“Praise the Lord….,” a dark, stocky woman in a black flowery dress and a black beret shouted. The shout was so shrilling it pierced the eardrum, and so loud and prolonged that it echoed around the massive three-kilometre-by-three-kilometre auditorium, called the “Arena”.
It was on the Friday night of the 19th Holy Ghost Congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which held between December 5 and10. In church where handkerchiefs and anointing oil blessed by the General Overseer, Pastor E. A. Adeboye, heal terminal diseases, raise the dead, and where women without wombs get pregnant and deliver normal babies, the mood in some sections of the congregation was like “why is that lady shouting so much? What miracle haven’t we seen or heard before in this church?”
But when Moji Olutoyin, finished her testimony that Friday night, it earned God (Pastor Adeboye hates to take God’s credit) a thunderous ovation, with some people jumping and some others dancing in celebration of the power of God.
The Olutoyin story: “I’m here to give glory to God because once I was down, but now I can walk. On June 28, I realized I couldn’t walk. Two weeks before then, I was having back pains and I was taking many drugs, going from one hospital to another.
“From June 28, I was confined to the wheel chair and I had to leave Niger State to return home in Ogun State. On arrival I went for treatment at the General Hospital but I was referred to the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta. The doctors there referred me again to do MRI, which was to cost me sixty-five thousand naira.
“As I prepared for the MRI, the time this year’s last RCCG Convention drew closer, the pastor and other ministers of my church in RCCG Ogun Province 14 decided to bring me here in the Camp. The day we arrived, I saw Baba (Pastor Adeboye) close to where we were but I was in a wheel chair and couldn’t get closer to him.
“At that point, I felt hope draining out of me. But I stayed for the Convention, and participated in all the prayers. I was still lame when I got back home. But soon, one of my neighbours came visiting to say she had heard I could walk again, But I said I didn’t know about that.
“Soon after the question, I felt like going to easy myself. Then I felt like a heavy load had been removed from my body. After that I felt I could stand, and I stood up. I told my friend, “Mummy Segun, see I can stand by myself,” and she said she could see that. I started moving one step after another and that was it. I could walk again and still do as you all can see.
“The following day, I still went for the MRI and returned to the FMC, Abeokuta. The doctor was looking at me, stunned. He shouted my name, ‘Olutoyin!’ as if to be sure he was right. And I responded, ‘Yes, Sir, but not the Olutoyin in the wheelchair.’
“He asked me whether I was at the Redeemed Camp, and I confirmed.
“I thank God; I thank Pastor Adeboye for not letting me see shame by going from one herbalist to another. I give God all the glory and all the honour.”
“Praise God,” she shouted again, but this time the Arena erupted in applause.
Dignitaries at the Arena that night included: the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and his wife; Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and his wife; Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and his wife; and Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, amongst others.
Signs and Wonders
It is usually taken for granted, but the first of the signs and wonders at mega events of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), attended by millions of people, is the ant-kingdom-like orderliness and the accident-free nature.
Another is the thousands of people who answer the altar calls to give their lives to Jesus, and of course, the miracles. On that Friday, it was difficult to count the rapid stream of people to the altar from all corners of the Arena, but I tried to have a sense of it with the number of minutes it took all the people to leave the altar in various directions, not in a single file. It took well over three minutes!
The Rash of Words of Knowledge
Another highpoint of the day’s signs and wonders, which Pastor Adeboye told the congregation to note as a turning point in their lives, happened towards the end of the sermon, titled “Complete Restoration”, which was also the theme of the Congress. Many of the miracles in the church are announced ahead as a Word of Knowledge from God. This early morning on Saturday, as he tried to close the sermon at around 3 a.m, there was a rash of words of knowledge. Pastor Adeboye felt like stopping not to keep the Congregation too long, but when he told them, they urged him on.
He had anticipated the surge of anointing and desired to impact it on the congregation, but unlike years ago when he could lay hands, it would perhaps have taken a whole day for him to do that. He personally anointed handkerchiefs and delegated his many pastors to anoint people with them. In the RCCG, there is usually no jah, jah drama of people shouting, jumping and falling during such moments, but as in Olutoyin’s testimony and many other big ones shared during the Congress, miracles do happen.
Pastor Adeboye doesn’t joke with the Word of Knowledge himself. Even if he did, it must have been erased years ago by his encounter with God, during a huge programme at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. He recalled the incident during the Congress:
“At that event God said to me, ‘There is a woman here whose armpit has feathers instead of hairs. If she will come out I will take care of it.’ I have to confess to you that I doubted this myself. I thought to myself, O God! Daddy, we have had a wonderful time. Why don’t You just let us go home? I mean this will spoil the whole show now. If I call this woman and she does not come out, people will say, “You see he’s overreached himself.” But I knew who was speaking, so I made the announcement.
I pleaded with the woman, ‘Don’t be shy. If you don’t come out I will understand, but you may never get this opportunity again ….’ Before I could finish speaking, an inconspicuous woman stumbled out of the crowd to the altar. Glory be to God. Hallelujah! After we prayed for her – my wife and I – she went back to her seat. The look on my wife’s face spoke volumes. She must have been thinking, This woman probably has no idea what has happened. May be she didn’t understand what we said. But when it came to testimony time, the woman came out and said, “Glory be to God. Hair has now grown (in my armpit) in place of feathers.” Surprisingly, she spoke Queen’s English. You could not link her spoken English to her looks.”
