By Daniel Breakforth
There is something the new generation as well as feminists and atheists need to know… In October 1998, I listened as Pastor (Mrs) Faith Oyedepo taught in Bible School. She had just resolved an issue between a couple. The husband wanted his wife to be as submissive to him as ‘Mama Faith Oyedepo’ while the wife also demanded that her husband love her like ‘Papa’ (Bishop Oyedepo). The husband responded that Papa was ‘too spiritual’ to be dealing with mundane things like expressing love, he insisted that Bishop Oyedepo could not possibly be saying ‘I love you’ to his wife. The matter came up and Pastor Faith Oyedepo looked at the man and said ‘Why will he not tell me he loves me? He says that everyday’. The husband was literally shocked. He told his wife that he loved her and the matter was settled. As funny as this may seem, this story shows the impression built over the years about Mummy Faith Oyedepo’s dogged followership of her husband since she decided to follow him over 40 years ago. Hindsight they say is 100 per cent but the discerning mind will find this very instructive.
One day while about to embark on a journey at the park, Florence Abiola Akano, then an 18 year old Economics student of the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University-OAU) met 22 year old David Oyedepo, an Architecture student at the Kwara Polytechnic. The moment he saw her he would later say, God told him she was his wife. She listened to him and they kept in touch and a short while later, they began a serious relationship. My Dad attended OAU while my mother attended a Polytechnic. From that time till now, university students and the larger society see polytechnic students as second best. I also attended Polytechnic and I remember my Dad say to me once while in the Yaba College of Technology ‘What are you doing about gaining admission’? As if I was still in secondary school. Florence Akano could have ignored him that day but she did not. Once they started dating, ‘David O’ took her to a church in Kwara and brought a paper out and began to write ‘plenty grammar’. He read it to her and asked her to read herself. He did not take her in a car, he did not even have a motorcycle but he needed to give her some assurance. They walked in and sat at the back. This is the ASSURANCE he gave her as scribbled in the note:
SAILING UNDER SEALED ORDERS
‘Where, I do not know!
When, I cannot say!
Why, is not my business and How, must not concern me, but it is mine to accept from Him the sealed orders containing His blueprint for my life, and to open and read them just when and just as much at a time as He wills.
It is saying an eternal “yes” to God.
And eternal “No” to self.
“Lord, what will thou have me to do?
Where will Thou have me to go?”
Having definitely relinquished all claims,
I deliberately turn my back on everything.
Thus I renounce all that I am and have.
It’s no longer mine but God’s.
Henceforth, He has the absolute right to do what He likes with it, and if at any time He should call upon me to literally forsake what I have renounced, I must not even murmur or complain.
Discipleship demands renunciation.
He must be Lord of all, or not Lord at all.
This looks very spiritual and innocent but if you settle down to read it again in today’s context, to an unspiritual person, it is particularly ridiculous, embarrassing and provocative. Why will a fellow student who had not gotten his ‘bearing’ ask a girl to sign such a document? Basically, he was telling her that whatever God says was final and of course he would be the one to hear from God. This was an act very much subject to abuse. He asked her to make her decision and if she was still ready to go ahead. He said this to an ‘18’ year old girl. Nonsense, you would say, but not Florence, she signed that piece of paper. After graduation, David got a job with an architectural firm and later with the Ministry of Works and Housing in Kwara State. Around that time, he received what he celebrated as the ‘Mandate’ which according to him was for him to liberate the ‘whole world’. He resigned his job and his elder brother worried about him asked how he was going to earn an income to feed. He said he would start with ‘writing tracts’. This statement offended his brother who asked him to ‘Get Out’.
The first person he told about his vision was Florence. She accepted it and joined him 8 days later for the first meeting of this new ministry. Along the line, most of the 70 people who started with them left. How wouldn’t they leave when this guy who could not hold a simple job kept talking about how their ministry will go ‘worldwide’? He said they would be flying in private jets to preach, they would establish a world standard printing press, they would build a 50,000 capacity tent (at this time, Reinhard Bonnke was in the process of building a 34,000 capacity tent while Idahosa had just successfully built a 4,000 capacity church). His dreams were taller than him and offensive to some of those among his small group of supporters. By the next year, he told her the name of the Church would be ‘Living Faith World Outreach Centre’, he also impressed on her the need to change her name from Florence and she soon changed her name to ‘Faith’. In March 1982, he shared with her how he had received the solution to poverty. He said God revealed to him the key to prosperity.
In August 1982, after receiving the list of things to bring for the traditional marriage, he rejected a number of things on the list as they were against his Christian belief. He was not going to indulge his ‘wife to be’ if only for a day. In all this, Faith kept the faith and remained with David. Wedding day came and David was unable to pay for a room in a hotel on the wedding eve; instead he slept in the Volkswagen that he had managed to buy while still working. All the red flags were there but she went ahead and married him. Close friends were worried. The new couple seemed to be getting worse especially after their marriage and when they started to operate Church. They were living in Kwara but he said God had asked them to move to Kaduna. He drove to Kaduna in his beetle every Saturday and returned on Mondays to share with her very excitedly how ‘explosive’ the service was.
