By Yinka Ajayi
Opara Luxson Izuchukwu, aka Pastor Puma, is an ex-footballer whose zeal to serve God turned him to the Presiding Pastor of Winning Faith Covenant Ministries International based in Bangladesh, South Asia.
In this interview, Izuchukwu speaks on the need for national re-orientation before Nigeria can get it right as a nation. Excerpts:
How did you come about the nickname Pastor Puma?
As a young boy, my father sent me to a seminary school in Owerri. Most of my mates at that time are today archdeacons, archbishops, but I was very good at football. In those days, like Maradona, I wrote on my door post ‘football is my religion’. My father wanted me to be a priest in the Anglican Communion but my passion for football did not allow that. I craved to play football internationally so that was how the name Puma came to be.
How did you find yourself as a minister of the gospel of Christ amid your undying passion for football?
Like I said, I was born into a Christian home, attended seminary; so I had the knowledge of Jesus Christ but in pursuit of football, I left the shores of Nigeria for Tunisia, India, up to Vietnam and finally it landed me in Bangladesh.
How has the experience been?
Definitely when you have a passion and you fulfill that passion, you feel you have achieved. I feel great to have played football internationally and for my love also I became an Asian Football Certified Coach, AFC.
Why have you not been involved in Nigerian Football?
I know I am called into the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I went astray from the call because of football and if you read one of my books titled ‘Grow in Grace’, you will find where I said, I was labouring in another man’s vine yard for years and one day, God said to me “you are just labouring in another man’s vineyard; come to where I want to bless you”.
I can sincerely tell you that since I answered the call, I have been blessed with a beautiful family, happy home, peace, and I have never had a sleepless night or struggle in ministry as God has been using me to bless people.
There are some testimonies that I don’t even know how they happened. So the first grace and the greatest of all grace is obedience. Disobedience can cost us a lot. The greatest currency in the Kingdom is obedience and truth. Bishop David Oyedepo once said you can hear and pretend not to hear. To hear and obey is what it takes to be one of God’s Kingdom Generals.
In the race of commercialized churches, where do you belong?
As a servant of God, I am not moved or do I follow blindly. I love prophets, but I always tell my people that prophecies don’t actualise themselves, because many have failed because of prophecies. Bishop Oyedepo is my mentor; so in my books I talk about him. People may misinterpret him but Oyedepo is a man that has touched lives in terms of scholarship and shelter. Do you know how many have been made by the teachings of Oyedepo? Many people asked that I talk about Pastor Adeboye, Oyakilome, Oyedepo, but I don’t talk about TB Joshua. I was not close to TB Joshua, so I don’t say what I don’t know.
So far how many books have you written?
My first book is called ‘Convocation from God’. I wrote that book when I was serving in the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Bangladesh. After that the grace of God inspired me to write ‘Let This Mind Be in You’. If ‘The Mind of Jesus’ is in 50 per cent of people in the world, the world would be second heaven. The third one is ‘But Grow in Grace’. Many are blessed reading these books. I sent them to prisons and people who came out of the prisons came to look for me saying if not for the book they almost gave up.
Share your experience in ministry in Bangladesh…
Bangladesh is 90 percent Muslims. And Christians there are not up to one per cent. So you can imagine what it takes to be a minister of God in a Muslim dominated community. One good thing about them is that they are not extremists. But it is not easy for us as a minister in a community that is largely dominated by Muslims.
The Bangladesh Christians coming to church are coming to be fed spiritually and financially. The same way missionaries are pampering us to accept Christianity, that is the same way we are pampering them to accept Christ. Missionaries going to the United States and the United Kingdom should try Bangladesh that operates strict laws of Islam and they will share a different experience. Open evangelism is prohibited; you can’t go out to share handbills. But God has been with us for 10 good years. By the grace of God, we have been directed to open a branch of the ministry in Nigeria.
Opening a branch in Nigeria, have you considered insecurity?
Sincerely those in authority should help us because if you claim you cannot see, you are hearing. All hands must be on deck but if an aircraft develops a fault in the air, do you blame the passengers or the pilot? So whatever the nation is today, the leaders cannot deny it.
As a Nigerian, I feel ashamed that as poor as Bangladesh is, their currency is six times better than the Naira. N1million cannot give you 200 000 Bangladeshi Taka. The only resource they can boast of is exporting garments. I bought an electric generator for the ministry, and somebody was laughing at me that I am not in Nigeria. I bought five liters of fuel; it is still there for more than two years.
I am not condemning Nigeria but we are not pleased with what is happening. We are not asking for a leg or hand but for basic amenities. Most interior villages in Bangladesh have access to good roads and clean water. My children are crying that they want to go back. The poorest man has access to WiFi and at the end of the month you pay 200 Taka or 300 Taka.
What is the way forward?
Everybody is disorganized in Nigeria. Everybody wants to become a billionaire. Pastors are into occultism, churches booming. The other day I told someone that I am a pastor, he answered that pastors are thieves. So charity begins at home because I don’t know who can help us. The first thing is we have to change our mentality. If we can change our mentality, we can change the system.