By Sam Eyoboka
IN March 1998, Archbishop Benson Idahosa, the flambouyant founder of
Church of God Mission International Incorporated died and left his wife,
Margaret Idahosa and four children behind.
Here, the wife and the first female Pentecostal Archbishop in Africa recounts the last moments of her husband and how she had coped with bereavement. Excerpts…
You once said you thought you were finished when your husband died. How exactly did you mean?
I knew late Archbishop Benson Idahosa when I was young and we were friends for eight years before we got married. He was not only my husband, he was my brother, my friend and a confidant. In addition to these, he was my bishop and archbishop.
When he died I was in a confused state and honestly I didnâ€™t know where to begin and what the future held for me. I thought to myself after the burial I would just recline to myself.
By then my children were all abroad and I said I would be staying with them one after the other and then come over to Benin to see how the ministry was being run. But God who knows the heart of man directed my path to where I am today.
When my husband was alive I was with him and the best I could do was to encourage him and pray for him. I was a great supporter of his vision. So when he died I just wanted to remain in my cocoon. But God had a different plan for me.
You were 55 years when he died. How easy was it for church members to accept you then?
As a matter of fact when I was called the day I was ordained a bishop; I thought they called me just to pray for me. I came out and the archbishop who ordained me said he did not confer with flesh and blood but that the Holy Spirit had directed him to ordain me as a bishop.
When he made that declaration there was a thunderous response from the audience. Before then I must confess that my mind was not in ministry. But to my greatest surprise there was a great acceptance of the ordination.
Honestly, I was not looking forward to it and after a while I had to pray and God spoke to me and said He had called me and He would give me the enablement and the strength to do the task that has been set before me.
And I said okay; God it is a deal. And I said let us try. If Iâ€™m successful fine and if I do not then God would understand. Before my husband’s funeral ceremony, God has spoken with a lot of people about who succeeds him.
I recall that when my husband was alive he used to travel a lot and there were times he took people out for lunch in some of the countries he went to and those people were used to asking him questions.
One of the questions by one of his friends was whether he was preparing somebody to take over from him and he said he was not preparing anybody because the anointing breaks the yoke and that anybody who had the anointing would definitely be put in place. But he said I think my wife will fit into my shoes.
Somebody brought the video and we watched it. There was a general acceptance of my person when I was ordained and God has been helping us in the ministry.
What were the things that you did to equip yourself with the task ahead?
What I did was to give the ministry’s constitution to men with experience. I wanted them to help me interpret it because people were giving different interpretations and when they did it I was comfortable that I was not usurping anybodyâ€™s position.
And I called all the pastors of the church and said, â€œOur Daddy has gone, do we want this ministry to go on or it should die with him and majority of them said they wanted the ministry to go on. That was how we started working.
What were the initial challenges concerning the issue of remarriage when your husband died?
There were challenges in this area and I told God that I wanted him to direct my affairs and my life. And I think God heard and He gave me the ability to do what Iâ€™m doing now.
I had a husband and I enjoyed him and I think there was nobody else that could match up to him. I told God that I want Him to take the desire for another man from me. I never wanted to think about remarriage. God gave me so much to do that after a hard dayâ€™s work I just go to bed and sleep. I donâ€™t have a desire to marry. To be married to who?
Let us look back to the time you married your late husband. Was he already in ministry when you met him?
I met him already called into the ministry. There was a book he wrote called, Fire in his bones. Everything about his life is in that book. And those are the things I know about him. And he kept saying to me that I should focus my attention on God.
He said when he gave his life to Christ a lot of things happened and that God showed him some visions. In one of the visions God showed him a big dry tree with branches that had no leaves but it had branches and God put him under the tree.
When he lifted up his eyes he saw an old woman carrying a huge load and he got up from under the tree to help that woman to where she was going and there was a tiny leaf on the tree after he had rendered the help and he opened his eyes.
He saw another person and he helped the person and there was another leaf on the tree. The more he helped, the more the tree had leaves. And God told him that the more he helped people the more he will get protection and shade.
Benin is said to be a peculiar place. What does it take being in ministry here?
When you are called of God, He gives you the boldness you need to withstand anything. When God called him, for 14 days he went round Benin City praying and asking God to take the city for the gospel.
Benin was so bad that if a native doctor told you that you would die by 2 o’clock there is nothing you can do about it except you run to Christ because that thing will surely happen.
When my husband finished the 14 days marathon prayer round the city he started a small fellowship with students all over the place. What were his dreams that he could not accomplish before he died?
I donâ€™t think there was anything he wanted to do that he didnâ€™t do. He died in March. In February he called me and said, ‘Margaret, I think I have done everything God had asked me to do’.
And I said it is because we were still in February and that because he had not traveled. I said he needed to travel and if he did that he would come back with a fresh idea. And he said he would travel in March and that he would be by himself and will not interact with anybody. I was abroad when he died.
I was planning to travel that night to Nigeria when the report came that he had gone home. That, to me was a great shock. Before he died, he had preached a message titled The benefit of death and he preached so hard and made death so useless. He made it clear to us that he had finished the work God gave him in that message.
He is referred to as father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria. What do you make of what is going on in PFN now?
When he came on the scene, ministry work was not a joke. It was hard. It was difficult. Even the orthodox churches waged war but he stood his ground.
He cleared the land for all of us. Many years ago it was a taboo for women to hold the microphone not to talk of preaching in the church but he encouraged us to move in the spirit of God. He encouraged us to preach and do the work.
That was the last message he preached to the women. He preached also at the Bible School before he went to lunch with a team from Oral Roberts University.
He gave instruction to all the members of the team and they were all glued to him! After a while a gentle breeze was blowing and everybody set their gaze on him.
He was saying thank you Jesus and those on the table thought he was praying and they all closed their eyes and started saying thank you Jesus along with him but suddenly they did not hear anything again and one of the team members opened his eyes and found out that archbishop was gone.
They tried all they could to revive him but he was gone. He was not sick. He never had high blood pressure. He was never down. Each time we came back from foreign trips doctors were always there to take our blood pressure. I was the one that was the sick once. Even the doctors were surprised that he died because he was not sick at all.
How did the children receive the news?
All the children were in school when he died. I was in America and the children were in London. One of our friends told our eldest child that I was on the way to meet him.
We met and we held hands and cried at the airport in London. We didnâ€™t mind who was looking at us. My first daughter was in law school in Britain then.
I called her and said she should tell her lecturer that her father had just died and that she should come. My two daughters in America also had to come and they all cried. I believe everything that God asked him to do he did. He said he had done all what God wanted him to do.
How do you feel being the first ordained female archbishop in Africa?
I donâ€™t know how it came. For many years I belong to different Christian bodies but in the last 10 years I have been functioning in the position of archbishop and the bodies that I belong to said it was time to recognize me.
I donâ€™t feel any difference but I feel the responsibility. And I have asked God to give me the ability to perform and do what Iâ€™m called to do and see and hear the hurt of those around me.
*Culled from CHURCH TIMES