Over 10 years ago, Remigius Christian Echewodo had gone into the operating room for a surgical operation on an ailment purported to be appendicitis but while the doctors and nurses that operated on him were at work, he had a baffling encounter that brought about a complete turnaround in his life. Echewodo tells Mary Ekah about his puzzling encounter and how it has brought liberty to many souls
You would be celebrating 10th year anniversary soon. Can you tell how it all started?
I was called to set free those who are into captivity. I have been into this ministry for over 12 years. The Lord through a divine incident called me in January 2004 but my ministry, GOD’s Firmament Covenant Ministry (GFCM) based in Festac, Lagos, started in 2006, two years after my encounter with the Lord in 2004. And right now I am fully into the ministry of setting the captive free. While I was in Abuja, where I lived for nine years and learned a trade, I started business soon after I concluded my apprenticeship in 2006 but soon after, it packed up and things became so tough with me. Consequently, I had to start moving from one prayer house to another.
And when I go to these prayer houses, what they usually told me was that my problem was that God wanted me to serve Him. And being a Catholic to the core then, I found it very difficult to accept such but it got to a point that everything around me was in crumble. I had to run away from Abuja to the village where I stayed for a year. Along the line, I had a problem on the left hand side of my lower abdomen, which resulted in me going for an operation. Eventually, I went for operation at a hospital called Eziefuna Hospital then in Egbeada, Owerri, Imo State.
Before the operation in the theatre, the doctor injected me with a drug to make me sleep but the first injection did not work, so he gave me a higher dosage and I became unconscious. At that point, I saw a large number of angels surround me while the nurses and doctors were operating on me. In that trance, my spirit flew out my body and I found myself in a green field with a mighty angel with a sword who introduced himself to me as my Guardian Angel. At that same moment, I moved to a place that looks like the land of the dead where I saw so many of my people who had died. I even saw a late sister, Vitaline Onukaji too and also a particular mad man in my village, called Aloo, whom I became very close with just before he died.
I moved like a wave through this particular place and then got to another realm, which I noticed was like Heaven with the cloud covering me. At first I could not understand where I was because I still remembered I went into the theatre for an operation. But I saw a light, which was golden, dazzling and shone like a sun. It was not harmful but could not be beheld with ordinary eyes. Inside the light was a being that called my name repeatedly in a way my mother used to call me.
The being introduced Himself as the Ancient of Days and that He had called me from birth to serve Him and also to go and set His people free from captivity. He said I was an angel who existed in heaven before He sent me on earth. He said that instead of carrying out the errand He sent me, I went to earth and mingled with men like an ordinary man. I was on this trance for almost 10 hours and unconscious in the hospital theatre, till He finally released me.
So what happened after that strange experience? Were you eventually convinced to work for God?
No, I wasn’t. I was still concerned about getting money and going back to Abuja to start my business over again. And so after the operation, I felt I was fit to go back to business but first I had to come to Lagos to meet some of my brothers who had promised to raise money for me to go back to Abuja and continue with my business. So while I waited for them, I stayed in Lagos for three months shuttling from one relative house to another between Mafoluku and Bariga to ensure I fed because there was hardship everywhere then. Meanwhile, there was a church I used to attend where I was given a nine-day fasting and prayer but I was reluctant to do it remembering that I had gone on a six-month non-stop fasting and prayer before then and yet my problem was not solved.
But somehow a spirit came to me while I was asleep and encouraged me to do the nine-day fasting and the next day, I had a conviction in me that I needed to embark on the prayer and fasting. So after five days of embarking on this fasting, I went to another church along with my brother Nwabueze and other relatives and while prayers were going on in the church auditorium, I wanted to say my prayers in my normal language but I realised that my tongue was changing to a language I never understood. I stopped and tried to speak my normal way and to say my words one after the other but something was overpowering me and using my tongue to say something else.
