By Emmanuel Unah, CALABAR
THEY are described by many names: “street preachers”, “executive beggars”, “mobile churches” and so on.
These nomenclature ascribed to them may not be friendly neither do these people given odious names care much. However, what is important to them is the pecuniary benefits that accrue to them.
Whether God appreciates what they are doing or not is for Him to decide, but here on earth those who are using His name as a source of survival are increasing by the day in Calabar, the Paradise City.
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Apart from the plethora of worship houses that abound in the city, these street preachers are everywhere. You find them at motor parks, inside buses, highbrow areas, populated streets, markets, tertiary institutions’ gates and popular leisure spots preaching and collecting offering.
The affluent ones operate with power generating sets to power equipment while the upstarts use megaphones to carry out their work.
They often begin by playing loud local gospel music to charm their audience before the messages which are usually on prosperity and God’s blessings and thereafter, they ask for donations for fuel, feeding money for the preacher to keep the ministry afloat.
Usually they have ushers who go around with offering baskets or bags to collect the donations which are promptly handed over to the preacher. It is common to find one preacher at two or three spots in a day as their activities do not last more than an hour at a spot.
One of the preachers who gave his name as Augustus said he has not registered a ministry nor does he work for any but has been preaching for more than five years on the streets.
“You are looking at my collecting offering from a very short sighted angle. I am doing the work of God and he says a labourer deserves his wages.
“What I am getting is wages to help me continue the work,” he adding that he settles the ushers and technician who assist him in the work, thereby creating employment in some ways.
“You can imagine what these young man and ladies would be doing without what they are doing now? I pay them every day,” he declared.
Another preacher said his messages have made “thousands of sinners to give their lives to God and that makes God happy with my work and you are here talking about my disturbing the peace of the people around here.”
When asked why he has not gathered the thousands his messages have saved, he retorts, “It is not easy.” He said the money he collects keeps his family alive and he feels satisfied answering ‘the call of God.”
Sometime in 2005, Donald Duke, the then governor of the state enacted a law banning noise pollution through loud music and open air preaching but that has since been consigned to the archives.
A Calabar landlord tagged them “hungry preachers” and questioned their integrity and sincerity in the work of God.
“Some time last month I was going to Port Harcourt and in the bus I boarded I saw one fellow preaching inside and this is someone who comes around my street to drink alcohol and play football betting game every day. Does God permit gambling and drunkenness?”
Dr Lawrence Ekwok, the Cross River State Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria said “the people are doing the work of God and we do not begrudge them. But we keep admonishing them to do it with sincerity.”