By Dele Momodu; firstname.lastname@example.org
Fellow Nigerians, let me say how delighted I feel right now that I made the trip to Israel this past week. Israel is not new to me just like I’m not new to Israel. In addition, I have good friends from that small, but extremely powerful nation. I will return to that shortly, as this trip was full of drama.
Let’s begin with Act 1, Scene 1. I had no intention of heading to Israel at this time, my studies in Oxford and a couple of projects in Nigeria and Ghana meant that travelling to that side of the world was not in my consciousness at all. However, God must have planned the journey without my knowledge. The trip dropped itself on my laps without warning.
I had received a call from one of the most prayerful and extremely benevolent women of God, Reverend Mother Abimbola Esther Ajayi, popularly known by her moniker, Iya Adura, who incidentally had invited and taken me to Jerusalem, between 2017 and 2018. On the trip I got introduced to a very efficient tour operator, Shadia, who took good care of all of us.
The call from Iya Adura, with whom I talk almost daily on several issues, this time was at the instance of Shadia who wanted an introduction and recommendation to the incredibly popular Prophet, Temitope Balogun Joshua (T.B. Joshua), who has been a long-time friend and Brother of mine. Iya Adura apparently told Shadia she has no contact for or association with T. B Joshua but mentioned my name as one person that can definitely reach Prophet T. B Joshua who happens to be one of the most sought-after human beings in Africa, and beyond. So, Mama called, and I swung into action immediately.
I started by calling all the numbers I had for Prophet T. B Joshua but couldn’t reach him directly. I left messages but got no instant response. However, two days later he sent a text that he’d also been trying my numbers in Nigeria, Ghana and the United Kingdom since the day before upon seeing my calls and messages. I obviously did not recognize the number he was calling from and I did not get to reply immediately. I quickly called him, and we spoke with our usual conviviality. I told him the reason I wanted to speak to him, and he requested for Shadia’s number with automatic alacrity and promised to reach out to her instantly. I felt greatly honoured that such an incredibly busy man could accord me such respect. To my utter amazement, I confirmed from Shadia minutes later that he reached out to her as promised.
I thought that was all. My introduction and task were over, I withdrew into my shell, but it was not to be for long. Days later, I got a call from Prophet T. B Joshua asking me to join him on his trip to Nazareth for a powerful crusade. There was no way I could have said no to him. I immediately accepted his invitation. I promised to travel from London to Israel as I had to return to the University of Oxford where I have been on Fellowship. He promised to call back and we spoke a few more times before the journey.
Act 1, Scene 2. All was set and I seriously looked forward to visiting the birthplace of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the day of travel, I arrived London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 early, as I always do. I hate to arrive late to the airport like some people do and start rushing and panting. The best part of the journey for me is exhaustively making use of the lounges of airlines like Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. You can do with a bit of pampering before you fly. Well, at least I can! On this occasion, I was flying with British Airways and once through the departure formalities I promptly went into the Concorde Lounge and buried myself into the sheer luxury that the it has to offer.
After leaving the lounge on this special day, I boarded my flight early and settled down comfortably in my seat. Then a message flew in from my cousin that there were reports of possible trouble for Prophet T. B Joshua in Nazareth. I opened the link and there were tales of different groups including Christians, Rabbis and Muslims, objecting seriously to the planned crusade by T. B Joshua. I foresaw an apocalypse ahead but knowing myself well enough, I was actually energized and more determined to witness whatever would happen on the day. Journalists are like soldiers; we love and revel in action and the big news.
I landed in Tel Aviv late evening of June 21, 2019, but due to the long walk to Immigration desks and the queues, I only managed to pick my bags past midnight and arrived the Ramada Hotel, in Nazareth, at a time most normal people were fast asleep and probably snoring away. Throughout my taxi drive to Nazareth, I was on the lookout for any sign of trouble but saw none at all. The events were billed to start on June 23 and end on June 24. I went to bed dog-tired and barely struggled to wake up for breakfast at about 10a.m.
Not much happened until D-Day, June 23. There was palpable tension because of the negative news that had gone viral. Will the crusade go on or not was the million-dollar question on every lip? But the organizers were unperturbed. They went about their duty with every sense of purpose and responsibility. Nothing was left to chance. Security was top of the agenda. They were determined not to let anyone come to constitute a nuisance. On a regular day, Israel never jokes with Security not to talk of an unusual day such as this.
You must give it to T. B Joshua, he meticulously executed this project. His team was just superb. The attendees came from different parts of the world. Wow, we seem to underrate T. B Joshua back home. Without sounding profane, he is regarded and treated like a supernatural being in Israel. He is adored and worshipped with great fervour indeed. When I landed at Tel Aviv airport, several people asked me with admiration and enthusiasm if I had come for T. B Joshua’s program. I was so proud that a fellow Nigerian has succeeded in capturing the imagination of this part of the world in this manner.
