…Relive life, memories of late Rev Austine 


By Enyeribe Ejiogu


At last, the moment came, after the minister who officiated at the interment session finished making his brief remarks about dust returning to dust.

For about 15 minutes or so, the white casket rested on two green high-strength belts stretched across the grave and held in place by a mechanical device.

At a word from the officiating minister, one of the pallbearers began to relax the tension in the belts, gradually lowering the casket into the grave.

The reality of the final physical separation from the late Reverend Austine Love Agbaso hit the dam of the remaining inner strength, which had held back the tears that welled up in his wife, Pastor Angela Agbaso. The dam broke and her tears gushed, and she bent forward, once again overcome by the grief of her loss, as she wailed, saying over and over, “My childhood friend is gone.”

It took the strong arm of Ochudo Martin Agbaso, elder brother of the husband and the other ones around her, including Comfort Obi, publisher of The Source and native of Emekuku, to restrain her from tipping forward into the grave as she sobbed, looking through teary, reddened eyes at the casket resting at the bottom of the grave. 

After the belts, the mechanical device and the metal supports had been removed, the first son of the deceased, Mr. Ambassador Agbaso, performed the dust-to-dust right, pouring a small scoop of sand into the grave. Other family members followed suit in this order: his wife, first child/daughter (Anointing Agbaso-Enwere), Ochudo Martin, Mrs. Patricia Oluwo (eldest sister), Jovita Inyang (immediate elder sister) and Comfort Obi.

Earlier, during the funeral service, Senior Pastor and President, of Rhema Life Ministry International, Pastor Dr. Emmanuel C. Ezeka, who gave the charge, revealed that it was Reverend Simeon Afolabi, who led the late Augustine (Austine) to Christ many years ago.

While acknowledging Revd Afolabi as a mentor and father in the gospel, and alluding to a part of the message preached by Afolabi, at the service of songs held Thursday evening before the funeral on Friday, Pastor Ezeka said: “There are three calls which are paramount in the life of any human being and they are namely: call to salvation to be born again as Jesus himself said that a man must be born again; most times, unbelief and pride make people not to choose to be born again; the second one is the call to kingdom service; the call to kingdom service is a function of a person’s will or decision. In these two calls, a man has a right to choose; you have a right to decide whether you want to be born again, to make heaven or perish in hell. God will never force anyone.

“The third call is the call to exit this world, to stand before the throne of Majesty on High. It is a call to be rewarded with eternal life in heaven or to be judged and sentenced to eternal condemnation in hell, where such a person will be tormented for all of eternity.

“I want to advise that every day you wake up in the morning, recognize that life is a privilege and opportunity to decide for Christ and be born again and serve God in truth and spirit while awaiting the third call which is death.

“Today, our beloved late brother Reverend Austine Agbaso has answered the three calls. He gave his life to Christ and passionately served the Lord and he has gone home to wait for his reward, a crown of glory, as Apostle Paul made us understand in the Bible, saying that Christ is the hope of glory.”

Admirably, the grief brought on by the shocking loss of their beloved brother also caused a cascade of tributes by his immediate siblings, other relations, pastors and numerous Christian brethren who interacted with him in the course of Pentecostal ministry.

His eldest sister, Mrs Patricia China Oluwo, 74, a thoroughbred Pentecostal Christian, who retired in 2013 as the head of Nursing, Surgical Emergency, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH and is still very active in personal evangelism, went down memory lane, to recall the early years of the late brother.

She told Sunday Sun: “When he was growing up, he did not like doing domestic chores. He would rather go out and play a lot. But he developed an interest in cooking. He learnt how to cook from us, the sisters. My immediate younger sisters, Jovita Inyang and Oluchi, our last born were the ones who cooked most of the time and whenever they were in the kitchen cooking he would be watching them. He was always with them in the kitchen and because he loved food so much. So, from watching them, he learned how to cook. He was very unassuming.

“We came from a staunch Catholic background, dating back to our grandparents. However, when he was born again, I was happy, extremely happy. I gave my life to Christ before him, and I began praying to God for my family and asking the Lord to make my sisters and brothers repent and to understand the personality who embodies “The way, the life and the truth – Jesus Christ, the Savior and come to him and be born again.

