It is said the world is a small place and God moves in mysterious ways.
This could not be more true for former Church of Scotland missionary Dr Ann Jackson and the Rev Dr Elijah Obinna who were left stunned when they discovered they had an unexpected and surprising connection.
The 78-year-old elder at St John’s Church in Carluke said she was amazed when she learned that her new minister’s mother Margaret worked in the same Nigerian hospital that she did 50 years ago.
Dr Jackson said she was convinced it was all part of God’s grand plan to send Dr Obinna 3,700 miles away to the small town in Lanarkshire to spread the Christian message just like she did with his fellow countrymen.
The retired GP followed in the footsteps of legendary Victorian missionary Mary Slessor who tirelessly worked to improve the lives of ordinary citizens of Calabar, Nigeria and convert them to Christianity.
Dr Obinna helped mark the centenary of her death last year by taking part in events in Dundee, the city where she was raised, and Calabar therefore it is apt he is now supporting the organisation that helped so many of his countrymen.
The 41-year-old minister and his family arrived in Carluke from Nigeria last week and is being formally inducted into St John’s at a special ceremony tonight. (Thursday)
The charge has been vacant for two-and-a-half-years.
Dr Jackson worked as a general physician in three hospitals run by the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria between 1966-1970.
One of them was the Presbyterian Joint Hospital in Uburu in Ebonyi State, South Eastern Nigeria – the small community where Mr Obinna used to live – and it was there where his mother worked as a nurse for 28 years until she retired in 2008.
Dr Jackson, who also worked in Malawi and Glasgow before returning to her home town in 1978 to work as a GP, said: “I am thrilled to bits that Elijah is here in Carluke, I cannot believe it.
“Our God is awesome and there is no doubt in my mind that this has been his plan from the very beginning to get us working together - it is really exciting because he is new blood.
“I worked as a missionary in Nigeria 50 years ago to spread the gospel and share my faith through my work in three hospitals.
“I was stunned when I learned that Elijah’s mother worked in the same hospital as me.
“The way God works out his purpose is amazing and you never know where it is going to take you or how it is going to end.
“But you have to believe you are all part of this great plan because I do not believe in coincidences.”
Dr Obinna, who is married to Favour with whom he has four young children, Elspeth, Jessie, Joshua and Finlay, said his mother was “really surprised” to learn of the connection.
“It is amazing that Ann was sent to Nigeria by the Church of Scotland 50 years ago and now the Presbytery of Nigeria has sent me to the Church of Scotland,” he added.
“I was surprised to learn of the connection because I had never been to Carluke before so it was unbelievable to hear that Ann worked in the same hospital as my mum.
“I believe this is the wider plan of God and how things work in circles – he works in mysterious ways.”
Dr Obinna, who has previously worked at St Giles Cathedral and St Stephen’s Comely Bank Church in Edinburgh, said he was looking forward to the newest chapter in his life, particularly because he had found an inspirational new friend who understood the cross-cultural challenges between Scotland and Nigeria.
“We live in the hands of God and we just feel open to challenge, opportunity and the growth that comes with the future,” he added.