Reverend Jones Karawai, 86, Retired, Tells CHIMA AZUBUIKE He Grew Up and Worked as a Clergyman
What year of birth ?
I was born in May 1935; I am 87 years old. I was born in Kalarubo, Kaltungo Local Government Area of present-day Gombe State. I was born in our family compound thanks to the help of a midwife.
You weren’t born in a hospital. Were you told if your birth went smoothly or was difficult?
There was no difficulty. My mother told me that after giving birth to me, she just picked me up, prayed and bathed me.
How did you know that 1935 was your year of birth?
Well, people around the time of my birth recounted the experience. I had an older brother who told me that too, as well as some of my friends with educated parents who confirmed that we were age mates and I just wrote it down.
What kind of occupation did your family engage in when you were growing up?
They were traditional devotees; mainly farmers. At that time, they practiced mixed farming – planting crops and raising animals. My father and my mother were both natives of Kalarubo. I guess it was the main source of livelihood for our people back then and even now many of them are still interested in farming.
What do you remember from your youthful years?
It was difficult growing up, even though my father only had one wife. It was not a polygamous environment but one that faced many obstacles ranging from financial challenges to life challenges etc. There were times when we had plenty to eat, especially during harvest season when the yield from the farm was abundant. But in general, we didn’t always have much to eat; there was suffering because there was very little to eat.
How did you manage to go to school despite your family’s financial situation?
I passed the first to the fifth primary, then I stopped. I still struggled and entered a Bible school after grade five. Well, I just finished first to fifth primary and I finished; then struggled to attend the Bible Training School in Kufayi, Biliri Local Government Area.
My parents struggled to make money selling groundnuts collected on the farm to sponsor my education. But raising funds for food and school fees at the same time has not been easy. Some of my peers, about four or five, were able to continue their studies, but in my case, I could not go beyond the 5th primary due to lack of funds.
What drew you to Bible Training School?
There were constant announcements in the church that there was a school one could go to after elementary school. It was said that this would not only advance his knowledge in Western education, but also in the work of God. I didn’t think about it at first, but the ads became more frequent, so I decided to give it a shot.
Churchmen often speak of being called by God. Is it the same in your case?
The announcements made in the church inspired me. Again, because many people were lost, I sought to be a minister to make disciples and bring them back to the right path. The announcement served as a much-needed guide to choosing my chosen path in life, which is the life of ministry, of service to God and to humanity.
It was the announcements that attracted me and the desire to contribute my quota to the depopulation of the kingdom of darkness and to populate the kingdom of God.
How long did you spend in Bible training school?
The training took me four years; I completed the training program in 1955.
When did you meet your wife?
I got married in 1951, before I went to Bible school. My wife and I attended Bible Training School together as a couple. At that time, a man and his wife were in the same class. At that time, the tendency was to attend the Bible training school as a couple.
What was your experience at Bible Training School?
My major problem was that we were taught in English and I didn’t understand English, so it was very difficult for me to follow the teachers, read, write, speak and even sing songs in English. But I learned slowly from those who understood the English language. Whenever a word was written in English, they provided its meaning in Hausa. They wrote in English and explained in Hausa and even in my language, so I started to understand. We were taught English, my dialect, Tangale and Hausa. From there, I started to understand and over time I learned to read and write.
When you finished Bible Training School, where were you assigned to work?
I started working in my village, a place called Wili. But it was difficult because when I said something, a lot of people didn’t understand me; many were ignorant. It was difficult to preach to them because our people were traditional devotees.
How did you overcome the challenges?
I wanted to do missionary work with my wife. At the time, we already had three children. We moved to Yola, Adamawa as missionaries. There were two churches in Yola – the Roman Catholic and the ECWA. Soon church leaders placed Yola and Taraba under my command at that time and gave it the name Superior International Mission (ECWA) and Mission Catholique CM (Catholic Church). In 1979, I worked only for Superior International Mission, ECWA. Later I came to Yola and due to the age and growth of my family, I was sent back to Gombe State.
What position did you hold before retirement?
I attained the position of revered ECWA Kalarubo in 1979. I was transferred from the district church council of Kaltungo to the local church council of Ture.
When did you retire?
I retired in 1997 in Gombe State.
What is the last position you held?
Local overseer in an ECWA church.
What were the highlights of your time as local overseer?
I was able to heal people by the power of God, guide them to read, write and understand the Bible. I didn’t limit my teaching and mentoring to the church, my impact was also felt in the secular world because I taught them too. I learned at the biblical training school to interact with the religious environment but also with the secular world. I encouraged them to know God and to do things for themselves, to help themselves and the church. My achievement was my ability to bring people to God and I stood on my faith which made people understand my work and I remained resolute until the end.
What was your best moment in service?
My best moment is usually when I see my followers doing what is right, following God’s precepts for the benefit of mankind; it makes me happy and every time I come across it, I’m usually excited.
What is your worst moment?
When a person is a thief, steals something and denies it, I feel provoked. Truth or honesty is a virtue not to be joked about. Whenever I encounter dishonesty, I become sad.
Do you have a favorite food?
At my age, I still like tasty or well-cooked dishes like tuwo; I like tea and porridge and our indigenous food, corn and beans cooked together.
What is the secret to your good health?
Well, that’s the grace of God. Maybe because I decided to listen to everything God tells me, maybe that’s why he supported me. There is nothing unique that I eat or do other than my decision to be faithful to God.
Do you regret not being able to continue your studies beyond the 5th primary?
Well, it’s my joy that God has called me to his use; I have no regrets. I never thought about it and I am happy for my friends whom God has made to reach various professional positions because they have finished their studies and I am happy about that. I have no regrets.
What kind of music do you like the most?
I love gospel music; it generally moves me with joy. I also like reggae music.
What is your advice to young people?
Well, as the book of Joshua says, “Let this word not depart from your mouth”, they should stick to the word of God and listen to their elders and portray the word of God by showing good examples. They must do what makes them good in the eyes of God and men.
What is your advice to politicians as Nigeria prepares for the 2023 general elections?
I urge politicians to be God-fearing and kind to their followers. Nigerian politicians should strive to set a good example for young people, especially young people because they are watching.
How did you spend your time in retirement?
I retired in January 1997. Immediately afterwards I returned to farming; I grew maize, groundnuts, beans and millet. Currently, I can no longer do it because of my age.
Are you happy with Nigeria today compared to the Nigeria of your working years?
There are great differences between the life of today and the life of the past. Our time was difficult but we enjoyed it, but today’s Nigeria has a lot of technological advancements, but many are suffering, with overwhelming pains and challenges.
How many children do you have?
I had 11 children but only seven of them are alive. I have 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
How do you relax?
I generally relax more during meals and at bedtime. I usually pray for those who take care of me.
Do you have an unfulfilled dream?
Well, there is nothing exactly. When it’s my time, God will call me. I finished the work that the Lord entrusted to me. Everything comes from God, so one day we will all go; so let’s all think about how, where and when we’re going.
How to get out of religious crises and tribal conflicts in the country?
The Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa people are all creatures of God, let’s come together and fear not one another because living together allows people to grow in unity. Such challenges only come where there is no love. We must always see ourselves as one despite the glaring differences in the system, there must be conscious efforts to work things out without which we will get nowhere.