“One day he travelled to Kaduna to visit my later younger sister, Zainab Marwa. During that trip, he gave his life to Christ. I was happy that we were both born again and that the Holy Ghost had lit two candles in our family. The Bible says one will chase away 1,000 but two can chase away 10,000. With both of us committed to the Lord I believe that we pray our other siblings into the marvelous light of salvation in Christ. So, when he got into full ministry, my joy knew no bounds. From there the light spread to Jovita, who also gave her life to Christ. We are still praying that all my siblings and everyone in the Agbaso family will decide for Jesus Christ and be born again.”

Recalling the wonderful memories of their life and times, former deputy governor of Imo State, Sir Jude Agbaso, whose traditional title is Mmirioma Imo, said: “You were my younger brother, my playmate, my confidant and kindred spirit. We bonded so deeply as young boys, we developed a language only we understood and spoke.

“Austigon as I fondly called you, you will be greatly missed. However, I take solace in the knowledge of the colossus of a man you grew up to become and how you honed your God-given talent and faculties to near perfection and deployed the same to the service of humanity. You were one of the most empathetic men ever encountered in my life.

“You felt other people’s pain as yours. You gave your all to whomever was in need, at times denying yourself and your family of comfort you could have easily afforded. On such occasions, you were quick to say, ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.’

“On numerous occasions, I had witnessed you giving out cars and other gifts you solicited from family, friends and business associates to other pastors to use in the propagation of the gospel.

“Taking in destitute individuals, families and children into your home or schools was a regular occurrence. You were quite audacious and lived your life on your terms and understanding which I observed to be by the dictates of the Holy Bible.

“You were an extremely tenacious man, once you were convinced of any course of action, issue or belief you held on unwaveringly.”

Rev. Austin Chukwuemeka Agbaso was born on the 1st of October, 1964 to the family of Chief Nathaniel and Chief Mrs Charity Agbaso of Ezedibia, Emekuku in Owerri North local government area, Imo State.

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He began his early education at the Chief Obi Memorial Primary School Emekuku in 1970. On completion of his primary school education, he gained admission into Emekuku High School and later transferred to Amakohia Ubi Secondary School where he graduated in 1982.

His tertiary education was at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri where he acquired his National Diploma in 1988 and Higher National Diploma in 1991 graduating as the best student in finance and banking.

He had his National Youth Service deployment in Kaduna from September 1991 to September 1992.

Rev. Austin Agbaso thereafter went into private business incorporating a contracting firm where he successfully worked with various private sector companies including Mobil Oil Plc.

He later established Amazing Grace International School, to give expression to his desire to spur young children from less privileged families to aspire for academic excellence and pursue worthy achievements. It was also a channel for philanthropy which was a key part of his life.

His dedication and commitment to the service of God governed his life and businesses.

He made tremendous sacrifices towards the work of God and partnered with various churches and organisations within and outside Nigeria, to promote evangelism.

Continuing, Sir Agbaso described his late brother as “a crusader without limits who founded Recovery Channel Evangelical Ministries as a non-church evangelical ministry in 2005 with a mandate to “set the captives free through the power of God’s word.”

Austine, Sunday Sun further learnt, pioneered the City of God Church with branches and made a very strong impact in the local communities till he handed them over to other churches. He engaged in hospital outreach, visiting the sick in hospitals, praying for them, and offering material and financial assistance.

Personal evangelism which was his passion saw thousands make decisions for Christ and receive healing. He lived a life driven by giving and philanthropy. His love and desire to assist humanity has provided scholarships to countless beneficiaries from nursery, primary to secondary levels with many others in tertiary institutions till the time of his demise. This same love for children prompted him to establish the Children’s House of Refuge, an orphanage.

Very passionate about soul winning, the ‘Reach the World Project’, which he started enabled him to take the gospel to Ghana, Benin Republic and Liberia.”

Revd Austine’s immediate elder sister, who helped stir up in him a desire to develop culinary skills poured her grief into a heartwarming tribute. She said: “For me, you have left my world a little less bright, a little less certain, a little less lovely. But I take comfort in your legacy. My brother, you have earned a big check mark because you have made your little slice of this world a little brighter, a little more certain, a little more lovely. You worked tirelessly so that others may know the truth even as you continually, and humbly searched for deeper truths. You bravely spoke the truth even at the risk of losing fellowship with kith and kin. You kept less so that others may have some. You endured pain so that others may enjoy comfort. You suffered ridicule so that your heavenly father would be proud.