Act 1, Scene 3. The event started slowly at about 4pm with some soul-lifting and stirring music by the choir assembled as a potpourri of Arabs and Africans. It came to a crescendo when T. B Joshua came in humbly, but powerfully, in his usual garb of shirt and trousers. He looked so majestic and mercurial even in his simplicity. He climbed the stage and grabbed the microphone and the audience roared as he began to teach like a true follower of Christ and the Holy Bible that he is. His theme for this first session was about love and he quoted copiously about love from the holy book to the excitement and adulation of the throngs of people massed and gathered to watch, listen and worship with him. He told them to love those who hate and despise them, no matter how difficult that seems.
His opening words were dramatic and foreshadowed the intense passion that was to follow. “My name is T. B Joshua. Some people call me Prophet. Some call me Pastor… They have given me different titles, but all I know is that my name is T. B Joshua. That is enough for me…” The crowd went wild in ecstatic jubilation at the simplicity of his introduction of his person. After a few minutes, the prophet came down and came out to be closer and interact with his followers. Miracle seekers had jammed the place in droves. They came from far and near, with all manner of challenges and disabilities. The Prophet who obviously was used to this was unruffled. He told them to have faith in the power of Jesus Christ to deliver them from all evil. He told them all diseases are the handiwork of the devil, but that the Lord, being a merciful, loving and benevolent God would come down to heal them, provided they believed in God as their Lord and Saviour.
Then they were lined up in rows and the Prophet started laying hands on them. Even before touching some of them, they were already reacting with spasms and seemed to be under the control and influence of some supernatural being. He started touching them, and some fell down, some screamed, some rolled on the floor and some did a combination of these things. Some were thanking God for healing them instantly. Some begged him to have mercy on them. T. B Joshua has totally matured into his evangelical work. It was wonderful and inspiring watching him at work. Meanwhile, his wife, Lady Evelyn, stood solidly behind him like the Rock of Gibraltar and assisted as required. The event ended at about 9p.m without any hitch. The Prophet of the Lord, T. B. Joshua performed miracles and touched hundreds of devotees during the event. The event was simply epochal, and I felt truly privileged to have been a part of it.
Act 2, Scene 1. The second day came and followed the same pattern. In his preaching, T. B Joshua revealed how he had visited Mount Precipice three years ago and was shocked to find the place overgrown with weeds. He had promised at the time to turn the place around and make it into an Eldorado. He showed the video of how desolate and forlorn the place looked at the time. True to his word, T. B. Joshua has radically changed and altered the place and its environment, turning it into a magnificent and powerful amphitheatre for the worship of God. In doing this, he has not only built a testament to the glory of God, he has created direct and indirect employment for hundreds of people and become a wealth creator and facilitator for this little historical and biblical part of Nazareth, as most of Nazareth is. Indeed, it is no longer a site of rejection as the Bible tells us but a site of regeneration and hope. Pope Benedict who worshipped there with more than 40,000 people would be glad to see that today, T B Joshua has restored this monument to the glory that it should have and more besides.
In the course of our visit, I was invited to his office, he had many rooms and tents all over the mountain and wherever I went to I saw the awesome work and wonder of the Man of God. We discussed the magnitude of his work for a few minutes before I departed to the hotel. I left with a better picture and appreciation of a T. B Joshua to whom we don’t seem to give enough respect at home. With what I saw, heard and learnt, I have come to believe that he has suffered too many unjustified insults and tribulations back home.
My take is that religion is a voluntary act. Joshua has never forced anyone to worship with him against that person’s wish or to attend his Synagogue by compulsion. He has not coerced anyone into seeking to receive the miracles he professes to bring to people on behalf of God. Let me say, emphatically, that as far as I am concerned, he is the single biggest tourism attraction in Lagos. I expect Lagos State Government to tap into this goldmine by collaborating with Joshua and turning the roads leading to his place of worship into well maintained expressways. That is what Joshua himself has done in Mount Precipice, but laws, envy, lack of understanding and comprehension as well as the capriciousness of our leaders have made it impossible for him to replicate this feat in his own backyard. This is what would have happened in other climes.
If what I witnessed in Nazareth is anything to judge by, T. B Joshua has become a religious prodigy and icon. My taxi drivers in Nazareth swore by his name. I became a star myself by dropping his name. The newspapers were agog with the news of our Man of God as he spread the gospel at this unique and spectacular event. T B Joshua made me proud to be a Nigerian. It is not all gloom and doom.
I thank God on his behalf…