Former minister of environment, Chief John Odey, mourns a foremost African Missionary, Rev Dr. Eugene W. Bunkowske, whose demise occurred at about 11:40am of March 27, 2018 in Minnesota, United States of America (USA).
Odey who expressed sympathy in a statement Wednesday, said he was pained when he received the news of the death of the American clergy due to the intimate relationship he had with the deceased and recalled the positive impact made in his life while he was growing up. He described the late Rev Bunkowske as mentor and motivator who was instrumental to what he is today in the society.
Rev Bunkowske left for missionary mission from his country, USA, for Africa, where he first visited Yala in Cross River State, in 1960 and left in 1966, because of the Nigerian Civil War, but later came back in 1968, and remained until 1974.
He fell in love with the Yala culture, which he studied Yala language and established a formal writing system for the language. His effort led to the first complete translation of the New Testament Bible into ‘Yala New Testament Bible’, which was the fruit of his labour for the ministry he was called into by God, and the translation has helped in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and winning more souls to the Kingdom of God in Yala land.
He was very conversant with the communities in Yala land and was able to reach many Yala men, women, young people and children including non-indigenes with the gospel of Christ and positively touched many lives. He was known for his passion for developing and impacting lives of Yala people and beyond for a better future, which many are enjoying till date.
The late Rev Dr Bunkowske was popularly known by the Yala people as “Okache”. The Yala people found ‘Bunkowske’ hard to pronounce, so they gave him a Yala name that sounded similar to Bunkowske.
The American preacher was also called “Ongminyi”, which means ‘one who killed an elephant’, which he really did by killing an elephant during his stay in Yala, which he was conferred the rare traditional title by the Olachor-Okpoma community that time.
Interestingly, during his stay in Yala land, four children were given Yala names; Barbara is Agbo, Nancy is Ochuole, Walter is Edrah, and Joel is Odey.
He was born on July 3, 1935, in US, and was 83 years old before he left for glory and perfect rest.
“Rev. Dr. Eugene Bunkowske, you taught me how to read the Bible and live Christian life. You saw me growing up as a young child and you guided me. You encouraged me to go to school.
“You drove me in your car to Maryknoll College on my first day to start secondary school with stern advice on discipline, hard work and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
“You did a lot for Yala. You built the first specialist hospital in Yala at Yahe, the language work, translated the Word of God in our mother tongue and many others. You establish scholarships for young children and I am a proud beneficiary”, Odey said.
According to the former Minister the late clergy encouraged him to build clinic for the people of Olachor and other developmental projects, which he gave him advice and words of wisdom when he was appointed minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and constantly consulted him as his father and mentor on critical decisions and issues, whereby he got the right counsel and approval, which has helped him forge ahead in life.
“You (Rev Bunkowske) encouraged me to build a clinic for my community in Olachor, Okpoma; to contribute seed money for a secondary school, develop animal husbandry (native black cows) for my community and start a mechanized farm all in a way to give back to my immediate community.
“You visited me in Abuja in 2008 after my appointment as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to congratulate me and taught me how to serve the public sincerely, honestly and transparently.
“You were my father and mentor. You ran a good race. You have left good memories and legacies. May your soul Rest In Peace. Adieu!”, he exclaimed.
Meanwhile, in his reaction, son of the late missionary, Prof Joel Odey Bunkowske, in his tribute to his father described him as trainer of missionaries, who was dedicated to his God and to the day of his glorious exit to a land of peace and rest.
He said: “This morning at about 11:40 am, General went to be with his Heavenly Father. He had a period of heavy breathing at about the time that the Hospice Aide, Carla, arrived. I was with him, and Carla called Mom to come.
“Mom came, hugged Dad and told him it was “ok to go”. Dad’s heavy breathing slowed down and then stopped. His body relaxed and he was gone to be with Jesus. No more suffering from cancer, no more pain. He has completed his race. We sang the Doxology with him one more time.
“Mom is planning a “re-positioning” service for April 7, 2018. Repositioning means funeral service.”
Meanwhile, Prof Joel’s tribute reads, “Who Was My Father? A man who answered a call to missions. A man who built a hospital. A man who created a writing system for an African tribe. A man who translated the New Testament into the new writing system. A man who taught the tribe to read the Bible. A man used by God to bring an entire African Tribe to Christ.
“A man who became a translations consultant to the entire continent of Africa. A man who built a Ph.D. program from scratch. A man who trained hundreds of missionaries and sent them around the world. A man who set up the translation framework for the God’s Word Bible in English. A highly intelligent, highly educated, highly accomplished, admired and well-loved man. He dedicated his life to the work of Jesus Christ. I’m sure Jesus said well done.”