One day she decided to see for herself and did the long trip to Kaduna. There were about 21 people in Church that day and when they had finished a session of singing, praying and sharing, she asked when the ‘real’ service would start, he told her service had just ended. She was shocked. Money was also not coming in, he had asked her to resign her job to join him in serving Full time in ministry. Both of them were now ‘jobless’ without any income. Faith Oyedepo was getting really concerned and her feelings were disturbed but she held on to her husband’s assurances to her from the Bible. He had promised her honeymoon after the wedding but he kept postponing until he finally asked her to choose between one week honeymoon and a lifetime with him. That’s how the dream of honeymoon, whether local or foreign ended. To add to this, a few days after the wedding, Faith was already pregnant but as the day of delivery drew closer, Brother David had become an absentee husband. On one of the days he came home briefly, she complained of miscarriage as she had noticed unusual heavy blood flow. David sat in his chair hungry and shouted ‘No, it cannot happen; can I have my food please’? How insensitive and unromantic? He ate his food and was on his way again.
A few days to her delivery date, she was rushed to the hospital as her cramps had become very severe. The Doctor said the baby had shifted to an abnormal position. On his way to another preaching engagement, he passed through the hospital and after listening to her, he prayed and said ‘Child turn’ and was on his way again. A friend helped him take his wife to hospital for delivery as he had gone to minister. That was how his first son, David was born. David was not born with a silver spoon. Income was still not regular for his parents. Meanwhile, Pastor David had vowed that he was never going to borrow or ask anyone for money. For days, he would go hungry with his wife and many times he converted the hunger to a fast. It was however worse for Faith Oyedepo as it was unhealthy for her as a nursing mother to go without food. It soon got to its peak and one day after taking water for about two days, a member of the Church brought ‘Cerelac baby food’ for the baby. The family of three shared the baby food with relish until respite came on the third day. Faith Oyedepo remembered the document she had signed 7 years previously and for funny reasons made up her mind to continue.
Serious Christians and concerned friends soon began to visit them ‘Is this how you are going to live forever, look at where you used to be before you joined the Ministry. Why doesn’t at least one person work while the other person serves God? They asked. These friends after failing to persuade Brother David, formed a prayer group of concerned brethren and began to pray. Very soon, she was pregnant again. In that state, they travelled for holidays to the Village at Omu-Aran in Kwara and on getting home, he was informed of his nephew that literally had run mad. Nobody could calm the boy down. On seeing Pastor David however, he calmed down; but then David Oyedepo did the unthinkable. To further demonstrate that the boy was healed, he asked them to put him in the beetle. Ordinarily there was no problem with that except that his wife, Mrs Faith Oyedepo was in the car and heavily pregnant. Who keeps a mental patient in the back seat of his car where his pregnant wife is sitting? She was horrified to say the least at this action but it is apt to say she was the vintage small girl with a ‘Big God’. She stayed put.
Was it the announcement of the Bible School without a plan, the announcement to her that he had given the only car they had as a sacrifice for missionary work or the fact that he decided to start tithing the income of the Church when they finally began to grow? Or was it his refusal to collect salaries any longer or his movement to Lagos after Kaduna had started doing well? Was it his refusal to rest and go on preaching while coughing blood? Was it her submission of her salary to him every month? Is it her addressing him as ‘sir’ and as her boss in the office? Faith Oyedepo remained as constant as the Northern Star and solidly supportive of her husband. A multi-millionaire who insists on cooking for her husband till today. A woman who brought up sons and daughters that are burning for the Lord today, who taught her children how best to handle money, to Give Some, Keep Some, Save Some and Spend some?
In all this however, nothing was quite as difficult as the incident of 2004 down to 2006 when her body was subjected to the kind of torture and sickness she had never known in her life and which diagnosis has till today failed the best of British and American hospitals. The devil came after Faith Oyedepo to kill the vision known as the ‘Liberation Mandate’. Finally, Mummy Faith could no longer travel for the work of the ministry, finally she would visibly groan in pain during Church services, finally a microphone dropped from her hand while about to minister during the service and finally, bedridden, she eventually changed position to a foreign hospital. It got so bad that after prayers from senior colleagues to her husband in the ministry seemed not to be working, her husband, Bishop Oyedepo told God. ‘whether you heal her or not does not change the fact that you are God’. All hell broke loose and Mummy Faith went through a life-threatening torture meant to take her life. Once in an American hospital, she woke up on her sick bed and saw that her husband who was supposed to be in Nigeria had flown in quietly, left her asleep and while kneeling by her legs was crying ‘Lord heal her and prove that you sent me’’- She got healed miraculously. Her journey through the shadow of death which lasted 27 months continued until her limbs eventually failed her, tabloids were awash with news of her paralysis as well as some extreme ones who even claimed she was dead.
After about three years, she was miraculously healed only to experience another event seldom ever mentioned but designed for the devil to have another go at her. She had tripped and fallen and the doctors had mistakenly fixed the wrong braces on her legs, left on right and right on left. It took the grace of God and the watchful eyes of a student doctor to realise after 6 months that the braces had been placed on the wrong legs. Very soon and up till today, Mummy Faith Oyedepo uses both legs. Time and space fails one to tell about many other stories and experiences too numerous to mention about this ‘Eagle Mother’ whose fiercesomeness once on the stage bellies her mild look.
A SHINING EXAMPLE
Today, at 65 years, she is an epitome of dedication, purity, commitment and focus. Some have jokingly called her ‘the only woman Bishop Oyedepo can marry’. While the Bishop jokes that even if he had married the devil, the devil would have been converted, I am of a strong opinion that very few ladies would have successfully handled the untold pressure and toughness she had to bear while being ‘Pastor Mrs Faith Abiola Oyedepo’ the Matriarch of the Oyedepo Family. These among many others are some of the reasons WHY WE CELEBRATE MUMMY FAITH.