News: ‘How My Ministry is Boosting Tourism in Africa’
Renowned cleric, televangelist and General Overseer of The Synagogue Church of all Nations, Pastor Temitope Balogun Joshua in this chat with Peter Uzoho, speaks on the uniqueness of his missionary activities, his ministry’s philanthropic ventures, its role in boosting tourism on the continent, among other issues. Excerpts
What makes your ministry unique?
The uniqueness of my ministry characterised by miracle-filled crusades is significantly anchored on the fact that rather than the blacks having to travel to Europe and America and other developed countries to experience God’s grace, it is the other way round. My team and I have been known to visit countries, which hitherto hardly ever recognised any good thing coming out of black soil to touch lives in foreign lands.
Strengthened by God’s promise and the power of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit’s ministration, we have been led to crusades and through Christ’s power and blood, healed the sick, delivered the satanically besieged and helped the needy, the helpless and the hopeless.
Through missionary activities, thousands of blind people, the hearing impaired, sick, crippled, diseased and the infirm have been known to respond to God’s grace and mercy when touched by the right hand of God. Some often get converted to the faith – prominently those initially opposed to the Christian faith.
We have often been well accepted not only by the commoners, the orphans, widows, widowers and the needy but also by the political stakeholders, leaders, military lieutenants, generals, foremost religious leaders, ministers in government and members of parliament in foreign lands. Don’t forget I’m from a country where young boys and girls are sold into slavery in Libya, Italy, Switzerland, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
In most countries of the world, blacks are disregarded, trafficked, abused, terrified, insulted and blacklisted. But in what the world has seen of my programmes in foreign crusades, we have emerged as the most progressive and fruitful positive image creator for Nigeria and Africa. No wonder, Israel – the birthplace of Jesus Christ Himself has shown interest in having me as one of their citizens with the hope of having my ministry established there. Without sounding my trumpet, I’m seen as the nearest person to Christ in deeds and actions because I’m doing what Christ did thousands of years ago, and as Christ said, He has blessed me to do more.
Some theologians and analysts argue that Christianity is a religion; do you agree to this?
Christianity is a relationship and not a religion. My crusades have proved this. It is a relationship between Christ and man; between man and man; between man and the Holy Spirit; between the seen and the unseen powers. Christianity connects us to the reality of Jesus’ being and establishes the connection between the past and the present. Jesus existed yesterday. He exists today and tomorrow. His love, generosity and forgiveness still uplift us as His people.
Your crusades have been touted as a strong driver of religious tourism on the continent; is this part of your ministry’s mission?
The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCAON) receives about seven out of eight of every 10 international visitors to Nigeria – the strongest religious tourist attraction in Africa and beyond. Its reputation keeps expanding daily all over the world. The latest crusade was at Dominican Republic, on the invitation of President Leonel Fernandez. On my arrival at the Las Americas International Airport Santo Domingo on November 22, 2017, I was met by top Colombian military generals, police officers and dignitaries amidst a carnival-like atmosphere.
When I rounded up the crusade on November 25 at the prestigious Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez, I was honoured with the highest award in the land, donned with an attractive golden plaque by the members of the parliament. Without doubt, the crusades succeeded in repainting the battered image of Nigeria before the world caused by insurgence and ethnic rivalries. Nigeria is indeed, a world power through Christ. And I’m glad to be part of God’s instruments to making the country a world power through Christ.
Tell us about your early life?
I was born in a rustic village of Arigidi in Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria. I spent 15 months in my mother’s womb. My birth and early development was said to be shrouded in mysteries after narrowly escaping a boulder from a nearby quarry which came crashing inches near me in my parents’ house hence, the name ‘Temitope’, meaning ‘what you (God) has done for me is worthy of thanks’. I attended St. Stephens’ Anglican Primary School but failed to complete secondary school due to poverty. While in primary school, I was referred to as the small pastor and led evangelical activities. My ambition to join the Nigerian Army crashed after the train that was to convey me developed fault along the way and left me stranded for six days. I also washed people’s feet on the muddy corners of Lagos and worked as a poultry attendant to earn a living. My ministry, (The SCOAN), alongside the Emmanuel TV Partners, had today become synonymous with acts of charity, healing and humanitarian efforts across the globe. Two years ago I was listed among the world’s famous people by www.thefamouspeople.com
You have been known as ‘Oprah of Evangelism,’ with incredible online presence, tell us more about this?
