John Etim Obot, preacher, administrator, and chaplain, was born July 5, 1944. He grew up in a small village of Ikot Akpan Abia-Ubium, in Nsit Ubium local government area of Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria.
His pious and devoted mother was a staunch believer in the true God who created the heaven and the earth, even as she lived in the midst of unbelievers and pagans. She imparted this belief to her little son, John, from his infancy.1 This she did by always carrying her son on her back to attend evening fellowships and worship services at the other end of the village. In this way, John Obot was groomed from his cradle to love God.
As he grew up, Obot desired to devote his entire life to the service of God. One day as he waited to be enrolled in the Church of Christ Bible School, the leaders of the church never showed up. Though John Obot waited for one week, it was all to no avail! He decided to travel to Ifon in Western Nigeria in 1958. God was still guiding John Obot, even when he was hired to work at the rubber plantations in Ifon, and later in Ikenne, now in Ogun State. Despite his various travails as a plantation worker, no harm befell him for God preserved him.
John Obot was converted at an evangelistic program at the Adventist College of West Africa (ACWA), led by Pastors Howard Welch, the president, and Herman Burman, the evangelist. John Obot was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the early 1960s.
As a new convert, John Obot was noticed by Pastor Welch for his devotion, commitment, humility, and sense of responsibility. He endeared himself to Pastor Welch who did not waste any time in hiring him as his house help at the ACWA campus, Ilishan-Remo. John Obot’s brilliance, dedication to duty, and truthfulness were rewarded when Pastor Welch agreed to sponsor his education from secondary school through college.
John Obot studied theology at the Adventist College of West Africa (ACWA) and graduated in 1971. He served God for eight years before proceeding for further studies to Newbold College, England, and then to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA, in 1979. He obtained his Master of Arts degree (M.A.) in Systematic Theology in 1981.
John Obot married his first wife, Catherine, in 1966. She died after delivering their first son, Welch, in 1970. He married his second wife, Mary, in 1972. The marriage was blessed with five more sons: Samuel, Elijah (1977-2009), Solomon, Obot, and Godswill.
John Obot joined the gospel ministry immediately after his graduation in 1971. His first station was Itu Mbon Uso, a hilly town in Akwa Ibom state. It was a very remarkable station for him in that he labored and won many converts to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His converts from these communities are found in almost every major city in Nigeria today! John Obot’s achievements inspired his transfer to Port Harcourt, a vastly unentered metropolitan city in southern Nigeria, in 1972.
There John Obot preached the Three Angels’ messages and God watered the seed and blessed the work. In 1972, when he arrived Port Harcourt, the oil city only had a small Adventist church which met in a mud building at “Mile 3,” Diobu; but in 1988 when he left, there were more than ten vibrant churches planted in the city, with the “Mile 3” church upgraded to metropolitan city church status. Before he left Port Harcourt in 1988, he was instrumental in upgrading the field from mission to conference status, along with a tremendous increase in membership.
In 1988 John Obot was transferred to Cross River/Akwa Ibom states to take over from Pastor Sholademi. John Obot opened new churches in unentered areas in the field, such as Ogoja, Obudu, Ikom, Nko/Ugep, Akamkpa, Ekong Town in Calabar City, etc. In Akwa Ibom state, his home state, he took the gospel of Christ to many unentered towns, such as Ikot Abasi, Ibaka in Mbo-Oron, Mbiakpan Atan in Uyo, Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Oku Iboku, and many more.
John Obot laid a solid foundation for the beginning of the South East Conference in 2003. In the process of upgrading the mission to conference status, he was moved to the Nigeria Union Mission (NUM), Lagos, as the Ministerial Secretary in 2001. John Obot served there until he was transferred to the Adventist Secondary Technical College, Owrrinta, as the pioneer chaplain, in 2004. He and other leaders like Dr. Sylvanus N. Chioma, Pastor Gideon C. Nwaogwugwu, and Pastor Reuben Eti, spearheaded the creation of the Eastern Nigeria Union Mission (ENUM) in 2004. A few years before he planned to retire, John Obot took ill. He passed away on February 15, 2006, after a life of service to God and humanity.
The information in this article comes from personal knowledge of the author who worked with Pastor John Etim Obot in the 1970’s and 1980’s and conversations with the Obot family members↩