By Sam Eyoboka
THE Love Ministry is not a church but a group of men and women who voluntarily came together to bring succour and relief to the downtrodden and ameliorate the pains and sufferings of the sick, widows, orphans, accident victims, displaced persons, indigent students etc. The Love Ministry is a vital arm of the Foursquare Gospel Church.
In other words it was established and registered as a non-governmental organisation with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a charity organisation to meet the physical needs of those afflicted. The Foursquare Church is a family of more than 1,600 churches that exist to glorify God and advance His kingdom. Recently, a day old baby was picked up from the surrounding bushes somewhere in Ikorodu and was deposited at an orphanage under the care of the Love Ministry of the Foursquare Church.
On Monday, June 26, 2017 while the rest of the nation was enjoying the Eid el Fitri holidays, 88-year old Rev. James F. Brigue, chairman of the Love Ministry led a five-man delegation on a visit to the Divine Heritage Children Centre in Giniti-Elepe area of Ikorodu in Lagos to celebrate with a group of happy orphans. Rev. Brigue commended the founder of the children’s centre, Rev. (Mrs.) Ebun Oluwatoyin Idowu and members of her team for their dedication to their work in taking care abandoned children. He prayed for the orphanage after presenting a cheque of an undisclosed sum and several food items for the children.
In an interview with the founder of the home, who turned out to be the former National Director of Children Ministry in the Foursquare Gospel Church Nigeria, Rev. (Mrs.) Ebun Oluwatoyin Idowu, 60, spoke to us on many issues. Mrs. Idowu worked with the Department of Petroleum Resources until she retired in 2011.
– How did you come about this ministry?
Though I worked with children before, God gave me a revelation of a child that was vulnerable. I saw the boy naked walking towards me with a lot of people coming behind me. I was waiting and expecting those behind me to catch up with the boy and rescue him before he drowned himself in the water ahead of him.
When I discovered that nobody was taking note of the child, I started running towards him, but it was too late. By the time I got to him, he had jumped over the river and everybody was looking over the bridge at the boy in the water, but nobody could rescue him.
That became a burden in my heart. Initially I thought it’s because of the work I do in the Children Ministry but the burden kept on increasing every day. I’ve been going to various homes, donating and praying, but the vision is beyond donating and giving. We were then living in a storey building, so we dedicated the ground floor to start this ministry in 2003.
But I was still working in the government office and there was not much time. The place was furnished and I employed a care giver. The woman worked for one year but there were no children. I thought maybe it was not yet time so I closed up the home. Meanwhile the place was already registered with Lagos State.
When I retired in 2011, it dawned on me that there was need to revisit the vision that the Lord gave me. We relocated to Ikorodu and discovered this nearby land was up for sale by a fellow pastor. I got my gratuity so we just pumped in some money into the project.
Why did we build this edifice? I know that the best is good for my God and the best is good for these children. The bible says children are the heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward. Most of them are thrown into the gutter, we picked some of them in the bush, some abandoned in the hospital.
Immediately we finished the building, we revisited our application and by September 2013, they started giving us children. The first baby, David Chika was abandoned in the hospital by his mother who was HIV positive. Initially, we were scared and thought we should release him to other homes where they take care of such children but we felt we are ministers of God and we can minister to this boy. He has done it before when we went to Little Saints Orphanage to pray for a particular child.
He came in as three months old. When we take in children, the first thing we do is to take them to the hospital to run a series of tests to be sure of their status. As soon as he was one year old, we ran other tests on him and he was HIV negative. So that was how the boy was adopted at age three and he’s living fine now in his parents’ house.
There are lots of children that have come in that we reconciled to their parents. We have those that were thrown away and are living with step mothers. Most of them come with severe injuries. As soon as they bring them in with fresh wounds, we rush them to the hospital and take care of the wounds and then we start praying and working with the word of God and through that, mother and father who were apart, came back through the love of God and gave their life to Jesus.
With that, about five children were reconciled to their families. It’s not only to give them food or to send them to school. If they don’t have Christ, all our efforts are in vain. So, when they leave here, they will be a blessing to wherever they find themselves. Most of our children that have been adopted are called pastors in their various homes because of the gifting that they discovered in their lives and most of the parents have come to know the Lord through these children. As soon as they can talk, we send them to a private school because we are not allowed now to run a school unless if want to do that separately from home and the Lord has been raising people to help us.
How many children do you now have?
We have about 14 children, seven boys and seven girls. The youngest is Paul who is going to four months while the oldest is 18 years. They are yet to be reconciled with their parents. We have 14 paid workers from the peanuts we receive from the government. We have a cook, a business manager, administration manager, two security guards, one nurse, five care givers, one cleaner.
We use government hospitals and pay for the services. All our boys are circumcised by us. We use a hospital nearby in case of emergency. We have a sick bay that is furnished with equipment. We are making plans for a library where people can donate books and children can read.
How will you describe the operation in this place?
We have workers that are passionate to work. We don’t know how it happens but their lives are transformed physically and spiritually after two weeks of being brought in here. They run and jump and yet there are no injuries. The angels of the Lord are always around and keeping watch over them. When the Church or families come to identify with them, it’s our joy.
What are the challenges?
When little Paul was discovered, we had to take him to the police station, then the ministry gave the go ahead. Number one challenge is the aspect of the ministry requesting that our children be adopted by Muslims. We find it very difficult to release our children to Muslims. We cannot give a child with a Christian foundation to a Muslim. They had their way in the beginning, only one child was given away to a Muslim home and then we took our stand and said no.
Secondly, government has no dime or contribution to what we are doing here. Even when we go to government hospitals, we pay to get medication and at the end of the year they call them to come for party. In Lagos there’s no budget for children in vulnerable homes.
Thirdly, when we first came here some years ago, there was constant light, but for three years now, we have been running on constant generator. Public spirited persons or organisations sometimes during festivities, give us food stuff— they do not give us cash. We appreciate whatever people bring in no matter how small. I have to pay staff from my pension, buy diesel, pay for power, buy gas, and buy other ingredients. We have to pay school fees and other expenses. Our budget in a month runs to half a million Naira. We placed boxes in different places, but it hasn’t yielded much.
What’s your policy on adoption and fostering?
We do adopt, they don’t allow us to foster. Government dictates what we do. A child is not supposed to stay more than a year, but we have children going to three years here. It’s not healthy for babies. They don’t trust anybody because people have bastardized the system. They want to know how you spend every penny so they don’t want to give. This is the sixth month, they’ve not released a single child for us from the ministry because we didn’t rub their palm and we are not going to rub. Paul came as a result of miracle.
They just brought him here and some other cases like that too. God will help our government. We are helping them, it’s their job. The Church also is not coming forth to see this work. Jesus said once you have given a little cup of water to these little ones, you have given it to me. The Church is throwing money away on unnecessary things. The Church must arise.
What will you say to the Love Ministry?
You have come to express the heart of God to these children. I met Baba Brisgue here carrying a boy in his hands. Putting them in your bosom is a great blessing and the Lord will divinely reward the Love Ministry.
Greater things are ahead. God is going to enlarge and increase the ministry. The ministry will fulfill the purpose for which it was established. They will not fail and they will not disappoint God. For putting smiles in the faces of these ones by giving them the ball that made them happy, Love Ministry will never lose their reward in Jesus name.