Resolute and astute, the Founder of The Rock Teaching Ministry, Mrs. Oke Chuma Chinye, is a testament to rediscovery and transformation. From being an overweight stay-at-home mother she has become an alluring woman of substance. Her life’s story signposts how women and anybody can rise above their seeming limitations and insurmountable challenges to become the best they can be in life. An author of the book, ‘Living the Life’, Chinye in this interview with Ahamefula Ogbu talks about her Rock Teaching Ministry, her book, and how she rose from living in a leper’s colony to becoming one of Nigeria’s brightest minds in psychology and enterprise
You are a woman of many parts can we know more about you?
To know me, I would like to break it down into what my calling is and what my profession is. So, by profession I am a business psychologist – I’m a learning and development consultant. By calling, I am an inspirational teacher; a Bible study teacher. I love to help people discover themselves. I love to inspire people to rise up from whatever challenges hold them down in life. Everyone has what it takes to surmount challenges and be where God has designed for them to be. But a lot of times we let fear, low self-esteem, challenges, distractions and the weight of life to weigh us down. I found out that when people are supported, inspired, equipped with the know-how, they are able to rise up, surmount their challenges and become all they were created to be.
Was that what informed the launching of The Rock Teaching Ministry?
I would say yes. The inspiration I got for the Rock Teaching Ministry was a combination of my personal experiences, my profession and my calling in life. The Rock Teaching Ministry is about helping people actualise their worth. In the past, I struggled with finding out who I really was. There was this light, a sensation inside of me saying this is who I am. So, the Rock Teaching Ministry is about fulfilling that purpose, that assignment God has given me to accomplish on earth; helping people find out who they are and equipping them to actualise their purpose and supporting them in that journey of fulfilling a purpose. In trying to know who you are and get your bearing, you have some challenges.
What are those things you have suffered in life that became the compendium of your book, ‘Living the Life’?
I get very emotional when people ask me about my book because it is a personal experience. It is about helping people. The book is a God-inspired life -changing resource. I got inspiration from God to write that book. In that book you will find issues of purpose, relationships, physical health and spiritual awareness. You have seasons of your life and then life after our time here on earth. It is a book where I brought my personal experiences, my profession as a business psychologist and my calling as an inspirational teacher together to inspire people. It is about helping people find balance in life. You find that some people are thriving spiritually but they are empty financially and physically. Some people are thriving financially but they are not happy because spiritually, they are empty.
You even have people who are thriving financially and spiritually but in their emotions, their relationships, they are a failure. ‘Living the Life’ is about helping people find that balance because it is based on that premise on the Word of God, in John that says ‘Beloved I wish above all things that you will prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers. That is God’s purpose in our lives. God wants us to prosper spiritually, not just spiritually. He wants our relationship to blossom. He wants us to be financially, emotionally, intellectually and mentally balanced so that we can be at our best to fulfil the purpose he has for us. A lot of people find that they are struggling in one area of life or the other, so ‘Living the Life’ equips people. It deals with all sorts of challenges. It talks about issues of weight, finances, stress, relationship and even sexual issues that people encounter in their marriages, so it is a book that delves into life’s challenges in a practical way.
How did nature prepare you academically, experientially, physically and spiritually to arrive at this point in life?
It has been a journey for me. My first degree was in pharmacy. After a few years of practising pharmacy, I knew deep down that it wasn’t for me. After getting married, I stayed at home as a stay-at-home mother; a few years after, I began to feel restless inside of me. I began to see a desire to study more, to develop myself more. There is this emptiness inside me and as I began to think about it I saw myself drawn to motivational, situational books and I wanted to do a master’s programme and since my first degree was in pharmacy I thought it was going to be in public health but then to date I don’t know how I got a pamphlet in psychology – that was my first encounter with psychology and as I read psychology I found out that it was about human behaviour, changing people, about helping people live better life and as I read that pamphlet, a light entered into me and I knew that psychology was for me.
That is how I had my first master’s degree in psychology. Yet, I have another master’s degree in Business Psychology. Now I know that psychology is what I was meant to study as it helps me in all areas. In all the teachings I do about people, psychology comes to the fore. As I grew in my relationship with Christ, I knew that was my calling because I would literally hear messages coming into my mind. It was like someone was in front of me teaching me. Some other times I would see myself speaking and talking to people – a lot of stories I shared in my book came from personal experiences. The testimonies we have from people who have read the book so far is like, ‘Thank you so much. This is a book I had wanted in my life. It is a life-changing resource. This is a book that answers the questions I have had in my life.’ What prepared me for what I am doing today is about my life experiences. All the businesses, all my non-profit organisations, every work I have gone into in my life have been about helping people. There was Woman Resource centre which was committed to total well-being of women.
There is stay-at-home mother network which is a support structure for women who took time off work to look after their children. I discovered that I struggled with so many challenges while at home during that time. First, there was an issue of loss of identity; it gets to a stage that you no longer know who you are. I put on so much weight; there was the issue of confidence. Let me say that it is not menial staying at home looking after the children as a stay-at-home mother. Children need to be looked after at a tender age. But while looking after your children, you need to keep developing yourself. The problem of the stay-at-home mothers is that they don’t develop themselves and you find out that year after year down the line, they don’t recognise who they are and their confidence is really low.
Can we know how life was for you as a child?
