Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha write that the Senior Pastor of The Rock Cathedral, Paul Adefarasin through his charity, Project Spread is putting smiles on the faces of the less privileged in the society, especially at Christmas
As early as 7:00 am, a motley crowd were convened at Christ Cathedral Church School on Broad Street, Lagos Island. Mostly middle aged women with children, these women came from different parts of central Lagos to benefit from the largesse of the Rock Cathedral.
In its usual tradition, the church through its charity arm, Project Spread donates food items and health supplements to the less privileged in various communities across the country where the church operates. It is one of the ways the church is putting smiles on the face of the poor and needy in the society, who ordinarily may have been subsumed in gloom during the festive period due to their disadvantaged situation.
Usually held a week after the church’s largest musical concert, The Experience, Project Spread is beginning to take a life of its own, as the good news of the gifts handed out to less privileged spreads like wildfire. Both old and young struggle to gain access to the charity.
That particular Saturday morning, the security guards had to deploy all manner of disciplinary measures to keep the crowd from being chaotic. Despite their efforts, the crowd became rowdy and restless. They shoved one another, holding up their access cards. Project Spread was initiated to the true meaning of Christmas, through preaching the gospel and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, which Christians consider as the ultimate gift of God to humanity.
Those who gained access earlier were already in worship mood. They sang their hearts to the Supreme One, thanking Him for his blessings throughout the year, and of course, the ones they were about to receive. Little children milled round the Santa Claus grotto, where they would later be handed their Christmas gifts and allowed to play with toys. Their puzzled look betrayed it was a first time experience. They had no familiarity with the bulky, white-bearded figure, better known as Father Christmas.
Some of the women tried to persuade the church health personnel present to give them access to the medical care before its scheduled time, but their request was declined, as the officials insisted the women must wait for the planned commencement.
On arrival, the Senior Pastor of The Rock Cathedral, Paul Adefarasin in the company of his wife, Ifeanyi, addressed the gathering, urging them to give their lives to Christ. He cited himself as an example of God’s grace and prayed that none of them will remain in their pitiable situation next year. The charity was simultaneously run in other communities across the state. This year, the communities visited include Mushin, Ikeja and Elegushi.
Going by the large turnout, the poverty rate in Nigeria seems to show no sign of declining. Part of the reason can be attributed to the over reliance on government to curb poverty. Adefarasin thinks wealthy individuals, the church and similar institutions should demonstrate love for the less-privileged.
“We can’t rely on government to do everything. Government is supposed to create enabling environment, then faith based-organisations, NGOs, not-for-profit organisations are to take the responsibility to care for the needy. They have to be good corporate citizens. Nigeria is not an easy place right now. All hands have to be on deck to alleviate the suffering and pain of the underprivileged in the society. It has to be more than food. It is about creating opportunities for enlightenment and education,” he said.
He added that the church has other initiatives that address the needs of the less privileged. “You can’t reach the spirit of man until you first touch their lives. We want to go further than giving them fish. We want to teach them how to fish. We have Operation Feed which is feeding, empowering and enabling people to take them to their destinies. We give skills acquisition across different fields because we want them to have a meaningful, productive and a life that they can afford to educate their children”, he added.