Muwarure, John Orovwuke
John Orovwuke Muwarure was one of the Baptist men that will always be remembered in the annals of the Men’s Missionary Union of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He was a very humble, ardent preacher and teacher, a patriot, and a philanthropist, and he lived a selfless life. He was also a visionary leader, an astute missionary, and a man who devoted and dedicated both his time and his talents to the work of God and to the service of humanity. In addition, Muwarure’s zeal was a trait that endeared him to those who knew him.
Muwarure will be remembered by churches and pastors in the Sapele Local Government, both Baptist and non-Baptist, for his contributions and financial support to the growth and welfare of the churches and pastors there. The Nigerian Baptist Convention cannot forget his contribution to the development of the Men’s Missionary Union. Indeed, Muwarure lived a fulfilled life and served his generation.
Family background and education
John Orovwuke Muwarure was born on March 26, 1918 into the family of Mr. Muwarure Ichichie of Ekpan in Uvwie Local Government Area, and Mrs. Emarietan Enakeme of Aghalokpe, in Okpe Local Government Area, both of Delta State. His parents stood by him and supported him, and at a tender age he gave his life to Christ and his work. He was a man that loved God and his work.
He attended the Baptist Standard School at Ovwere from 1936 to 1940, continuing on to Eku Baptist School, where he obtained the Standard Six Leaving Certificate. As a consequence of his brilliant academic performance, Rev. Jove Ejovi Aganbi appointed him to be a teacher, an occupation in which he did well. Again, as a result of his academic prowess, Rev. (Dr.) Carson, a missionary adviser in what was then the Eku and Sapele Baptist Associations offered him a scholarship in December of 1944. This scholarship was to enable Muwarure to attend Bible School in Port-Harcourt in what was then the eastern region of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, as Muwarure was rejoicing about the offer of scholarship in the month of October 1949, his father in-law, Pa Deacon M.E. Onigba of Ovwere Baptist had a dream about him. In the dream, Onigba narrated how the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him and revealed that He (Jesus Christ) would send Pa John Orovwuke Muwarure to a town to found a Baptist church, adding that the church would be great and that all other existing churches in that place would emulate the new church. However, the name of the town was not mentioned in the dream, and the location became a puzzle to Muwarure.
However, Muwarure also had a dream, and he told to his mother that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him, telling him to forget about the scholarship and to go into the business of trading. His mother then advised him to proceed immediately to Eku and to narrate his dream to Rev. (Dr.) Carson. On arriving at Eku, he told the missionary his dream and in response, the missionary smiled and prayed that the will of God should prevail in his life. Thus, he abandoned his scholarship and schooling, and went into business, buying and selling.
Muwarure left for Okpara waterside for his trading business, and became a very successful businessman there. People came from every nook and cranny of the state to do business with him. He became dedicated to the Baptist Church in Okpara waterside and helped in building the church physically, spiritually, and financially.
His evangelistic zeal and fervor
Muwarure was a great evangelist and revival preacher. While he was trading at Okpara waterside, his zeal for evangelism and mission was stirred up. At that time, the (late) Rev. Jove Aganbi discovered that attendance at Asagba Baptist Church was dwindling. He came to Muwarure and informed him of the negative developments in Asagba Baptist Church. Muwarure closed down his store and voluntarily left for Asagba to revive the church. By the special grace of God, the church was revived. Soon after this had happened, he experienced a great urge to preach from one church to the other within the province of Eku and its environs, and he became an itinerant and vibrant preacher.
There were three powerful sermons he was preaching at that time that people loved and always wanted to hear. The sermon topics were: “Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ,” “Faith without work is dead,” and “Be faithful in tithing to the Lord.” These sermons brought revival to the churches to such an extent that Muwarure received a series of invitation letters requesting him to preach in other churches, and he willingly obliged.
Subsequent to that, the (late) Rev. Jove Ejanavi Aganbi invited Muwarure to preach specifically on the theme: “Be faithful in tithing to the Lord.” This sermon rekindled the spirit of giving in the church and brought joy to Rev. Aganbi, who then told John Muwarure, “John, my son, you are a Baptist-born preacher.”
In about 1948, a group of some elderly men in the Sapele Baptist Association gathered together and formed an organization called the Baptist Elders Forum. Some of these men were discriminated against in their various churches due to their marital status, as they had more than one wife. They met for fellowship, prayer, and visitation. Prominent among them were: Pa Akpovwa, Pa Kogoroh, Pa Ejenobo, and Muwarure.
In 1950, as the fellowship grew stronger, Muwarure, who was then a dynamic young man and a trader in Okpara waterside, was made the leader of the group. Through his evangelistic zeal, the fellowship continued to grow quickly and many preaching stations were opened as they moved around in a rotation. Also, any church they went to would take care of feeding them. Records show that in some of the open air evangelism crusades, the Rev. J. E. Aganbi and the Rev. E. M. Okerentie preached. As the organization grew stronger they became known as the Baptist Brotherhood.
