This 7 August, 1983 The Guardian article by Fred Ohwawha desribes how what is now, in Cable Network New’s account, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, operated in the second year of Pastor E.A. Adeboye’s leadership.
THE REDEEMED CAMP
The land which the church purchased from Ogunsolu family of Abeokuta was virtually a jungle by April this year. Close to the road side is a big structure- referred to by church members as the auditorium- built to accommodate about 12,000 people. Further inside are “Hostels” to accommodate campers.There is a borehole, which feeds the three running taps with water. And very close by is an electric generating plant. On the west-central corner of the camp is the kitchen where the food for most of the congregation is prepared. Further northwest, is the “Prayer House” where people make confessions of their snis, such as killing people with witchcraft. Beside the Prayer House is the “Maternal Ward” meaning just that. They are part of the 31st annual convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The convention which started on July 23, ended on August 1. People, mostly church members, from its 120 branches, all over the country came to “study the word of God, and grow spiritually,” quoting the Reverend.
Since the founding of the church in 1952, the Redeemed Christian Church of God has grown into three branches in Ghana, and looks forward to opening two new branches in the Republic of Benin. The General Overseer, Rev. Adeboye says that the late founding Pastor, Akindayomi, had the “call of God” to gather folks and set up a new church: The Redeemed Christian Church of God” with its headquarters at 1A Cemetry Road, Ebute Metta, Lagos. Rev. Adeboye says that his church has no affiliation with any foreign church and that it does not sell materials like “Sunday School” booklets. However, religious materials such as recorded cassettes (N55 per set of 11 tapes) and pamphlets (about N2 each) sold briskly at the convention camp.
The 10-day convention was not devoted entirely to miracle sessions. There were Bible lectures. Seminars, such as “When this life is over” and ‘The heavenly treasure” also featured. So were singing and prayer sessions. There also was an elaborate graduation ceremony for students of the church’s “Bible College”. The college, established in 1980, turned out 14 graduates in the 1982/83 year. During the July 29 ceremony, Mr. Stephen Njoku was named the “Best Academic Student”. Mrs. Foluke Adeboye, wife of the leader of the church, bagged the award of the “Best Behaved Student”. Full-time students spend one year while part-time have a two-year stint at the college. Mr. Samuel Awobajo, principal at the college, says the institution is primarily meant to enrich the knowledge of the words of God by the students. He adds that students are also trained to be workers in the ministry of God. Before presenting the certificates to the grandaunts, Rev. Adeboye admonished them: “You are not going to be pastors who wear beautiful robes…This is the time to roll up your sleeves, if you are to deliver Nigeria out of darkness…if you are thinking that now that you are graduating you will drive in a nice car, you are inviting the devil to cooperate with you.”
Besides these activities, people had to relax, and sleep. But the hostels were understandably inadequate. Priority was given to women, in accommodation. Most men simply kept their luggage safely somewhere, and slept where they could at the end of each day. Most of them turned the auditorium – which is only roofed but lacks walls- into their bedrooms. Despite this, the hostels did not prove a lively sight, especially when people are getting ready to sleep. Luggage littered everywhere, children screamed for their mother’s attention; others simply crowd themselves trying to find sleep. Accommodation was not the only problem. Water was precious to all campers throughout the convention. The campers had to make do with only one borehole which supplied water to the three running taps. Queues for water were always long, with some people spending three hours to get a bucket of water. Queues were also formed during meal hours. For those who came without food, the church provided two meals daily. Mrs. Adeboye, in-cahrge of the kitchen, said that foodstuffs were supplied by the various parishes, in addition to the thousands of naira made available by the church’s headquarters. She explained that feeding became a big responsibility because of the venue of the convention, which did not make it possible for people to lodge with their relatives. Three cows, supplemented by fish, were slaughtered on the days meant was not on the menu. However, the convention did not strengthen the faith of all believers in Jesus. In the morning of July 29, two girls each about 14 years old, were being dragged from one of the hostels. They were pleading, amidst tears, for pardon. The man dragging them played deaf. Their offence: They pinched smoked fish.
Another aspect of the convention was the maternity run during the period. Women gave birth. The 41 midwives from the various branches of the church claim, through their spokesperson, Mrs. Janet Tinuosho, that they employ none of the orthodox methods in delivering a baby. They say children are delivered effortlessly “by the power” of Jesus. “God’s power,” they claim, “is higher than that of the hospital.” Mrs. Toyin Adewusi who gave birth to a baby gil on Wednesday, July 27, says her pains were minimal during labour and the delivery of her baby. Mrs. Katharine Duntoye, who gave birth to a baby on July 29, says that was her first delivery in the church. According to church pastor, Julius Akindele, “if there are no signs and miracles in a religion, then the religion is dead.”
Those close to Rev. Adeboye say he has healed the blind and the mentally afflicted, and raised the dead. He himself would not talk about those things because he says he would be guilty of spiritual arrogance. This may explain the continued upsurge of members to the church. Eighty per cent of them, according to Rev. Adeboye, are youths. He provided a rationale for this: “The youths are tired of hypocrisy in all aspects of life, including religion. That is why they come to the church to have a direct feeling of God.”