The ex-gang member who turned from crime to become a pastor mentoring young people
- Credit: KLM
An ex-gang member wants to “be a light for Newham” in his role as pastor at his new church in East Ham.
Senior Pastor Onyeka Power Onyekwulu is on a mission to help teenagers stay away from crime after finding God as a teenager changed his life.
At his church, Eternal Life Ministries UK, over 100 young people gather every week and Onyeka offers mentorship to help them identify their purpose.
Onyeka was in gangs from a young age and witnessed his friend being fatally stabbed in the chest at the age of 15.
Seeking revenge he became more involved in gangs, rising through the ranks until he was 18 and realised, if he continued, his life would be cut short.
“I realised the lifestyle was not going to bring me any joy," he said. “It would either put me in jail or I would end up getting killed."
It was then that he started going to church.
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“When I surrendered my life to God, that’s when everything changed," he said.
“If you’re not in faith, there’s no one to guide you."
Onyeka believes most people turn to knife, drug and gang-related crime due to a lack of guidance about other opportunities.
According to crime analysis site CrimeRate, Newham ranks in the top 10 most dangerous London boroughs in 2022 with theft, anti-social behaviour and violent crime regularly ranking among the highest across the capital.
As a way to reach further into the community, Onyeka spends his Saturdays practising street evangelism in Barking and Stratford.
He’s also started taking promising young football players to trials across the country and mentoring students at Borehamwood Primary School on citizenship and respect.
He believes it’s important to build a foundation with children before secondary school when they are impressionable and can be pressured into joining gangs.
Yet despite the many social initiatives, Onyeka maintains he wouldn’t be anywhere without God's guidance.
Looking to the future, he hopes to work with more local schools and speak at Newham Council events.
His underlying mantra for life is: “To be a blessing to anyone who comes across me.”
Services for young people at Eternal Life Ministries UK run every Friday 7.30pm to 10.30pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm.