Call the name of Prophet Temitope B. Joshua or his church, the Synagogue Church Of All Nations, it is sure to elicit divergent response from people who either question his powers and miracles or believe he is indeed an anointed man of God. Segun James recently visited the man and his church to find out more
For those who are propelled by adventure, sport, faith and the belief that God is nature, this is the place for you. An extraordinary place to experience the awesome power and glory of God amid nature.
Imagine a wildlife refuge in the heart of Lagos. Imagine this in the heart of the most built-up area of Lagos where the urban jungle is replicated every day; and the quest for wealth at all costs is the way of life is the new deal? Welcome to the Prayer Mountain, Ikotun-Egbe in Alimosho area of Lagos.
Alimosho is not only the most built-up area of the sprawling mega city-state of over 20 million people, over a quarter of the state’s population lives in Alimosho. It is the melting point of the super rich and dead poor.
To most people in Nigeria, three widely known situation tend to dominate the ensuing conversation about this part of Lagos. First, Alimosho is one of the highest density areas in the country; secondly, traffic here is tasking and it is the main cause of noise pollution, which is the hallmark of the area. A 20 kilometres drive could take three hours to complete.
Thirdly, it is the home of the Synagogue Church of All Nation (SCOAN) and its founder, Prophet T B Joshua. The man and the church are known for the miracles that are performed at every service. These extraordinary feats have attracted people from around the world, including presidents, sportsmen, celebrities and top business leaders.
I’ve known the private thrill of standing where few people ever went; of experiencing some wonders of the world in my many travels. This now brings me to the question, how many of us based in a city like Lagos have ever gone into the woods to hear the chirping of the birds as they sing? How about the ducks as they quack or the monkeys as they hoot in the wild? Or the shy giraffe as it walks in its majesty unrestricted?
Today there is a chance for the man in Lagos to experience these natural wonders simply by stepping outside; with a visit to the Prayer Mountain at Alimosho.
To the world, the Wright Brothers enabled man to fly with the birds, but here at the Prayer Mountain in Ikotun, Prophet T B Joshua has enabled Lagosians to visit the wilderness without stepping out of the city. Now there is no physical mountain anywhere in Lagos. This is just the name the Joshua chose to name the swampy woodland where he began his ministry in 1989.
Most of us may never get to see nature’s greatest marvels in person. We won’t ever get a glimpse of the giraffe or the antelope in their majesty or the ostrich with eyes as big as a golf ball. The closest we will ever get to experience such wonders is through documentary programmes like NATGEO Wild on television.
Note that the Synagogue Church building is not only the tallest structure in Alimosho and its environs, but the design and murals around the building also make it to stand out for miles. The 10,000 capacity edifice is a beauty to behold.
I had the opportunity of visiting both the Synagogue and the Prayer Mountain which is barely a 10 minutes drive from each other. I and a select number of journalists had the opportunity of a two-hour discussion with Pastor T. B Joshua at the mountain. It was an exhilarating experience.
At the Prayer Mountain, Joshua created a forest within the city where several animals from all parts of the world roam freely among people from several parts of the world that have come to receive their miracle and encounter God. Although none of the animals in the forest are of the wild types like the lion or the crocodile, they certainly are rare to come into contact with in our part of the world.
At the Prayer Mountain is a lake where fishes of all kind swim freely even as most visitors can take a boat ride on the waters. In the middle of the lake is an island on which a helipad was built.
For those who want to have a quiet time while praying, a stroll along the walkway that surrounds the lake is serene, giving atmosphere for people to commune with their maker physically and spiritually. For those who cannot manage stroll, they can ride a bicycle. For the elderly and the physically infirm, there are motorised carts for them.
Within this commune, you have the two huts where the mission began. While Joshua was living in one, he was praying at the other. And then, there are two forests. One which symbolises a complete wilderness with the trappings of modern living, the other houses within it a library, internet facilities and other good things of modern living even as chicken and other fowls provide the music as they stroll.
There are also other conveniences nearby like the hostels, dining halls, a zoo, halls for meetings and swimming pools to make the facility conducive for all visitors.
But surprisingly, there is no medical centre here. It’s like it is taken for granted that when you are here nothing untoward can happen to you. This is a complete community on its own.
What could have motivated such a vision to create a wilderness in an urban area? Why in Ikotun when he could move to any choice areas of Lagos, especially where the rich and mighty could access the church? Why build such a magnificent library and Internet facility in a church?
For Joshua, “this is where I started. And I must have a library and a place where I can enjoy nature, not the air condition or fan, just nature as God created it. So having nature around you is very good. God is nature Himself and without nature, you cannot understand the Bible. Because the Bible is not history; when you are reading the Bible you are reading the Holy Spirit. So if you don’t allow nature when you are reading, you will be reading history.”
More revelation came when he disclosed that SCOAN has no branch anywhere in the country or the world. All contact with him and the church takes place at Ikotun and on Emmanuel Television, his highly successful television ministry. This was a surprise to me. He made it clear that he has no intention, for now, to build branches, except he is directed by God.
