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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Transplanted to Serve

By John W. Kennedy
Aug. 25, 2013

When John C. Aniemeke emigrated from Nigeria to the United States with his mother at age 20, he already had embarked on his educational path toward a career in dentistry. He returned to Nigeria for two additional years of instruction, but in order to pursue his vocation, he also needed to retrain in a U.S. dental school.

Aniemeke graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio cum laude with a doctorate of dental surgery in 2009 as the school’s outstanding periodontics student. He received three years of further specialty training in periodontics, oral implantology and anesthesiology. In June, he became a board certified periodontist at the age of 32. He is the only such dentist in the city of Live Oak in suburban San Antonio.

Although Aniemeke is engaged in a dentistry specialty full-time, he has another livelihood occupying evenings and weekends.

In January, Aniemeke pioneered Bethel Covenant Assembly of God in San Antonio. On Sunday mornings the multiethnic church already has more than 100 attendees, many of whom work in white-collar professions. Aniemeke’s wife, Chidinma, a Nigerian native and the daughter of a Pentecostal minister, is a family medicine physician.

“God gives me grace to do both careers,” says Aniemeke, who became a Christian at the age of 6. “I knew God had called me a long time ago; it was just a matter of time.”

Aniemeke’s Assemblies of God roots can be traced to Nigeria, where his father, Christian Aniemeke, served as the national leader of a Chi Alpha-type campus AG ministry called Christ Ambassadors Students Outreach. Before moving to the U.S., John Aniemeke served as a student pastor to a group of more than 200 Nigerian college students.

In Texas, while working on his post-graduate dental residency, Aniemeke spent six years on the pastoral staff of Redeemed Christian Church of God in San Antonio, serving as youth pastor, music pastor, and eventually assistant pastor. He also participated in several medical missions trips to Mexico.

While at the Pentecostal church, Aniemeke says he saw firsthand how a pastor could minister while working two seemingly incongruous careers. RCCG’s pastor, a Nigerian as well, is a veterinarian. That pastor’s wife handles children’s and youth ministry, despite her job as a full-time intensive care unit registered nurse.

“God opened my eyes to the possibility of combining professions,” says Aniemeke, commending the volunteers who help keep Bethel Covenant AG operating.

Of course not all immigrants who serve in AG congregations are bivocational. Makoto Ogihara is a physician who attends First Assembly of God in Honolulu, a multiethnic congregation of 1,550 people.

Ogihara, a top liver and kidney transplant specialist in the Aloha State, became a Christian in seventh grade while attending an AG church in his native Tokyo. As with Aniemeke, Ogihara already started medical studies prior to immigrating to the United States.

By the time he moved to Hawaii at age 30, Ogihara had graduated from the University of Tokyo School of Medicine. He had to be retrained in general surgery residency at the University of Hawaii and complete a transplant surgery fellowship for an additional two years at Stanford University before receiving board certification.

Ogihara and his wife, Megumi, whom he has known since they attended Sunday School together in Tokyo, began attending First AG in Honolulu after moving to Hawaii. They eventually became involved in the Japanese-language service, Makoto playing acoustic guitar and Megumi playing piano and leading the worship team.

After the Japanese-language service was discontinued, Megumi took the initiative to bridge communication between the Japanese ministry and the overseeing pastor. Twice a month on Sundays the Japanese congregation worships on its own; on the remaining Sundays, attendees join the English-language main service. Megumi also plays piano in the main service and directs a weekly small group that involves worship, Bible study, prayer and fellowship.

“Because we share the same faith and run toward the same goal — which is to finish the race well in Christ — we have always overcome the battles of life,” Megumi says. “We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for God guiding us along the path.”

As the only bilingual Japanese-English speakers in the congregation, Makoto and Megumi take turns translating the English service.

“My main involvement is interpretation,” says Makoto, who gave his testimony during the first AG Hawaii Japanese conference in March. “Most Japanese members speak some English, but not fluently enough to understand the English-speaking pastors.”

Ogihara, 44, says he decided to become a surgeon in the United States because of the different philosophy about transplants than in his native country.

“In Japan, people are resistant to the idea of donating organs,” Ogihara says. “Americans are more generous in donating, in part because of the nation’s Christian background. If you have faith to die and go to heaven because you have spiritual security, you are more likely to be willing to give up an organ when you die and pass on the precious gift.”

Scott Temple, director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations, believes that by establishing roots in the United States immigrants such as Aniemeke and Ogihara are making twin contributions.

“America has enjoyed unparalleled prosperity and global influence through the infusion of gifted, hardworking immigrants,” Temple says. “Not only our nation, but our churches, have been blessed though the influx of God’s people coming to America from all nations. It is our responsibility to welcome them, disciple them, and include them.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.


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