Last week, Christian worshipers besieged Lagos for â€˜365 Hallelujahsâ€™, writesPeter UzohoÂ On November 23, Americans marked Thanksgiving, a ceremony which began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln urged his fellow citizens to express gratitude for a pivotal victory at Gettysburg that kept the American nation undivided.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, the last month of the year â€“ December â€“ is usually a time to express thanksgiving, as individuals, groups and even corporate organisations enter into the spirit of the yuletide season, expressing gratitude for the gifts of life.
For the religious, the gratitude graduates into the breathtaking realm as churches organise special worship sessions, carol concerts and praise marathons, honouring the God who has kept them alive and kicking this far.
This was why, on the night of December 1, the sight of a thousand-strong mass choir, comprising 546 adult choristers, 350 youths and kids as well as dozens of drummers and instrumentalists filing out on one gigantic stage and delivering sundry songs and cantatas, was not exactly surprising.
Resplendent in their yellow ankara uniforms, the choristers serenaded, with spirit-filled songs, the tens of thousands of congregants that flooded the expansive Ikorodu Town Hall on that fateful night with scintillating, yet entertaining songs in different languages. The spectacle was awe-inspiring; the rendering, breathtaking.
The event was the annual â€˜Convocation to Praise: A Night of 365 Hallelujahsâ€™ hosted by Joy Cometh Ministries, the one-year-old Ikorodu-based mission changing lives of youths and adults in that part of Lagos.
Founded by its Senior Pastor, OlaitanAromolaran in November 2016, Joy Cometh Ministries is on Ebute-Igbogbo Road in Ikorodu. It hosts a number of weekly and annual programmes, including â€˜Over to God,â€™ which is scheduled for January 20 to January 28 next year, and â€˜Helping Hand,â€™ a deliverance programme every Thursday morning.
Last Friday, no fewer than 30, 000 people thronged the expansive grounds of Ikorodu Town Hall where the programme took place. The participants came from all over the country. Some flew in from Europe and North America. Every single space on the premises was taken up by the excited participants. And when the 25, 000 chairs arranged were filled up, thousands elected to sit on the bare floor. Finding no more space inside, thousands of others sat on the fence or stood on the balconies of adjoining storey buildings. Many other late comers stood on nearby streets, watching proceedings from giant screens mounted around the area. All the roads leading to the town hall soon became impassable, and many guests had to walk to the venue after abandoning their vehicles at some relatively safe place.
â€˜Convocation to Praiseâ€™ started in 2012 while Aromolaran was a senior pastor and provincial evangelist at Redeemed Christian Church of God handling the popular Covenant of Peace Parish, Ikorodu. According to the Igbole-Ekiti-born preacher, it was a specific instruction from God to him to gather thousands of souls together annually at the Ikorodu Town Hall to shout hallelujah 365 times. He has continued the tradition after starting his own ministry last year. This yearâ€™s was the sixth edition.
The programme commenced at about 8.30 pm with a performance by the Joy Cometh Praise Team which treated the crowd to diverse gospel songs. For one hour, Apala, Fuji, Highlife, Juju and contemporary tunes with gospel flavour streamed forth seamlessly from the giant speakers mounted within and outside the premises. This was followed by opening prayers by the wife of the senior pastor, Pastor YemiAromolaran. A performance by some kids, all members of the Joy Cometh Junior Church, swiftly followed.
Shortly after, Pastor OlasunkanmiOriola mounted the stage to give the first charge. The preacher welcomed the congregants and explained the significance of Hallelujah in the life of every Christian. He urged the crowd to give their lives to Christ to get the maximum blessings from the Almighty.
After performances by the Joy Cometh Drama Team, song ministration by the Junior Church, a dance drama by the group, Footprints of David and songs by the mass choir, the first set of 73 shouts of Hallelujah reverberated in streets far from the venue, coordinated by Pastor Akosile.
The following Bible reading was taken from the Book of Psalms, chapter 103. A praise extravaganza was performed by Sister Abioye, after which Pastor Agadagba led the second set of 73 Hallelujahs. There was also a special number by Sister Tina.
The testimony time at the programme would not be forgotten in a hurry by the participants. Several people testified to the miracles done by God in their lives after past editions of Convocation to Praise. A particular testimony held everyone spellbound. The woman narrated how she couldnâ€™t conceive 20 years into her marriage. Two years ago, she attended the programme where she met Pastor Aromolaran and requested prayers to overcome her childless state. She said the pastor told her that God would surprise her. The following year, she attended the programme with a set of twins.
At the programme last year, she narrated to the pastor how her prayers had been answered, but Aromolaran informed her that God was not done with her yet. Last Friday, she brought her new set of triplets to the altar, each baby carried by herself, her husband and a protocol officer in the ministry. In all, she got five babies in two years.
Another woman spoke of how she was told by medical experts in India that her baby born with a congenital heart disease was untreatable. She was told, in unequivocal terms, that the baby would soon die. The woman said she brought the baby back to Lagos where Pastor Aromolaran told her that God would surprise the Indian experts. Today, she said, the baby is more than two years old, and the hole in her heart has miraculously vanished.
The third set of hallelujahs was coordinated by Apostle BolajiAkinyemi, while Prophet NiyiOlowoporoku led the fourth set of 73 hallelujahs. An African Praise Offering and a rendition by the mass choir was done before Pastor Aromolaran mounted the stage to coordinate the final set of 73 Hallelujahs.
He first apologised to those sitting on the bare floor for their inability to get chairs. He then told the participants that by coming to shout Hallelujah and give praises to God, the key to the door of success for 2018 had been handed to them. He informed them, however, that such would not happen, and their attendance at the meeting would be a waste if they continued in their sins. He invited those wishing to surrender their lives to Christ to come out, and many were those that rushed to the front of the altar where they were prayed for and encouraged to attend Bible-believing churches.
â€˜Convocation to Praise,â€™ according to Pastor Aromolaran, was a specific instruction by God. The pastor recalled that many years ago when he was just a member of the Redeemed Church, the General Overseer of the church, Pastor E. AAdeboye was holding a programme at the Ikorodu Town Hall, and Aromolaran got a befitting rug for the GO to use on the podium. Aromolaran later took the rug home, and it became his prayer mat. He recalled that while he was praying one day, God told him that he, Aromolaran would soon start assembling thousands of people at that same venue to shout 365 hallelujahs each year. He started the programme in 2012, and since then, it has held annually on the first Friday in December at Ikorodu Town Hall.