Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Martin and Helen Odi and the power of the Gospel

Martin and
Helen Odi

Martin and his
youngest son,

EPI's Uganda National Director is Martin Odi. He has been working with EPI since it's inception over 10 years ago. Before coming with EPI full-time, Martin was a pastor in the PAG (Pentecostal Assemblies of God) Church in Uganda for 10 years, and then for 10 years was a PAG Bishop who oversaw about 200 churches. He and his good wife Helen have been living very fruitful lives for the Lord. It will be my pleasure to work with him again part of the time while I am in Kenya (I am leaving on April 4, and will spend the rest of the month in Kenya).

Martin's own life is a testimony to the transforming effects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am happy and humbled to say that God used the teaching ministry of EPI, in part, to enable Martin and Helen to do what they could not have done on their own, in circumstances that were more difficult and trying than I (or virtually everyone else I know) has had to face. Here is Martin's story:
Martin Odi Testimony
In the past I have shared with some of you about what happened in our family in 1996. Our first born son Bildad who was then aged 14 was maliciously poisoned by our neighbor about 8 months after I had taken office as the Bishop of PAG churches in Kumi district an area of 2681 sq km in the north eastern part of Uganda in East Africa.

We were left with two sons; one was not even a year old and very weak as he was born pre-mature under very bad circumstances. I kept asking God WHY? I cried out loud and burnt with anger inside of me. This went on for years but I had no intention at all for revenge. However I have been very bitter to God and myself! I thanked God for this issue on my lips but wished he would do revenge immediately in order to appease my anger.

Last year a long time friend of mine Dr Henry Krabbendam was having a discussion with me on responses of Christians to God’s dealing with them; sighting the way evangelicals tell testimonies in their churches. Many will say I thank God this week because I got school fees for my children, another will say I thank God I got a new car, or a good house, etc. But Dr K asked me: how many will say I thank God because I got more holiness this week? This was a huge challenge to me although I did not express it to him at the time.

On another occasion last year Joanthan Menn and I where teaching Anglican clergy in three dioceses Nebbi, Arua and Busoga in Uganda; our good friend Rev Moses Isabirye of the Provincial Office of CoU led us each morning in the devotion from the book of Philemon majoring on sincere forgiveness for those who have committed major sins to you.
Jonathan as well when teaching from 1 Tim 3 “The qualifications of Bishops and pastors” said: he must be gentle, and went further to talk about slow to anger and forgiving, and in his closing remarks he gave us home work: “Can you remember any person who has done you any wrong that you must go back from here and forgive? Write down his or her name.”
Although I was teaching alongside him I wrote the name of the guy who poisoned my son. Then I began to pray for an opportunity to meet him because he had fled away from his home in fear of me; got separated with his wife and family. Until last week when his young brother brought him back into a meeting of our clan leaders in an attempt to reconcile him with his family.

Helen and I were invited into this meeting and for the first time after 12 years we spoke openly but with tears to this man and all his family affirming to the fact that they killed our son. We stressed to the crowd that we are now ready to forgive this man. There was untold silence in this crowd with others crying silently. We said together that we want to do this because we are BORN AGAIN!

We invited him and a few of his relatives to our home at a date they will communicate to us later then we will officially pray a blessing to this man and his family. But our hearts were so released that day after we uttered these words in public from the depths of our hearts, and offered that we have forgiven this man. Praise the Lord.

Now I have got the answer to the WHY question of the last 12 years. This is it: God did this so that Helen and I grow in forgiveness and his holiness in order to minister to those who are and will be in a situation like this one 2 Corinthians 1:3-8.

“The mission of our family continues to be the salt and light of our community” we cannot revenge Bildad by killing any or all of the children of this family for the following reasons: (1) all these people are not saved (dead in sins) killing any or all of his children meant exchanging the living Bildad with the dead boys. (2) The quality of our boy according to us is not even equaled to 6 children of this man. (3) Vengeance belongs to the Lord not to us. And lastly, our public testimony has began to show our community and those who are far that we can win our enemies by sharing the love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

I don’t know how Helen feels but I do feel a huge relief of a burden I carried for the last 12 years off my shoulders. In EPI, I teach to change pastors and leaders to be more like Jesus Christ. The one side of the sword of the Spirit has pierced me also to forgive my enemies as Christ forgave his killers on the cross. I thank God for being involved in EPI for the missions of our Lord. Through this I have been pierced and changed to be like Him. JESUS AND HIS WORD ARE ALIVE!

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