Modern day miracle
Today I want to share with you a story I found under the headline Rigor Mortis Corpse Leaves Coffin, which first appeared in a Nigerian newspaper.
In the morning of November 30, 2001, Daniel Ekechukwu, the pastor of the Power Chapel Evangelical Church in Onitsha, with his friend Kingsley Iruka took a Christmas present of a goat to his father in a village near the town of Owerri. Daniel drove his 20-year-old Mercedes 230. On the way back home, travelling down a steep road, the Mercedes brakes failed. Daniel could do nothing. Gathering speed the vehicle hurtled downhill unstoppable. Its career, and Daniel’s, ended as it smashed into a stone pillar.
Without a seat belt Daniel was catapulted violently forward. His head hit the windscreen and the steering wheel and knob punched into his body. Daniel’s friend Kingsley Iruka, shocked though not badly hurt, turned to Daniel, hoping all was well. But the sight appalled him. Blood was pouring from Daniel’s nose from a head injury, and then he began vomiting blood from heavy internal haemorrhage.
Rescue presently came. Marvellously Daniel held up until he was placed in the local hospital’s intensive care, or the Nigerian best equivalent of it. His wife, Nneka was sent for. She found Daniel still alive but only just. He hung on to life to ask her to have him taken to his family doctor’s hospital in Owerri — a very serious mistake. It meant anything but a smooth ride of one and a half hours.
Within minutes of being lifted into the ambulance Daniel felt himself dying. He tried to whisper his last words and instructions to Nneka. Especially he begged her to see the work of their church continued. He also tried to inform her about one or two church situations she ought to be aware of, but his speech slurred, became incoherent and stopped as he drifted into unconsciousness.
The ambulance driver pushed on however, at full speed, warning sirens blaring. Reaching the Owerri Regional Hospital they ran in shouting “Emergency! Emergency”. Daniel’s doctor, however, was not on duty. Instead a member of the medical staff took charge and checked Daniel’s now limp form. He turned to them with a sad face. He could only certify that Daniel was already dead.
His wife Nneka naturally was shocked. But a Bible verse had been ringing in her mind from Hebrews 11: “Women received their dead raised to life again”. An irrational conviction seized her. This meant her. She would see Daniel alive and well again. In what follows Nneka was the key figure.
The text in Nneka’s head made it impossible for her to accept the plain evidence that Daniel had gone, or allow him to be buried. Her agitation dictated that something must be done. They hurried to see Daniel’s uncle, Okoronkwo Emmanuel living near the hospital and asked if he knew where their own family doctor was. He did not know, but led them to see his own doctor, Dr. Jossy Anuebunisa at the St. Eunice Clinic. Daniel was taken there and seeing Nneka’s determination again the doctor checked. He could only confirm death had taken place. The time registered was 11:30 p.m. of the day of the car accident.
The doctor then wrote out his report on the decease of his patient and asked if they wished to have Daniel laid in the clinic’s mortuary. They declined. Instead they again moved the body to Daniel’s father in the village near Owerri and from there to the Ikeduru General Hospital Mortuary, not far away. The resident mortician, Barlington R. Manu, also carried out the normal checks and by then it was after midnight, nearer one o’clock Saturday morning.
The mortuary having no cold storage facilities, the mortician administered the usual chemical injection and prepared the body for embalming on the following morning. With a staff member he laid the body out on a mortuary slab between two other dead people. Everyone then retired for the night.
Then came the first signs of something strange. The mortician was awakened by what he called “church singing” coming from the direction of the mortuary. He got up and went to see what was going on but the singing stopped. He was puzzled for he found nobody near the building. He went back to bed. Then once more came the clear sound of music and clapping. Quite sure now it was from the mortuary itself he got up, went in and looked around. Again the singing had stopped. Nobody was there but the dead. Very disturbed he went back. Soon for the third time the music burst forth. This was real. It frightened him.
Almost in panic he drove into the nearby village and roused Daniel’s father. His son’s body must be removed from the building, he insisted. It was creating some kind of strange phenomena. The father merely assured the mortician that “It is because he is a man of God”. At that the dead son was left where he was, in the mortuary, overnight until morning and all day Saturday. The mortuary attendants heard no more choir music for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, Daniel’s wife, convinced her husband would live again, wanted his body taken to the church in Onitsha where Reinhard Bonnke was to speak at a dedication ceremony of the Grace of God Ministries. Daniel’s father, however, was a Mormon and declared he would decide. He said he would go and “hit him with the Bible seven times”, and if Daniel did not rise, then Nneka must accept the fact that he was not going to rise from the dead, and that must close the matter. He did go and struck the corpse as he said seven times, with no result whatever.