I then alerted Nwabueze who was sitting next to me about what I was experiencing and he said it was speaking in tongues. I have never spoken in tongues before then, so I didn’t know what it was. And so at that moment I was trying to suppress the power that was controlling me but it threw me up and I landed on the floor and it was like I was battling with a force that was overpowering me. That was how God arrested me on August 1, 2004. And since then, I have gone to nothing less than 300 villages around Nigeria to carry out family liberation and set families free from captivity.
At what age did you have your first encounter?
I was born in April 1973, so I was a little above 30 years of age in 2004 when I had the encounter.
What is your educational background like?
I have a school certificate for now but I see myself going back to school for further education soon. But with this ministry as it were, I find myself choked up with the service for humanity ever since I started it but I will not hold that as an excuse to go back to school, even though having time for myself now is absolutely difficult.
How do you run your ministry?
The ministry is not a church. I started first with a seven days midnight programme and only recently did we start Thursdays business meeting, and counseling, which is a weekly programme. We do not run Sunday service because we are not a church. I go around worshipping in other churches on Sundays. Here, we simply pray and bless people.
Are there plans to make this ministry a full-fledged church in future?
No, it can’t be a church. God did not tell me that. It is an interdenominational ministry. And for now, it is only night vigils and Thursday programme. I don’t hold any programme on Sundays; every one that attends our programme is entitled to go for service at his/her church on Sundays.
It has been 10 years since you accepted to serve God after a long struggle. So how has the experience been so for? Have there been challenges?
The challenge I faced at the initial stage was carrying the Holy Bible. Although I was a Catholic to the core, there was this feeling that came with carrying of a big Bible, thinking people will begin to make a mockery of me calling me “born again”. As Catholic, carrying Bible was not in vogue, I carried bulletin when going to church or at most I carried the pocketsize blue Gideon Bible. So at the initial stage, I was battling with what my friends will say of me when they see that I was now a man of God carrying a big Bible around. And again when I told them about my encounters, they will retort: “look at him.
Any person that his business closes down will usually say God called him.” Even when I told one of my uncles about my encounter and the need for me to answer God’s call, he said to me: ‘Remigius when last did you take malaria drug?’ I knew what that meant. He was like saying ‘Remigius you are losing it.’ And so I was so jittery at first. But at the back of my mind, I always had a reflection of my encounter, even thought it made me look as if I was going mental. But I was able to overcome all the challenges by the strength I got from that weird encounter. That encounter was enough to convince me that I was called despite all the mockeries.
Apart from the nervousness you felt at the beginning, what were the major challenges after you got in fully and how were you able to cope having to give up that youthful exuberance to serve God?
My upbringing helped me a lot. I grew up with this fear of God that made me hardly have relationships with ladies right from secondary school. So having close relationships with ladies irritates me then. And even when I force myself to, may be got involved with a woman sexually, I usually ended up with some kind of repercussion and I became so conscious of this as I grew up. And because of this, I didn’t really have a problem in coping as a youth dedicating myself to serve God.
So how then did you meet your wife?
I met my wife in my ministry. One thing about me is that I love beauty and cleanliness. I get enticed by anything that is beautiful and clean – be it flowers, architecture or human beings. And besides that, I have always had the kind of picture of the woman I wanted as wife right from my teenage days but when God arrested me, it appeared it was going to be difficult to get the kind of woman I wanted because constantly looking out for the kind of woman I wanted would have been a distraction, especially in my ministry. So at a point it was my relatives that started sourcing for a woman for me to marry but each time I was introduced to one, something in me will just tell me: ‘No this is not the woman you are going to marry.’ But in 2009, while in church, I saw a lady walked in and when I saw her, I said to myself, this is the type of woman that I have always wanted for a wife and as I watched her, I could not handle it.
And I was also worried that I had made up my mind earlier that I was not going to take a wife from my ministry. But the moment I tried taking my mind off her, something was telling me, that was my wife. And what also confirmed that Uju was my wife was the fact that I got into a covenant with God that after seven years of my call, if He did not lead me to my actual wife, I would have nothing to do with women anymore and before then, God frustrated all my efforts to get a wife but as soon as Uju came into the picture, which was the period about the seventh year I told God, he showed me the wife He wanted me to marry with a strong conviction in me and in 2010 I got married to her traditionally and then wedded her in 2011, which was the seventh year, I told God.
