Chima, Paul Chibunna (1928–1985)

By Michael A. T. Senne-Aya

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Michael A. T. Senne-Aya, D.Min. (Adventist University of Africa, Nairobi, Kenya)  is the director of archives, statistics, and research for the Western Nigeria Union Conference, Lagos, Nigeria. He was the last president of Edo-Delta Mission before its formal reorganization into two separate conferences and served as the pioneer president of the Edo Conference in the Western Nigeria Union Conference. 

First Published: January 29, 2020

Paul Chima worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a teacher, evangelist, and administrator, serving as the first president of the Bendel Mission in the Nigerian Union Mission from 1978 until 1985.

Early Life

Paul Chibunna Chima was born in September 1928 at Akwukwu-Igbo, Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria. Akwukwu-Igbo town, comprising nine quarters, or clans,1 is a religious community that boasts of many Christian groups, including Catholic and Protestants.2 The predominant occupations of the people are farming and fishing. Little is known about Paul Chima’s family background or upbringing. According to one reliable account, he had two younger siblings, male and female.3 He probably was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1940 while he was at Jengre, near Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.

Education, Early Career, and Marriage

Following the completion of his primary education, Paul Chima taught at the Seventh-day Adventist School in Jengre in 1944 and 1945. Subsequently, he passed the entrance examination to the erstwhile Seventh-day Adventist Training College at Ibadan, Oyo State, and finished the two-year Elementary Teachers’ Certification program in 1947.

Between 1948 and 1953, Paul Chima taught again at the Jengre Seventh-day Adventist Primary School before enrolling in the Grade II Teachers’ Certificate Course that spanned from 1954 to 1955, which he eventually completed at the Nigerian Training College of Seventh-day Adventists, Ihie, Abia State, in East Nigeria.

Chima married Christy, who was also from Akwukwu-Igbo, in December 1955. The union was blessed with six daughters: Ngozi (d. 1983), Charity, Bisi, Chinyere, Obioma (or Faith), and Uche.

Paul Chima’s final stint at Jengre Seventh-day Adventist School was between 1956 and 1960 before his relocation to the western part of Nigeria in 1961, where he taught at Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.4 He later moved to the Seventh-day Adventist School in Ile-Ife between 1962 and 1963, as a teacher, and then enrolled in 1964 as a student of the Adventist College of West Africa (ACWA), now Babcock University, in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1967.5 He enlisted with the then West Nigeria Mission in Benin City, in the old Western Region of Nigeria, before the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970) began.

The defunct West Nigeria Mission, now the Western Nigeria Union Conference (WNUC) of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, sent him and his entire family as missionaries to Liberia from 1967 to 1970 to escape the civil war, and there he was ordained to the gospel ministry at Korona in 1968. He returned in 1970 to serve the church as a Bible teacher and pastor at the Adventist Grammar School, Ede, Osun State, until 1973 when he became secretary of the Sabbath School, Lay Activities, Voice of Prophecy, and Radio and TV departments in the newly established Nigerian Union Mission.6 As such, he was one of the first three Nigerians to serve as a department secretary at the union level.7 During his time at the Nigerian Union, he coordinated a three-week evangelistic campaign in 1975 that featured C. D. Brooks, then the General Conference general field secretary, as the speaker. Chima was among the pastors who went down into the water with the West Nigerian Mission president to baptize the 49 converts from this campaign.8 By 1976, he was also secretary of the Stewardship department.9

Later Career and Ministry

The first restructuring of the Adventist work in the Nigerian Union Mission was the creation of the Bendel Mission (now Edo and Delta Conferences) in 1977, and Paul Chima was its first president.10 As such, Paul Chima was three officers in one. The whole administrative load was on him alone. He was president, secretary, and treasurer, all in one.11

The Bendel Mission began in 1978 with 444 members and two organized churches. As the pioneer president of the mission, Paul Chima worked tirelessly to spread the gospel and advance the cause of God’s kingdom in that part of Nigeria (now known as Edo and Delta States).12 The newly organized mission started with only four districts: Benin, Ishan, Etsako, and Warri. The first three districts constitute the present Edo Conference, while the Warri district corresponds to the present Delta Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.13 Paul Chima’s greatest mandate was evangelism, and he traversed the length and breadth of the mission field, sowing the gospel seed.14 Out of the 19 churches in the four districts when he began, there was only one erected edifice at Benin City (Uzebu Church). The mission started from a rented apartment along the Ewah Road in Benin City, Edo State.15

