Deaconess C. C. Okpabi
Samuel O. Onungwe
If a friend in need is indeed a friend then, I have lost my mother’s best friend. And since blood is denser or rather viscous than water then, I have also, lost my father’s sister. In all, love is fonder than blood therefore, my church has lost a true believer.
Ma Cylinah (nee DeeOlaka) was full of charity when I grew up to know her. First, let me recount what her husband, our patriarch, Elder Hezekiah Nna Okpabi of blessed memory told us during a church forum. He said that, he was not a born Adventist like Ma Cylinah but of the Anglican. He would marry Chuankwe, his wife because at that time, at his work place, certain grants were offered to those getting married or married. To benefit from that package, he proposed to his wife and that was it. I was informed that because he was not of the same sect, not faith with his dear wife, there was a lot of pressure to persuade his wife from maintaining her Adventist faith but she was not deterred. Ma Cylinah was committed to her faith and her marriage such that even though she would not compromise her faith, never was it said that she was disrespectful to her husband let alone his family.
Eventually, her husband having found her commitment to her faith and indeed God according to the injunction in 1 Peter 3: 1 which says Godly attitude wins the heart of an unwilling husband and soon, he fell in love with the God of the Adventists and before he passed on about two decades ago, he was not just an Adventist convert but was also, one of the great pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ogale and he served as Elder – lay leader at Eleme District even before 1996 when the church was established at Ogale.
Ma Cylinah’s commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist beliefs inspired her to give her all not just her best to the service of God and mankind. Hence, there was virtually no role she did play in the service of God in line with great commission: Matthew 28:19 – 20 which urges Christians to be fishers of men. Some of the prominent roles she held include the Dorcas Leader otherwise known as the Adventist Woman Ministries in which she served up to the conference level as a director of the defunct Rivers Conference. She faithfully served as a stewardship leader promoting the need to appreciate God as the owner of everything in our possession and the expectation to give back at least as stipulated in the Bible – one tenth as tithe and a generous offering from the heart since God is a lover of a cheerful giver.
Ma Cylinah was a part time farmer and during harvest ceremonies, she would give more than expected, on behalf of her children as well but before then she must have generously given her first fruits. Her generosity is beyond measure as there was hardly a visitor at the church whom she would not invite home after service and provide a remarkable reception and refreshment for. For the serving pastors and their families, she provided for them personally apart from the collective contributions and ensured that her home became their second home during their service years and this continued whenever they visited the community.
Even though she became a widow when things had gradually become good for her, she would not question the Almighty who approved of her husband’s passing when the children still needed both of them to see them through school and mentor them to face the challenges of life. Hence, through the grace of God she sponsored all her children in school and later to pursue their careers and today, they are successful in their chosen endeavors. With her faith focused on God, she shared whatever she had with people especially, the widows in the church. It is on record that she was the widow who gave gifts to all the widows in the church. Ma Cylinah’s resilience and commitment to God’s cause had made many people in Okpabi’s family to hold Adventist women with high esteem in the Osaro Ebo Eta community of Ogale.
Ma Cylinah cared for the sick, prayed for their healing and provided for them like the biblical Tabitha also known as Dorcas reputed for Charity even when she was also facing her personal trials.
She served in the ministry of education as a teacher and rose to become a director before her retirement. Her godly virtues were not devoid of her teachings and lifestyle while she administered western education. I had met her in primary school during her career as a teacher but soon school was divided into morning and afternoon to make room for more participation and increase literacy in the society. I would school in school 1, morning session while she was posted to school 2, afternoon session and this was how I missed her during my school days but not in church or as my father’s relative and mother’s friend.
I did not hear of her brief sickness until the eve of her passing. While I was planning to pay her a visit, I had stayed prayerful in hope that we would meet perhaps the next day. Only to be informed later that night that she had breathed her last breath. She has left us with a deep shock as we have lost our mum’s best friend, colleague, our father’s sister and her visits which gives us hope and comfort are no more. If you find me crying, do not be disappointed and feel I have lost faith in God. I am pained at this time. Even so, by God’s grace, I will reunite with her at resurrection morning.
Until then, I urge you to join me in the song: I need the prayers of those I love….