And that earlier decision I took helped me a lot in the sense that I had worked for four years without getting into any relationship with any of my members that could lead to marriage. After I got married to her, I sent her to Madonna University, Okija in Anambra State where she read English Language, came out with one of the best results and today she works as a teacher in a Catholic school in Festac and she is doing so well as a teacher.
What is the strength of your ministry right now?
At the early stage of the ministry, I controlled nothing less than 1500 people in a night but my marriage destabilised a lot of things in the ministry. A lot of people were not comfortable with my marriage to my wife, Uju, and so they used that to rise against me. My marriage brought about a huge challenge in the ministry and I lost almost everybody. From a congregation of over 1500 people, we were reduced to like 10 members soon after my marriage. So it took so much courage to carry on. I had to encourage myself so much because it got to a point when I wanted to drop my Bible but the Lord encouraged me.
Before then I made so much impact – people touched my clothes and were healed and God used me to raise over 15 people from the dead, healed the blind and cured incurable disease. But one thing is that human beings are very difficult to handle because they have different ideologies about life. So suddenly my name was so much rubbished in the whole Festac and that affected my ministry so negatively. Do you know what it means for a man who within one year pulled a crowd of over 1500 people at each vigil night and suddenly it was reduced to less than 10? My marriage really brought a lot of challenges to the ministry but those challenges ended up building me and making me who I am today.
So why would they use your marriage against you? Were they people who were secretly interested in having you as a husband but got disappointed and so trying to bring you down? Or is it that your wife had an attitude?
These were people I never offended before my marriage and till now I cannot say precisely what was my offence. All I noticed was that they all left the ministry. But I also know that marriage is a thing of choice, you marry who you want and not who other people want you to marry. So if I had chose to marry a cripple or a blind that was left for me, and not any body’s business. My wife was very new in the ministry and nothing much was known about her by members. In fact, she joined us in 2009, that same year I proposed to her. To me, Uju was quite younger and more presentable and I had this inner prickling that she was God-sent. So I went for her. May be people didn’t expect that it will happen so sudden, may be they had other expectations, I do not know but all I started to hear was that my wife was too beautiful to be real; that she probably was a mermaid spirit and that she had hypnotised me with some kind of demonic spirit.
But I looked at my wife and I never saw her as a mermaid spirit because I actually was the one that usually cast out such spirits from people, so I couldn’t have allowed a woman with mermaid spirit to live with me. But I ran to God and the Lord helped me. And so today I am doing better not in terms of quantity but in quality of people that surround me now. I now have personalities who are more responsible, reasonable and great achievers. Now I can do a lot of things without stress. Within the period I was controlling that huge crowd, I could rent a good apartment, I was living with somebody in his one room for like a year but today I live in a six-bedroom duplex, which I paid for without much stress.
So what lessons have you learned in from your experience so far?
Within the period I had this problem I never really understood what it was, I decided to run to some men of God for counsel but unfortunately I discovered that a lot of the purported men of God were not genuine. I realised that a lot of people carry Bible today in name of working for God but on the other hand, they go into a lot of diabolical stuff because of fame and materialism. When I had that issue, and sought for counsel, a number of so called men of God almost persuaded me to get initiated into some demonic cult.
Do you know some people have a way they barb their hair in their churches because of the cult their founder belongs? When the man began to tell me that this were the things I was going to do and that I was no longer going to grow hairs, I quickly realised I was gunning for trouble and I said to myself: ‘How can I save my ministry and then become an occult?’ And a lot of men of God have fallen victims of this. They are oblivious of the fact that God, at times allow His servants to go through persecution and tough time so that they would become better and stronger like I have become today. So when you are going through tough times as a child of God, just hold on to God and never go out of his leadings.
What are the high points of your 10th anniversary celebration?
We are not holding any elaborate ceremony but we are going to use that day to share love, especially to the widows and orphans. We would gather a lot of gifts from members and friends to share with one another to celebrate the glory of God in our lives.