Twenty-five years after the sudden demise of the founder of Faith Revival Ministries World Outreach aka Victory Christian Church, Bishop Harford Anayo Iloputaife, his widow, Dr. Nkechi, in this interview with MARY NNAH, shared the challenges she faced after his demise, her pet projects, as well as a forthcoming programme tagged “Celebration of the Legend” put in place to celebrate the life and times of her late husband, and other sundry issues. Excerpts;
Let’s talk about the forthcoming programme tagged, “Celebration of the Legend”
Bishop Harford AnayoIloputaife was the ‘real deal’. He loved God unreservedly and served people selflessly. He was passionate about his call. ‘Church is about people, and I will give my life for it’ reveals his philosophy and principles. He combined ministry and family life well, there was no dichotomy. Though ministry was busy, he found creative ways for his family members. He believed ones’ dedication to God should not be at the expense of his family life. Devotion to God should be seen in our commitment to family life so; he was a great preacher and a great husband.
The legend will live in the heart of everyone that truly knew him forever. He was such a phenomenon, a very interesting person to meet. He exemplified Christlikeness in his brief passage, and left a legacy of faith with us. We are celebrating charisma, character, integrity, class etc. His departure was sudden, we were not prepared for it and the crisis introduced more issues that are anything but benign from betrayals and abandonment to conspiracy and intimidation by the powers that be to say the least.
In the natural, the ministry didn’t have a chance of survival, but 25 years after, we are still here to the glory of God. In celebrating the legend, the vessel God used to establish this commission who created the spiritual content that has kept this ministry focused on God and His Word, we celebrate God’s goodness and, greatness and faithfulness. Only God could have done this.
What does this event really mean to you as a widow, host and the ministry?
I am very grateful to God for the opportunity to celebrate 25 years of widowhood, He fought my battles. I was shattered, wounded and abandoned. My future and that of Victory Christian Church was bleak. Some people took advantage of that to create mayhem. Though, I was named the Vice President of the ministry from the beginning, when it didn’t look anything but a child’s play. While he was alive, my office and person enjoyed the respect and the honour of my status. But it was different without him. I had to deal with gender discrimination, plight of widowhood and the loneliness of leadership. Severally in the first five years, I tried to quit, but God won’t let me, and Bishop Mike Okonkwo was of great encouragement.
In 1995, we had the flagship church in Victory Village, Onitsha in Anambra State; Isolo in Lagos; Owerri in Imo State and Port Harcourt in Rivers State on rented properties. Today, we have 18 churches in their very choice properties except one. This number may not impress everyone but I am very grateful to God for His grace and mercy. I had to deal with enemies inside and outside, diabolical machinations and stiff satanic oppositions not to mention the harassment and intimidation from the powers that be. I am not where I want to be, but I am very thankful of God’s help these past 25 years. We have entered our Jubilee period having waited out the troubled times which God has turned to His treasures. I am celebrating jubilee.
The sudden vacuum created by your late husband’s transition to glory marked your leadership for 25 years, how challenging has this been?
Quite frankly, it has not been a stroll in the park, but God has been present the whole time. He promised to help me and He did. Generally, leadership across every spectrum is challenging, but the circumstance of gender discrimination is the fundamental problem in my case. God has continued to defend my authority with bold statements of supports in many ways. He is truly the Husband of the widow, and I will continue to depend on Him for every step of the way ahead.
This celebration also marks 25 years of my leadership. Haters will criticise me for my mistakes, but before you do, remember I was the chief mourner and did not have a prior preparation for the sudden vacuum. Trust me, God who put me on that seat anticipated the mess and used it anyway. Don’t you think God would have used a man if He wanted, but He chose a woman? With God it is not about gender but grace. My husband raised me to believe that what a man can do spiritually, a woman can as well because grace and anointing are not gender specific. I celebrate God’s help these 25 years so come celebrate with me. I am sure my husband will join well-wishers to celebrate God’s grace upon my life as we kick start the event on February 1.
What role would the bishop play in Nigeria and the body of Christ if he were to be around?
He was legendary! He actually lived many years ahead of himself. He said things would not get better in Nigeria and around the world because God is shaking and challenging every system that perpetuates its glory above the Glory of God. He was a Prophetic voice. He emphasised that the only way out for the church is faith in the unadulterated Word of God. He upheld the whole counsel of God, but he was post redemption.
His character of integrity and excellence would have qualified him as one of the few voices of God in the Christian Community and in the nation. This is the main reason for the satanic and political conspiracy to take him out. But it wouldn’t have happened if God did not permit it. He lived for God and spoke out for Him in his brief but impactful passage. God measures life by significance not duration. It will be a wasted life to God for one to live a long time for the devil and to perpetuate his personal glory.
Let’s talk about the church and the state of the nation, where are we?
The church seems to have lost its bearing because of the impact of corrupt and inept leadership. A major component of leadership is influence which the church has lost and therefore has become marginalised. The leaders are occupied with competitive jealousy, self-gratification and aggrandisement, and have had to compromise true Christianity. Syncretism has actively become part of the church today. Our reputation is at an alarming low. We have lost our voice.
