Delivered for God's Glory
April 01, 2013
Held in captivity and barely alive, this man prayed that he would be him an example of God’s power to do anything.
God can give a true peace that will stand the test of time and will remain even when one faces life-threatening situations. This has been my personal testimony for over forty-nine years.
In 1957, I was born in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, into a polygamous family with twenty-five children by eight women. When I was about four years old, my father was fatally injured in an accident as he was returning from a regional council meeting. Upon his death, the consequences of his polygamy virtually destroyed my family as the effort to succeed him became a war between family members. Some were consumed with the struggle, and the uncertainty of the future caused others to scatter in different directions. My father left nothing in his will for me, and from my earliest recollections, life was a real challenge.
My mother had seven children—four boys and three girls. She loved us, but had no means of dealing with the responsibility of our upkeep. Because of the inter-family strife, she did not think it was safe for any of us to remain in our village, so my oldest brother moved to another part of Nigeria, and the next brother went to Cameroon. She felt her only option was to send me to Lagos, Nigeria, to become a domestic servant with the promise that I would be sent to school. Rigorous daily tasks and regular beatings were my lot there.
Before long, the message came that my oldest brother had been poisoned and had died. My mother was devastated by this news, and she asked that I be given a leave to come and see her. While there, I learned that my other brother had relocated from Cameroon to Calabar, Nigeria. Although I had never met him, I pled with my mother to let me go live with him, rather than sending me back to Lagos. It was a big relief when she agreed.
Until that time, I do not ever remember being taken to church. However, in Calabar, a little girl who was a distant relative invited me to an Apostolic Faith Sunday school. In April of 1964, I went for the first time. Inside the Sunday school hall, we sat on mats on the floor. There I heard about Christ and His love, and something about the Sunday school teacher generated a deep desire in my heart to return. Now I understand that it was the Spirit of God. In a youth service one Sunday afternoon a while later, some children sang, “While Jesus is whispering to you, come sinner, come.” As I was listening, the Spirit of God gripped me, and at the end of the sermon, I went forward and prayed to God with deep contrition. Even though I was young and had not committed “big” sins, the “little” ones needed to be confessed. As I prayed, God came down and made a real change in my heart. This experience brought an unspeakable joy like an overflowing river in my soul. Within a short time, God helped me to pray through to sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Until my conversion, I had been a well-loved child at my brother’s home, but that attitude suddenly changed. The situation became challenging and disturbing. My brother thought that I had been brainwashed and that I would grow up to be useless. As time went on, my circumstances deteriorated. At about 4 a.m., I was made to wake up and fetch water from the public tap, about fifty meters away, and this was a struggle because the tap was so busy. On Sundays, my breakfast was unduly delayed with the intention of preventing me from attending Sunday school.
When I was thirteen years old, I was informed that I must choose: forget about church and stay at home and go to school, or continue with my new life in Christ and forget about home and school.
When I was thirteen years old, I was informed that I must choose: forget about church and stay at home and go to school, or continue with my new life in Christ and forget about home and school. On my own, I am afraid I would have made the wrong decision, but God gave me the boldness to choose Him. I said that as much as I wanted to stay in the home and go to school, I was not prepared to do so at the expense of my deep religious conviction.
One Sunday when I came back from the evening service, the door of the house was locked. My brother’s wife opened the door and saw me, but I was not allowed to enter. At about midnight, a neighbor came out and took me into his house. I could not sleep and though I tried to pray, the heaviness in my heart was almost overwhelming. Early the next morning, I went and stood in front of our house. My brother opened the door, and he had my few shirts in his hands. He threw them on the ground and said, “That’s the end of you in this house.” My hot bitter tears were nearly uncontrollable. People rushed in to plead with my family, but they said they were sick and tired of me, and that I must leave. I picked up my few worn-out clothes from the ground and wept, “Lord, what is this? Where do I go?”
It is hard to explain the pain and anxiety of that moment—I had no home, no siblings to turn to, and no food. I did not know where the pastor or my Sunday school teacher lived. However, the God of Heaven was there and was watching over me. A young man from the church lived down the street in a small, single-room, thatched house. He took me in, trusting God to take care of us.
It appeared there was no hope of furthering my education. My clothes were worn out, and there were days without food. Sometimes I would lie on my back on the green grass and look into the sky, wondering if God had forgotten me. Yet, we have a divine Creator who has plans for His children. If we keep our hands in His and wait on Him, He will work out His plans in our lives.
During my last year in the elementary school, I had passed the entrance examinations and been interviewed for three different secondary schools, and admission was offered to me from all three. Before my brother put me out of his home, he had paid an acceptance fee for admission into the Hope Waddell Training Institution, one of the most famous secondary schools in Nigeria. Eventually, my brother sent a message that he would be willing to finance my education, but he said I must not come to their house. However, he did not follow through very well on this promise. Many times, our pastor handed me envelopes which contained money that someone had given for me, and to a large extent, this is how my secondary education was financed.
What a big God we have! He specializes in things thought impossible by man. While I was preparing for my final secondary school examinations, five years after being kicked out of my brother’s house, I received a message from my brother. He said that I could return home, and when I did, I received a surprisingly warm reception.
