The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus is enough proof that mankind has concentrated its resources on the superfluities such as nuclear weapons and hegemony whereas the principal threat to our collective existence in recent times is a microbe unseen by the naked eyes.
Nigeria, the world’s most populous black nation, is one of Africa’s most hit countries by the virus with the resultant effect apparent in every facet of our reality.
As a nation that loses billions of naira to medical tourism on an annual basis, the nation’s substandard healthcare is inevitably struggling to cope with the demands of its population as it pertains to the pandemic. The concerted effort by federal and state governments to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus is commendable but much is left to be desired, hence, the incursion of corporate bodies and religious institutions into the scene.
Historically, people tend to find succour in religion amidst uncertainty but that is also proving difficult at this time as public gatherings have been deemed health risks, and as such, the very core of religion is undergoing severe tests. Therefore, these institutions are strategizing creative solutions to meet the general needs of the public and to underscore the message that the church was founded on the basic doctrines and teachings of Christ like love, community wellbeing and giving.
Nigeria, however, is an eccentric state. Despite being one of the most well-resourced nations globally, approximately 48% of the country’s population live below the poverty line or belong to the informal sector earn their living daily. To compound their predicaments, the movement restriction by the Federal Government, designed to curtail the spread of the virus, has largely affected the income generating capacity of many, and left them with little to no means of earning money for feeding.
The affected individuals are generally religious and find themselves looking to the church to alleviate their difficulties during these tragic times. The church, as a whole, has come under hardhanded scrutiny by a section of the public in recent times as it now perceived as a self-seeking institution bereft of empathy for congregants. This position is further accentuated by the ostentatious lifestyles of some religious leaders. As logically sound as this position may appear, hasty generalisation must be sidestepped as some churches are indeed contributing to the well-being of not only congregants but the society.
Regardless of your position on the divide, it is impossible to deny the impact of one of Nigeria’s fastest growing progressive churches, The Elevation Church (TEC). With different several expressions—branches—across Lagos, TEC is invaluably impacting the lives of Nigerians through its social intervention arm, Pistis Foundation.
Since its formulation in 2014, Pistis Foundation has executed far-reaching programmes with profound influence on tens of thousands of lives. In spite of the enormous contributions of the Church over the years, it is safe to pontificate that its greatest work has been its selfless response to the plight of the people most impacted by the pandemic. Through Pistis Foundation, TEC established a food bank with over 80 muster points across Lagos to distribute food items to those in need including congregants.
Making provision for food items is not an end in itself if the needy do not have access to the resources and with the current lockdown in most states across the land, the Church established a call centre and entered a partnership with GIG Logistics to foster a seamless and safe process. So far, the programme has already impacted over 4000 families comprising of both church members and non-members and is set to extend its packages to 2000 additional people.
Feeding is without a doubt one of the basic needs for survival but quality healthcare, one of the tenets of the Foundation, is not far behind. To this end, TEC struck a partnership with St Kizitos Clinic and Chion Hospital, to provide primary medical care to those in need across Lagos State at no cost to the beneficiaries, and it includes remote medical consultations for its members. The efficacy of this tactics is inherent in the fact that a baby has been delivered at one of the clinics during the lockdown period.
Godman Akinlabi, the Lead Pastor of the TEC stressed that one of the central principles of the church is to better lives of individuals both from a spiritual and physical standpoint. In a recent media statement highlighting its humanitarian deeds during the pandemic, Akinlabi stated: “From our E200 programme designed to support the most financially challenged at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid, to our Ubomi Medical/Surgical Outreach to the medically underserved, and our Pistis Foundation driving several other people-centric initiatives, we have embedded within our DNA, an ingrained culture of practically uplifting lives.
It is, therefore, consistent with this commitment that we rapidly responded and will continue to play our part in ameliorating this unfortunate hardship by providing relief materials and support to not only needing members, and to the most vulnerable of the society.”
An often-ignored part of the lockdown is the mental toll confinement to a definite space for weeks at end has on the populace. This condition can potentially disrupt the mental wellbeing of an individual and it is for this reason that TEC is collaborating with the Institute of Family Engineering and Development to provide free counselling services to any person who may require support or just a listening ear in this period.
The Elevation Church is indeed living up to its mantra of “making greatness common” which permeates every dimension of the brand. Its core health outreach programme, Ubomi Medical & Surgical Outreach, was inevitably one of the most successful medical endeavours conducted in Lagos state last year. It was also prime to conduct a second edition of the outreach prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria. Besides education, shelter, feeding and healthcare—the basics of human living—the church is also involved in capacity building. Its leadership and nation building conference, Vantage Forum, has been one of the most consistent in Nigeria for over 5 years and has been attended by c-suite business executives and government officials alike.
Years from now, brands will be judged by their contributions to ameliorating the effect of the COVID-19 microbe on the populace with those who performed underwhelmingly being the subject of public rebuke. The Elevation Church, despite not being obliged to go beyond its remit to assuage the lives of individuals during these trying times, is proving that religious institutions must cater to both the spiritual and physical needs of the common people to foster well-rounded societies.