The Word Of Life Christian Fellowship is led by Apostle John Udo-Okon and his life-long ministry partner and dear wife, Rev.(Pastor) Felicia Udo-Okon
Apostle John Udo-Okon
General Superintendent, Word Of life Fellowship Of Churches International
Senior Pastor, Word Of Life Christian Fellowship International
International/North American Headquarters, Bronx, New York
Rev. (Pastor) Felicia Udo-Okon
Director Of Ministries, Word Of life Fellowship Of Churches International
Co-Pastor, Word Of Life Christian Fellowship International
International/North American Headquarters
Bronx, New York
The Founders' Story
They came from one of the third world countries in the world to serve the Lord and the poor in one of the richest cities in the world. In 1997, Pastor John Udo-Okon immigrated to the United States from Nigeria to join his wife, Pastor Felicia Udo-Okon. Full of hope and the promise of a new life together, the couple settled into a small one bedroom apartment in the Bronx, New York. Pastor Udo-Okon had the initial plan to spend one or two years in the United States and then move back to Nigeria to continue his pastoral work. Twelve years and 4 children later, they are still working to care for the poor and homeless in the Bronx. It is important to know that both Pastors John and Felicia’s dedication to serving the poor started long before they came to the U.S. When Felicia was in grammar school in Nigeria, she would secretly give away her families food and clothes to the poor people in her village. Pastor John started his service to the disadvantaged early in his life as well – carrying out missionary work in Northern Nigeria. He set up churches and worked with missionaries from the Sudan United Mission-Christian Reformed Church on a national project to develop Christian arts for stage, television and film productions for the Nigerian audience. In 1999, Pastors John and Felicia decided to form a small church in the living room of their tiny Bronx one bedroom apartment. They named the church Word of Life Christian Fellowship International, choosing to make it the North American Headquarters of their home church in Nigeria. Word of Life’s congregation quickly grew with membership spilling out into the hallway on most Sundays. At the urging of their congregation,Pastors John and Felicia rented a small store front at East 214th Street and Holland Avenue, Bronx to house their growing church. As the couple settled in to their new church space, they found it difficult to avoid addressing the pressing needs of the community around them. Unknown to them, their tiny store front church was in the middle of a poor drug infested neighborhood. The Pastors were confronted with drug dealers hanging on their church door, street corners with sporadic gun fires. Week after Pastor John had to calm his congregation by assuring them that there will be a change in the neighborhood as they pray and work for the change in people’s lives and the community. So Pastors John and Felicia began reaching out to them especially the young people who were used to peddle the drugs and guns. The drug violence was so bad between December of 1999 and February 2000. Three young men were killed and several wounded. Rather than being discouraged, Pastors John and Felicia and their congregation continued with their outreach of going out both during the day and night to talk and counsel with the young people on the street corners. Help came with an increase of operation by the New York Police Department in the neighborhood and by the middle of 2000 there was an indescribable peace and quietness. The neighborhood was freed from fear and drug violence. It was an interesting experience to Pastors John and Felicia and their congregation. The Pastors and their church had now found its purpose which is to serve God and the community. And to do these, according to Pastor John you have to love and have an unquenchable passion for both.
Pastors John and Felicia were to be tested once again when their church relocated to the South Bronx which is the poorest neighborhood in New York City and daily the desperately poor and hungry would pound on their door for any help they could provide. Drawing on their experiences, Pastors John and Felicia gave away their own food and clothing and asked for donations from church members to help their neighbors. However, it quickly became quickly clear that their personal resources and that of their church members would do little to satisfy the great need that existed. It was in 2003 that Pastors John and Felicia experienced the defining moment in their ministry here in the U.S. As they were leaving the church in their van one evening, they noticed a very well dressed man digging through a garbage can on the street corner. Pastor John stopped the van and asked one of his members to get out and find out what the man was looking for in the garbage. When he asked, the well-dressed man indicated that he was looking for food – he was hungry. They gave him $5 and vowed to start a formalized program to serve the hungry in their neighborhood that day. The following day they called upon grocery stores, church members and registered with hunger relief organizations to gather as much food as they could. Initially they were feeding about 800 people per month - now they feed as many as 600 people each Saturday. Pastors John and Felicia deeply believe in their mission of helping the homeless, poor and hungry. They have invested not only their time and talents but also their own personal funds, savings, and even their children’s college fund to further this effort. Just like their days in Nigeria, they never turn away anyone who is in need of food or clothing. They have also inspired many others to dedicate their time and talent. Most people who encounter the couple find it difficult to walk away from their pleas on behalf of those less fortunate without providing some assistance. This is evidence by the 24 permanent dedicated volunteers and the donations of food and clothing from around the City. Today the face of hunger in the Bronx has changed quite a bit since 2003 when Pastors John and Felicia officially opened the doors of the Word of Life Food Pantry. Unfortunately, those who somehow slip through the safety net created by private and government programs are still there now joined by a growing number of working poor.Those who cannot afford to their pay rent and buy food. Word Of Life Christian Fellowship is blessed to have Apostle John and Pastor Felicia. Their humble service and complete devotion to the call of God has taken the Ministry to extraordinary level. By every standard the couple believes that as children of God, we can always do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens us. Apostle John have been in ministry since 1987 and was joined by the wife in 2000 on full-time ministry. Four of their children, Utibeabasi, Ofonime, Idongesit and Uyimeobong serve with them in the ministry.