Eric Ekong is currently a fourth-year student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where he is preparing for the ministry and following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. But Ekong’s family tree is different from most. His grandfather, Jonathan Udo Ekong, founded The Lutheran Church of Nigeria in the 1930s and spent the latter half of his 101 years planting churches and schools throughout the country. Today, this LCMS partner church has more than 80,000 baptized members. Although he never met his famous grandfather, Eric Ekong knew that he also was called to the pastoral ministry. Ekong hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and he earned his undergraduate degree from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich. He and his wife, Linda, have five children.
1. Can you tell me about your famous roots?
My grandfather came over in 1928 to find the “one true religion.” He bounced around, but once he found the LCMS his search was over. He entered the seminary at Immanuel Lutheran College and Seminary in North Carolina. He was 47 at that time and had to redo his whole education. In 1936, he traveled back to Nigeria with LCMS missionaries and planted numerous churches and schools. He would later become the first president of The Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a Lutheran pastor?
I knew in high school.
3. What brought you to the seminary?
I don’t have a fantastic story. I knew for some time that I would go. There were circumstances where God was preparing me for my true calling — from being diagnosed with Lupus SLE to coaching basketball to becoming an elder and president of a congregation. He put all the maturation experiences in place, so here I am.
4. What did you do before the seminary?
I was a Unix administrator. I worked in information technology for Verizon for 10 years.
5. What type of ministry do you hope the Lord has in store for you?
Parish ministry and anything that involves evangelizing and discipling while crossing ethnic/cultural boundaries. My business degree in leadership also allows me to use those skills in different parts of the church.
6. What advice would you give to fathers coming to the seminary?
Pray, read your Bible and always keep your family first. Make sure they know what the ministry is all about. Your life and devotion to God should not only be transparent to your family, but to others who see you.
7. What are you reading these days?
I’m reading Pastoral Theology by Mueller, Church and Ministry by Walther and Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. For the most part, I read seminary books because it’s all I have time for at this point.
8. What is your favorite Bible verse?
It’s a tossup between Is. 6:8, the “send me” verse, and Prov. 24:16. A man falls down seven times and gets back up. It’s only by the grace of God that he can get back up and continue on. It’s a reminder that God is always with us, empowering us, picking us up and guiding us down the right path.
9. What does your name mean?
My middle name is Ini-obong, which means “one with God.” I am one of God’s children.
10. Any hobbies?
Playing basketball, video games and card games, and just hanging out with the community and getting to know people.