An Educational Series sharing the Stories of JAPA Immigrants


An Educational Series sharing the Stories of JAPA Immigrants

My name is, David Ijeh, I.J.E.H. I studied medicine in, University of Ibadan. I was really concerned about the deplorable condition of medical health in Nigeria then, that is what prompted me to want to, JAPA. I came with my wife, she was pregnant.

It was rough. It was rough at the beginning because, my younger brother’s friend had promised to host us. But when we got to the airport here, he he did not respond to our calls. So we’re just frantic and desperate. I had to call, somebody else in New York.

He was gracious enough to keep us. It was it was rough. It was rough. We moved from New York to Atlanta. Then in 1992, I came to Howard University Hospital in DC, where I was accepted to do my residency program in psychiatry.

I applaud our country for going to medical school almost free. When I got accepted to Howard in 1992, my first day, I remember an African American doctor, and he had a lot of school loan to pay. And when I told him that I had no school loan, he was shocked. He said, “you mean your government trained you and allowed you to leave?, allowed you to Japa?” You know, I found that many of my colleagues, doctors, American doctors, were still paying school loan.

I feel indebted to our country for being gracious enough to have made me go to school. So I’m a psychiatrist and I still practice. I’m also a pastor. I got born again in the United States. God arrested me.

It was a total arrest. And, I pastor a Redeemed Church in Riverdale, Maryland, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, River of Life Parish. So I am able to, practice, psychiatry and also pastor. We feed about 400 widows and orphans monthly. I’ve adopted, some people.

I’ve trained people in college. If, things are different, we’ll really want to do more.

I remember, years ago, I went to Port Harcourt to feed widows. They were all waiting. My wife had gone to prepare the ground.

I was going there to preach to them, and kidnappers came to kidnap me. A country where you cannot call the police if something happens, you see. My number one issue is not light. It’s my number one issue is security. So it was by god’s grace.

It was by god’s grace. I would have loved to go more, but that’s that became, that really has limited me. Not just for me, there are many of my colleagues who want to go and do more. We want to go and volunteer in hospitals.

Our class of 86, most of us are abroad, we’re doing so well. Top notch doctors. And we’re just waiting for security to improve because we owe Nigeria such a great country, A country that gave to us. We want to give back.

QUESTION: So I would say that I wanna go back to your story on how you saw the situation of things in the hospital. You realized “this wasn’t the best for me” and made the decision to JAPA. Did you try to maybe fix it or try something else before you made that decision?

ANSWER: I realized that it it it it wasn’t it wasn’t fixable. It it wasn’t fixable as as a young doctor. You can imagine a country where those are the top travel abroad for medical treatment. It means there’s there’s no there’s no emphasis on improving health care. That is how I see it.

You know, we’re in the United States. You can imagine Biden going abroad for medical treatment. I saw it was really it was really traumatic. I don’t want to go into details. I saw deaths.

Deaths that could have been avoided. This was in 1987. So you you can imagine, how how how bad things have become now. The elephant in the room has always been corruption. When corruption is systemic, it becomes like cancer.

You see, until we address corruption, nothing will work. I will speak as a pastor who has prophetic insights. There is hope for our country, specifically Nigeria. Years ago, many years ago, I had a dream. In the dream, everybody was relocating to Nigeria.

And they were asking me in the dream, what are you still doing here? And months after, pastor Adeboye, my spiritual father came and said that a time will come. All roads will lead to Nigeria. I still have hope. I believe something will happen in our country.

The country’s so blessed. The brain power of Nigerians is just unimaginable. Even in the ministry, most of the, pastors preaching, educators. So graduates, when you combine the anointing with education, we are such a great people. Our problems are man made.

I believe that if we got on our side a new leadership, things will begin to improve. This this Japa, is just a phase. A time will come. There are many Nigerian diaspora who are eager to go back.

They say east or west home is the best. Anytime I go to Nigeria, in spite of the, all these pro problems, I feel at home. East or west, home is the best. I believe this JAPA thing will be a thing of history in years to come. I’m speaking now as a prophet.

Our church is reputed to be a refuge center, a haven. We push people. I motivate people. Many of my people here, members, within 3 years, they’ve bought houses. They’ve they’ve established businesses.

