Transplanted to Serve
When John Chukwuedum Aniemeke emigrated from Nigeria to the United States with his mother at age 20, he already had embarked on his educational path toward a career in dentistry. He returned to Nigeria for two additional years of instruction, but in order to pursue his vocation, he also needed to retrain in a U.S. dental school.
Aniemeke graduated cum laude from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a doctorate of dental surgery in 2009 as the school's outstanding periodontics student. He received three years of further specialty training in periodontics, oral implantology, and anesthesiology. In 2013, he became a board certified periodontist at the age of 32, the only such dentist in the city of Live Oak in suburban San Antonio.
Although Aniemeke is engaged in a dentistry specialty full-time, he has another calling occupying evenings and weekends.
In 2013, Aniemeke pioneered Bethel Covenant Assembly of God in San Antonio. On Sunday mornings, the multiethnic church already has more than 350 regular attendees. The growing body added a second service in April. Many in the multiethnic congregation of blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians work in white-collar professions.
Aniemeke's wife, Chidinma, a Nigerian native and the daughter of a Pentecostal minister, is a family medicine physician as well as an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio medical school. She is co-pastor at the church, teaching children and youth under the moniker of "Pastor Chidi." The Aniemekes have three children.
"God gives me grace to do both careers," says Aniemeke, who became a Christian at the age of 6. "I knew God had called me a long time ago; it was just a matter of time."
For the time being, Aniemeke says God is providing energy for the dual careers. He says he has an excellent support staff at both the church and office to help share the load.
"I see a point where I will not be able to combine both as the church grows," Aniemeke says. "I trust God will release me to go full time in the ministry. My wife and I are praying about it."
That day may not be far away. Bethel Covenant has purchased 6½ well-positioned acres with easy highway access. Construction of the first phase of a building plan -- a 1,000-seat auditorium -- is about to begin. Aniemeke says the support of leaders in the national AG office as well as the South Texas District has been vital to the church's growth.
"In a brief few years God has used Pastor John to ignite a revival that is reaching the lost and discipling those coming to Christ," says AG Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison.
Aniemeke's Assemblies of God roots can be traced to Nigeria, where his father, Christian Aniemeke, served as the national leader of a Chi Alpha-type campus AG ministry called Christ Ambassadors Students Outreach. Before moving to the U.S., John Aniemeke served as a student pastor to a group of more than 200 Nigerian college students.
In Texas, while working on his post-graduate dental residency, Aniemeke spent six years on the pastoral staff of Redeemed Christian Church of God in San Antonio, serving as youth pastor, music pastor, and eventually assistant pastor. He also participated in several medical missions trips to Mexico.
While at the Pentecostal church, Aniemeke says he saw firsthand how a pastor could minister while working two seemingly incongruous careers. RCCG's pastor, a Nigerian as well, is a veterinarian. That pastor's wife handles children's and youth ministry, despite her job as a full-time intensive care unit registered nurse.
"God opened my eyes to the possibility of combining professions," says Aniemeke, commending the volunteers who help keep Bethel Covenant AG operating.
Scott Temple, director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations, believes that by establishing roots in the United States immigrants such as Aniemeke are making twin contributions.
"America has enjoyed unparalleled prosperity and global influence through the infusion of gifted, hardworking immigrants," Temple says. "Not only our nation, but our churches, have been blessed though the influx of God's people coming to America from all nations. It is our responsibility to welcome them, disciple them, and include them."
Sunday is Intercultural Ministries Day in the Assemblies of God.