My online presence boosts of 3,000,000 fans on Facebook and over 600,000 YouTube subscribers. The accolade ‘Oprah of evangelism,’ stems from the fact that I happen to be known as the most popular pastor on YouTube. And my Emmanuel TV is Africa’s largest Christian television network and the most subscribed Christian ministry channel on YouTube with videos amassing more than 240 million views. I have received several awards, notably ‘Officer of the Order of theFederal Republic’ (OFR) from the Nigerian Government in 2008 and, Yoruba man of the decade by Pan-Yoruba media outlet Irohin-Odua. I have also been named one of Africa’s 50 most influential people by Pan-African magazines, The Africa Report, and New African Magazine
Forbes in 2011 named me Nigeria’s third-richest pastor, although the claim was immediately denied in a statement by my church. Nonetheless, The SCOAN has been described as Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction and the most visited destination by religious tourists in West Africa with thousands of foreigners flocking to attend the church’s weekly services. Figures released by the Nigerian Immigration Service revealed that six out of every 10 foreign travelers coming into Nigeria are bound for The SCOAN, a fact discussed in Zimbabwean parliament when addressing the economic potential of religious tourism.
It was also reported in one of the national newspapers that about two million local and inbound tourists visit The SCOAN annually. The church’s popularity has led to an increase in flight routes to Lagos from several African countries.
Can you highlight some of the major humanitarian projects embarked upon by your ministry over these years?
The SCOAN is involved in extensive humanitarian projects worldwide. We have expended more than $20m on charitable activities. The church has also donated large amounts of money to assist orphans, widows, the elderly, the physically challenged and destitutes. There is also a rehabilitation programme for militants from Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta region, repentant armed robbers and sex workers who came to the church for deliverance.I join my team in several of the humanitarian journeys we undertake to the less privileged. My followers celebrated my birthday on June 12th last year by assisting less-privileged individuals in their societies.
My corporate social responsibility initiatives have taken me to several communities. We’ve come to the aid of several communities in distress. We provided two transformers to a local community after theirs was burnt beyond repair. We also donated over N26m towards restoring electricity and putting an end to over two years of power outage in four local councils in Akoko area of Ondo State, besides several donations to the police force in Nigeria,Ghana and Colombia.
In terms of education, the church has a scholarship programme which caters for the academic needs of students in their thousands, ranging from primary to tertiary education. In 2012 alone, I sponsored a Nigerian student doing a Ph.D in Oxford University. I also gave a scholarship to a young Motswana to study at Harvard Law School in America. On health, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, I sent a team of medical personnel and humanitarian workers to the affected area, establishing a field hospital called ‘Clinique Emmanuel’. On sports and education, we have also done pretty much as a way of rescuing youths from the streets. Also in support for migrants and deportees, we funded the building and running of a school in Lahore, Pakistan, named ‘Emmanuel School’.
We also rebuilt a school in a rural area destroyed by the 2016 Ecuador earthquake. I traveled to Ecuador for the opening of the school in June 2017. We have also supported several group of Nigerians attempting illegal travel to Europe through Libya, following their deportation from the North African nation with only clothes on their backs.Stories of the harsh conditions they encountered and our subsequent intervention are worthy of note.
I equally sent support to nations such as Philippine, India and Ghana in the wake of varying natural disasters. The ‘Emmanuel TV Team’ also assisted victims of the earthquake that struck the nation of Ecuador in April 2016, providing over $500,000 worth of humanitarian assistance.
We have equally embarked on humanitarian projects in sports to help get the youth out of the streets. For instance, in 2009, I started a football club, ‘My People FC’, as part of efforts to help the youthrealise their potentials. Two members of the Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets, Sani Emmanuel and Ogenyi Onazi, who played in the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, were living in the SCOAN for several years.
Emmanuel was Nigeria’s top-scorer and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Emmanuel and his colleague, Ogenyi Onazi signed professional contracts with SS Lazio while Onazi a key player, later made into the Super Eagles. I also supported the career of WBO International Light Middleweight boxing champion King Davidson Emenogu financially. The pugilist had prophesied that he would be a world-boxing champion.
My humanitarian awards had no boundaries. In recognition of my humanitarian activities, I received a letter of appreciation from the United Nations. I was further honoured as an Ambassador of Peace by the Arewa Youth Forum, a predominantly Muslim organisation. I also received an ‘award of excellence’ by ZAKA, Israel’s primary rescue and recovery voluntary service.