Samuel Ochenjele in Fullerton in 2003
Leaders involved in this account: Samuel Ochenjele, Mark Miller, Bob Ressegue, Jack Hanson
A number of people have asked what transpired while Samuel Ochenjele was in Fullerton in 2003. Did Samuel really ask Steve to take down the website? Here is the account of the meeting as told by Steve Irons. Here is a report on the Geftakys ministry in Nigeria.
I had not spoken to Samuel since 1988 when George had me come along with him on his African journey in 1988. So, naturally, it was my desire to meet with Samuel this year (2003) and bring him up to speed on why we left George's ministry back in 1990. When I heard Samuel was going to be in town (the first week of October) I called Mark Miller and asked if I could have some time with him He told me to call Bob Ressegue to set up a time. Bob was out of the office, so I left a message to call me back. Mark told me that Samuel was speaking at the Fullerton Wednesday night Bible Study (Oct. 1) and consented that Margaret and I attend the meeting.
Before the meeting, Samuel and I greeted each other with joy and I asked him at that time if we could get together. He told me that Bob Ressegue was handling his schedule and that I needed to talk to Bob to setup a time. During the meeting Bob announced that anyone who wanted to meet with Samuel needed to sign up (and he looked directly at me). So I dutifully signed up and told Bob after the meeting of my desire to meet with Samuel.
Samuel's text for his message that night was I Peter 1-11. To give you some idea of the theme of the message, these are some brief notes Margaret jotted down as Samuel spoke:
This is a time of trial. Now is not the time to run away. Now is the time to stand still and see the salvation of God. The purpose of God in our life will be contested. The enemy says, "Save yourself." Do not become weary. We will not be torn away from Him, because He has done a permanent work in our life. He has put us in an expensive school and is teaching us hard things. "Will you also go away? Unto whom shall we go?"
The inheritance incorruptible – how am I going to get it? By suffering (I Peter 4:1), by taking up our cross and following Him. It is not for us to determine what our suffering will be. All that happens on our way is preparing us for glory. Shall we not also receive evil from His hand? He that endures to the end, as Christ endured contradiction of sinners against Himself... Man’s judgment is wrong.
This suffering is the pathway God has ordained for us. Blessing comes in a rough package, in disguise. When God took His people through suffering, He always brought them out into something glorious. God is depending on us not to fail. We are God’s instrument in this generation now, to manifest God’s eternal purpose.
One thing we cannot do without is the love of God in our hearts. Eph. 1:1-9 is what God is bringing us into. Can God’s purpose be thwarted because of human failure? If we "blow it" [referring to George's failure] as you say in America, it does not stop God’s eternal purpose. God has His mind. He is praying for us, to bring us to glory, through suffering.
Don’t let the devil corrupt your mind from the simplicity that is in Christ. This vision we don’t share with any man. The gates of hell will not prevail. Technology is used to destroy our faith, the computer will destroy what God has done in our heart. But God has done something permanent in our heart that no technology or missile can remove.
"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:21:22). This is the pathway God has ordained for us. He is drying up all our resources. Without suffering there is no glory at all. So... "I will take my seat and be a student in the school of Your suffering."
We should rejoice in what He is doing. The winnowing floor and fan blows away the chaff. He throws us up, and if you are chaff [or "if there is chaff in you" as he later told me when I met with him] you will be blown away, and will be burned with unquenchable fire. Like the roads with lots of potholes, you need good shock absorbers so you will come out when you hit one. God is winnowing and sifting. To withstand the storms, our house must be built on the Rock (Matt. 7:25).
The Lord will vindicate our righteousness, and on that day we will know who is who. The end will be glory for us (I Peter 1:9). Lord, teach us to number our days. God is preparing us for the salvation of our souls. Bear your cross faithfully so that as Paul you can say "I have kept the faith"(II Tim. 4:7). The crown awaits those who love His appearing.
