Premier’s deputy station director, Damilola Okeke, shares her story of coming to faith, forging her career and the promise from God that she clung to after the devastating stillbirth of her daughter
I spent the first seven years of my life in Nigeria. My parents separated when I was three years old. My dad’s family was Muslim, and my mum’s family were nominal Christians.
When my two older siblings and I moved to the UK with Mum, I would go to church with her. I didn’t really understand what was happening, and there wasn’t a youth group or a children’s church or anything. I just went because I got to dress up every Sunday!
By the time I was 13, I discovered boys. They took up my life for the next five or six years. I quickly developed a reputation for being boy crazy. Fortunately, I was very book smart, so it never affected my grades.
I was still getting A stars and got into my college of choice. At the same time, I had boyfriends and was sexually active. But I wasn’t living a double life; I didn’t hide anything from my mum.
However, I was living a life that was destroying my self-esteem and reputation. I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like the way I looked. I didn’t like feeling like I had to be in a relationship. I think it was partly because I grew up without my dad.
I wanted to understand what it meant to be loved, and what it meant to be desired and wanted, but it was damaging me.
Hearing from God
When I was about 17, my mum moved away for work, and I lived in a house share so I could continue at my college. I met a young Muslim man and started dating him, eventually moving in with him and his family.
I remember I was in bed one day, and felt God say to me (even though I wasn’t following him at the time): “If you continue what you’re doing, you will end up marrying him, and that will be it. That will be the trajectory of your life.”
It was a wake-up call. I realised I didn’t want to marry this person. I was just messing around.
God was so merciful as he spoke to me before I even accepted him. I knew it was God’s voice because he wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear.
So at the age of 19, I broke off the relationship and started to seek God. A friend invited me to church and I gave my life to Christ. I think the thing that made me commit my life to Jesus was the grace that he showed me. He knew everything I had done and still forgave me, loved and accepted me.
I became the first proper Christian in my group of friends, which freaked them out. I stopped drinking and the transformation was quite drastic.
Forging a career in media
I was studying media at university and in our second year, we had to do a placement. I didn’t know where to do mine. One night, I talked to God about it, asking him to show me where to do my placement. I felt him tell me to pick up my laptop and to type in Premier.
The first page that came up was the Woman to Woman radio show. I listened to the presenter, Maria, doing her interviews and was amazed to discover Christian media! I had no idea that there was an industry for Christians in media.
That was when the flame was lit. I looked up whether Premier Christian Radio had an internship coming up. They did, so I applied and had help with my CV from some leaders at my church.
I didn’t get that particular internship, but a former programme controller at Premier championed me and asked HR if I could volunteer.
I volunteered at Premier for about six months in 2014. During that time, I also got baptised. Six months into my work volunteering, another internship opportunity came up at Premier for which I applied…and I got it that time. That was eight years ago, and I am now deputy station director!
Dami with her husband and Gabriel as a baby
Becoming a family
I became celibate when I was 19 and asked God to help me to do things the right way. I desperately wanted a Christian family, so that I could live out a healthy family life because I didn’t experience that growing up.
One day my now husband came into the Next store I was working in while doing my internship at Premier. He tried to chat me up, and I said no. Then he said: “How will you meet your husband, if you don’t give anyone a chance?” I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me, and tell me to listen to him.
At that time, BlackBerry phones were trending. So I told him to give me his pin details and I would add him on BlackBerry. We got married in 2016 when I was 23, and two years later I gave birth to our son Gabriel. Life was good, but then tragedy struck in 2021.
In October 2020, I found out I was pregnant. We were really excited. I knew it was a girl, because God showed me a dream of Gabriel with a little sister. The doctors asked if we wanted to know the gender and I said no, because I was so sure it was a girl.
The pregnancy was pretty straightforward. I went for my check up with the consultant at 36 weeks, and she said there were no complications; everything was completely fine.
Then I went for my 38-week midwife check, where they use a doppler to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Again, everything seemed fine.
Then when I was 39 weeks and six days I heard a voice say: “The baby is not moving.” So I played music and moved around to try to get the baby to give a kick or something. There was nothing.
I laughed because I thought: “There’s nothing to worry about, because tragedies don’t happen to me. I’ve never experienced a tragedy in my life. God always rescues me.”
Because I couldn’t feel movement, I drove myself to the hospital. The doctor used the ultrasound doppler, and there was the most deafening silence. It was like a dream, as if I was watching everything happening. The doctor said: “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”
I tried to cry, but couldn’t because I was in so much shock. I called my pastors and my husband. For the next three days, we prayed for a miracle. We were praying for resurrection. We were praying for her to kick and I really believed that God could do it. I didn’t cry at all during those three days.
I gave birth three days later: we named her Promise, and she was not breathing.
My heart was so shattered. The rain was pouring against the hospital window. I had half an hour by myself in the hospital room, and I wept.
As the raindrops fell, I heard the Holy Spirit say that Jesus wept and that God was weeping too.
Holding on to the promise
When we got home people started visiting us. I was with some ladies from church in our living room when somebody asked: “Is that a rainbow in the sky?” We opened the curtains and over our balcony in the sky was this beautiful rainbow, clear as day. We took a picture of it, and I held on to that. I felt God was saying that we would have our rainbow baby. He would restore.
Through all the pain, God taught me the importance of understanding that we have a real enemy. The Bible says the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. It was Jesus who came to give us life. I couldn’t attribute what happened to God. He might have allowed it. But I couldn’t say he was the one who ended my daughter’s journey so suddenly, and so prematurely.
At the end of 2021 I got pregnant again. There is nothing scarier than going through a pregnancy after having a stillbirth. This time we are believing for full restoration. The scripture we are holding onto is Joel 2:25, where God says: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (KJV).
Michael Chigozie Okeke (Chigozie means God has blessed me)
Note from the editor: We are so happy to share that following this interview, Dami gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Michael Chigozie Okeke weighed a healthy 6lbs 6oz at birth and both mum and baby are doing really well!