Behold, I have refined thee,
But not with silver,
I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, even for my name sake ,will I do it…
And I will not give my glory unto another.
-Isaiah 48 verses 10 and 11
His inspiring and intriguing life trajectory evolves like the super stuff Nollywood block buster movies are made of. Defined by the zero-to-hero, uphill experiences of a determined mountain climber, full of twists and turns; facing formidable challenges but never giving up, encapsulates the intrepid journey of our subject today. And he is none other than the revered man of God, Prophet Joshua Iginla, the General Overseer of the wave-making, Abuja-based Champions Royal Assembly.
The essence of this tribute focuses on the lasting lessons to learn from the illustrious life of this humble man of God, who has literally gone through the mill but has exhibited the never-say-die spirit in his service to God and humanity. It is more so significant for those out there, who may have found themselves in the quagmire of poverty and penury, hopelessness and disillusionment to hang on to their faith in God, the Creator. He cannot fail us. He is the one who determines our destinies.
Indeed, of the many interesting aspects of his chequered life, is that the Ekiti State-born prophet was actually brought up in a strict Muslim family. His early years were rough and tough, as the son to a soldier he traversed several barracks. He recounts the dark and dreary days of trekking from Sango to Ajilete in Owode in Ogun State due to lack of transport fare. He also remembers staying in a one room apartment for years at Ibadan, Oyo State. But one good aspect of it all, was staying faithful to God and listening to His voice.
For instance, in an interview he granted the Independent Newspaper precisely on June 21, 2014, he had this to say: “Of course, life has taught me a lot, especially considering my background. I am a Muslim-turned preacher; a barracks boy turned a clergy. I had an Islamic background with abject poverty, struggle and lack. God took me from such obscurity to limelight. That has taught me a lesson that God can use anybody. He uses foolish things to confound the wise”.
Without an iota of doubt, his calling to serve in God’s vineyard must have drawn the ire of his parents, worse still when hardship stared the family fully in the face. At a critical point, his mother, unable to bear the pains of poverty challenged the son. Said she: “Iginla, you claim that God called you to serve Him and you are happy carrying your big Bible all over the place, but you cannot feed usAre you sure you are serving the true God?” It was one bitter pill, too hard to swallow.
And it ignited within his spirit the crying need to challenge God. He fasted and prayed. He raised his voice like Elijah, one of the iconic prophets of old, for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to prove Himself to his people, who had ample reasons to doubt his sincerity. It was then God directed him to leave the sprawling city of rust and gold, Ibadan, and head on to Abuja, the nation’s capital city. But there were even more demoralizing challenges ahead, to further test his faith.
God’s directive however, elicited the quaint questions: How much of Abuja did he know? Where was he going to start from and with what? The answer came on a memorable night while returning from a night vigil. An okada rider had knocked him off the road into a gutter! While struggling to get back on his feet he heard the voice of God to take a look at Kubwa and the promise that He would give the town over to him. It was in 2006. That week he started a church. As the Spirit dictated, the ministry took off in a room apartment at Millionaire’s quarters at Kubwa, on the outskirts of Abuja, without a chair! He used his wife’s Bible as an offering bag in his first service. Of course, his neighbours mocked and derided him.
But he remembered that:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He guides his bones; none of them is broken.
-Psalm 34 verses 19 and 20
He recalled that he had run a ministry for seven years called Overcomers Prevailing Evangelical Ministry that did not work. Such was the embarrassment that the membership of 120 dropped to 40 with seven pastors leaving the fold. Was he jinxed? If so, what should he do to break it?
He was praying to God for the needed change. He fasted for seven days. Incidentally, it was on the last day which was a Sunday that the unexpected happened. He was preaching a message entitled: “The Power of Resurrection.” As fate would have it, it was in the process that a member’s mother, fondly called Mama Twins, who had accompanied her daughter to the church dropped dead! Some members brought her to the altar. The two nurses in the church checked her pulse and whispered to the prophet that she was dead. They suggested that they should quietly take her to the hospital. But that was not to be.
Panic and pandemonium had broken out. Some of the church members who had witnessed the terrifying incident went to town spreading the tale that someone had dropped dead in his church. Before long, the place was jam-packed with the angry mob, including some policemen threatening fire and brimstone. They had surrounded the church, armed with all manner of missiles, with some brandishing kegs of petrol, ready to burn him and the church down to ashes!
Let us capture that life-changing incident in his own words: “That was when I broke down in tears. I prayed to God that it is not my shame but God’s. I was led by the Holy Spirit to slap her and cry out ‘receive the breath of life’. I obeyed and she sneezed back to life! There was wild jubilation all around Abuja, and the following Sunday, there was a surge of worshippers and that was how the breakthrough came. That miracle brought about my turn around.”
That symbolic act of divine victory is a lesson for us all. Is there anything our God cannot do? Nothing! Today, the church’s fortunes have turned around for good. Shame has turned to global fame. The one-room church has become a City of Wonders boasting of 80,000 capacity auditorium, the largest anywhere in the world, erected in less than two years. There are branches in far-flung places such as Zambia, South Africa, the United States and Canada, all flourishing to gospel fruition. In fact, not a few are curious to know the magic wand or miracle behind it all.
One of course, is the uniqueness of Iginla’s prophesies. They are precise and yet giving uncanny, microscopic details. He was the man who predicted Nelson Mandela’s death two weeks before he died. He also predicted the emergence of Governor Ortom of Benue State, the loss of former Governor Kayode Fayemi at the polls and the re-election of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State. He also predicted the emergence of the present Zambian President. Indeed, the nation stood still for over three days as he stormed the country for a massive crusade.
He stands out as the only prophet who predicted the emergence of a more deadly act of terrorism than the Boko Haram in the country. Of course, that has been exhibited by the rampaging, armed Fulani herdsmen, wasting hundreds of precious lives, raping and maiming as well as burning entire communities to ashes.
The other outstanding aspect of his ministry is that of practicing the act of giving to those in need. For instance, it made headline news when he gave actor Larry Koldsweat an SUV a few years back. But he is but one of the many beneficiaries of his largeness of heart. Several of other thespians, his aides and the needy in the society have. Said he: “I give to those who can’t pay me back. Of what purpose is it when the pastor is rich and his shepherds are poor? If God has lifted me up to this level, it’s my joy to lift others.”
Incidentally, Iginla has admonished his fellow men of God not to out rightly condemn others, even as he frowns at those patronising corrupt politicians for the love of filthy lucre. In his words of wisdom, “If we preachers preach the truth, Nigeria will be sanitised.” That is food for thought.
From Iginla’s motivating life we now know that God can re-write the history of men, no matter how lowly their background may seem. He can pull up those who have absolute trust in Him, from the pitiable pit of poverty to the pinnacle of prosperity, as He has graciously done for Prophet Iginla. But we must play our part, by focusing always on God, obeying His voice all the time and mustering the will to win, against all odds.
Happy birthday to the light of our generation and his lovely wife.
Many more fruitful years ahead.
––Ajanaku, a journalist, writes from Lagos.