In 1979, when C. Onwere assumed the secretary-treasurer position of the fledgling mission, which had fewer than five ministers teamed up with a few laypeople, all worked hard to expand the mission of the Church within this territory. As Alalade has reported, “In 1983, membership rose to 1,080 with nine organized churches.16 By December 1985, the membership of the Bendel Mission was 1,820. However, the workload placed on Chima as a president contributed immensely to his premature death on December 6, 1985.17 His wife, Christy, died ten years later (1995), and was buried beside his grave at Akwukwu-Igbo.18

Contribution

The legacies of Pastor Paul C. Chima are visible within Nigeria and outside the shores of this country (e.g., Liberia). Chima’s pioneering initiatives led to exponential growth. Today, what started as the Bendel Mission is now reorganized into two self-supporting units, Edo and Delta Conferences, catering to tens of thousands of Adventists and non-Adventists alike.19

Sources

Adesegun, Abiodun Ayodeji. “Paul Chibunna Chima: 1928–1985.” Dictionary of African Christian Biography (Boston, MA: Center for Global Christianity and Mission, 2007), accessed December 12, 2017, https://dacb.org/stories/nigeria/chima-paul/.

Agboola, D. T. Seventh-day Adventist History in West Africa (1888–1988): A Mustard Seed. Ibadan: Lasob Productions, 2001.

Alalade, Adekunle A. Limiting Factors to the Success of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa: The Nigeria Case Study. Ibadan: Agbo Areo Publishers, 2008.

Babalola, David O. Sweet Memories of Our Pioneers. Lagos: Emaphine Publishers, 2001.

Beach, B. B. “Fledgling Union Has Diamond Anniversary.” Advent Messenger 28, nos. 1–4 (April 1974).

“Last West African Union Session.” Advent Messenger 27, nos. 1–3 (March 1973).

Maigadi, I. B. The Adventist Church in Northern Nigeria. Kaduna: Culture Impressive, 2005.

Odiase, J. O. U. A Short History of the SDA Church in Edo/Delta States of Nigeria: 1948–2001. Lagos: Emaphine Publishers, 2001.

Sundquist, Paul. “Converts Are Baptized in Nigeria.” ARH, May 29, 1975.

Wollan, J. H. “GC Guest Speaks About Stewardship.” ARH, July 15, 1975.

Notes

  1. David O. Babalola, Sweet Memories of Our Pioneers (Lagos, Nigeria: Emaphine Publishers, 2001), 150.

  2. Abiodun Ayodeji Adesegun, “Paul Chibunna Chima: 1928–1985,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography (Boston, MA: Center for Global Christianity and Mission, 2007), accessed December 12, 2017, https://dacb.org/stories/nigeria/chima-paul/.

  3. Babalola, Sweet Memories, 152.

  4. I. B. Maigadi, The Adventist Church in Northern Nigeria (Kaduna: Culture Impressive, 2005), 88.

  5. Babalola, Sweet Memories, 150–152.

  6. “Last West African Union Session,” Advent Messenger 27, nos. 1–3 (March 1973): 1, 11.

  7. B. B. Beach, “Fledgling Union Has Diamond Anniversary,” Advent Messenger 28, nos. 1–4 (April 1974): 4.

  8. Paul Sundquist, “Converts Are Baptized in Nigeria,” ARH, May 29, 1975, 18.

  9. J. H. Wollan, “GC Guest Speaks About Stewardship,” ARH, July 15, 1975, 18.

  10. Adekunle A. Alalade, Limiting Factors to the Success of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa: The Nigeria Case Study (Ibadan: Agbo Areo Publishers, 2008), 55.

  11. Dr. Okei E. Okonkwo, WNUC Executive Secretary 2004–2014, interview by author.

  12. Alalade, Limiting Factors, 55.

  13. Adesegun, “Paul Chibunna Chima.”

  14. Babalola, Sweet Memories, 152.

  15. J. O. U. Odiase, A Short History of the SDA Church in Edo/Delta States of Nigeria:1948–2000 (Lagos: Emaphine Publishers, 2001), 25.

  16. Babalola, Sweet Memories, 152.

  17. Alalade, Limiting Factors, 55.

  18. Ibid.

  19. Babalola, Sweet Memories, 154.

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Senne-Aya, Michael A. T. "Chima, Paul Chibunna (1928–1985)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed May 21, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CCVE.

Senne-Aya, Michael A. T. "Chima, Paul Chibunna (1928–1985)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access May 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CCVE.

Senne-Aya, Michael A. T. (2020, January 29). Chima, Paul Chibunna (1928–1985). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CCVE.