In time, I told my brother that I would like to further my studies, possibly outside Nigeria. He said that he loved me and would sponsor my education. Four years after completing secondary school, I was able to begin attending college in Portland, Oregon. After being in Portland for about one year, that same brother assured me of financial support to complete my education. However, two weeks later, he was involved in an automobile accident and did not survive. He was my only remaining brother. The news hit me hard, and I fell down before God, asking many questions. As I was pouring my heart out to Him, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a Voice said, “My son, I want to remind you of those five years. Yes, your brother was alive, but you were like an orphan. I took care of you then, and I am going to take care of you now.” Immediately, I rose to my feet, wiped my tears, and said, “Lord, I humbly bow to Your divine will.” God was faithful to His promises and provided for my needs for the next ten years while I studied and received four college degrees.
While I was still in the United States, I received a job offer from the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, Nigeria, and also an award called “Return of Talent.” Part of the award benefits included a lump sum equivalent to a year’s salary. This was given to me while I was still in the United States, and it took care of the entire cost of my relocation back to Nigeria.
After working at the university for twelve years, God miraculously gave me employment with a leading gas and oil company. As the Superintendent of a land transport unit, my responsibilities included purchase, maintenance, and operation of light vehicles as well as heavy equipment. There were over five hundred personnel in the unit, beside numerous contractors. From my first day, I declared my stand as a God-fearing person who cherishes honesty and hard work. The main purpose of my appointment was to put in place control systems to curb abuse of company assets. Once the new systems were proving effective, a number of people were very displeased with me. Being unable to bribe me with gifts or money, they decided to wait me out, thinking that I was only going to be with the company for two years. However, the management was happy with the work I was doing and decided to retain me.
While the management was pleased, other interested parties looked at me as an obstacle that must be removed at all costs. By 2005, the company had realized the high risk associated with my office and assigned armed guards to escort me and watch my house. I received a number of threatening letters and phone calls, but I was leaning on God for protection. Since it was uncomfortable to move about with an armed escort, I normally did not have them during the weekends.
In 1991, I had been asked to begin preaching at church. Then in 2007, I was appointed to pastor a church in Eket. In addition to the high demand of my employment, we were constructing a new church building. On Sunday, November 30, 2008, I was anxious to get to the church earlier than usual. My wife pleaded with me to stay for breakfast, but I told her that I could not wait. About fifteen minutes after I left, some people knocked on our gate. My wife heard them say, “His car is not there; he has gone.” She did not know that they were hired killers who had planned to pick me up at our house that morning.
As soon as I stopped in front of our house, the men attacked me from all directions and violently bundled me into one of their cars.
The men knew the location of the church, and later that day, six of them followed me home in two cars. Thankfully, my younger daughter had decided to stay at the church and not travel home with me. As soon as I stopped in front of our house, the men attacked me from all directions and violently bundled me into one of their cars. They pushed me to the floor of the car, and in the process my head was deeply wounded with the butt of a gun, and my right shoulder was broken. When we arrived at their destination, they threw me into a totally dark room with only one door, which was well secured, and said that I was a dead man. It felt as if I was in a dark hole.
They kept me captive for thirteen days, and during that time, the depths of man’s wickedness was displayed. I was kept in total darkness and subjected to inhumane treatment. The most horrific was the night they planned to kill me. A long towel was stuffed into my mouth and tied firmly to the back of my head. My hands were tied behind my back and my feet were tied. A strong alcoholic drink was poured over my body, and I was kicked and burned with the drugs they were smoking. My wife was called on the phone so she could listen to how I passed from this life.
The leader asked one of the men to bring the knife and the bucket. That fellow said I was to die at midnight and it was not yet that time. The leader shouted, “We cannot keep him until midnight; he’s a dead man, and he must die.” Instead of bringing the knife, however, all the captors scattered. The leader stepped over me, locked the door, and left me. In about ten minutes, he returned, and I thought the final hour had come. Surprisingly, he untied the towel over my mouth and in a few minutes untied my hands and legs. Then he left me like dead wood on the ground.
Lying there, I prayed, “Lord, my body cannot take this anymore. I am prepared to step into Your presence. Please open the gates for me.” In my heart, I did not sense a response from God. Then I prayed, “Lord, if there is one person to benefit from my experience, I want You to prove to the world that You are the God of Daniel that can do something that no other can do.” God heard that prayer.
Early the next morning, one of the captors opened the door and said, “The fact that we did not kill you last night shows that you are worshipping a living God. Hold fast to your God.” Even this hardened criminal attested to the power of God to protect His own.
Finally, my captors came and asked me to make a choice between my life and my money. I told them that I preferred life, and efforts were made to liquidate my investments. However, the bank required that I come to their offices in person to release the funds. My captors put me in the center of a circle where they were cooking a concoction in a big pot, and they invoked spirits to destroy me and my family if I failed to bring the money. Convinced that I was under their control and would therefore return with the money, they blindfolded me, led me to a car, and then drove for a long time. When they finally stopped the car, they removed the blindfold and left me. All alone, I stood by the roadside, not knowing where I was or what to do. Eventually some cars passed by, and one driver stopped and was willing to take me to Eket.
During my ordeal, around the world, people had been prevailing in prayer, and God had not forsaken us. My release was miraculous, and of course, God had the power to make all the captors’ spells and curses invalid. To God be all the glory!
Delivered for God's Glory
Owen Richard Owen