June 9, was the birthday of the martriach of the Word of Life Bible Church, Warri and wife of the immediate past National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor (Mrs) Helen Oritsejafor. When I was ushered into her church office last Monday, after ministering at a weekly special service, A Day With The Lord, she would rather not talk about her birthday. She was more passionate about the plight of the average Nigerian woman especially those in the rural communities and she is prayerfully and courageously striving to overcome famine among this vulnerable group through increased community empowerment initiatives. Excerpts……
By Sam Eyoboka
WHAT’s the success story of Word of Life Bible Church after 30 years of its existence?
Daddy has been in ministry for 46 years now, but in the last 30 years, it’s been one church besides Lagos and that is in obedience to what God told him. Daddy is a man who sticks to whatever God tells him to do.
He would always say that he doesn’t have any point to prove to anybody. He’s traversed all over the world and quite naturally, he would have been able to start branches all over such places because there were people literarily pleading for his approval to change the names of their ministries to Word Of Life Bible Church, but he would tell them God hasn’t directed him to such arrangement.
We have been paying huge sums transporting people from Benin, Sapele, Asaba, and all over Delta State for Sunday services at the International Gospel Centre here in Warri. Some of his pastors came to him on a number of occasions, saying ‘Daddy, we’re spending a lot of money to fuel our buses bringing members from different locations. Why don’t we open branches in these places for the convenience of such members in far away places?’
But it appears that has changed…..
Yes! Before the 30th anniversary of the church, God spoke to him, saying: “Word of Life has come of age. It’s now time to begin to do what I have never asked you to do.” You know besides starting branches, he has never ordained any of his numerous pastors for 30 years.
What he usually did was to bring you to his office and pray with you and that’s it. God said the first thing to do was to conduct a screening of over 1,000 ministers for the first ordination service in Word of Life. And we ordained close to 1,000 ministers in one fell swoop.
How were the newly ordained ministers deployed?
After the ordination, he announced we were going to have branches and to the glory of God, over 80 teaching centers across the state were transformed to become branches and the International Gospel Centre is now the headquarters of Word of Life Church.
He told us that He wants to use Word of Life Bible Church to heal the land; not only spiritually but also financially, materially, maritally and in every other sphere of human life. People often regarded as nobody, through Word of Life, he will now make them people of substance. It was that mandate that led me to the markets where, by the special grace of God, over 700 children have now been given scholarships from primary school to the university level.
It’s the greatest joy for us to see that people who could have ended up as agberos or street urchins can now have an opportunity to acquire education. (Sobs)
When you talk about indigent students, these are the real indigent students which is different from church members some of whom can afford to pay their children’s school fees but would just want to take advantage of the opportunity.
I am looking at 10 to 15 years from now to see these children graduate from various universities, fulfilling destiny to the glory of God.
We also empowered women especially widows to start business because it’s not every man who is poor that doesn’t want to do something.
Pure water business
Some just need somebody to believe in them. It will shock you to know that just N15,000 can transform people‘s lives. We gave some just N10,000 to start businesses even if it’s pure water business…at least to generate income to meet their obligation to their families.
I shed tears because after giving out money to some people and I was exhausted, some women started crying, saying, “Mama, even if it is just N500; just give us N500.” I couldn’t control my tears…oh God what has happened to this nation?
“I said, no, I must do something and I started asking God what can I do? The crowd is much. In our micro fincance bank, Eagle Flight Micro Finance Bank, we have a purse with which we meet our corporate social responsibility. So Word of Life in conjunction with Eagle Flight Micro Finance Bank had inaugurated a Community Empowerment Project to see how we can assist the army of market women begging for just N500; to train some of them on vocations and help them to start businesses. Those who are already doing business, we will look at the possibility of growing their businesses without having to beg to survive to the glory of God.
We are fulfilling what Jesus Christ said: “When I was hungry, you fed me, when I was in prison, you visited me, you gave me clothe to cover my nakedness….” We are not doing these for anybody to praise us but doing it so that the name of God may be glorified.
I have shared the story of a woman who had nothing and when we started Eagle Flight Micro Finance Bank, she didn’t have N2,000 to open an account but I saw the zeal in her that she is ready to do something and not the type that just wants to beg and eat.
I invited her to my office to interview her and she said she had a contract and needed someone who will help her financially. We followed her to the company and did all the necessary things, today, she is doing fine, she has houses and she is living well and happy.
I became a millionaire in my 20’s and I was doing very well. I just thank God for counting me worthy to be in this ministry. Everybody comes to this world with something, it is in this world that destinies are derailed for many reasons and I believe God has raised our ministry to raise these people.
What informs the vision?