“I remember the countless times you have helped me both in my personal life and my business, especially with the growing pains of the early stages of my business. You were always in my corner, cheering me on and helping me carry my load. You were always there helping me keep the faith. I could always count on you to understand my struggles at times when there was nothing you could do to help. Such love, you showed me. Such love that animated your being and gave meaning to all you did even when grossly misunderstood, and thought foolish.

“Augustine, I cannot have you back now, so I will hold you close in my heart by trying, if ever I could, to live up to your values. Those values that confound human cultures and traditions. Those values put you at odds with man, but at peace with God. Of love, especially for those less fortunate. Of peace, that does not steal the voice of the weak.”

To his niece, Zainab Marwa, Austine was not just a relative, he was a source of joy and a guiding presence in the lives of his nephews and nieces. Her words: “From the earliest days of my childhood, he filled our world with laughter, playfulness, and boundless love. His gentle spirit and warm smile could brighten even the darkest of days, and his presence brought warmth and comfort to all who knew him

“He gave me my playful name, Uwanpekele. And I loved it so much. As a mentor, Uncle Augustin shared his wisdom and knowledge generously, guiding us through life’s challenges with patience and understanding. He taught us to embrace each moment with gratitude, to pursue our dreams with determination, and to always strive for excellence in all that we do

“As a playmate, Uncle Augustine made every moment unforgettable, turning ordinary days into extraordinary adventures filled with laughter and joy. His playful spirit and boundless energy were contagious, and his love for life was an inspiration to us all.”

Way back 24 years ago, Austine consistently stood at the gate of Imo State University, to preach the gospel of salvation with his megaphone, ruggedly and radically, wrote Bishop Dr John Anthony of Gloryflame International Church, Owerri, Imo State, in a tribute honouring the memory of Revd Austine, who he described as “a prayer machine, a man of great integrity, a man of discipline.”

He added: “I won’t forget the day I met him at Okwu Uratta, he had come to follow up those whom he had won for Christ. When we met and I introduced myself to him as a pastor and a minister of the gospel, he connected strongly with me. 

“It is worthy of note to state that he was addicted to soul-winning and knew how to follow up a soul that is saved with everything God gave him. He could do follow-up, no matter the distance or how remote the location, he would look for you.”

Anointing, Austine’s first child and daughter, found him to be “a man of principles, who didn’t fear anybody or any challenge that came his way. Most importantly, he didn’t waver in his belief. Dad was a man of faith, hope and love. He believed in these three, and these kept him strong till he slept in the Lord.”

Distraught Alpha Bekee, the third daughter and last baby girl, said: “Losing someone who means a lot to you is one of the hardest blows a person can take. My dad taught me something though and it is from the Holy Scriptures in Ist Thessalonians 5:18, where the Bible says: “In everything, give thanks, For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”.

She said further: “Daddy, you were my first love and best friend and you remained my best friend till you passed, my first pastor who always taught me the ways of the Lord, although a few times, the way you taught was annoying, my first boyfriend who took care of me. I remembered that time you took my sisters and me to a jewellery shop and told us to pick a set consisting of a necklace, earrings, bangles and a ring. You bought them for us and told us that there was nothing special in those things, so we should be careful so we won’t fall victim to sheep in wolf clothing, who would buy us those things to try to take advantage of us.

“Dad, you bought me my first ripped jeans, my first heels, my first phone, my first laptop and you taught me that I shouldn’t place high values on these things but I should place high values on the things of God.

“I will forever miss you papa but I will cherish the memories of you and I have both good because that would put a smile on my face and bad because there is a lesson to learn from them.

“I will be the strong woman you taught me to be and the family will be alright but we will miss you terribly.”

Taking solace in a very philosophical quote from Revelation 21:4, which says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more deaths, neither shall there any more pain,” Ochudo Martin Agbaso bade his baby brother farewell, saying, “Nnaa Augo rest peacefully in the Lord.”