A Beautiful Exchange: Abidjan Pastor Recounts Personal Transformation
By Sarah Hunnicutt
Pastor Chris Imoh’s story is a testament of God’s grace and transformation. When he met with Andrew Gale during the West Africa Regional Meeting, he shared his experience of encountering Christ and witnessing “God’s special arrangement” in his life published for Global Strategy’s podcast, A World of Good.
Twenty-five years ago, Pastor Chris had to flee his home country of Nigeria because of a cult he’d joined while at university. “Somewhere in my university years, I abandoned the [Christian] faith totally for ten full years. I joined a dangerous cult…. But so many things happened. At the time I felt like I had to leave, but [in the cult] there’s a blood covenant. If you enter that, you can only go out dead. So I knew it would be difficult for me. [The cult leaders] would come after me, so I knew I had to leave the country.”
Pastor Chris’ decision to leave would change the course of his life. Upon arrival in Côte d’Ivoire, one of the first people he met was Global Strategy missionary Larry Sellers. “The first day I met him…I thought someone had told him all about me [and my experience in the cult]. I was initially embarrassed. But no one had told him about me. The Spirit of God spoke to me directly through him. From that time, I decided to give up everything and attach myself to the family of Christ again.”
Almost immediately, he jumped into ministry. After arriving in Côte d’Ivoire in January 1998, and by August of that same year, Pastor Chris had been trained as a Sunday School teacher. He then worked as the leader of the children’s department at the church in Abidjan.
Marriage was the next step Pastor Chris felt led to take. In August 1999, he briefly returned to Nigeria and met his soon-to-be wife, Jennifer, for the first time. “When I saw her, I knew I saw my wife.”
Jennifer reflected, “I had been praying for a husband. And when I met him, God confirmed that he was the one.”
After marriage, Pastor Chris and Jennifer began working together in Côte d’Ivoire. They started a small church in the sitting room of their home. Soon, the sitting room became too small. “We had to move out to the road…. We put a wooden shelter and that is where we would meet,” said Pastor Chris. “[But] when the crisis came [in 2011], the church almost ended.”
Although the political crisis caused changes in the Church of God in Abidjan, Pastor Chris and Jennifer continued inviting people to worship. After seven years, they reunited their house church, officially, with the Church of God. “We [were and are] happy to be back with the Church of God,” said Chris. “We have a colorful church…with a lot of countries represented. [We are] a small group with a big heart.”
Pastor Chris and Jennifer see God’s faithfulness and work in their lives—from the schools their children have been able to attend, to the opportunity to be a part of church planting, to the smallest parts of daily life. “God has been so good to us,” reflected Pastor Chris.
Jennifer chimed in: “We are grateful to God for being with us, for strengthening our hand to be in the ministry.”
From fearing for his life and fleeing from a cult to planting churches and spreading the good news of Christ’s love, Pastor Chris knows his life is a testimony to God’s grace. “Only God could do that.”
Story produced from Episode 10 of Season 7 of A World of Good podcast. Tune in for the whole story: https://chogglobal.org/podcast/s7e10/.
Sarah Hunnicutt recently served the Church of God as a missionary for Global Strategy to Roatan, Honduras. She also serves as a freelance writer for Church of God Ministries.
Feature (top) photo: Abidjan at dusk. © Can Stock Photo / derejeb.