By Ebun Sessou
Reverend (Dr.) Israel Kristilere is the Senior Pastor, Shepherdhill Baptist Church. His parents, Reverend and Mrs. Sunday and Deborah Awolere, hail from Oyo State.
Aside his pastoral profession, he has a foundation called Oasis of Faith Ministry, a platform for taking people to the Holy land. In this interview, he speaks with WO on how his mother bagged a PhD at 74 years. Excerpts:
Tell us about Kristilere
I bore my father’s name, Awolere, till the year 1999, although, I started my ministry in 1991. On the first of January 2000, God changed my name to Kristilere. My father was a herbalist in those days before he was converted to Christianity. He then became a pastor. Awolere simply means, ‘cultism is rewarding.’ I realised I could not preach that Christ is rewarding yet my name says cultism is rewarding; there would be a contradiction. Then, I started ruminating on what to do until I got the inspiration from God to change to Kristilere which means dwelling in Christ is rewarding.
I noticed you write with your left hand; I know many parents frown at their children writing with the left hand..
When I started writing with my left hand, my parents were not happy with it, so they tried forcing me to use my right hand until one of my teachers, an American, advised them to let me be. She maintained that if my parents forced me to use my right hand, it could affect my performance.
There are claims that people hardly talk about their mothers, why is that?
Mothers are priceless. I grew up being fond of my mum although I grew up with my dad. They were separated but my mother was away because of her academic pursuits. Her influence was more overwhelming than that of my dad. To a large extent, mothers are priceless and they should be celebrated. My mother contributed to my life either directly or indirectly; physically or spiritually.
Tell us some of the hallenges she encountered in the course of raising you..
My mother was the first to be converted to Christianity. When my parents had difficulties in having a male child, my mother prayed and promised God that if God could give her a male child, she would give the child to God. And to the glory of God, she delivered a baby boy who happened to be me. I was named Jacob Oluwadamire Awolere and that was how my names metamorphosed to Israel Kristilere. Today, we are three boys and four girls.
She started her model school and today, she has a PhD, although she bagged it at age 74 this year, 2018 in spite of all the challenges. Her academic pursuits took her away from her home. She was a disciplinarian who never condoned indiscipline. I feared my mother more than my father. My father’s cane meant nothing to me but my mother’s eye was more than cane. She was not present but she made impact in our lives.
Would you say she was instrumental to your pastoral profession today?
Her vow actually prepared me for my destiny but that does not mean I never had my own struggles. I remember one day, when I was 12 years old and was in primary 6, I returned from school and met my parents in the sitting room. They asked what I wanted to become and I answered that I would like to become three things. Firstly, a teacher; secondly, a pastor and thirdly, a medical doctor. And my mum replied, ‘you can only be two out of the three.’ That I could only become a teacher and that was when my dad told my mum to tell me the story that surrounded my birth. When I heard the story, I was not convinced because both of them were already pastors and I did not see them enjoying their ministry; I saw the challenges they faced and I told myself I was not willing to become a pastor. After my secondary education, I sat for JAMB three times and I failed. Then, it was clear to me that God was teaching me a lesson. Then, I turned to God and promised Him that I will obey Him but he should just help me pass my JAMB so that people would not mock me.
I also said if I was able to get admission, I would quit the offer and go to a seminary. Then, I passed the Polytechnic JAMB and was offered admission to study Accountancy at the Polytechnic Ibadan. I dropped out of school in my second year and proceeded to seminary.
My mum never interfered in whatever I did, although she might be praying secretly that God would guide my thought.
She bagged a PhD at 74, would that mean she has passion for education?
It could be, but what I know is that she never wanted to be relegated in education. Although she was not financially buoyant but she continued. She was doing her NCE when I was already a degree holder. But she never relented until she got her PhD; even when she had retired from active service nine years earlier. She got her PhD this year.
Would you want to compare your mum with your wife?
Their backgrounds are different. My wife was able to achieve early in life because she comes from a family that is financially buoyant unlike my mother who had to struggle all her life to get her education. God gave me a wife who I can call a mother. What I missed in my mother, I got in my wife, although the two of them possess some similar traits. My mother ensured that my father got a diploma certificate. When I was in form 3, my father was in form 2 and we were attending the same secondary school together. My mother made it possible for him to go to school.
So, how was going to school with him like?
I was going to morning class while he was in afternoon session because education was better then and I do not know why such policy cannot be brought back to the Nigerian education system. My dad and I never met in school.
Can you mention an odd moment with her and what character do you wish she didn’t possess?
I started cooking at an early stage although I had three elder sisters. One of them died while the remaining two were living with my grandmother and I was the only one with my dad. So, I was in-charge of the home at an early age. She trained me to take care of the home front while she was away. I remember she took me to the hospital and I was told I would be given injection. I ran to my mother and instead of defending me, she threw me back to the doctor and I was pained. It took me time to forget the incident.
Another thing was that at age 7, I was to celebrate my birthday. We did not have money. So, she cooked jollof rice and turned it into a bowl and molded it like a cake and I took a photograph with the cake. We cut the cake and I ate with my friends.
My mother was always happy whenever she saw my result. You can get the best of her whenever you do well and get the other side of her otherwise. I learnt that you do not necessarily need to beat your children before you can train them. Apart from morality, my mother taught me how to give to the Lord. I am a tither today because of my mum.
Raising children is a major challenge especially at this time that women are gradually becoming breadwinners of their homes. How would you react to this?
The challenge of our time is the fact that parents are too busy with other things to the detriment of the children and the result of that is the abundance of immoral behaviours in society today.
These days, most parents rather push their wards to boarding schools. I had an encounter recently with a woman who took her six- month-old baby to boarding school so she can face her work. I wonder the type of a child that baby would become. It is pathetic.
Tell us about the holy land?
It is an avenue to take people to Jerusalem; and I have Friends of Israel; those are people I have taken to Jerusalem.
We come together and pray for the salvation of Israel every May 14 which is the Independence Day of Israel and also my birthday. If May 14 falls on a Friday, we do it on May 15.
Tell us about your father…
My father taught me how to spend wisely. My dad sacrificed for his family in spite of the challenges. He was also a good cook and a disciplinarian.
They are the most incredible gifts God has ever given me and I can boast that they are the most incredible gift anybody could ever have.