An oil and gas inspector working in Cunningham and Pratt shares his international story, and heartfelt plan to help educate impoverished children.
Luckily for his friends, Ikechukwu Agwu, goes by Ike, and though he speaks with an accent, the native of Nigeria has made many friends and acquaintances during a few short months of work in Pratt.
A quality control inspector with the Perry Inspection Firm, Ike has been in the Pratt area since December 1, inspecting oil and gas lines, stations, connections and more, working from an office in Cunningham. His business card reads, 'Providing honorable inspection not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.' And he said that living his life as a Christian, he hopes to make a difference wherever he finds himself, by way of employment or life.
Ike stepped right into a men's bible study group at the Abundant Harvest Church of the Nazarene, helping with remodeling duties at the Front Porch ministry, and shared his story with those who he happened to rub shoulders with while painting, planning or studying the Bible.
"I have found the people of Pratt to be so welcoming," Ike said. "We are Christians together and it feels so good."
Though his work takes him far from his family, wife, Edith, and three children, Samuel, Stephanie and Esther, all in Houston, they are always in his heart and never far from his mind. Also near and dear to his heart, are the children in Nigeria that he and his wife have pledged to help by way of educational support.
"Last year, in August 2018, I learned that the children in a village I had visited years back, were failing to advance in school because their parents could not pay the examination fees required for them to move on from elementary to middle school," he said. "The common entrance examination and first school leaving certificate examination fee is less than $50 each, but because these are subsistence farming communities, parents find it too difficult to make ends meet, much less pay to send their children for more schooling."
For Ike, education is very important in lifting children and their families from poverty, especially the devastating kind that inflicts whole villages and communities in Nigeria.
"I was lucky my parents could pay for my entrance exams," he said. "I passed through primary and high schools, then got a two-year degree in college in administration, all in Nigeria," he said.
Ike then was picked for an internship with Shell Petroleum. He completed that and studied engineering and communications.
In 2007, Ike and Edith moved to the United States, where he completed an intensive 7-month training course in technology in Houston. They became United States citizens in 2011 and all three of their children were born in the United States. Ike began a career of inspection work in nuclear plants, oil and gas facilities and other related industries. Always he thought of the Nigerian children back in his home country that were stuck in poverty because of a simple test certification that cost less than $50.
He also thought often of his father, who died when Ike was very young. He was a pastor in Ndi Agwa Abam in Arochukwu, the local government area of Abia, Nigeria. In1988, on a trip through the area to gather palm fruits for the Palm oil mill he was working at in his village, Ike met some elders of the tribe who remembered his father. They told him that the education of the children was very important to him and he used to travel through the village every day, picking up the children and taking them to school, making sure they got an education. Because of his father, the village elders considered Ike to be like a son to them. This has inspired him to carry on his father's vision of education for the children there.
Ike didn't come to Pratt asking for help for his mission to help children in poverty. He came as part of a job that takes him often across the plains states, wherever there are oil and gas plants needing inspection. He will be moving on soon, going back home to Houston next week to see his children, then on to London with his wife, and later to Lincoln, Nebraska for the next extended stay on an inspection job. If there are those who want to help him support children in need of education, they may do so, through the Abundant Harvest Church of the Nazarene where he has attended while in the area.
"My wife and I pledged to take care of 18 children in the Ndi Agwu primary school this year," he said. "There are more children and more small villages where help is needed. Our desire is keep this program running on a continual basis. If others want to help, we welcome that, as I have been welcomed here."
Benefitting from a life of important Christian values, Ike said he hopes to reach out to families and children in his home country in ways connected to education, with an emphasis on Christ.
"We are not only going to assist physical and educational needs," he said. "We will be doing gospel outreach to these schools for their spiritual growth. We have a minister that will go into the schools and teach them the Christian way too."
Ike hopes to help 20 students each year at five elementary schools in Nigeria. They are the Ndi Agwu Community Primary School, the Amaogbo Community Primary School, the Ndi Inya Community Primary School, the Ndi Ojiaku Community Primary School and the Amuru Community Primary School.
Making a difference can be as simple as $50.