By Cheryl Magness
Abasifreke (“Abas”) Ite, wife of the Rev. Obot Ite, died on Nov. 20, 2021, in Kingston, Jamaica. She was 44.
Speaking at his wife’s funeral on Dec. 9, 2021, Obot — the longest-serving alliance missionary in the LCMS — said, “It pleased the Lord to take her away, and she is now at rest. I’m comforted by the prayers and encouragement that continue to keep us strong. …
“Abas worked hard and long. She did her best, but the Lord did what was better for her. … She had so much in mind for the church. … I’m praying … that the vision that [she] had will be fulfilled at the appointed time, and God will continue to lead the way.”
Obot began serving as an alliance missionary — an ordained pastor from a partner church of the LCMS who is called by his church and sent as a missionary in coordination with the LCMS Office of International Mission — in Jamaica in 2007. He and Abas grew up in neighboring villages in Nigeria, both in Lutheran families — Obot, the son of the late Rev. Efiong Asuquo Ite and the late Deaconess Afiong Efiong Ite; and Abas, the daughter of the late Elder Essien Ekwere Essien and late Deaconess Susan Essien Ekwere. Obot was the seventh of nine children and Abas the third of five children.
Obot and Abas belonged to the same parish in the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN), but they did not meet until high school. Obot said, “Prior to my high school years, I had nursed a dream and prayed for a wife … fueled by my sainted parents and the vision of becoming a pastor in the future. On sighting Abasifreke in the school, I was convinced that she was my wife, and in my heart, I treasured her … until we were old enough to date each other officially and get engaged.”
Obot and Abas both attended the University of Calabar in Nigeria, where Obot studied geology and Abas studied environmental protection and resource management. Obot attended seminary at Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Obot Idim, Nigeria, graduating on June 11, 2005, and he and Abas were married on March 18, 2006. In 2013, they were blessed with a daughter, Abasiofon, which means “God is good.” Her nickname is “Goodness.”
In September 2005, Obot was called to serve as teacher, pastor and chaplain at Lutheran High School in Obot Idim. From May 2006 through October 2007, he also served as national youth advisor for the LCN. He then accepted the call to serve as an alliance missionary. He and Abas arrived in Jamaica in October 2007.
An article on the Synod’s international blog notes, “The decision to partner with the Lutheran Church of Nigeria … in calling the Rev. Obot Ite to Jamaica … was logical and has not disappointed,” adding that the LCN “is a product of LCMS missionary efforts dating back to 1936.” Obot began his service in Jamaica at St. Andrew Lutheran Church. His work led to the planting of Faith Lutheran Church in downtown Kingston. In addition to providing Word and Sacrament ministry at both congregations, he also serves as chaplain of Parade Gardens Lutheran School in Kingston.
‘A loving and prayerful woman’
Obot said that Abas was instrumental to his missionary work, organizing women’s fellowship, building a children’s choir program and designing and sewing paraments. In the Ites’ first few years in Jamaica, she often traveled with her husband; as the years went on and her health declined, she stayed closer to home. She was known for her skill as a seamstress, sewing clothes and using the proceeds to support the work of the church, particularly the children’s ministry.
She was also known, said Obot, for her storytelling, “fine cooking and ability to host people even at short notice. She was a very loving and prayerful woman … who was excited every time a new soul was added to the church family.” When Abas was diagnosed with kidney disease resulting from complications of previous treatment for malaria, “she hoped for healing, [but] most importantly, to rest peaceful in the arms of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
At Abas’ funeral, the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Naumann, chaplain for the LCMS Latin America and the Caribbean region, preached on the words of Jesus in John 5: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”
“In the midst of life, we are in death,” Naumann said. The death of Abas is “but a reminder of the ongoing fact of our own mortality.”
Abas “listened to the voice of Jesus,” Naumann continued. “His voice brought her life. The Word of Jesus, together with the water of Baptism, gave her a new birth to a new and everlasting life that she is still living, albeit on another shore and in a greater light.
“I am sure that Abas’ message to us today is this: ‘Listen to Jesus, for His voice brings life.’”
Obot said that in addition to his wife’s support of his pastoral ministry, she was “an avid home builder whose faith, love and commitment … encouraged me [as a] husband and father.” In his remarks at the funeral, Obot said that he and his daughter would remain, and he would continue serving, in Jamaica. He asked for prayers for him, the church and its mission.
“I will continue to struggle and to do the things that God asks me to do. … I’m not going to give up. … I will do [this work] until He calls me home in faith. I pray God’s blessings … upon each and every one of you, that God will continue to strengthen us and lead us into His presence one day.”
Posted Jan. 20, 2022