One of the apprehensions of members of the public against the church is that it collects so much from members in offerings and tithes and leaving many of them poorer. In fact, in the recent times, the church has had to be been taken up on several cases that many consider the tyranny of the church against the people. One of these is high charge on some of the services provided by the church. Precisely, a lot of people sore displeased about high cost of church educational institutions; nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary. But much as many churches, particularly the big ones, are guilty of this public ill-feeling, there are few of the churches which really care for the people. SEGUN OTOKITI identifies some of them and how they are impacting on the lives of some of the members of the public.
Times were when the only schools and hospitals in the country were those operated by the missionaries. The running of these social service institutions was almost at no cost to beneficiaries; the Nigerian teeming masses. Besides, many there are today that would not have become successful individuals but for the sacrifices of the missionaries who toiled and spared their meagre resources to give them education. So concerned were the missionaries for the locals then that some of them would convert their residential apartments to classrooms to substitute for formal arrangements that were at first unavailable. Many young Nigerians, after the initial training or after being discovered to have certain talent or capability, were sent abroad for further education or exposure.
It was the same story for missionariesâ€™ efforts at the medical front. Before their coming, many Nigerians, especially children, had died of curable diseases. Vaccines were developed and given to people as prevention against deadly diseases as small pox, malarial, measles, polio, leprosy etc. In fact, many of the of the missionaries were infected and died of the diseases they were working to cure and eliminate.
Education and medicals were not the only services they provided, their efforts cut across all the facets of human lives. So, if foreign missionaries could give that much to people with whom they bore no ancestral, racial or blood relationship, why should Nigerian missionaries not do more, many would ask.
But unfortunately, the reverse of the colonial missionariesâ€™ efforts is presently the case in the country today. When confronted on the issue, many of them would blame it the situation in the country. On high cost of education, they would say it has to be so because of facilities and good pay they give to their staff. They would also argue that due to lack of functional electricity, they run 24 hours on diesel to provide power, water and other conveniences to students of their institutions. But they would not say anything on what the portion of average members of their church is if they cannot benefit from social services provided by the church. Doesnâ€™t it amount to fraud and wickedness if some members who pay tithe and offering as others are unable to enjoy the good provided by their church because they cannot afford the cost?
Many members of the public have asked if it is the average members are the ones that should be sacrificed for the situation in the country that the church is using as a cover up of its practice. Again, some people have queried whether the practice derives truly from the situation in the country and not from lack of godly spirit evident in the lives of the missionaries of the old. Is situation worse now that churches are making so much money from members than in old times when missionaries had to forfeit personal convenience to change peopleâ€™s lives for the better?
But itâ€™s still not a lost situation as there are still few of churches in the country doing great things to make life better for many suffering masses. Some of them are big time churches while others are small in size and spread but great and ubiquitous in giving. Below are three of such and what they do.
Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN)
Another Ministry is the humanitarian arm of SCOAN, with projects catering to the needs of widows, dwarves, the elderly, physically challenged, orphans and the destitute. The church provides scholarships to orphans and children of the less privileged, with educational support promised from primary to tertiary levels. There is also a rehabilitation programme for armed robbers and prostitutes. Often, the church financially supports them to secure a practical vocation. On his 45th birthday on June 12, 2008, T. B. Joshua made a large donation to the less privileged. Joshua has also provided scholarships for numerous physically challenged students and sponsored many physically challenged athletes. He is known to help people irrespective of faith or denomination.
In a recent bimonthly event for the physically challenged at SCOAN, Joshua expressed plans to build a university to specifically cater for the less privileged who have no one else to help them further their education, as well as giving gifts of over N30m to the thousands of participants. Giving to the less privileged forms a major part of each Sunday Service at the SCOAN; Joshua exhorts members of the church to do likewise in their respective communities in his belief that â€˜the secret of blessing is in givingâ€™.
Under another ministry, various NGOâ€™s have been established in other countries, including the Passion For Needy in Ghana.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) once honoured Joshua in recognition of his scholarship schemes for the poor and physically challenged students. His philanthropic activities have been commended throughout Nigeria.
In 2009 Joshua floated a football club, My People FC, as part of his efforts to help the youth. The young team have already made a mark on the Nigerian football scene. Three players have been sponsored abroad to play professional football in Sweden.
Two players from My People FC played for Nigeriaâ€™s Golden Eaglets in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Sani Emmanuel, who was raised in the SCOAN and worked as an altar boy, was Nigeriaâ€™s top-scorer and the tournamentâ€™s MVP, winning the Golden Ball and Silver Shoe. Emmanuel and his colleague Ogenyi Onazi have since expressed plans to have a foundation to help other less privileged youths, where â€œevery proper means will be used to discover the talentedâ€.
At a thanksgiving service in the SCOAN held after the cadet World Cup, Golden Eagletsâ€™ goalkeeper, Dami Paul, also testified to receiving healing through Joshuaâ€™s prayers before the tournamentâ€™s commencement.
The church philanthropic spirit is not demonstrated to people in Nigeria alone, it goes to other countries of the world. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Emmanuel TV Haiti Earthquake Relief Team was sent to the disaster area. Chartering a cargo plane to transport essential medical and food supplies to Haiti, an international team of medical personnel and humanitarian workers travelled to Arcahaie, a town just north of Port-au-Prince, to which many earthquake victims had fled. The team established a field hospital called â€˜Clinique Emmanuelâ€™ to provide vital medical care and assistance to the earthquake-stricken indigenes, with plans also in place for an orphanage.
Also, the church leader T. B. Joshua was instrumental in reconciling the families of the late Samuel Doe of Liberia and the man accused of assassinating him, Prince Yormie Johnson. Prior to the reconciliation, the two families were sworn enemies.
