By Nkiruka Nnorom
Grace Balogun is the coordinator of Habitation of Hope, a ministry under the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), commissioned to rescue depressed and destitute boys from the street in a bid to compact high level of crime in the society. The ministry transforms and empowers the rescued boys, aged 7-17 years, to be self-reliant. Since its inception 14 years ago, the ministry has taken a little over 2000 boys from the street and reconciled many of them with their parents.
Genesis of Habitation of Hope…
The habitation of Hope (HoH) Ministry is a child of evangelism. I was a parish pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God in 2005 when I heard a voice that said; “Go to Kuramo”, but I did not know where Kuramo was as at that time.
I had a prayer partner who lived at Ikoyi, so, I asked her how to get to Kuramo and she said it was near Eko Hotel in Victoria Island. What we saw when we got there was beyond reasoning.
It was a beach area of over 10 kilometres harbouring hoodlums, including prostitutes. What attracted me the most was the girls and the number of girls in prostitution was huge and they were mostly young girls.
So, we go there on Thursdays with clothes and food and within two months, we arranged a big outreach and about 500 boys came out to give their lives to Christ. What surprised me was that most of the people that came out for the outreach were boys. When I prayed, God said, “these are your target, the boys”.
We took it from there and invited them to our headquarters parish at Ebute Metta.
So, for one and a half years, I do bring them to our parish from Ikoyi every Sunday to worship. To my amazement, all the adults’ members of the church left, saying they could not cope with their dirty and rough life. But I knew I wanted to do something with them, so we kept on bringing them to church. I later discovered that they were the only congregation I had. I was enjoying something from them because within one year, there had been significant changes in them. They could now sing and recite the bible.
In 2006, we brought them to the Redeemed Camp for the Holy Ghost Congress. Most of them came with marijuana, but I just wanted them to know Jesus.
So, for one week, we were in the hostel and go to the auditorium for the church programmes. She brought us food, morning and night throughout the programme.
On the last day, the boys refused to leave due to the little comfort they enjoyed in the camp, saying: “We have been sleeping on the ground, but mama gave us to bed and slippers and now we are going back to Kuramo to sleep on the sand. We are not going and they all started crying.
The wife of the General Overseer said we should go that she would send for me.
I was wondering how she would reach me, because she didn’t have my number, not knowing she had asked someone to take my number.
At a particular time an incident happened, six of the boys got drowned while they were fetching water for white garment churches on the beach. Incidentally, mama called me that same day and heard me crying. I narrated what had happened and she made arrangement to move the bots from Kuramo beach. That was how the ministry started in 2005.
What is the objective of the home?
To salvage the homeless and abandoned children from the street and make them better. We do get to know their parents if they still have any and also reconcile them back to Christ and their parents where possible. We also give them education and show them the way of the Lord.
How do you reform them, especially from taking marijuana?
It is not an easy task. When we started, it was tough; the church has an arm, which is the drug addicts’ home in Epe. I had to go to them because, by the time we started, we did not even know what to do with them. Mama (Wife of General Overseer) just said; let them eat and sleep, but they became a problem to the campsite, fighting and smoking.
When we could not continue in the camp due to their lifestyle, we rented a four-bedroom apartment at this side of the camp. I went to other ministries that were into the same thing to ask how they run their affairs, but most of the things we did and still do in their reformation come from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
He would tell me; “just go and arrange that section for them” and through that, they were responding to what the Holy Spirit was telling them, because, we used the word of God in their deliverance and reformation. I have been to SOS to learn how to run this kind of home, and I discovered the power to take care of this place can only come from God.
Immediately we knew there was a task at hand, we went to register the home.
Government officials told us that we can only accommodate boys from 1 to 17 years. Already the RCCG had such home for men.
Do you have any success story since you started home in 2005?
We have the child development guideline from Lagos State, which we work with. It is helping us, but the truth is that because of where these boys are coming from, they are lost. Some of the laws from the state are for normal children. So, what we are doing is not what we can do on our own; we depend on God to give us direction.
We do not have boys home like this before, we have a girl home, we have for the men, we have an orphanage, but to have a group of boys from the age of 7- 17 who have been on the street for 10 years, it is not easy.
When we met them, these boys were drug peddlers; they practised homosexuality, among others and because of their peculiarity, we take our time. Our trainers and teachers are spirit-filled. No matter the education you have, you must be spirit-filled.
Some of these children do come and say, “We have killed before, we have slept with 70-year-old women before, but since you have spoken with us, we want to change”.
How many boys have the home taken out of the street since inception?
It should be more than 2,000, but we have 200 in this place now. About five years after we left there, (Kuramo Beach), there was an upsurge of water and Kuramo was submerged.
So, we had to start looking at other places and communities to pick the boys. We have reconciled many to their parents. We realised that some of them came from either polygamous or broken homes.
For some, the father is either a bus driver, they met the mother of the child under the bridge or they did not marry each other. So, when the child came, they just said, “let him go and live with the grandmother” and the boys end up becoming street boys. Poverty is also an issue.