Wiston Iwo: Passion for Mission

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Obong Akpaekong
The yearly Mission Conference of Grace Covenant Ministries, Port Harcourt, has remained one event Christian leaders in that city and other parts of the country would not want to toy with. In the past 17 years, Winston Iwo, presiding bishop of the church, who Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State appointed his special adviser on Religious Matters late last year, has used the event to remind Christians of the parting words of Jesus Christ, “Occupy till I come”, and to spur them into action.

The 2016 edition of the conference, with the theme, “The Unfinished Assignment,” held at the Eliogbolo, East West Road headquaters of the church from May 4 to 8. Iwo told the gathering, “Christianity without obedience to the instruction of God and leadership amounts to mere religion.” He said the conference was aimed at provoking believers to evangelise. Reading from the book of Joshua 13:1, Iwo recounted how Moses’ successor, Joshua, was old and getting ready to retire and die, yet God told him there was still much work to do and “very much land to be possessed”. Iwo said Joshua’s encounter with God provided one strong reason Christians should labour for the salvation of souls despite barriers of age and other inconveniences.

Commitment to evangelisation and mission was also the focus of Williams Daka, bishop of Likeminds Christian Centre, Port Harcourt, and Friday Bekee, senior pastor of Gospel Power Ministry in Lagos, who were the main conference speakers.
Speaking on the topic “Go for the Assignment”, Daka said satanic and anti-God organisations all over the world had devised strategies, created objects and published books that win a good number of youths, and good men and women to the side of evil. He cited the case of the church of Satan in United States that recently claimed to have 10,000 members and held a widely attended crusade in Houston.

Daka, a widely travelled clergy, expressed worry that in most European countries including U.K., Spain, Greece and France big cathedrals had become empty on Sundays with youth using them for dance floor, cinema hall and football pitch.
Daka lamented that call girls were repeatedly seen assemling and singing church songs in Port Harcourt and elsewhere in Nigeria as if they were in a worship service. He expressed the fear, “If urgent positive action is not taken to arrest such trend, churches in Nigeria and Africa could be so deserted in the next 10 or so years.”

His fear is in place. What is happening to Christian worship in Europe is gradually showing face in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Daka said there were cases of Nigerian youth returning from college and refusing to go to church. Iwo shared with the gathering several strange developments in the continent: a group of stark naked women walking the streets of Kenya,who in defence of their action, would say that they were born naked.

The cleric who returned from a four-day Africa-Israel Initiative conference in Accra, Ghana, mid April, said he learnt that there was a community of dwarfs in that country and that people were trooping there to commit all manner of immorality and godless fun with the dwarfs. “I am yet to believe the story but that is what I have heard”, he said.

Teaching on the topic “Urgency of the Assignment”, Daka said that many of today’s worshppers were only lovers of the church and Christ friendly and that it was the place of the pastor to turn them into disciples of Christ and send them out to win sinners for the Kingdom of God. Daka said the violence, kidnapping, robbery, political assassination, militancy and corruption that had become the bane of the nation can only be successfully tackled with the word of God.

Bekee, who was speaking on the topic, “Staying Focused on the Assignment” lamented that a lot of things including desire for sudden reaches and other cares of life had distracted church members from focusing on evangelism. He gave several dimensions of focus, which he defined as the “the central point of activity”.
Bekee said there were a lot of things competing for the Christian’s attention today and with all the pressures and distractions focus could be blurred.
Bekee said taking a closer look at the Nigerian church today, one would discover that many preachers were far away from God though claiming to work for Him.

He said there were many who prophesied to ohers yet they did not have good relationship with God.
“Some people come to church for gold and for connection. Do not allow them to derail you. The salvation of souls remains the reason that God became man”, he said.

Iwo, a former bishop of Church of God Mission, in charge of Rivers and Bayelsa Province, founded Grace Covenant Ministries in 1997, after serving under the leadership of the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa for 20 years – 1979-1999. He insists that he is cut out for mission work. “The mandate of Grace Covenant Ministry is to take the gospel to the unreached people groups within and beyond the shores of Nigeria”, he said.

In recent years, Iwo has taken the mission work to the Mumuyi tribe in Taraba State. Through what he described as a fulfilling partnership with Calvary Ministries (formerly CAPRO), a mission agency, the work has also been taken to Kenya and most recently, Liberia. “We have made several visits to these mission fields and by the grace of God touched the lives of the people with the gospel, food items, clothing, medical supplies and amenities like water (borehole). In Nigera, the immediate host communities of the church have also been blessed wuth medical outreaches, gift items and gospel crusades.