PASTOR Idowu Iluyomade is the current head of The Apapa Family, a group of about 1,000 local and international churches within the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG. The Family which was the vision of the General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, started in 1992 at the former Roxy Cinema, Apapa in Lagos with young professionals like Pastor Tony Rapu and others, include chapters in the US, Europe, Oceania and Asia. As part of preparations for this year’s edition of EXCEL 2011, one of the main attractions of the Apapa Family, Pastor Iluyomade bared his mind on the vision, mission and future plans of the group as well as the political situation in the country. According to him, “it is through this group of professionals and students that all the churches we are talking about all over the world were born. It has been a wonderful experience over the years. And we are believing God for greater things to come in future. The main focus of the Apapa Family right now is Corporate Social Responsibility because we believe that every organisation has an obligation to give back to the society. Over the years Nigerians have come to see churches as organisations that collect money—tithes and offerings and all that-without ploughing same back to the society.
Apart from some of the big orthodox churches that have done quite a lot in the society, not many of others have impacted the society and that is the main thrust of the Redeemed Christian Church of God; particularly, the Apapa Family. We believe that we should be involved in solving the social needs of the society and in that mode sharing the love of Christ. So really, that is the heartbeat of the church right now and you will see in the next few weeks and months that we are really going to do much more in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility and making an impact with a noticeable change in the society.” He spoke with SAM EYOBOKA. Excerpts…
We also believe that the Church, as a change agent, needs to take the lead to sensitise, galvanise and challenge our nation spiritually, business and political leaders to be new champions of the new Nigeria. We always say that; if your church closes down will your community miss you or will they rejoice?
We believe that if your church has impacted the community, they are the ones that would beg you not to go. So, we believe we need to lighten our little corners. As leaders, we should be in the forefront of change. We believe its happening in our nation, Nigeria. That is why we are opening Healing Stripes, a cancer screening and prevention centre for the community in Surulere, Lagos and it will be dedicated by our G.O., Pastor Enoch Ade-jare Adeboye. Over the years, we, have through various programmes, have impacted various sectors of the society. We’ve done a lot of work in the education sector, but the latest of our initiative is the cancer scre-ening and treatment centre. From the statistics that we have; between 100 and 500 Nigerians diag-nose every year with all manner of cancer and all that.
And we believe that that is one of the ways that our church or our group of churches can contribute to what the government is doing. The government alone cannot handle all things. The centre will be highly subsidised and it’s going to be equipped with top of the range equipment.
Right now, we have acquired a property in Surulere which is being refurbished now. The eq-uipment are already in and we are believing God that come Sunday, June 5, 2011, Pastor Adeboye, the chief visioner of the mission and of the Apapa Family would be there to dedicate this cancer screening and treatment centre to the glory of God. The centre eventually is going to be a full fledged diagnostic centre. Our plan is that, all over Nigeria, wherever Apapa Family is represented, we will have one of these initiatives that we are starting.
The Family, at a point, went underground and later reconvened….
Apapa Family never went underground because as you know once a family has started it can only procreate and increase. We have now grown big all over world that we needed to regroup and refocus, and renew the mandate that we had; so that we can do greater work. So, we started what we call EXCEL meetings once a year and at the meeting we share the vision.
You will see that the influence of the church has entered into the society in various ways. For example, 10 years ago, we started what we called, “A Can Can Make A Difference.” We were feeding about 10,000 people every Sunday with packs of food and we have given out about six million packs of food worth over N500 million. We now feed 50,000 people every Sunday and have moved from one soup kitchen to 17 centres dotted all over Nigeria.
We have rehalitation centres for ex-prostitutes. We have various charity shops across the nation where clothes, TV, DVDs, refrigerators, furniture, cars are being sold between N100 and N1,000. We have orphanages, The Wellspring Rehabilitation Centre where drug addicts are rehabilitated. We have the House of Joy Rehabilitation Centre in Surulere, the Virtuous Women Vocational Centre for commercial sex workers. And we integrate them into the society and teach them some basic skills.
We have the shelter for women. In the area of education, the Family has over 30 sch-ools, Redeemer’s International Schools—primary, and secondary. The schools are coming under a foundation which we call EXCEL Foundation. We are believing God that we will start a university soon. We have some funds that we call “Touching Tomorrow Educational and Touching Tomorrow Commonwealth Funds,” through which we sponsor and give scholarships to various children from kindergarten to university level.
We have adult literacy classes for those that are uneducated. We have a Hausa community church, where we teach them how to read and write. We have constructed boreholes for Police stations all over Lagos and in schools.
During a similar programme, last year, the General Overseer endowed a professorial chair in mathematics at University of Ibadan after a similar gesture at the University of Lagos. Why do you think the man is only focussing on mathematics?
Well, let me answer you this way: Our general overseer has a burden for education because if you train a child the way to go, after he grows old he will not depart from it. As we all know he has a doctorate in Applied Mathematics. In 2008, it was N50 million that he gave to the University of Lagos. Last year, he gave N48 million to the University of Ibad-an, and this year, we are believing God that another N50 million will go to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
I think that we should appreciate his magnanimity. You know it’s a burden that he has for education in this nation which we hope that other people in the society and church-es will emulate. Between Daddy G.O. and Mummy G.O., they have various schools all over the nation including the Koma Hills and all over West Africa. They have a ministry called African Missions through which they set up schools all over Africa.
You made mention of destitute and rehabilitation. Do you have a particular centre for them?
We have the Hephzibah Orphanage Home, Bada-gry, Wellspring Rehabilitation Centre in Ikeja. We rented houses for them where we keep them. We have the House of Joy in Surulere and we are planning another one in the Lekki area, where ex-prisoners will be rehabilitated for about six to nine months before they are released into the society.
How do you describe the recent elections in Nigeria and post-election violence in parts of the North?
Our General Overseer told us its about time we get involved in politics and we held prayer sessions at the TBS, Lagos with various other chur-ches for the success of the polls. Our youth church went a step further by interviewing some of the presidential aspirants. Indeed, they had a presidential debate in Abuja and the question they kept asking them was: “What about us?”
We understand that about 70 per cent of Nigerian voters are youths. So, the youth thought they had a part to play in Nigerian politics. That was why it was quite encouraging when we heard that the government decided to use the youth who could not be biased. The youth had a strong zeal during the elections. It is unfortunate that they became targets of attack. It pained us as a church. Change doesn’t happen in one day. Right now, this is the fairest elections that we have had in this country. Things are changing; the old brigade are being replaced slowly, but surely by the new brigade.
But for the prayers of the Church the violence would have been much more than this. It’s unfortunate, but we believe that the whole nation has learnt a lesson. I’m sure there is a lot of outcry concerning this. As to the amount of money the bereaved families were paid, it’s a gesture. There is no amount of money that can replace life. I read in the newspapers that there is going to be a scholarship for the siblings and automatic employment for members of the affected families. I think the government has done great. This is not the first time that people would die; or there would be violence. I think what the president has done is a good step in the right direction. They can improve on it and by the time the new government in constituted these are some of the things that would come up within the National Assembly.