Uche Unogu, founder of Onyx Evangelist Association, continues to reach a worldwide audience even after travel comes to a halt
By Nicole Davis
If something goes wrong, what does it make possible? Uche Christian Unogu lives by that tenet.
“What is God doing now? Because He is always doing something,” Unogu said.
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Unogo had a dream of preaching internationally. It took years and many setbacks, but he has accomplished just that. He founded Onyx Evangelist Association in 2003 and has continue to grow and transform his ministry, which is based near the University of Indianapolis, to preach to as many people throughout the world as possible.
Unogu, who also goes by Evangelist Uche Christian, immigrated to the U.S. in 2003 on a scholarship to attend the University of Indianapolis. The scholarship fell through, but he raised the funds and graduated in 2008, majoring in information systems. He earned his masters at IUPUI in health informatics.
From local events to worldwide travel
While he was in undergrad, he worked on his ministry by hosting local events such as concerts.
“What I envisioned had been to travel the world and preach, in the same veil that Billy Graham did,” Unogu said. “Obviously, being in school it’s difficult to travel. I married and had a family at a young age, which makes it hard to travel. So I started doing local events. I would host musicians, preachers.”
Starting locally eventually opened doors for Unogu to travel internationally. In 2015, he took his first overseas trip to India to preach at a mass crusade. He’s been to Mexico and many countries in Asia and Africa. He would host large events, some more than 10,000 people in attendance.
“To me, the most satisfying part is when it all comes together and you stand out there and you see up to a thousand people come forward to give their lives to Christ or you see people you pray for who have been healed,” Unogu said. “I’m usually exhausted at the end of the meeting but my heart is very full. To do what you love to do and help others, I don’t know what gets better than that.”
While the larger-scale events are aimed at mass salvation, he mostly hosts inspirational seminars, helping people achieve their dreams by using his own story as an example.
“If I can start from Lagos, Nigeria, have a dream to do the work it takes it be in a position to help other people, I hope that is inspirational,” he said. “In the U.S., it’s different. The opportunities are much better here, so it’s more about helping people turn to Christ.”
Living in the moment
“When I think of Uche, the word that first comes to mind is joyful,” said Terri Smith, former coworker and longtime friend of Uche’s. “He has a true joy. That doesn’t mean he’s happy all of the time but his joy is not based on his circumstances.”
Smith, a retired registered nurse, first met Uche more than a decade ago when he worked in the IT department of the hospital she worked. She described him as dependable and goal-oriented with a kind personality. They discovered they were both UIndy alumni and shared the same faith which helped develop a long-lasting friendship.
“We all get so busy,” Smith said. “Sometimes you feel you’re just trying to cross things off your list of things to do. When I’m with him, he is so chill and mellow, gets things done and does a fantastic job of being in the moment, giving you his time and listening to you. Every time he leaves, I think I really want to be more like that. … I think he’s an inspiration to anybody that’s around him and takes the time to get to know him. You always feel that he is in the moment with you. Having his children, wife, his family and his job, he’s extremely busy like anyone but you never get that feeling. I’ll still call to ask him questions about my computer when I have something going on. He never makes you feel like you’re bothering him. He is just a very loving, giving person. He encourages not by word, lecturing or preaching, but by his actions and the way he deals with people.”
Travel halted but the ministry grew
Unogu has four short-tern, vacation rental properties in Indianapolis, for which he uses the proceeds to fund the ministry. He intends to add a fifth property soon.
Formerly president of the University Heights Neighborhood Association, Unogu currently serves as president of the UIndy Alumni Association and on the Board of Trustees. He works full time as an architect for the state of Indiana, a job he can do remotely which allows for his travels. His last trip was in March of 2020.
“I was in Nepal traveling city to city in March of last year,” Unogu said. It was then that countries began going into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The border started to close and it was difficult to get to the U.S. I haven’t traveled since then.”
In the meantime he’s turned his focus to growing his ministry online. He preaches using Zoom and Facebook Live – facebook.com/Uche.us – which has opened a path he didn’t have before. His Website is evangelistuche.com. Unogu said he hopes to begin traveling again in August or September but he will continue using his online platform which has allowed him to reach people he never would have before.
As part of his ministry, Unogu also works with local immigrants to get the resources they need to adapt to their new home and be successful, something that has kept him busier in the last year.
“The pandemic was really tough,” he said. “Visa processing came to a halt, some people really struggled. If you were in the middle of that process when the pandemic happened, you were in trouble. I can empathize because when I came here, I knew nobody. I can help with the steps that you need to take to be a highly-productive citizen.”
Unogu said there’s no better feeling than being able to help someone else, someone he may never even meet again.
“Being able to serve people means the world to me,” he said. “I wake up every day and realize I’m living the dream. I think God just strung all that together to where we are now. It’s been a great community. I’d like anybody in this place who wants to do something on an international scale to know it’s possible. The dreams of people who have been crushed and they’re not able to see the future, I want them to know: you can make it. I think that’s what Christianity helps us do.”