Happy New Year in December
Although Pastor Adeboye says Saturdays of the Congress, when he holds anointing service with Holy Communion, are the best days of the week-long event. Fridays, however, seem to be the peak, with the auditorium filled to the brim with people from all around the world.
That was what this Friday turned out to be. Pastor Adeboye called it a special night; an extra-ordinary night – the type never seen before. And it lived up to the billing. Prophecies and Word of Knowledge, which people jumped to claim, rang out ceaselessly. And, when he told the congregation to shake hands and wish each other Happy New Year, it was done promptly with excitement.
Wiser from my last experience of a Friday event, I set off very early from Lagos. The light traffic along the route then aided my plan but from the point one veered away from the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the signs of the day became obvious. The sight of happy volunteers directing traffic in the scorching sun was humbling, querying me about what I offer God in return for His goodness and mercy.
And to my shock, the sight of a sea of cars welcomed me from afar. Car parks were more than half-filled. I was made to park several metres from the Arena, but walking up the slope wasn’t the problem. Human traffic was so heavy, at times one couldn’t see where one’s next step would land him. It was a slow-flowing stream of people uphill, during which I amused myself with the story of a girl who swore she would never go to the Balogun market in Lagos during festive seasons. She had said the last time she did with her Mum, the crowd was so heavy along narrow walkways that she felt she was in motion but her feet didn’t touch the ground. Mine did that Friday, but I could hardly see ahead of me. And the fact that even in such circumstances, there has never been a stampede is in itself a miracle.
With that steady stream of people feeding the Arena, it was not surprising to find it seating an already large congregation at 4p.m when I got in. The mood was already solemn, with many people praying around the altar.
Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, Senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church, kicked off the night with the high energy level characteristic of him. And from one event to another the night progressed towards the crescendo. Praise and worship songs from the Church’s Mass Choir and other performers lit up moods and the spirit. President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Felix Omobude preached; delegates from all the continents were recognized; more songs, including a theme song, followed and as was the usual routine on all the days, Professor Aboaba, still looking strong and alert for his age, announced Pastor Adeboye’s session.
The theme of the week-long Congress was “Complete Restoration” backed by a biblical passage, Joel 2; 25-27 which was read slowly for emphasis every day of the Congress by Pastor Adeboye.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the LORD your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.
Key take-home messages of the Congress were that:
As God made provisions for after Adam’s sin and fall, there is always opportunity for restoration for those who give their lives to Christ, live holy lives and are obedient to God, doing His will. Every Christian is entitled to miracles, and those who continue to live in sin and are not born again cannot receive miracles because miracles come from God, who is holy; With that God plays His part of the restoration and blessings, which goes with protection, good health, provision, abundance, among others; Restoration is a process; Sin is disobedience, which causes a barrier between God and man; and God says resist the devil and he will flee. Since God will not assign you what you can’t do, it means the devil can be resisted.
Pastor Adeboye does a lot of Bible teaching at other occasions, but as he admitted in his sessions during the Congress, they are for prayers. And there were lots of it and miracles.
Revealing the origin of the Holy Ghost Service, Pastor Adeboye said: “Some 29 years ago, I was in London preparing the Sunday school booklet for the mission when I heard from God. He said, ‘Son, what do you want for your birthday?’
“I was shocked. The reason I was shocked was that: I didn’t know God would be interested in my birthday, and secondly, I didn’t know He could be asking me about what I wanted as present.
“So I said, ‘Lord if that is you, please repeat the question.’
“He assured me it was Him and asked again what I wanted as a birthday present.
“I replied, ’What I want is that all my members will get miracles.’
“He asked, ‘Is that’s all?’
“I replied ‘That’s all I want.’
“Then He said, ‘In that case when you get home, call them together and I will give them whatever they ask for.’
“I needed to call the service a name, so I asked Him and He said: ‘Holy Ghost Service.’
“What happened at the first Holy Ghost Service was wonderful. And when we finished, my people came to me to request that I consult God for the service to hold every year. God granted the request.
“But after some time, members of the church suggested that I should request for a monthly Holy Ghost Service. And on and on, it has grown.”
During the Congress, 21 babies – 16 boys and 15 girls – were delivered as at Friday.
Some 30 years after the Holy Ghost programme was birthed, the Arena, which had become a necessity to host multitudes of worshipers, emptied itself after the Saturday anointing service, to prepare for another mega event.
Guest preachers who took turns to preach during the week were Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo, Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Prophet Kayode Abiara, General Evangelist, Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, Papa Ayo Oritsejafor, and Pastor Wale Oke (who Pastor Adeboye calls his personal prophet).
Others are Dr Felix Ilaweagbon Omobude, the President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, and United States-based, Indian preacher and senior pastor of Covenant Family Church, Pastor Stephen Rathod, a spiritual son of the founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Rev. Josiah Akindayomi.
––Daniels is an author, writer and journalist