Of course, expectedly, what will characterize the burial ceremony of a Christian fellow who passed on at a ripe age of 102 will definitely be the reminiscences of his life and his ‘escapades’ while alive . I personally look out for this in any burial service because it is the time people eulogise the ‘departed’ because most cultures believe that ‘none should speak evil of the dead’.

Most times when people talk, it is a general belief that the ‘good things’ spoken about many people who died were concocted, probably to make family and friends left behind by ‘the dead’ to feel good.

There is, however, something striking about this ‘old man’ who peacefully died four days after attending a Sunday service where he rejoiced that the work of God in his local assembly has really progressed in his lifetime. It is a replay of the life of Simeon, a bible character recorded in Luke chapter 2 from verse 25, who was promised by God’s Spirit that he will not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

I am particularly by the tribute written by his erstwhile church, Pilgrim Baptist Church, Iselle-Mkpitime where he served as a deacon till his death in 2018. The Church chronicled 12 major things he did in his life time and seem to empirically quote them from the records of the church over a period of 34 years that he was a member.

Born 1916, he was baptized in 1936 and ordained a deacon in 1987. Having been a teacher and being experienced in faraway cities and ‘interacted with a wider Christian world’, he retired from active service in 1984 and returned to his town to impact his community and church with the good knowledge he acquired while in active service.

His impact was heavily felt so much that his church dubbed him as the ‘ Father of Modern Christianity’ in Iselle-Mkpitime Baptist Church.  Without being the Pastor, it was to his credit that he introduced payments of tithes in the church and printed the first tithe cards used in the church with his money.

He was credited to have introduced Sunday school classes, bought Sunday school manuals for the church and taught in the classes created for the school. He was said to have stopped the practice of ‘levying’ in the church while he taught on the usage of tithes and offerings as well as freewill donations to finance church projects. He was credited to have donated a pulpit to the Church and bought chairs fr the comfort of officiating ministers.

He stopped bazaar sales and replaced that with the distribution of harvest produces to the less-privileged as well as the Obi of the town, as it is still being done till date. He preached against usage of alcohol when members have social gatherings and ensured it stopped.

He introduced Church Training Programme and moderated it until it gained ground. He initiated the building and fencing of the Church’s pastorium. He initiated and was instrumental to the building of the current Church building He started the one-hour morning devotion in the church and community.

The church went in and on to mention with dates some of the exploits of the man who retired from active civil service at 60 and served his God and community for another 34 years before finally retiring to be with his maker.

While preaching at the final burial ceremony, Revd. Dr. ‘Bukola Oyebanji of the New Life Baptist church, Oke Afa, Lagos challenged the faithful to live a life worthy of emulation like Udala Olele who possibly could have been called to be a reverend gentleman without knowing, yet, who lived a life of great impact in the service of God and humanity.

In a service which had many clergymen, the Governor of Delta State, Governor Okowa, many government functionaries from Delta, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Enugu and Bayelsa state, it was obvious that the world stands still for the man whostood for righteousness and service to God and humanity.

The Governor, who extolled the life of the Late Udala Olele noted that he caused his good life to bear on his biological children and grandchildren who are making good waves all over the world. He thanked one of Olele’s son Elder Sam Ngozi and his siblings for being good ambassadors of the state and for giving their patriarch a befitting burial. He noted that the State is proud of the family.

Survived by 7 children, 28 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren, it was obvious that Julius Udala Olele’s life preached to more people at his funeral more than he ever did while alive.

Truly, life is short but must be lived well. Adieu, Deacon Julius Udala Olele. You will be missed by all

Bimbola Alagbe, a public relations practitioner, based in Ikeja Lagos wrote in from [email protected]

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