Even though Samuel didn't explicitly state it, his words can easily be interpreted to mean it is God's will for people to stay in the Assembly. At least statements like the following confirm this interpretation. "This is a time of trial. Now is not the time to run away. Now is the time to stand still." Don't let "technology" and the "computer" (an obvious reference to this website) destroy your faith."
They were all suffering because George "blew it", but God's purpose for them (regardless of one man's failure) remained the same. God was "depending on" them "not to fail" as "God's instrument in this generation now, to manifest God's eternal purpose". If through the winnowing, they weren't blown away as chaff, they would gain their inheritance, the salvation of their souls.
Anyone who was undecided about staying would certainly interpret his words this way. I heard about one family, who had previously decided to leave, and after personally meeting with Samuel, they have now returned to the Assembly in Fullerton, partly I'm sure, because of Samuel's message.
That people might actually now stay around was a positive outcome for the Leading Brothers in Fullerton who want to see the meetings continue. This was confirmed in my conversation with Gilbert D. after the meeting.
Conversation with Gilbert DeL.
The continuation of the Assembly in Fullerton was certainly uppermost in Gilbert's mind. He told me that he had just the past week strongly urged the brethren to continue meeting. He asked me if I thought the meeting in Fullerton should continue and I told him, "I didn't think so." He shot back with, "What right do you have to say that the Assembly should not continue?"
He assured me that they were now quite different. After confirming that I was the one responsible for the website, he said that I made false statements about the assembly in Fullerton in the article on the website entitled, "Continuing Assemblies". A few things that are different now, he said, is that they allow people to visit and attend other churches if they want to, and they don't talk negatively about other churches.
Based on Samuel's ministry that night, I wanted to understand if they had repudiated George's false teaching, so I asked him if he had read any of the articles on the website on George's books. When I said "George's books" he dismissed the idea that he was following George's teaching since he had never read any of George's books and that he read only his Bible. In effect he exonerated himself from the charge of being "contaminated" with George's teaching by not having read any of his books, ignoring the fact that we all come to the Scriptures with an interpretive grid and that after sitting under George's ministry for 20+ years our reading of the Scriptures will be hugely impacted.
He wanted to go into detail on the other issues, but instead I encouraged him to go out to the website himself and whatever false statements he found to talk to me about them and I would be happy to correct them.
Phone call with Jack Hanson
Saturday came around and I still never heard from Bob Ressegue about meeting with Samuel. So I called Bob. He had just left me a message that day on my work phone. I wasn't at work on Saturday, so it was a good thing I called Bob. When I got Bob on the phone, he told me that Samuel did want to meet with me (that was nice) and we setup a time for Tuesday afternoon. Then I asked if perhaps I could attend the Sunday afternoon meeting in Placentia. He said you should call Jack Hanson and let him know as a gesture of courtesy.
So I called Jack. Right away, Jack was hesitant about my coming. The problem you see is that I have this website that says many false things about them. I offered to correct anything that was amiss. First of all, he said, he didn't like seeing his home address on a public website. I said that is understandable and I will gladly remove it. (I did remove it. At the time I made the promise to remove it, I did not realize the reason his address was on the website in the first place was because the prayer meetings are held in his home.)
Jack continued by saying that acquaintances of his who visit the Assembly and know him, compare what the website says about him and the Assembly and the two perceptions just don't jive in their minds. The charge that "nothing has changed" is completely false, because, for example, they now handle the finances differently. He did not elaborate. When I asked if they still do consequences in their training homes, he said emphatically, "No, we don't." He wanted to settle all the issues right on the phone with me. I told him I couldn't possibly do that off the top of my head and invited him to work with me over time to make the necessary adjustments on the website. He told me he would consider doing this after talking it over with others.
When I again pressed him about coming on Sunday afternoon, this time he refused and said if I came the brothers would have to stop me at the door. He said your own church would do the same thing to someone who made false accusations about the church.