This is still steeped in his love for everything natural. “You need some places like this; where you leave everything outside and come and hear the cocks’ crow. But outside of here, whatever they are doing, you can’t hear because of the noise. So this place is very important to me, this is where I live, this is where I sleep and everything I do. If I want to meet people outside of here, I go outside.
“There is time for that, but because the Bible says that there is time to rest, time to work, time to rest is time to receive from God and time to work is time to give what you receive from God. And when you talk of time to rest, this is the best place to rest, not in the midst of technology or going to New York or travelling about but you rest in the midst of nature.”
We were told that it all started here for you, how did it start given that this place was a swamp? One of us dared to ask.
“This swamp is the rejected stone, God spoke to me and brought me here, I have been following God’s vision, mission. When I am out of God’s mission I am finished. That is why you cannot see me outside of here, you cannot hear me. What I want to show you now will leave you shocked. My brother saw it three days ago and was surprised.
“God’s time is the best and I always follow God’s time. So that is why I only called key people to show them this. So I have been following God’s time, that is why you will not see me preach every Sunday, or go on television to preach every day, I must hear from God before saying anything. Every time can be good for you and every time can be the best time for you, but for me, I must have a corresponding grace or power, because the Holy Spirit must suggest what to do before I do them, if not I will not be able to have God’s result.
“So this is why you are not seeing me out there; at weddings, social occasions, coming to your offices to grant interviews. This is the only church – the synagogue here in Ikotun. There is no other branch anywhere else in the world. But it touches everywhere in the world. So I am waiting for God to let me know if there will be branches or not, the important thing is that we should focus on building the people and not the church.”
When it was suggested to him that the Prayer Mountain is a tourist haven, Joshua says he is more interested in the spiritual aspect of the facility. He preferred that the facility remains hidden until God’s time to unveil it.
“The people will soon get to know about it. We are just waiting for God’s time. There are many things to be done in this place. We are at about 70 per cent completion rate. So if people should know about this place now, we will not be able to complete this job because it will cause distraction. When we are at about 95 per cent completion level, we will let people know. It is going to be by grace. It is not something you pay money for, you can come and see people moving and praying. So people will get to know, we are waiting for God’s time.”
About his family? Joshua has this to say: “I am very happy about this question. I have a wife and I have children, and even my first daughter is doing her PhD and my second daughter is doing her master’s degree in Oxford. In all, I have three daughters. The last one is still in secondary school. I would have loved my wife to be like me but I cannot make her what I am, it is God.
“I can’t anoint her; God is the one that anoints people. So she can’t sit here at the same time, this is not a biological issue, it is an inheritance from the saints, it is being a partaker from the saints. So, therefore, I should not use anything in my biological life to stop my spiritual life.
“As for my divine nature, I am a partaker of the inheritance of the saints, So, therefore, it is so difficult for me, this is an apostolic ministry, it is not a ministry you read the Bible, go to theology school, get your certificate and you start preaching! No. It is purely divine. So, it is so difficult for me to display my wife, she has to be ready for God. As much as you are ready for God, God will display her.”
Two things are striking about you. One, you love engaging in gigantic projects, another thing is that you are so criticised by many people, especially for your miracles, how do you take such criticism when you hear all these things, another asked.
“It is always good if at the beginning they don’t see what is good about you. If they don’t see your journey at the beginning, they will criticise you. It is good for you, in the end. So if they praise you from the beginning it is not encouraging. If Nigerians have been accepting me right from the beginning of my mission, I think that would have affected my mission to the world.
“I have gone all over the world; I am the only minister of God that has organised a crusade in Israel, and I also went to Nazareth where Jesus was born and organised a revival there. I am the first man of God to do that and it was carried in newspapers all over the world, Time Magazine and the rest. CNN aired it. After the crusade, a certificate was given to me by the State of Israel. That is the greatest joy for any minister of God.”
On why there is so much controversy about the Israel crusade he said: “Because it happened to Jesus, I cannot be greater than my master. A tenant cannot be greater than his landlord. If the landlord is criticised who is a tenant? That is exactly what happened to Jesus. They said no, the Muslims were on the streets protesting, the Christian, Catholics and all. But I let them know that God sent me to do the revival in Israel. And top Israeli government functionaries came. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sent his representative.”
Another surprising revelation from Joshua is that he wants to set up a university. Although he refused to name where it will be located, he said that it will be a medical and science-based institution. It will however house a theology school.
“So we intend to build a university of science which will be part of the ministry. Science, theology, medicine, these are the areas that interest us.”
As I left after two hours with the Prophet, it suddenly occurred to me that more international visitors come to the Synagogue than any other place in Nigeria.
I also remember that I forgot to ask him about the hotel facility owned by the church that came down under mysterious circumstances two years ago, killing over 200 international visitors. It was a bad day for the church.