Recently, the Diocese of Isiala Ngwa South, Anglican Communion, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Owerrinta, Abia State, held a thanksgiving service to mark her 2020 Mothering Sunday celebration with the theme, “The Woman of Sacrifice.” The sub-theme, was, “Esther, a Case Study,” sourced from the book of Esther Chapter 4:1-16.
On that occasion, a member of the church, Chief (Mrs.) Joyce Chibuzor Uche, was selected and honoured as a modern day Esther. In chapter four of the book of Esther the story is told of how Haman, a court official, sought and received permission from King Ahasuerus of Persia Media to exterminate the Jews who were the kinsmen of Queen Esther.
The law of the Persians and Medes prescribed capital punishment for an unscheduled appearance before the King by anyone, including the Queen. Therefore, the attempt by Esther to approach King Ahasuerus on behalf of her people was at great risk to her life.
Not minding the risk, Esther called on the Jews asking them: “go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat¬ nor drink three days, night and day: I and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
In these words, she made the game-changer decision to be “The Woman of Sacrifice” in her time.
Honoured as “The Woman of Sacrifice” on by the Diocese of Isiala Ngwa South, Anglican Communion, the question may be asked: compared to the Biblical Esther, what are the qualifying credentials of Chief (Mrs.) Joyce Chibuzor Uche – has she ever put her life on the line on behalf of her people? In other words, has she been a pace-setter? The citation of Mrs. Uche at the event comes in handy: “As a youth worker in the 80s at the then Federal Department of Youth Developmnent, now Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, Mrs. Uche organized and co-ordinated various youth programmes, workshops, leadership training, lectures and talks on drug abuse and control, as well as the promotion of understanding between elders and the youths.” Mrs. Uche also led Nigerian youths to various international youth exchange programmes such as the Commonwealth Youth Exchange programme at Wigan, Britain in 1987. She attended the International Youth Camp, held at Arish, Egypt, as well as the International Youth camp held in Sydney, Australia in 2004 and 2008 respectively.
While still in the Federal Civil Service, Mrs. Joyce Uche was part of the Federal Government delegation to Youth conferences: the Commonwealth meeting on Youth development in Trinidad and Tobago in 1995; and another in Botswana in 2003. She was also part of a bilateral agreement meeting on Youth in Beijing, China, in 1996; she also represented Nigeria on Youth Development matters at meetings of African Union ministers in charge of youths in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May of 2006; and the first Conference of Ministers in charge of youths of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the first ever African Youth Charter was adopted. The Charter was approved by African Heads of State in Banjul, the Gambia, in 2006.
In the book of Esther 2:8-9, Modecai prepared Esther for qualification as Queen and the redemptive role she subsequently played in that position on behalf of her people. Similarly, Mrs. Joyce Uche had her preparation. Born in Owerrinta on July 10, 1949, to the late Mr. Anthony Nnnadede and Mrs. Evelyn Nene Mbogu, the young Joyce Chibuzo started out on life like any other child.
Her extraordinariness and sense of special assignment, however, began to manifest in her insatiable quest for knowledge: a degree in Engligh from the University of Nigeria, Nsuka; a Masters in Journalism from Ohio State University, Colombus, USA; and a law degree from the University of Lagos, the fruitage of that quest. The three disciplines were the ideal preparatory combination for a life of advocacy, evanglelism and pace-setting. And her marriage to an erudite scholar and former Head of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, the late Prof. Luke Ukansanya Uche, became the icing on the cake for her crusading career and vocation.
At the end of her National Youth Service Corps programme, Mrs. Uche worked with the National Education Technolgy Centre, Kaduna from 1979 – 1980. She taught at the Kaduna Poytechnic from 1981 – 1982 and joined the then Federal Department of Youth Development, now Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, in 1985.