In 1955, some people wrote a petition against the group to the Nigerian Baptist Convention, labeling them as secret cult. Rev. (Dr.) I. N. Patterson and Rev. Dr. J. T. Ayorinde were sent to investigate the allegations. The investigation was completed, and nothing incriminating was found against them. However, they were advised to change their name from the “Baptist Brotherhood” to something else.
Early in 1960, the group spread rapidly through the Sapele Baptist Association to other associations in what was then the mid-western Baptist Conference, and is now the Delta State Baptist Conference. When the Nigerian Baptist Convention met in 1970 in Jos for their annual session, the men from the mid-western Baptist Conference (mainly from the Sapele and Eku Associations) took the stage to present the Men’s Program before the entire convention. This challenged other conferences to organize their men, and it was then that the convention set up a unit for work having to do with Men and Boys. Rev. Wilks was placed in charge of this unit, and later, Rev. (Dr.) S. O. Olaniyan took over the leadership. After being called “Men and Boys”, it came to be called the MMU (Men’s Missionary Union).
During the MMU congress that was held at Sapele Technical College in 1995, the congress (under Rev. (Dr.) S. O. Olaniyan) organized an appreciation service for the pioneers who had started the work. The only surviving pioneer at the time was John Muwarure. He was driven in an open car amidst cheers, clapping, and singing, from his residence at Amukpe to Sapele Technical College, which was the venue of the congress. After Muwarure had spoken about and explained the beginnings of the MMU, he was honored and decorated.
The planting of Macedonia Baptist Church
In October of 1949, Pa deacon M. E. Oligba of Ovwere Baptist Church told Muwarure (his son-in-law) about the dream in which God had revealed to him that he (Muwarure) would found a Baptist Church. He further said that the church would be great and would be emulated by others. The dream manifested itself on March 20, 1962, as Muwarure was thinking of how to found the church with his family. Late pastor I. U. Itorho, a teacher just transferred to Ikwewu Primary School, advised him to start with Sunday school. In November and December of 1962, Muwarure started holding Sunday school with his family, and in January of 1963, the church was started.
After establishing the church, Muwarure went to the Amukpe community and requested four acres of land for the church building. The Amukpe community gave him the four acres he requested in 1965. In 1967 he applied to have an arm of the Nigerian Baptist Convention Primary School in Amukpe, and this was also granted. In 1970, he assumed the leadership of the church when Pastor A. E. Umukoro, who was the pastor of the church then, left for a teaching appointment in [a] Mission School. When Muwarure assumed leadership of the church in 1970, in October of that same year, he gave a pulpit to the church, and the pulpit was dedicated on October 25, 1970. As a church leader, Muwarure used his money, time, and talent to work for the church. Under his leadership, the church built an auditorium. By 1974, this building was becoming too small for the church members. On May 6, 1978, they laid the foundation of a new church building. The new auditorium was completed under the leadership of Rev. J. O. Ihwighwu.
Muwarure made benches and a native bell (agogo) for the churches in Sapele and the Amukpe communities. He also gave a stipend to pastors in [the] churches. Some elderly pastors were receiving twenty liters of kerosene every month from him. Widows in the abovementioned communities also received aid from him. In short, he was a great philanthropist.
It should be noted here that when Muwarure moved to Sapele in 1953, he was elected and ordained a deacon as a result of his evangelistic zeal, dedication, and giving to the Lord’s work. In 1993, there was power conflict between him and the pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, which he had founded and where he was worshipping. Consequently, Rev. E. E. Uwerhiavwe, the pastor of the church, wrote to the Nigerian Baptist Convention, saying that Muwarure was a polygamist and that, as such, he should be stripped of his deaconship. The Convention investigated the matter and it was confirmed that Muwarure had two wives, so they rescinded his deaconship. Muwarure continued to work for the Lord until 1999, when he had a brief illness, and he died on June 14, 1999. The funeral service was held on August 14, 1999 at Macedonia Baptist Church, Amukpe-Sapele.
John Orovwuke Muwarure worked for the Lord through the use of his money. He was a faithful giver and that was also what he preached. He lived a simple and selfless life, and although he had the money to buy cars and even to furnish his house, he never did. He used his money for the service of God and humanity.
Michael Leke Ogunewu
Ejovi, E. O. Rev. Jove Ejovi Aganbi: The Selfless Man. Lagos: Functional Publishing Company, 2003.
Muwarure, John Orovwuke, The History of Macedonia Baptist Church. (unpublished).
Funeral Service Program of John Orovwuke Muwarure.
Wife, children, and friends of late Pa. J.O. Muwarure, interviews by author, undated.
The History of Sapele Baptist Association, (unpublished).
This article, received in 2011, was researched and written by Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.