In Anambra, there is an increasing culture of churches giving back to the people, especially in this lockdown period necessitated by the threat of COVID-19. David-Chyddy Eleke who has covered many of such events reports
It is obviously a trying period for the country and its citizens. This condition is occasioned by the lockdown order announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in some states, and also the replication of such orders in most states. The order has left the large number of already impoverished people simply helpless, with many already complaining that the scourge of hunger was much worse than that of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
In the face of this, the church which is most commonly seen as a place of refuge for the common man has come to their teeming congregation’s aid. Though there have been criticisms about the propensity of the church to continually preach ‘giving’, without practicing same, but most churches have decided to take charge of its people.
Speaking during the Palm Sunday mass, the Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor who first sounded the need for churches to give back to its members and other poor members of the society, ordered all parishes within his diocese to immediately begin the provision of food for their poor parishioners as well as other indigent people around them.
Ezeokafor said it was about time the church initiated measures that would ameliorate the plights of their struggling parishioners, especially at this trying time of the pandemic, which has caused a lockdown in the economy. He said the mother church would continue to lead from the front and would not allow people’s faith in God to wane because of COVID-19.
He said, “COVID-19 has humbled everyone and also shown that God remained the beginning and the end. I enjoin all to pray ceaselessly at this trying time, and we will triumph at the end. COVID-19 has proven that we are mere mortals and that there is nothing extraodinary about humans.
“COVID-19 has humbled everyone including those who hitherto see no need to beckon on God for solution and help. What I take away from what is happening now is that God is still God and He is up there on His throne.
“I urge you all to give to those in need. We should learn to give at all times. A lot of people are living from hand to mouth. Many cannot feed very well let alone now that they are asked to sit-at-home. I feel for those people. We must find a way to assist them.”
As if to heed the call of the bishop, the spiritual director of Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke, Anambra state, Rev Fr Emmanuel Obimma immediately launched was he tagged a “food apostolate” as part of support to cushion the effect of COVID -19 pandemic. Food items worth over N10million, consisting of two lorry load of rice, a lorry load of yams and a lorry load of noodles, was distributed to over 4,000 poor members of the church resident in Anambra State. The distribution took place at his Parish Church, Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic Parish, Umudioka.
Expressing concern over the fate of the people in the face of the harsh economy, Obimma, who is also popularly known as Fr Ebubemuonso said, “I have emptied my personal bank account to make sure this happens and by God’s grace by next week Monday and again in two weeks time, I shall do another round of giving to the poor in our society. And I urge those who have to give out to others as givers never lack. I was overwhelmed when I saw over 4,000 people ready to collect food. I praised God that I thought it wise to do the food apostolate. I have taken the lead, others in the mission should follow.
“I am sure soon COVID-19 will be a thing of the past, because Jesus Christ died for us that we may live. I urge Nigerians and Christians to have hope in Jesus Christ. We shall overcome COVID-19 because with hope and faith, we are more than conquerors. COVID-19 shall come to an end. God heal Your people in Jesus name.”
Also, in a pentecostal church, Rhema Deliverance Mission, Awka, its pastor, Dr Amaechi Nwachukwu joined the number of churches that tried to ameliorate the plight of their members by donating bags of rice, bottles of vegetable oil and cash to members of the church to help mitigate the harsh impact of government’s order to Nigerians to stay at home to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Members of the church last Friday and Saturday thronged to the church premises, after Nwachukwu announced on the church’s Facebook handle, inviting members to come for food items in the church. The pastor said that the reason for the gesture was to ensure that members stayed well, even as they stayed at home.
He said, “To all the families worshipping at Rhema Deliverance Mission, Awka , you are by this notice invited to come to the Church from 10am tomorrow, Friday, April 3, 2020 to collect a small token from the church to support you in this trying period. The support will be given in families. We shall observe social distancing and hand sanitising. Everybody should not come at the same time. May God keep us alive to declare his good works in the land of the living, Amen,” he said.
THISDAY correspondent who covered the disbursement which took place on Friday reports that the exercise snowballed into Saturday as even non-members besieged the church for the food items, causing the pastor to place a fresh order for more. Members and non-members alike went home with two bags of five kg rice each, a bottle of vegetable oil and cash gift of N1,000.
Some members of the church who expressed happiness praised the pastor for his magnanimity, while also stating that he has proven that the church is not only a place to donate to, but has shown that the church cares for its members too.
One of the members, Mrs Blessing Obasi said,”He is the new pastor here, and has not even been two weeks he started pastoring the church before this COVID-19 broke out, forcing us all to stay at home. We thank him because he wants his members to stay alive and see the end of this scourge, and be alive to praise God again.”
More churches have also come out to express the same gesture as have been seen. Mr Joe Okpaligwe, a lawyer and member of a pentecostal church in Awka said, “these gestures are not strange. The church is an organisation and should be able to show care towards it members at trying periods like this. Business concerns do it as corporate social responsibility, so the church should too. It will not be the first time such is being done because we know churches that have helped their members in time of need. It is only pronounced now because people are in distress.”