The Redeemed Christian Church of God, His Royal Place Parish, Festac Town, Lagos, recently clocked five and in the light of this, the church is boosting its ongoing empowerment programme to mark its anniversary. The Parish Pastor, Seun Taiwo Akilapa in this interview with Mary Ekah, says the corporate social responsibility aspect of the church cannot be overemphasized having impacted tremendously on lives of the people in the community over the years
It has been over five years this parish was established, what has changed since then?
The Redeemed Christian Church of God, His Royal Place Parish was inaugurated on April 23, 2011 and God has been helping us to grow and bless the people of God. I have been here since its inception. We started very little and with time we became very large. Whilst we started, I had a very good training from the province. The training came as being a minster at the provincial headquarters, which was also a rare privilege for me.
Somewhere along the line when we started, our General Overseer, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, decided that the church is not sufficient preaching just the gospel but that we should also reach out to our immediate society, so he came up with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), an initiative where you cater to the immediate society. So while we started, the need to also influence our society came and immediately after our first anniversary we did a borehole at the area where we were located before, that serves about 250 people in Festac community, around 207 and 22 Road.
Thereafter, we have had series of empowerment programmes. In the same year, 2011, we did free medical checkup for residents of the area and we have also had a number of empowerment programmes where we bring resource people to come and teach craft and all that.
We realised that there are a whole lots of missed opportunities out there in the nation today, so we are trying to build entrepreneurs and that is the essence of the empowerment programme. So God has used us to bless people not just spiritually in the church but also in other ways.
I have about 15 years of banking experience and I know that it is not sufficient for me to come to church and just preach. I must influence the lives of the people. So I see myself as an evangelist who evangelises Christ in church and also takes the church out there to minster to the people.
Is the aim for your CSR basically to get members for your church?
That is not the primary intention but there is no way you get involved in CSR and you become a blessing to people that people will not want to know the God that you serve, that is blessing you and also using you to bless them. Now, this is what I mean, the Bible says in the Acts 10: 38, using the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, that immediately God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost and Power, which is when he received the commission for his ministry, he did something – He went about doing good – healing those that were oppressed by the devil because God was with him but before the healing work, he was doing good. We heard in the Bible instances where people followed him and they were hungry, and he gave them food.
That is CSR in itself. And in fact, there were people that needed homes and he ministered to them. So the CSR initiative might not be really to attract people to the church and that is why our CSR programmes are interdenominational where all manners of people come from different religions and tribes. So it is not in itself to draw people to the church we are not interested in drawing people to the church. Yes, to draw people to Christ because we as children of God, we minister to the people and when the people see us, they see us as the light of the world, just like the Bible says that we are the light of the world. So when people see God reflected in us they want to follow the God that we serve and by so doing, the CSR becomes an evangelical tool
Apart from my 15 years experience in the bank, I presently work as a Senior Business Development Manager in Public Sector Department, SecureID Group, which consists of SecureID Limited and its subsidiary SecureCard Manufacturing and we are West Africa’s leading digital solutions company, offering superior end-to-end identity management. As matter of fact, we are pioneer in the design, personalisation and manufacturing of Smart cards combined with high security printing in Sub–Sahara Africa. SecureCard is currently the only polycarbonate plant in Africa.
And so we have the opportunity of meeting with great people like the Vice President and a lot of Ministers. And when I see those that have the light of God in them, and those that have exemplary stories that are affiliated to the gospel, we bring them to the church to teach the people how to be successful in life. We have brought people who have spoken on various sectors of the economy and have impacted the people with knowledge and the wherewithal to go about making ends meet in a tough economy like ours. The empowerment programme has been such tremendous influence on people.
And every Wednesday, I take out time as a business developer to come to the church for free consultancy. Again, recently we got some of our members to apply for funding from the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, so we have access to funding, we have donors that believe in people’s ability and because of my experience in the bank, I am able look at the proposal with them and advise them on the best way to go about their plans. We help them to carry their financial burdens by assisting them to access microfinance and all that. So, it does not just end at the altar, we also mentor this people to see their businesses grow.
What activities do you have on ground to mark your fifth anniversary?
The theme of our anniversary is ‘Double Grace’ and what actually instructed that is because God has taken us from grace to where we are and we are trusting Him for additional grace to take us from where we are now to where He wants us to be. On Saturday, we would be donating an incubator to a Maternity Centre in Festac as part of event to mark our anniversary. The Maternity Centre is operated by the RCCG under the provincial headquarters at 511 Road, 5th Avenue, Festac and it is free for everyone. We went there to find out what they actually needed and they said they needed an incubator as they had only two on ground right now and wouldn’t mind having an additional one. So on Saturday we are going to donate one additional incubator to the maternity centre as part of our CSR on this anniversary and on Sunday we will have an elaborate thanksgiving service while we will also celebrate our natural growth in the last five years. Also we will award outstanding workers in the church to encourage them to do more.
Can you expatiate more on the empowerment programmes you have in place?
There are two aspects of our empowerment programme. One is that which we have every 2nd and 3rd Sunday of the month and on those Sundays, we hold two services, where we hold the empowerment programme first and then service comes later. The empowerment service starts at 7:30am while the main service starts at 10am. Like I was saying, the empowerment programme in two phases, when we started last year, the empowerment was targeted towards CSR where we go out and reach out to the community, for instance we lighted this environment and powered it with an inverter.
The second phase is an empowerment that is targeted towards entrepreneurship because we believe Nigeria is going through change and the whole world is looking for the manifestations of the sons of God. So we believe that as children of God, we must position ourselves in anticipation of the change in Nigeria. Nigeria is going into solid mineral and agriculture and we need to position ourselves as a church. Most of these people don’t have access to this information, so what we do is to bring people from outside who exemplified themselves in specific areas to talk to the people. So the empowerment programme is for people to see beyond the church, it is a holistic approach to bridge a need. We just want a balance church.
We want to ensure that the church is together in one accord. There is nothing absolutely wrong for us to open business opportunities for our members. Those things are not even in the church today and that is why a lot of people don’t even go to church. The Bible says, seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The righteousness is here and the kingdom God is here, so if you bring everything to the church so that people can learn and their eyes of understanding are enlightened, they take it back to the world to better their businesses and they will come back to the church and glorify God. The essence of our worship here is to appreciate God during worship but people are distorted and cumbered by mirage of problems. That is why I think a balance church is what goes beyond ‘bring your tithes, do this or that’. We want to, through this empowerment programmes impact positively on the lives of the people. That is just a way of giving back to the society.
What is the place of the youths in the whole scheme?
The essence of the empowerment programme is to redirect the youths. The church is predominately 70 per cent youths. So the empowerment programme is actually channeled towards the youths. We also have a programme that prepares the singles towards marriage. This is so because we have noticed that 99 per cent of the nation’s problems is family issues. When you look at those people ruling Nigeria and not ruling well, if you look at their family background, you would find that they had no family ethics. When we were growing we were not speaking church. What we were talking were ethics and morals but these days we speak more of church than ethics and morals.
So for the youths, we want them to understand that it is not just about church but who you are. So the upbringing is important. Marriages are breaking today because many do not understand the ethics and the morals of marriage and this in turn affects the upbringing of the children. This is what we are trying to turn around with this whole scheme. God has called us to be passionate about our society, I am passionate about Nigeria and I believe in my nation and I know that very soon Nigerian will stand among the league of the nations of the world proud and tall.