By Bisi Daniels
On this day 78 years ago in the remote village of Ifewara, Osun State, the sun was shining brightly during a rainfall. Popular folklore in the village then was that it indicated that a tiger was being born.
There was no ready evidence of the birth of a tiger on that day. Instead, in one of the most impoverished homes in the village, a baby boy announced his arrival with a cry. He was later to be nicknamed, “Tiger.”
It was the usual cry of a newborn, but perhaps he was also crying about the poverty he was born into and the heavy cross he was to carry following in the steps of Jesus Christ.
That strange Sunday
Like most great men, his birth had another layer of strangeness; it was even accidental. The parents already had a boy and three girls and thought that was enough. It was only when the boy died that they thought of having another child, hoping it would be a boy.
On that strange Sunday of sunshine and rain, Enoch, Elisha, Sunday, Adejare, Adetona, Olagundoye, Adeboye was born at home to Moses Adeboye, a farmer and part-time traditional musician, and Esther Adeboye, a trader in locust beans.
Several years later in 2016, I had the opportunity of sitting in the moderately furnished living to room of that same house.
For the book I was writing, I had read a lot about Pastor Adeboye and listened to over 700 hundred of his sermons, fishing for his testimonies, but I wasn’t well prepared for what I was seeing.
From a rough estimation, there had been a room for the patriarch of the family and one each for his two wives with children. A sizeable open surrounding looked suitable for the kids to play, but I wondered how much sleeping space they had a night.
Despite the renovation the house had undergone, it still appeared too tight for a large family. Pastor Adeboye admits that they were so poor that the poor in little Ifewara called them poor.
The head of the family I met in the house that day, Mr. Gabriel Bababunmi Adeboye and his Sister, Madam Abigail Odoyemi Adeboye were full of gratitude to God and Pastor Adeboye for the dramatic turnaround of their family.
It is difficult to forget how Pa Bababunmi explained their level of poverty: “It is said that some people came from a difficult background, but ours was far worse. So difficult was our case that it could be likened to being trapped in a marshy land. An attempt at putting the second leg in the mud to remove the trapped leg results in both legs getting entrapped. We, however, thank God that today we can testify to His awesome power in our family.”
As I left the family house several solemn minutes later, I kept wondering how God could use a man from that rustic background to impact the world so mightily that he is sought after by the high and the mighty, including Heads of State;
How God made the same man from that background so powerful that by the mere wave of hands, people several metres away receive miracles; and handkerchiefs he anoints by waving his hands could be used to heal the sick and raise the dead.
Perhaps more confounding is his admission that because of his rough lifestyle later in life if he were Jesus, he would not use the Adeboye he was.
He was not born a saint
Although there were signs even during childhood that God would use him, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye was not born a saint. Not even his near misses of death and God’s preparation for his ministry gave clear indications of the who he has become today.
His mother was very supportive and when God was to give him a wife, who has become a strong pillar of his ministry, he was the least qualified of her suitors.
His own account of an experience with one of his old girlfriends tells it all:” Before I was born again, I was a very rotten boy. I had two things going for me that made it extremely easy to have girlfriends. I was a sportsman and I was also a photographer. I’m yet to meet a lady who can say no when you say you want to snap her; I haven’t met one, particularly if you have the right kind of language.
Things like “Ahh, whoa! What am I looking at? Where has this sun been hidden? I have never seen this sunshine before. Do you mind if I record you?”
You know the elders have a saying; they say the mouth of the old woman looks like she never sucked breast. Hmm, when you see Pastor Adeboye you think he was born a saint. No, no, no, Thank God for His power to change.
I had so many girl friends that at a stage I didn’t even know the number. And for each girlfriend there was a birthday. I had so many birthdays, one birthday for each girlfriend. I am just telling you this to let you know that God can pick one up from the pit of hell and make him or her His servant. Among all these girlfriends, there was one that was closest to me.
