“I came to the UAE purposely to serve God”: Nigerian Pastor
The Nigerian ex-pat and senior pastor of the Redeemed Christian Congregation of God under St. Andrews Church in Abu Dhabi said during the church services he’s conducted over the years, he has met people from various African countries. Many of these ex-pats doing various jobs who come to attend prayer services. Others are young men and women who had come to UAE on visit visas looking for jobs. This category usually goes to the church to seek blessings and at the same time for support as they are faced with various problems. The job seekers’ issues range from lack of food and accommodation to seeking air tickets to go back home after they fail to find employment. Sometimes their visit visas expire during the job search and have no money to renew them.
“I thank God. We have always managed to solve the problems of most of these people. We use our positions as church leaders to counsel these young women and men coming to us so often. We support them with contributions from worshippers and our welfare fund,” Pastor Akioya told Spring Media in an exclusive interview at his home in the Khalidiya area of Abu Dhabi.
“The UAE has given us a conducive atmosphere to come together and worship. And from such gatherings, we are able to interact and get to know each other, including those going through difficulties.”
Joined missionary work after a call from God
Pastor Akioya, 56, is a Micro-biologist and had graduated from the University of Benin in Nigeria in 1986. But he chose to abandon his profession and decided to serve the Lord after a true revelation from God. “I began offering church services in 1999 and since then, I have been committed to serving God,” he said.
Pastor Efema Akioya, the Assistant Pastor In Charge of Region- The Middle East who hails from Edo state, Southern Nigeria, is married with two children- a boy and a girl. He came to the UAE in 2005 after his first call for foreign mission in Pakistan, where he spent two years.
“I came here purposely for missionary work. We used to hold our services at Coral Deira Hotel on Fridays and Bible studies on Tuesdays,” he said adding that the prayers meetings were being held at St. Martins Church in Sharjah.
“Our prayer services are mostly attended by African ex-pats and a few Asians especially Filipinos.”
Number of African ex-pats in UAE rose in recent years
Pastor Akioya has over the recent years witnessed an increase in the number of African nationals in the UAE.
According to pastor Akioya “Previously, you could see mostly Ethiopians, Sudanese and Somalis. But now, people from across Africa are here in the UAE occupying various positions such as Doctors, Teachers, Nurses, Engineers, Sales Executives, etc., while others own businesses. I am happy about this,”
“I usually tell young people, to focus, be humble, patient and to abide by the country’s laws so as to live a happy and successful diaspora life.”
Before COVID-19, the Nigerian man of God oversees four congregations in Abu Dhabi holding services from Marriot Hotel (his own parish-with about 500 attendees for the Friday prayer service), Kings Gate hotel, South Sun Hotel and Golden Tulip Hotel. The Redeemed Christian Congregation of God also has places for prayer services in Al Ain and Al Ruwais.
With the current Covid-19 pandemic, all prayer services are being held online.