•Say it’s a miracle how we survived
Following the resumption of full church activities in Lagos State, Christian leaders are raising both hands to heaven in thanksgiving to God.
This time, their gratitude is not borne out of what could be described as the expectation of the return of tithe and offering regime. Rather a heartfelt joy as they recalled, with great relief, how the grace of God helped to survive one of the most difficult times in the modern world.
Speaking exclusively to Sunday Telegraph, the President of Evangelical Ministries (Wisdom Chapel), Bishop Steven Ogedengbe, said that unprecedented hardship was unleashed on the citizens as Nigeria joined other nations of the world to impose economic lockdown to curtail the spread of the coronavirus diseases.
The near six months lockdown also outlawed church operation making it impossible for churches to earn income from tithes and offering at such a critical time that hardship caused many people to turn to the church get support for survival.
Bishop Ogedengbe captured the scenario in the following words: “You will be surprise to know that within the period of COVID-19 pandemic a lot of members survive through the support and mercy of their pastors, because the palliative which government promised to give to the masses was not forthcoming.
“The roll call of dependant and hunger ravaged members of the church, including widows, single mothers and many who lost the jobs due to the lockdown from surrounding communities, was unimaginable.” According to the Bishop, General Overseers and Senior Pastors were saddled with additional task of seeing to the wellbeing of junior pastors under them and their family members.
“Those were the big responsibilities the leadership of the church had to deal with, during period of the lockdown,” Ogedengbe explained. “It actually took the grace of God for the church to survive despite the monumental load the lockdown brought upon the body of Christ and society in general.
That is the more reason why people should appreciated the role of the church,” he added pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic also began to go down because the church offered fervent prayers and everybody agreed that only prayers could solve the disease which advanced nations of the world were incapable of solving.
But how were the ministers of God able to cater for various people to that had to fall back on the church with tithes and offerings no longer accruing to the church?
The Bishop referred to the Bible scenario in John 6:6, when Jesus was in a crusade ground for three days and the people had nothing to eat; and Jesus asked one of his disciples name Andrew: ‘How do we provide food for this huge crowd of people?’
Andrew replied that even if they bought $500 worth of bread, it wouldn’t be enough because there 5000 men, excluding children and women, in the crowd. Ogedengbe said that during the lockdown most operated at the realm of the miraculous adding that that was God’s Grace that help the church to survive the hard times.
Secondly, he talked about the principle of working and saving for the rainy day was another thing that helped him to personally minister to the needs of the crowd that daily gathered in his church to seek assistance.
“An average leader should be able to operate with the principle of working and saving for the rainy day as expanded by Joseph in Pharaoh’s Egypt.
As a leader, I understand the principle of Joseph revealed the mystery of seven years of bumper harvest and seven years famine. I know that calamity can happen at any point in time, and preparing oneself as sacrifice for other people is very important.
“During the lockdown we had to give out everything. What one saved and reserved for one’s family had to be shared so that many hungry families can have a little to survive on.
That meant that my family could no longer get what I used to give to them because so many families needed assistance. My phones were perpetually ringing because people were calling for help every now and then both in and outside the city of Lagos.
“We had to move into the principle of the miraculous whereby Christ said we should sit down and when he had blessed the bread everyone was fed and twelve baskets full of left over food remained.
I can tell you that even after the lockdown, we still have thank God because there was enough to share. “During the lockdown, we resorted to prayer for miraculous provisions and miracles happened. It remains a miracle till today. It is unexplained how the Lord did because nothing tithes and offering was coming from anywhere.
But the Lord did it. It is a miracle because nothing was coming in and God continued to provide. It is a lesson that we should continue to believe, rely on God and that is the only thing that will sustain us,” Bishop Ogedengbe said For his own part, the Lagos Overseer of Motailatu Church of God Worldwide, Rev James Akinadewo, said: “It was a real tough time but we thank God. As a man of God we have to look up to God, especially in those periods that tithe and offering weren’t coming in.
“Besides, we also had to put aside the comfort of our families first to attend to the needs of other people who were ravaged by hunger, job losses and hopelessness. We gave to people first and left our own families, we also gave to communities. We were rather trusting God. My family was practically fasting because there was nothing left after reaching out to other people.”
According to the man of God, most ministers of the gospel could not look away when many people, Muslims, non Christians and hunger stricken people trekked long distances to the church in search of food and survival, when government did not do much.
“That demand was upon the church and the church did a lot even when our sources of income tithe and offerings were gone. Muslims and people who are Christians turned to the church for help. We had to do much more because hunger, hardship and disaster was unleashed on people.
“We gave food, money, essential needs to all of the people and did a lot for our fellow Nigerians. If not for what the church did, the lockdown would have led something more serious like war or at least mass rebellion in the country, because were all prepared,” Akinadewo stressed
He thanked God for surviving that period because according to Akinadewo, it was the grace of God. “Everywhere was cash strapped when the challenge started, we mass produced hand sanitizers which we distributed free of charge to our members and communities, then we provided basic needs and food items to people out of our meagre resources.
In fact people who are not members came from all over the place to the church and we provided them with a lot of things they needed to remain alive because we felt we should do so,” the cleric explained.
Bishop Ogedengbe, however, added that even now that the church has resumed fully, there are lots of vulnerable people who have eating up their investments, their shops are empty and many businesses are shot down.
“The church is still putting everything together to restore such families that have been so badly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown,” he lamented.