And there was again a sourge in her cravings for more knowledge. This time, she started with an induction course on youth development at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, Sea School, Apapa, Lagos. The other courses and workshops she attended included the National Workshop on Social Work at the Universithy of Ibadan in 1992, Workshop on Street Children and Street Youths in Stuttgart, Germany in 1993; Youth Entreprenuership Development Workshop, Lagos, March 1995; National Conflict Resolution Skill Training Workshop, Lagos, in 1998, and International Strategic Management Course, Accra, Ghana, in 2005.
In spite of her busy schedule as a public servant, Mrs. Uche remained active in the church being a buff of Christian evangelism. Joyce Uche is a member of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Gwarinpa, Abuja. She was the Vice Chairperson for the 2009 and 2010 Mothering Sunday planning committee in the Cathedral. Even with her absence from Nigeria for several years, she remained an active member of the Mother Union and Women’s Guld of the Cathedral Church of Avent.
Joyce Uche is a member of the Christ Morning Star Society in the Cathedral, a society whose aims are to portray, follow and live the life of Jesus Christ in thought, words and deeds. Through this society, Mrs Uche and other members help in the work of the church by frequently visiting the Gwarinpa General Hospital to provide care for the sick. Mrs. Uche is also a member of the Chambian Plaze House Fellowship Group as well as When Women Pray (WWP) Abuja chapter, which is a non-denominational group.
In 2017, Mrs. Joyce Chibuzo Uche went to the Holy Land in the company of 50 other pilgrims from St. James Cathedral Chicago, USA, under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Dean Lee, the Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Joyce Uche is also an active member of Ngwa Forum, Abuja, a socio-cultural group that focuses on the interest of Ngwa people and Ngwa land.
Advocacy; evangelism and pace-setting – that is the triad summarizing the life preoccupation of Chief (Mrs.) Joyce Chibuzor Uche; that is the definition of sacrifice; that is Esther yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Biblical Esther braved the odds to indemnify her people; as social worker per excellence, Mrs. Uche labours for society.
She is indeed the Esther of our time, and the Diocese of Isi Ala Ngwa South, Anglican Communion, has said so in the award of Daughter of Zion conferred on her in the presence of relations, friends and well-wishers, including the Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo, MFR, whose son, Mr. Francis Moses Ekpo, is the husband to a daughter of the awardee.
Commenting on the award, Mr. Ekpo stressed that “Mothers are pillars in their respective homes, even though they are not the head of the family; and that Chief (Mrs.) Joyce Chubuzor Uche has demonstrated this in her roles as a mother and wife.” It was also the view of the Deputy Governor that mothers equally build communities and societies through procreation; and that the awardee has been able to positively impact her world because she was first an asset at home.
Ekpo thanked the church for the thoughtfulness of setting aside a day to recognise mothers for the roles they play in the family and society at large – roles of stabilisation, sacrifice and meticulous nurture; which, he said, were first impressed upon him by his late mother as well as departed wife to whom he owes his accomplishments in life.
In his message, the Archbishop of Aba Province and Bishop of Isiala Ngwa South Diocese, Most Rev. Isaac Nwaobia, advised the women to use their privileged position as mothers to win the younger generation to Christ.
“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” These are the words of Mitchell David Albom, the American author and broadcaster, as quoted by Adaku Adamarama Ekpo, the daughter-in-law to the Deputy Governor, in her message of felicitation to her mother on this occasion of her recognition.
It justifies the idea of a Mothering Sunday as practiced by the Anglican Communion and explains the decision of Mrs. Uche to share the honour of her recognition with mothers everywhere who may not have achieved similar feats as she has attained in education and social advocacy. “On behalf of all mothers, particularly mothers in the Anglican Church, I wholeheartedly accept this award,” she said.
The observance of Mothering Sunday by churches with the award handed out to mark the event, such as that accorded Mrs. Joyce Chibuzor Uche by the Anglican Communion, is a fitting tribute to mothers as the supreme incubators and nurturers of life. Mrs. Uche retired from the Federal Civil Service as Director in the Ministry of Women Affairs in 2009.