The decade of 2020, is the period of God’s Glory. It will be marked by divine visitation. The church will come into alignment with God’s agenda in preparation for the Rapture. God is always on top of His game.
The political landscape of the nation as well as the economy needs the help of God. The problem of the nation is largely traceable to the failure of the church to live up to its mandate and provide spiritual leadership as the ‘Salt and Light’. But God has plan for Nigeria!
Very importantly, generational shift… where are the children born and raised in the church for governance and leadership, especially when the church has abandoned her tasks towards godly families.
The erosion of godly values in human families have compromised proper child upbringing which has impacted negatively on the human society. Generational shift has always been part of God’s eternal order. Psalms 145:4. Children are God’s link to successive human generations.
God is eternal and humans are transient and as such, every plan of God for mankind must have a provision for carrying it to successive generations, and children are the link. The mood of the 21st Century is not God-friendly, and the impact of Information Technology and social media has exacerbated the erosion of godly values.
The family is the bedrock of every institution, the first human institution given to mankind by God. It is the first platform for inculcating values and ethics, and the first unit of socialisation. God gave the church the mandate and authority to uphold family values, so it is the first responsibility of the church to intentionally crusade family values. The pastor’s family should mirror commitment to family life. Church life should be organised around family life.
The church must be strategic and intentional with their programme content. We can employ contemporary methods to drive church growth and widen our scope of evangelisation to reach the young ‘unchurched’ demographic of the society without compromising the spiritual content. The church needs the wisdom of God to balance the sacred and secular deliberately or we run amuck, and loose our future leaders who are to uphold godly legacies.
What should people expect from the event?
The event is designed to celebrate God’s greatness and faithfulness, and the memory of His servant every Sunday in February which was his month of birth, death and burial. We have invited some of the leaders that were present in his life, and his friends and colleagues in the College of Bishops created by Archbishop Benson Idahosa, our father of very blessed memory of which such personalities as Bishop David Oyedepo are a part of. My brother and our friend Rev Dr Emiko Amotsuka will be there as usual. Archbishop Joseph Ojo will be speaking. To close the celebration on the last Sunday of the month, which is February 23, Bishop Mike Okonkwo. The Sunday services will hold at 9am at Victory Village opposite Trade Fair Complex, Badagry Expressway, Lagos.
Also, to commemorate his memory, every Wednesday throughout the month, we will have an interactive session on dating, courtship and marriage at 5pm same venue. He was dedicated to this subject in his time here. He addressed other subjects such as politics and maximised manhood. We expect to receive these eminent personalities, and the grace of God upon their lives will bless the august gathering of God’s people. The memory of the Just is blessed. Proverbs 10:7.
The general public are all invited to come celebrate with us as you cried with us 25 years ago. February 18, 1995 was the day the man of God was laid to rest. The motorcade that escorted him from Ikeja to his final resting place invited the stillness and serenity of Heaven. There was a Holy hush throughout the nation. As soon as the casket was lowered, he was saluted by a brief shower. On that day, Nigeria stood still, even the government of the day was not at peace. Contractors across all religions whose services were contracted for Victory Village including the road safety authority of our area mourned with tears. The church community mourned. Come celebrate God’s Goodness with us. God kept us!
I especially invite everyone of Victory heritage to come celebrate their Papa. You can only have one spiritual father but many instructors. 1st Corinthians 4:15. See you there!
Have you forgiven those who murdered your husband?
Sure I have! Forgiveness is freedom
How would you describe yourself?
I revere God, and love Him with all my heart, mind and strength. I cannot compromise this for anything.
What led you to set up your empowerment scheme where widows are trained with vocational skills and scholarship awards given to children?
Widows and their families are neglected. But God is concerned about this demographic of the society. James 1:27. The word of God says empowering widows and their children is true measure of obedience to God and prove of practical Christianity. The government and the church must look into the plight of widows and their families; they are part of our society. I am trusting God for provisions to enable me do more. It’s a good thing to do!
What is your advice to Christian women, some of whom are leaders in various churches?
To fear God, make His word final authority, and spend time with Him through His word and prayer. Be sure to avoid shortcuts. Don’t fake it, be the real deal. Secondly, believe in yourself, be sure in your own skin and don’t compete with anyone. By all means be and do you. Finally, don’t apologise for being a leading woman, with God it is not about gender but grace.
Would you advise that Christians go into politics?
Yes, if God called them for governance. It is not enough to pray for change, but participating and persevering in the process is part of the Christian Cultural Mandate. Matthew 5:13-14. Jesus gave His church a leadership mandate. The church needs a new transformation theology to equip Christians participate in the process of change in the society they are all called to serve.
What is the way forward for the church, the government and believers?
God ordained all authorities to promote unity and peace in the human society. Romans 13:1-7. The spiritual and civil authorities are ordained to work together for the good of all. A good Christian should be a good citizen; it is part of the believer’s cultural mandate to lead an honest and godly life as the image bearers of Jesus Christ. The signs of the end are upon us, God is shaking every human system to set the stage for His glory in these last days before the rapture. Habakkuk 2:12-16. The pressure all human systems face today is an indication that humans are not in control, but God is. All flesh must seek the Glory of the God of Heaven.