As a single lady, before I came to Nigeria, I was doing business in London but one day, God spoke to me to come back home. I was surprised and even my friends were like what else do I want…why going to Nigeria? But that voice was really strong and I decided to obey. I came home and I started my business and was also doing well. And then God spoke to me that every Thursday, I must go to an orphanage and take care of the children there. I would close by 12 noon every Thursday and buy some gift items for the children at an orphanage in Victoria Island.
Whenever the children see me, they will shout mummy, mummy and I will sit with them, clean some of them, feed them, play with them till evening and then I would go home. That was what I was already doing before I got married to a man whose heart is larger than this world.
We decided that we were going to help people and that was how we started. Today, we have a full fledged orphanage where over 20 children are taken care of.
Does that mean there is so much money in the Church?
That impression that a lot of people have is not true.
Man of passion
If it is just one naira that we have and there is someone who needs that same money, we are ready to give it out. I think it is the willing heart that God wants.
The church is expanding the horizon beyond the yearly empowerment programme….
When Daddy gave his life to Christ and decided to follow His path…though he came from an affluent home….he knew what God wanted him to do. After God saved and delivered him from his past lifestyle, he went to seminary, his family rejected him, he went out with nothing, he would buy bread, cut from it to eat and use the remaining as a pillow.
We are people-oriented and so many things have been said about him in particular that are totally false because he is a man of passion. When he believes in something, he throws himself 100 per cent into it.
He would say what is true not for anything else but a lot of people misconstrue his type.
Some of the things he said as CAN president and people abused him then are the same things people are talking about today.
When he went to address United States Congress, and he said they should declare Boko Haram a terrorist organisation, a lot of people were shouting. He said if it is for him to lose his life for his nation, he was ready. I cried that he should please…that I was still young but he would tell me that God would take care of me.
As CAN president, I remember I went to Maiduguri on a chartered plane with lots of gift items for the displaced persons there. That is what we will continue to do.
Do you regret your contribution to the cause of Christianity then?
Never! Even Jesus Christ experienced humiliation from His people. At some point, he was telling them about the type of death he was going to die, but they could not take it. He was healing the sick and casting out demons, they said He was doing it with the spirit of Beelzebub. He told us that we will also go through the same.
The church runs some businesses including the Microfinance, group of schools and others and their management falls on your lap. How do you cope?
It is God’s grace! Talking about starting a bank, it has always been my passion. They are all service-oriented. Whenever I find myself having to run from one company to another, I just smile because I know it’s all about what God has asked me to do. This is my own part of fulfilling the vision.
My father at one point was always telling me that I did not know how to do anything small. I did not understand what he was saying but I just know that somehow, God gives me the strength, enablement and has given me a wonderful husband who believes in God. He is my tonic, he motivates me to do more, to go the extra mile.
You can see my voice is almost gone because I have been having series of crusades and this morning again, I am back starting A day with the Lord. The moment I entered the church and saw the large crowd, I said God please take over and my voice that I have been trying to treat for days popped open and I started the ministration and God took over. It is all about God’s grace.
At Sunday thanksgiving service, I heard you gave out some items for all first timers during the month-long Overturn programme…..
When I went to the markets and saw what these people were wearing, I could not believe it. So, I ordered a very expensive material called Single, and I said if I can wear it, then these people can wear it and honestly, they were really happy when we started giving it out to both old and young and even the young lads. We ensured that no one left without something.
A lot of persons see your husband from a distance and may believe everything they hear or read about him. What kind of person is the man described as the ‘Lion of Africa’?
They do not know him. This man that I married cannot hurt a fly! If someone steps on him, he will even tell you sorry. He has a large heart to accommodate lots of people. People have done a lot of negative things to him but they do not bother him. If it is possible for him to remove his eyes just for some other person to see, he would do that without thinking.
This is a man, at the age of four, he could not speak until he was five when God gave him a voice. Do you know his last name, Oritsejafor means God has given you power to speak?
He is a true man of God. I see God in him, through his lifestyle, his behaviour, through the way he is ready to sacrifice his life for the country.
When there was a serious challenge in Warri against churches, most churches were closing down but Word of Life was standing because it is everybody’s church.
We have people trooping in from everywhere in the world, just to hear the word from this man of God. It was incredible.
He went to the creeks, to the Ijaws, he chartered a big boat, filled it with food items and all sorts of things. To God be the glory when they saw him, they received him and he was one of the persons instrumental to the peace we are enjoying today in Warri.
People were urging him not go to the creeks because they feared they would kill him, yet, he went. He started meeting with different groups in strange places that nobody dared to enter and that is how we started experiencing peace today.
He stood up and championed peace in this land. He is a man of peace. I see him as my spiritual father. Besides God, he is my life and I love him.