Obviously, these brothers want to remove themselves as far away as possible from George Geftakys and his reputation. They want it publicly stated that they have changed and have renounced George's false teaching and practices. I have not heard from either of them (Gilbert or Jack) since I last spoke to them.
Visit with Samuel
Now the visit with Samuel on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 7.
I met with Samuel for about 2 hours. I shared photos of my family with him. And he talked about the work in Africa and showed me enlarged photo prints of the people in the Assemblies and children attending their school. The government approved the building of the schools. Bob was going to hang these prints up in his home for the prayer meeting that night. Samuel is looked up to as the main leader of the some fifteen Assemblies in Africa.
When I started talking about the website and explaining my purpose in having it, he was obviously disturbed. He politely listened for a while. But I could see he was distressed, so I gave him an opportunity to interrupt me. When he saw his opportunity, he took it and said he was glad for our meeting so that he could talk to me about the website.
He started by reading David's lament over Saul from II Samuel 1:17-27 and then pointed out how a man of God (like David) dealt with the "fall" of one of God's "anointed" servants (Saul). Samuel told me that he believes George is still God's "anointed"; he has "fallen" and needs to repent. Godly men should simply lament over George's fall and pray for his repentance. They certainly should not publish his "fall" in the "streets of Ashkelon" (like public websites).
When I told him I wasn't going to accept his application of that passage to this situation, he told me that Muslims attack Christians, burn down their churches, and publicly scandalize them based on statements from newspaper articles and websites like mine. I told him I can't imagine that our website is responsible for all these atrocities perpetrated against Christians in Africa. He further explained to me that because of the website, people in his home town have identified him with George. He has had to remove the words "Torch and Testimony" painted on his van to free himself from the scandal portrayed on the website. He also told me that weak Christians were being stumbled by what is published on the website. He gave me no specifics.
Basically, he insisted that I shut down the website. At several points I had to tell him that I was listening to him and that he didn't need to repeat himself.
I asked him if he had ever read the material on the website. His answer was that someone printed out a stack of articles for him to read (and he raised his hands to a depth of about one foot), but he had read only my article on why we left. I had brought a couple of articles on George's false teaching along with me and asked if he would like to take them and read them. He refused. He said he had an inner filter within his heart and that filter knows the truth and rejects whatever is false, just as the stomach gets rid of bad food.
I asked Samuel what he meant in his message on Wednesday night that, "If we are chaff (when God winnows us) we will be blown away." Immediately, he and Bob Ressegue (who was present the whole time I met with Samuel) vigorously corrected me. I was surprised at their synchronized response. Apparently, not just my ears had heard it wrong. According to Samuel what he actually said and meant was, "If there is chaff in us..."
He told me he didn't want to say anything negative about George, in the hope that should George someday repent, he might be able to restore his relationship with George. While in the US he never contacted George, but he did visit Mike Almanzor. He repeated that the best thing for all of us to do was to pray for George's repentance and recovery. That's what he wished that I would do.
Bob told me that others wanted to meet with Samuel that same afternoon and were now waiting for him. We had been talking for two hours now and had exceeded my one hour allotted time slot, so I left, assuring Samuel that I would think about what he said and hugged him goodbye.
We have not taken down this website, obviously, and we don't intend to do so. We are still getting emails from people who were former members of the Assemblies and who are just now catching up on the news of what's happened. They tell us how grateful they are for the understanding they receive from the website.
We are truly concerned for our fellow believers in Africa, especially those who are being persecuted and possibly stumbled by this scandal. But the scandal is not the fault of this website. I believe Samuel sincerely wants the best for God's people and I'm sure that is what motivated him to talk to me about taking down the website. But Samuel, and the brethren in the existing assemblies, need to hear the difference we are trying to make on this website between the kind of teaching they received from George, and the good news of the Gospel. Believe us when we say that we, too, have a sincere desire to help God's people understand (perhaps for the first time) what the Bible actually says about God's free gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus.