We were six children and brought up in a very closely knit family. My parents were extremely protective – the kind of parents that didn’t want you to leave the house during holidays in primary school. We weren’t very rich but we were comfortable. My father was this kind of person who was contented. He was a medical doctor; the first Nigerian leprologist. He taught us about humility, hard work and contentment.
Where did you have your formal education?
I grew up in Osioma, a leprosy settlement. We grew up in that small place and that is where I had my primary education and then I went to Maryanne College, Agbor and left secondary school at a very young age. So, I entered university at the age of 15. Getting into university, I struggled but I was the best graduating student in my year and that was how I came to study pharmacy in University of Benin. Because I was so young I struggled with so many things in the university. I didn’t know how to balance going to class, the challenges and distractions in a university environment. In my first year I struggled; sometimes I would not go for lectures without any reason. After graduation, I worked in Warri for a few years, met my husband and got married, started a business, and began having children. The first two children came in quick succession and then my pregnancies were usually very difficult so I had to take time off. I would have morning sickness from the first month to the ninth month.
How did you meet your husband?
We were in the same school but I didn’t know him. After I met him he told me the story. He was in UNIBEN and had a cousin who was in my pharmacy class. So, he used to see me when he came to see his cousin in school and he said he used to say that I was the kind of wife he would like to get married to. According to him, he didn’t have the ‘liver’ to approach me. He said it was like a far-fetched dream he never knew would come true. Years after graduation, our paths crossed and we got married.
What did you see in him that made you marry your husband?
I didn’t really fall (in love); I wouldn’t say I fell (in love). But I discovered he had a sense of humour the first time we met. I will say we were friends first because from the first two meetings we had he made me laugh and it was as if he is someone I have known all my life. But it wasn’t love at first sight but friendship which we still share to date.
How does your husband cope as some men are said to feel overshadowed by their wives?
My husband is a busy man and also an author. He is stimulated by intellectual discuss and is my staunch support structure; an ardent believer in what God wants me to be. He is not only my supporter but gives me a platform to fly. He is a successful man and cannot feel overshadowed.
What do you like in people?
I am a very intellectual person; some people would say I am a fashionable person. People fall into different categories, you see people who are fashionable people; you see those who are sociable, etc. I like people I can have intellectual discourse with.
What puts you off in people?
I don’t like people who are petty and judgmental. I don’t like those kinds of people because I believe that God’s love should rule our hearts and if you don’t know the details of what the person is passing through so why judge the person? I don’t like rude, unkind; I always walk away from such people.
Assuming one raids your wardrobe, what will be found?
Many keep saying I am fashionable but one thing I know is that I look after myself. I exercise a lot because I have dealt with the challenges of weight loss. At my heaviest I was over 100kg and I was wearing size 22. The only thing I could wear that time was a pair of pants or trousers that had an elastic waist-band with big shirt. I did that for years until one day I looked into the mirror and I said no, this wouldn’t continue. I started exercising every day apart from Sundays when I would go to church and I learnt how to eat healthy. I came across a book, ‘Make the connection’ which Oprah Winifred co-authored with another person where I learnt the signs of weight loss. I read the book like the Bible and followed the principles so I ended up losing weight. At my slimmest I was about 75kg or 79kg and I started wearing size 12. Talking about my wardrobe you’ll find comfortable clothes.
What is the costliest earthly possession you have?
I haven’t taken stock. I have some jewellery – like diamonds – my husband gave to me as birthday gift – they are very expensive.
Being a beautiful woman though married, how do you handle men who try to make a pass at you?
It depends on a number of factors. Every woman has a responsibility to put boundaries around her; boundaries in terms of where you go to. There are certain places you go to that you get those passes and there are certain places you go to that you don’t get those passes. Eventually if you are in a place that you get those passes, how do you react to it immediately? If someone makes a pass at you and you react immediately, your guards are up. You let the person know that there is no way for him; he stops. I have been so busy and leading a triangular life that I have no time.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you in life?
I went to Harvard Business School for an executive programme, ‘Launching New ventures’, for the second time. The first was a career development programme. As part of the activities and exercises we were divided into different groups and each group had to pick somebody out to come and talk about the business venture you want to start, how you intend to get funding and how you intend to launch, market it out. Each person in the group had to make his or her presentation and after, mine was singled out to represent the group in the final meeting. When it got to the turn of my group, here I was standing in a big hall right in the middle of the hall with all the global chief executives watching and I completely blanked out. I started a sentence, speaking passionately and suddenly my mind went blank. I didn’t remember what I was supposed to say and had to start all over. It was quite embarrassing. Some people will understand while others can’t. But I learnt a lesson there: don’t let people put you on the spot. I didn’t want to do that presentation but my group put pressure on me. Don’t let people pressure you to do what deep down you didn’t want to do.
What is your most memorable moment so far in life?
I may say giving birth to my first child; bringing out my first child to the world. I would always say a child I delivered without stress. The pregnancy was difficult but I remember delivering my first son, CJ, without stress by pushing only twice.
With such a busy schedule how do you juggle family and professional activities?
My first two children are in the university. I am more or less independent now. The third child is in high school and my 11-year-old child.
Where do you see your ministry in the next five years?
The vision of the ministry is to be a one-stop centre where people come in and are taught; equipped to face the world and impact on it. In the next five years I see the Rock Teaching Ministry build a big resource centre like an institute where people come in and are trained all round to find their purpose, their calling, entrepreneurial training, then they gout there and impact the world – not just the skill but their confidence is built up to impact the world.