But after some time we separated: she went her way, I went my way. She got married, I got married. But in the meantime, I had become born again. The lady had a child that was born lame, so somebody told her if she took the child to a certain pastor, he would pray for the child to walk. So, she came to the mission house.
I was in the living room but she saw some people on the veranda who asked for the pastor and was told I was inside. So, she opened the door and saw me. Laughter, laughter, laughter.
And you know what old flames do, “Aaaah long time no see? Where have you been, how has life been treating you, etcetera, etcetera?”
When we finished, she said, “I want to see the pastor.” I said, “Yes, I am the pastor.” “You?” She asked, surprised. “Yes,” I said. She shouted, “You will pray and God will answer?”
Let somebody shout Hallelujah! I prayed and she got her miracle.”
The new Adeboye
From my investigations, the spiritual height Pastor Adeboye has reached was not achieved by a sudden flight. According to some church leaders, even his leadership of the church was just a matter of God’s-will-must–prevail because his choice by the Founder of the church Rev. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi was opposed be some leaders.
He himself had tried to avoid it. He and his wife, Pastor Folu Adeboye cried to God to let the cup pass over him, but He did not answer their prayers. In January 1981, Pastor Adeboye became the new leader of the church.
Several sources say his meteoric rise was due to his total devotion to God and a sea change in his lifestyle to please God, after the search for a miracle for his sick child took him to the church.
He says: “After my baptism in 1973, the gifts of God upon his life begun to manifest. My enthusiasm and the resultant gifts of God made me stand out. But two years later, when I first heard that I would be ordained a pastor, I thought it was a joke. I prayed to God to change the mind of Pa Akindayomi, but it was too late. Nothing changed. So, on September 14, 1975, I was ordained a pastor. I soon became the interpreter to My-Father-in-the-Lord, who preached in Yoruba for me to translate into English. Also, my evangelical zeal grew tremendously.”
The Playboy had started a life of total holiness, guarding his righteousness fiercely. That has remained the anchor of his ministry.
Also noted for fasting and prayers, he directly sought for increased anointing and power from God. On one occasion when he prayed at night in the bushes of the Redemption Camp that he didn’t want to be an ordinary pastor, there was an earth tremor there and the surroundings.
And as his sermons show, he believes strongly in the Bible. “Forget it if you are trying to convince him about something that has not Biblical backing,” a source said.
Although, God has made him do things like dancing around a group of people with backpain to heal them, which was not found in the Bible, he only goes ahead to do what God tells him to do because, according to him, he knows the voice of God.
With the gift of direct communication with God, it is said that he clears all his major decisions, like the siting of the Redemption Camp, with God.
Also pleasing to God, it is said, is his being an incurable soul winner. One source said, despite his gift of signs, wonders and miracles, what perhaps pleases him most is the millions of lost souls he takes to Christ around the world.”
To cap his endearing qualities is his legendry humility. As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo puts it, “For a man born to financially-challenged parents in the remote village of Ifewara, Osun State, who had no shoes at 18 years old, who was not a Born Again Christian until the time he was a mathematics teacher at the University of Lagos, becoming the leader of a church with a strong presence in over 198 countries is indeed, a miracle worth knowing.
For this same man to remain infectiously humble, in spite of his enormous power, influence and popularity is also a miracle in itself.
For me, studying him, listening to his sermons and writing about him regularly has strengthened my faith. As part of a book I was writing on the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, I had requested for an interview with him. I got a reply soon after through his Principal Secretary, the late Tokunbo Olorunnimbe. Part of the letter, which sounded personal spoke to my issues and ignited my interest in the church.
Although I had been attending many churches and God had drawn my attention by bringing me back from the dead, my remote association with Pastor Adeboye opened my eyes to the need for purity in service to God.
It would seem that even at 78, a lot more is to come from the tireless Pastor. This is March, but one source said he is fully book for this year to take the word around the world.