“This is a story about a person named Austin Orji. Actually, it’s a story about Jesus who used a person named Austin gloriously.
Austin came to India from Nigeria in June 2014 to pursue his career goals. He joined the company I was working at as an intern, in order to learn how to impact the social entrepreneurship sector back in Nigeria. The thing about him was that he was a bold speaker and a bold dresser. So, in the Indian consulting space, where most people dressed in plain blue and grey, Austin stood out with his orange jackets and his red shirts.
It has always been in my nature to befriend people and make them comfortable in new spaces. I started talking to Austin, and we’d chat and hang out. One day, he suddenly asked me, without any prelude, if I believed in God. I told him I believed in energy and balance.
You see, this is not one of those ‘failure to success’ stories. Rahel, before 2014, was a successful girl. I had taken up leadership positions in my school, my college and was now doing the same at work. I had done well academically, and generally achieved goals I set for myself.
But somehow, there was no fullness in my life – there was no joy. And so I searched for it…
I sought love through boys. I sought entertainment through drugs. I sought to ‘chill’ through cigarettes. I tried yoga and meditation. I picked up the Gita, the Quran and even the Bible. I tried everything to find this meaning in life.
One evening, about two weeks into our acquaintanceship, I decided to take Austin to dinner at a meat lover’s restaurant. The conversation flowed, and he didn’t ask me any probing questions, but he was himself – a bold Nigerian, out of place.
We spoke for around five hours that night. Austin said very little, yet somehow I ended up pouring my heart out to him. Without him saying too much, there came a moment when I suddenly felt all the guilt of my past being washed away, and all the fear of my future removed. I was simply present and I experienced a presence – the presence of God.
It was so ecstatic and scary. My mind couldn’t help but wonder what it was. In that moment, Austin held my hand immediately and prayed…and I heard the name ‘Jesus’ in his prayer.
I refused to believe! This couldn’t be about Jesus! How could it be about Jesus!
But Austin spoke to me gently – about God, about Jesus, His love and His Word. Until that point, I was dead set against it, because I had earlier been exposed to a very charismatic version of Christianity, which, at that time, didn’t make sense or appeal to me. I didn’t believe that what was happening to me now could possibly be Jesus.
But our God is a God of miracles. I soon discovered that I had been delivered on that day from panic attacks which I had been experiencing for two years and had needed psychiatric medication for that day. In a matter of weeks, I was delivered from other things as well – I suddenly found myself without the desire to smoke.
In the next few months, I found a church to worship at, a community that welcomed me and loved me. Most importantly, I found the fullness that I had been looking for.
Through those months, one thing was constant – Austin’s prayers for me. He took responsibility for me. He would reach out and teach me to worship, teach me the Scripture. He prayed for me to find a community. I hated him on some days; I did not want to believe the things he believed in.
But in those difficult months, he did not back down. He stormed heaven with prayers for me, even when I didn’t deserve it.
Austin never forgot his purpose, nor the plans he had for his career. He was passionate about God, and passionate about his country. After he went back, he did exactly what he had planned to do. He worked as the Lead Enterprise Coach of FIELD Africa to address Africa’s most critical challenges, organizing the SOLUTION conference every year…
A week before the final conference this year, as he was returning home, his cab broke down and he was mugged. Austin was stabbed several times, and on November 1st 2017, he passed away.
Austin’s funeral was held at Abuja, where many people came forward to share their testimonies of how his life had touched theirs deeply, and how they would always remember him as a man of God, full of life and passion for God’s kingdom purposes here on earth.
Austin did not come to India for ministry. He was simply pursuing his career goals. But he never ever forgot that he was a child of God; and that he had been called. He fought a battle to bring me to faith. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for him on the days I blatantly rejected all that he had said to me. Those months that he was here with me must’ve been so hard for him and no words I can ever use with my mouth will be able to thank him enough for that.
He stayed himself. He didn’t try to be different, nor did he try to fit in. And it was Austin, just as he was, whom God used to save me, and for that I am forever grateful.
This is the story about St. Austin Orji. Actually, it’s a story about Jesus who used a saint named Austin gloriously.”
– Rahel Chakola