Nneka, being a Christian, considered a Mormon would not understand. His performance meant nothing except to put her off. She would not give up. She pestered her father-in-law. Daniel must be taken to the Bonnke meeting. Realising that if he refused this favour, she would remember all her life he had denied her request on behalf of her husband, he eventually relented.
On the next day, Sunday, December 2, they went to take the body from the mortuary. But the mortician was worried about their intentions. To hide the fact that a body was being taken away as it was, with a one-and-half-hour’s drive to Onitsha, as a pretext he dressed the body as for the funeral, placed it in a coffin and shut the lid. They took Daniel in his coffin and set off.
Arriving at the Onitsha church compound, the state security officer and the ushers saw them entering with a coffin and ordered them to turn round and leave immediately. Nneka however was determined. She pleaded and persisted not only for the coffin to be allowed in the church compound but brought into the church itself.
Seeing her agitation, the state security office checked that the coffin did contain a body and was not a terrorist trick to plant a bomb. Finding only a pallid corpse he allowed them to proceed. However, the idea of bringing a coffin or a dead body into a crowded church brought consternation and upheaval. Finally the head bishop’s son, Pastor Paul Jr. sought his father’s permission to get the body into the building, but it would have to be only into the children’s department. The children were ushered into the lower hall, and the corpse brought in the upper room and laid out on a table. The Bishop’s son, Paul, and another pastor on the church staff, Bathcomery Nkwando, attended to this and found rigor mortis had stiffened the limbs.
Two other staff pastors, Lawrence Onyeka and Luke Ibekwe joined them to guard the body. Meanwhile, Reinhard Bonnke knew nothing of this and was preaching and praying upstairs in the main auditorium. After a while the pastors noticed a slight twitching of the stomach of the corpse.
Then the corpse drew a breath, and presently irregular breathing took place in “short bursts” as they reported. Encouraged, the pastors threw themselves into powerful petitionary prayer, stripped the body of the mortuary gloves, socks and shirt and began to massage from head to foot, Daniel being as they said, “as stiff as an iron rod”.
They asked for fans to be brought in to give Daniel more air to breathe. As this news broke out in the sanctuary above it created hysterical pandemonium. Then, said Pastor Lawrence, at 5:15 on the Sunday afternoon, nearly two days after death had taken place, Daniel opened his eyes, sat up and leaned on Pastor Lawrence.
People began crowding into the hall to see this “resurrection man”. Pastor Lawrence was worried Daniel would not have enough oxygen, so he lifted and carried him into the church sanctuary. Daniel spoke for the first time: “Water. Water.” They gave him sips and then warm tea. To give him a clear space they seated him on a chair on the platform, where hundreds of people saw him slowly recovering. He had not yet collected his thoughts and for a while could not recognise anyone, not even his own son who came up to see his dad. However, he progressed, and within only hours, during the evening, he had full consciousness and coherence.
He became a wonder, and crowds besieged his home, so he was taken away to a secret location for two days of physical re-strengthening. The once-dead man not only rose from his coffin but the serious injuries, which had brought about his death, were also healed without the slightest trace.
Reinhard Bonnke meanwhile had left the immediate scene to board a planned plane flight. Any doubts? Here are some hard facts that won’t go away. For two days Daniel did not breathe, his heart had stopped beating. It was in a hot climate, not suspended animation in an ice chamber. He had been injected with a harsh chemical to keep back mortification. As a corpse he was carted around and pulled about, and he lay in an airless narrow coffin for hours. He should have had severe brain damage, but he is alive now without any ill effects.
This is no questionable claim of a wonder-healer bringing someone to life in a private room. It was a public event, complete testimony of death and of return to life. If anyone has to be named, it is Nneka. Her incurable faith alone prevented his burial to bring him where the man was she believed to be a man of God, Reinhard Bonnke; to get her husband there, in that atmosphere, where, she believed, God would restore her husband to her. The evangelist himself never saw Daniel dead.
Nneka’s faith alone was honoured. Who honoured her faith? If not God, who else?
This was the report by a George Canty.