Within 2, 3 years, we push people. We don’t let them stand stand on the queue.

QUESTION: What’s the formula that you use?

ANSWER: Networking. One of the things I do is to help help them get jobs, encourage them to start businesses with or without papers.

God has really shown himself in our church. You see, I wouldn’t want somebody to go through what I went through. Fact about this whole thing is, you have to be psyched up and be ready to accept anything because even with all the information, relocating to a strange land, you will still face challenges. Challenges will come in different forms.

So you can never be too prepared, even if you come with all the money and you know all the people. I’ve heard of stories where even relatives kick people who JAPA out. Tenacity is the key. Be ready to face the challenges when you leave your country. No matter you can never be too prepared.

The best of mine is still man. Man will always disappoint you. This country, especially the America. People tend to keep to themselves. People are so self centered.

Maybe it’s a survival instinct, you know. So my advice to anybody who wants to JAPA is to be prepared, to psych yourself up. And with God in your side, you will survive. You must retrain in America. Even even as a medical doctor, I have colleagues who were registered in a specialty and came here and were insisting that they’ll continue that specialty, but it doesn’t always work that way.

You know, here you must be in a survival mode. You must retrain yourself. Even if you started with menial jobs, that will just be an entry job, but don’t stay don’t stay at that entry job. Make sure you educate yourself, retain yourself. Unfortunately, some people come and, because things were rosy rosy..

They have not seen the ugly side of America and they crash land. So we also prepared them, that look, this is we are thousands of miles away from home. And I tell them that life is not a straight line. At times, God will take you through corners, you know, to test your faith. When I came, everything appeared hopeless..

But see me today, I have 4 children, I have a wife and practicing as a doctor, I’m a pastor. So there’s hope regardless of what you’re going through. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. You know, despite these challenges, we will, we we just hope things will improve. So many of us will go home to give back.

One thing I have is compassion. Each time I go back home, the number of people who come to the airport to receive me, I see people hungry, no food to eat. They can’t afford to pay school fees for their children and it really grieves me. And that is why I try to live moderately here so that I can help people back home because I believe in leaving a legacy. It is not how much you have, but how much you give away.

I want to touch lives because, if God could pick me up and save me in America, I owe him. I’m doing it for God’s sake, you know, to help his people and I will continue to do that regardless of what is happening. As a pastor once again, I don’t believe that our God is limited to geographical location. God can bless you. And there are many people who have JAPA who have nothing to show for it. And I have friends who are doing so well.

So, I would not encourage everyone to look outside the shores of Nigeria. Some people have come here, ended up drug addicts, their marriages have collapsed. So America is not heaven. I always tell people, you know, the western world is not heaven.

Anybody who tells you that is lying to you. We have challenges here too, the same way we have, challenges there. I just want to advise people before you look outwards, look inwards and see how you can make the best out of it, you know, because, coming you’ll face teething problems here. I hope, this session, will give hope to people who are depressed, people who are isolated, because in the western world, we don’t have that that families that support system.

The way I was raised by my parents, prepared me for hardship. I remember years ago, my kids told me I should never tell them how my father raised me. My father was very strict. My father used to cane us, and, there’s been a dichotomy between parents and, children here because at home they hear one thing at school, they see something else.

So many of them, get confused. The parents try to enforce and bring them up the way their parents brought them up, and, the children end up rebelling. Children commit suicide here. I had to go around doing teaching at churches, you know, telling the parents to not to be so overbearing. Raising my kids here, I I learnt very fast that the terrain is different.

So I try to tutor my kids and tell them that, they should be tough, you know, resilient, and adaptable. So I don’t push. I just let them be, but I guide them and offer, counsel to them. You know, I want to encourage people if you feel depressed. As a psychiatrist, I see many depressed people, many people who are suicidal, who have reached break point, having nervous breakdown.

I want to encourage them to to join a church. The church is a support. This is the family we have, a support system. Let’s network together. You see, don’t bear your burdens alone.

Galatians chapter 6 verse 2 says we should carry each other’s burdens. So if I carry your burden, you carry my burden, I carry his burden, there’ll be no burden to carry. Let’s carry each other’s load, and there’ll be no load to carry. God bless you.