"God is depending on us not to fail...to manifest God’s eternal purpose," Samuel told us. Is that really true? Is the all-sufficient God depending on us to be faithful to the gatherings in order to achieve his eternal purpose? I think not. Right after saying, "God is depending on us", Samuel proclaims that our "blowing it" does not thwart God's purpose. What's going on? Samuel wants to move people to action and at the same be an encouragement. So he tells us that God is depending on us to keep the Testimony and at the same time proclaims that God's purpose is not thwarted by our failure. His message is a mixture of law (what we need to do) and grace (what God has done) with no clear distinction made between the two. Preaching law will always condemn (Rom. 7:10-11). Preaching grace will always bring life (Rom. 8:1-2. The sure motivation for holy living is gratitude (thankfulness) for what Christ has done (Rom. 12:1-2), not hearing what we must do. If Samuel is going to preach law, he should at least stick to the Scriptures and not try to add new laws like, "God is depending on us not to fail." Where does it say that in Ephesians 1?
Samuel illustrated for us with chaff and potholes that the salvation of our souls depends on whether or not we remain faithful to the "testimony" as expressed in the Assemblies. God is tossing us into the air to see if the kernels of wheat will remain or the chaff will blow away and to see how good our shock absorbers are when pounded by potholes. He clearly intended with these illustrations to teach that if we endure the tosses and potholes, God will save our souls.
But we want to shout it from the housetops that our salvation does not depend on our faithfulness to the "gatherings" or to our taking the "beatings". Indeed, it was necessary for Christ to suffer (be beaten) and then to enter glory. But only Christ could do that. Luke 24:26 or any other Scripture is not talking about us having to do the same thing. He alone is the Lamb of God sent from the Father to suffer God's wrath for our sin. He alone could do that in perfect obedience to the Father's will. It is not the Father's intent that we atone for our sins by suffering. He sent Christ to do that once for all. We do not enter into glory by our own suffering, but by the suffering of another, Jesus Christ. That's the truth of the Gospel.
We will stand blameless on the Great Judgment Day, not because of our own works, but because of the spotless work of Christ (his suffering and obedience in life and in death). Our inheritance in Christ is given to us (freely) when we trust in God's promise declared in the Gospel.
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (I Peter 1:8-9).
Yes, as believers, we will face suffering and persecution. But Peter is not saying that we need to endure suffering in order to gain the salvation of our souls. There are no special works (like "reckoning" or "appropriating" or "surrendering all") that we must accomplish in order to be saved at the last day. Christ did all the work for us. He was saying that, as Christians, suffering is a given, simply because we bear the name of Christ. But even in the midst of suffering for Christ's sake, we cannot possibly miss out on God's imperishable, unspoiled and unfading inheritance "kept in heaven" for us. We are even "shielded by God's power" until the coming of this salvation.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Peter 1:3-5).
In the midst of suffering, we "are receiving" as a present possession the salvation of our souls. This salvation is not in jeopardy or in question. And please understand Peter was talking about our whole person, not just a part of us (our souls). This salvation is a reality for the believer in both his inner and outward being. Read Chapter 1 of I Peter again with all this in mind.
I care for my brother Samuel. But I want it to be clear that there really is a difference in our messages. My prayer is that somebody out there (including Samuel and the Leading Brothers in the Assemblies) is hearing the differences.
Comments from Readers:
Anonymous in Nigeria: I am writing these words with the hope that it will help shed more light on what is really happening. Samuel needs to do what he is doing or has done to survive - it is he way of sustaining his lifestyle. Yes, there is much concern for the children born and raised in the Assemblies, here in Africa as well as in the USA. There is no difference between G. Geftakys and Samuel Ochenjele, except perhaps only in the immorality of GG. Everything that applies in the Assemblies there in the USA is the same here in the Assemblies that Samuel leads. They have isolated themselves from the rest body of Christ and are very much being controlled in an occultic manner.