Wednesday, 10 February 2016 08:12

Udauk Afaingadeh, Professor of Biology at Faulkner University

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RRJ: Your belief in Christ began in your home country of Nigeria, but in many ways it began before you were born when your father learned about Christ and trusted in Him for salvation and newness of life.  How did that happen in his life?

My father has always been a seeker.  He was born at a time when most Nigerians were steeped in African traditional religion, but Daddy felt there had to be something more.  He had just finished sixth grade when his path crossed with those of American missionaries who had come to Nigeria in the 1940’s, establishing churches and Christian schools.  They quickly saw that he had potential and a passion for preaching the Word.  They trained him at a six month preaching training course, and later at a two year Bible training school,  before he came to America and got degrees in Bible and in Educational Administration.   He returned to Nigeria and eventually started a school of preaching, a Christian high school and a two year college.

RRJ:  How did your parent’s zeal for Christ flow down to you and your brothers and sisters?

As pioneer Christians, it was important to my parents that their children be grounded in their faith. I remember my dad saying that he did not want to win lost souls to Christ and lose the souls of his children. To prevent this, they put strategies in place like daily family devotionals at 5:30 every morning and ensured that all six of us attended Christian schools from the primary level to our university education. Since there weren’t Christian universities in Nigeria until about five years ago, they made tremendous sacrifices so that all of us would attend Christian colleges in America. We saw our parents live out their faith and serve God with zeal, and this was a powerful motivation for us all.


RRJ:  When did the faith they demonstrated so well become a faith that you personally confessed?


I confessed my faith in Jesus as the Son of God at 10 years old. It was on a Sunday and I remember that my dad was preaching.  I was convicted to give my life to the Lord during the worship service.  I remember walking down the aisle, confessing Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Then church members escorted me to a stream in Ikot-Ekpene, a city in South East Nigeria, where my father baptized me.


RRJ: Being a Christian who has been immersed in two different cultures, what practices could we learn from Nigerian believers and vice versa?


One of the things that immediately comes to mind is that Nigerian believers appear to live more in community. Culturally, Nigerians do not live in isolation.  It is believed that children belong to the whole village and so adults have a responsibility to discipline any child that misbehaves, and care for each other’s child as if it were their own. People drop by each other’s homes all the time and meal times often involve neighbors and extended family members.  Nigerian Christians, being part of this culture, exhibit a strong sense of fellowship, using the Acts 2:42 pattern of the early church as a model. As far as what Nigerian Christians could learn from American Christians, there is a high level of tolerance seen among American Christians. This is definitely something Nigerian Christians could emulate as we seek to achieve unity among the brotherhood of believers.


RRJ:  You’re a Professor of Biology at Faulkner University with a PhD in Genetics.  Many people today wonder if science and God are compatible.  What would you say to that thought?


Not only are science and God compatible, I personally see God as a scientist. One of the basic underlying principles of science is that science is systematic and not haphazard.  I see a God who does not do things haphazardly but systematically, as in the sun rising  and setting consistently, the planets orbiting at a fixed distance from the sun, etc.


RRJ: A college like Faulkner offers a context for great learning, but with learning comes many questions.  How do you encourage and instruct students who aren’t sure if God is the Creator as described in the Scriptures?


I have actually taught a few of these students. My conversations with them revolve around encouraging them to keep asking questions. I think as Christians we seek for answers in Scripture, but this doesn’t really work with those who do not believe in the infallibility of the Scripture. I think it is easy for us as Christians to shy away from topics that we are not comfortable with, but scientific education is grounded on questioning and so I encourage my students to question, and together we search for the answers and reason together. Many people believe things because they have believed it all their lives, and so as we reason and dig deeper the fallacies they have always believed become exposed, and in a few instances, they begin to see that God is all around us. They see that it actually takes more faith to disbelieve than to believe.


RRJ:  I heard you say earlier that you can’t understand a biologist who doesn’t believe in God.  Can you give an example of when you saw God through your work?


Biology is a science that recognizes and investigates diversity.  All around us are living things that are alike in as many ways as they are different.  Such diversity cannot be explained outside of the context of a Master Designer – the Creator, Himself.  And so when we study the complexities in genetic diversity, for example, I see God’s handiwork.  When we realize that human beings share 99.9% of the same genome and the differences and variations we see are due to the arrangement of only four nucleotide bases on a DNA molecule, or the fact that humans were created with a DNA repair mechanism for fixing the million mismatches that happen every time DNA replicates, I marvel at the awesome creativity of our Maker.  Teaching biology daily at the college level, or doing scientific research, gives me an opportunity to confirm the statement of the Psalmist that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.


RRJ:  Finally, You have walked with the Lord for many years now and have done so in multiple settings.  Can you tell us a few key components that have sustained and anchored your faith?


There are so many, but I think one of the major anchors of my faith is that God is faithful to His promises.  Living 8,000 miles away from family and friends who are back in Nigeria is challenging, and over the years God has proven His faithfulness over and over.  In 2010, we had an especially difficult year.  It was the year my father was kidnapped in Nigeria and held for ransom for twelve days before he was released unharmed.  The situation got worse when my mom died about six weeks later from the stress of the kidnapping.  These were trying times for us, but God used the prayers of His children all over the world to sustain us.  We know that God is faithful, and no matter what His children go through, our victory is sure.


Uduak is married with three children.  She and her husband attend Landmark Church. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 February 2016 08:28
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