him, "I foresee that you will be someone big in years to come, but the way you are following your father will ruin your life." [2] She encouraged him to leave the family home to live with her brother in Kaduna town.

His father denied him the opportunity of formal education for fear that he would either leave for a white collar job or be converted to Islam or Christianity. Of course he allowed Steven's brothers and sisters to go to the nearby primary school. Steven continued in the service of his father with very few opportunities to be alone with friends or his sisters and brothers. During those few times, he learned things about Jesus Christ--his birth, death, and resurrection. These stories along with what his mother told him, made him anxious to leave his father's house, but he was afraid of the wrath of the gods.

One day his father told Steven that he would inherit all he had at the time or after his death. He also told him that a wife would be brought to him that night. Steven was very sad he but not express it to his father's face. He wished he had run away before that time or that his mother could help him escape that night to go to Kaduna town. That night a wife was brought to him. His mother called him the day after the marriage and gave him one shilling, two pence. He left the house that morning for Kaduna town. While in Kaduna, he came into contact with a Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.) missionary who took him into his house and asked him to live with him. Steven lived there as a house boy for a long time.

One day, he met a man from his village who told him that his wife had given birth to a baby girl. Steven told his master, the missionary, about his father's plan to make him become a traditional priest and about the wife his father had forced him to marry traditionally and about the new baby. The missionary arranged for the two of them to visit Steven's village to see his wife, his baby, and his parents. His wife and mother were happy to see him. However they went back to Kaduna that evening without the "blessing" of Steven's father. One year later, his father died and opened a new chapter in Steven's life. The missionary asked him to bring his wife to Kaduna. He also introduced Steven to a friend at Baptist Pastors' School, Kawo-Kaduna. Steven Ungbo continued to attend church services at First Baptist Church, Kawo-Kaduna, which was the only Hausa-speaking church in the Kaduna metropolis. He accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior together with his wife and they were baptized the same day by Rev. Frezier in 1959. In the book The Biography of Steven Anche Ungbo, the author gives Steven Ungbo's explanation of how he decided to become a pastor:
I know that God wants me to do his work, that I know very well. . . . I was working for my master, a missionary, who one day asked if I wanted to be a pastor. I said yes. He asked me to get ready to go to school in Kawo near the church I used to attend. That was how I got to the school to be trained as pastor. The school fees, my feeding, upkeep and other things I did know how they came about till I finished my school. [3]
Steven Ungbo completed his pastoral training at the Baptist Pastors' School, Kawo-Kaduna in 1968. Two things stood out in his life: his hard work and his interest in studying. After finishing his studies in Kaduna, he started Nasara Baptist Church, Zaria, Kaduna State, and pastored it for thirty-one years. The name Nasara signifies "victory," and he achieved many things while at Zaria. He planted the Hausa Baptist Church, Kano, and at least ten other churches. [4] Most of the churches he planted were in the area around Zaria. He also started the nursery and primary school of the church which has since become a secondary school.

Even though he had not been able to attend school as a child, while in Zaria he struggled to pursue his studies. He enrolled himself at Randu L. E. A. Primary School, where he received the primary school leaving certificate. He attended the adult education program at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to obtain the West African School Certificate (WASC). He received a diploma in English from the University of Ottawa (Canada) in 1982, and a bachelor of theology and a masters of missiology from the same university in 1998. He also earned a diploma in management in Holland. He was ordained to full gospel ministry while at Nasara Baptist Church, Zaria, in 1979. He was a great speaker at crusades and had a great love for missions to the extent that "Missions" became his nickname.

In spite of all his achievements at Zaria, Steven Ungbo also had some difficult times. For instance, there was a religious crisis in Kaduna in 1987 during which most of the churches in Kaduna and Zaria (an Islamic city), including his church, were burned to the ground by Muslim radicals. All of his personal belongings were destroyed and he had to take refuge at the police station. He was able to settle down and reorganize the church again. However, many of his members from other parts of Nigeria left for their states, reducing the population of the church.

Steven Ungbo was a man of prayer; he believed in prayer and prayed constantly. Even though he was advised to relocate, he felt the need to continue his ministry in Zaria. In 1992 during another religious riot both the church auditorium and the pastorium they had just built were burned down a second time. By this time, his wife and all six of their children begged him to relocate to Southern Kaduna even if they had no call. But he could not understand why he should run away in the midst of these crises. His slogan was "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for thou art with me." (Psalm 23:4) Finally he convinced his family to remain there. He worked tirelessly to rebuild the church building and restore church membership. But unfortunately there was another Sharia crisis in the year 2001 during which both the church building and the pastorium were razed to their foundations. Many members were killed and Steven Ungbo developed high blood pressure, an ailment from which he suffered till his death.

He was forced to leave Zaria for Kafanchan in Southern Kaduna. Some of the pastors and members of Bishara Baptist Church, Kafanchan, planned to call Rev. Steven Ungbo as their pastor because he had suffered several times at the hands of Muslim rioters. When he assumed the pastorate of Bishara Baptist Church, Kafanchan, he could not do as much as in Zaria. By this time, he had started a ministry with the help of his American friends in Ottawa. He was only able to plant one church in Bayan, Loko, Kafanchan. He went from village to village giving evangelistic rallies. He produced several publications including Kaki, Muryar Allah (The Voice of Power). His wife Ladi was not as dynamic as himself but supported him greatly in the ministry. They were able to bring up their six children in a godly way.

During the second year at Kafanchan, his strength began to fail and his doctor advised him to take some time to rest. However he felt he needed to accomplish all that he had in mind to do, which would take him the next ten years. So he continued his work, even though at times he had be admitted to the hospital for a few days, and then continued his work after he was discharged. It began to look as if he might not live to see all his plans come to fruition as he hoped. His blood pressure kept on rising. He changed hospital, choosing Jos University Teaching Hospital. He was admitted several times in about two months.

On April 11, 2001 he had an appointment with his doctor at Jos. Early that day, four of them--his wife, his son, a young nephew, and himself set out for Jos from Kafanchan. His son was driving and the nephew was in front while he was at the back seat with his wife. When they came to a hilly part of the road in Jos, called Riyom, his son overtook a trailer. Unknown to him another trailer was coming and all four of them were crushed beyond recognition.

Even though Steven Ungbo's life ended in what can be described as a tragedy, his work in Zaria and in Kafanchan are still memorials of his love for church planting. He will always be lovingly remembered by the members of the churches he planted. Notes: SOURCES

Manasseh Haruna Panpe


Notes:

1. In Gawntu land of Kaduna State, as in many African societies, women have no religion other than that of their husbands. The choice of who to worship did not belong to the wife but to the husband.
2. The Biography of Steven Ungbo, p. 20.
3. Biography, p. 26.
4. Some of the other churches he planted were: Mobile Baptist Church, Madobi; Baptist Church, Mara-Raban, Jos; Baptist church, Jaji, Zaria Area; Baptist church, Dumbi; Temple Baptist Church, Dakale; Salem Baptist church, Gwargwaje; Baptist church Pladan; Baptist church, Hauwa; First Baptist church, Maitizo.



Sources:

Solomon Viakogri Babagil Ungbo, son of Steven Ungbo, interview by author, October 28, 2006.
Rev. S. J. Galadima, interview by author, November 2006.
Kaakach, a publication by Steven Ungbo. Zaria, Nigeria. 1995, 1999, 2001.
Smith, Don. The Biography of Steven Ancho Ungbo. Kaduna: Baraka Press, 1985.


This story, received in 2008, was researched and written by Manasseh Haruna Panpe while a student at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary (Ogbomoso, Nigeria) under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.