The Nigerian press have reported other cases of families being reconciled by T. B. Joshua after years of separation.
In recognition of his humanitarian activities, Joshua was awarded the National Honour of OFR (Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic) by the Nigerian government in 2008.
INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church
The church is founded and led by Primate Babatunde Elijah Ayodele. It has its headquarters in Oke-Afa, Ejigbo, Lagos. Apart from impartation of spiritual influence, INRI Church is also known for its widespread philanthropic deeds. In order to explore itself of the charity spirit, the church set up a philanthropic arm known as INRI WIDOWS FOUNDATION (IWF). The foundation was established to provide succour for the less fortunate ones in the society â€“ the orphans and vulnerable children, the widows who lost their beloved ones at critical moments of life.
The IWF on inception identified as core areas of concern; health-care, education, granting micro credit support that is interest â€“ free, provision of accommodation, encouraging small scale business initiatives, vocational training especially for the youths and distribution of welfare packages.
The IWF is registered with the cooperate affairs commission Abuja as a non governmental organisation (NGO). It is a non-religious, non tribal, non ethnic, non racial and not â€“ for â€“ profit outfit.
Since its inception, the foundation has accomplished the following: Education for children â€“ from 20 at inception to 1300; Health-care for all â€“ from 40 to 1500; Empowerment/Business development- from 8 at the beginning to 1204; Shelter for the widows â€“ from 10 to 600 now; Vocational training- from 3 to 80; Distribution of welfare relief packages- from 16 to 200; Care for the aged: from 01 â€“ 60; Care for the orphans/vulnerable children- from 4 to 1200; Skills acquisition and capacity building initiatives for the youths- from 4 to 30; Care/counseling for HIV positive widows/children- from 02 to 500.
The activities of the church extends beyond the confines of the INRI community. Other charitable activities outside the church community are: The God bless my car project where a car worth 350,000.00 will be given to a beneficiary for 7,000.00 payable on instalments for 12 months; There is the monthly food service of the INRI CHURCH in which raw foodstuffs are distributed to the indigent members of the society in what is known as preaching the gospel of the stomach; The security agencies: police and prisons service are not left out. In the month of September 2010 special welfare packages were presented to the widows and children of windows from the police force in Lagos State to cushion the effects of the demise of their bread winners in active service. The Nigerian prisons service Badagry also benefited from the humanitarian gestures of the INRI CHURCH. In April and on 1st October 2010,food stuffs,ceiling fans,standing fan and cash incentives were given to the prisons service in Badagry to alleviate the plights of the inmates; On education and moral regeneration: On yearly basis,the man of God always identifies with the educational advancement projects of the Lagos State government. Thus,:Ilamoye junior Grammar school Isolo, Okota junior and senior Grammar schools,local Government primary school Idimu even private schools like Megatrio college Ilasa benefited from the support of the primate; In the secondary schools mentioned above,Annual Awards for the best students in Christian Religious studies were inaugurated to encourage religious and moral education in the students; At the C & S Movement Ayo Ni O church Ibadan District Headquarter Scholarship Award for the brilliant but indigent students but indigent student became possible through the support of the Man of God at INRI and; Back At School: to encourage purposeful learning for the children,the BACK AT SCHOOL packages for the children where textbooks, exercise books, school uniforms, school sandals, school bags and writing materials as well as payment of school fees was put in place. It is belief that without adequate provision of necessary working tools,the hours spent in schools by the students will be a waste.
Christ Livingspring Apostolic Ministry
Pastor Wole Oladiyun is the Senior Pastor/Founder of the fast growing Christ LivingSpring Apostolic Ministry, popularly known as CLAM. The church is presently situated at CLAM Close, Behind Tejumola House, Omole, Ogba, Ikeja Lagos. The Ministry caters for the souls of over 5000 worshippers. There are different departments to cater for the individual needs of members and to encourage them to give back to their creator.
The Church has 25 departments, which are geared towards the provision of certain services to the body of Christ, the members of the church and the church itself.
It achieves its main vision of winning souls for God through its evangelical arm known as Christ Livingspring Apostolic Ministry Global Outreach â€œCLAMGOâ€. The Ministry has a Director of Outreaches who coordinates the programmes of CLAMGO under the supervision of the Senior Pastor. Because we believe that the spirit of the lord is one and that the body of Christ is one, the outreach is usually held with other anointed and seasoned evangelists and missionaries working in the field near where the crusades and outreaches are to be held. The choices of location for outreaches are usually by the leading of the Holy Spirit or by requests made by host pastors or people in a community or area.
A widows and widowersâ€™ group also exists under this department. The group provides spiritual leadership and counseling for widows and widowers in the church. The group receives counseling on dealing with bereavement, traditional funeral rites, dealing with family members and in-laws, taking decisions as it affects their children (growth, developments, and education). The unemployed widow and widower are also encouraged to learn a skill to reduce their dependency on whatever inheritance they have acquired and in order to fill the gap of the loss of an additional income.
The department liaises with the Welfare Department to provide succour for members in need by providing them with cash, food stuff, clothes and even â€œholding handsâ€ and joining of faith with those who lack.
Also, the welfare department, in collaboration with the Family Life Department, apart from providing physical and material succour to those members in need, arranges skill acquisition programmes for the unemployed members and members facing financial difficulties. This is to fulfill the biblical injunction of teaching people to â€œfishâ€ rather than providing them with â€œfishâ€. The church provides some start up capital for serious minded people who have undergone some skill acquisition training and have shown promises of excellence. Such provision is either in the form of a loan or an outright gift depending on the circumstance of the member.
Apart from catering for the general welfare of the people, the department also liaises with the Evangelism department to provide support for those won into the kingdom of God and for visits to orphanages, hospitals etc.