Apostle Paul Okedoyin, 89, of Christ Gospel Apostolic Church shares his life experiences in this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN
You are almost 89 years old and still kicking. What’s your secret?
There’s no secret. It is the power and glory of God, and His intervention. Then the faith of the Apostolic Church. Many apostolic churches, especially the Christ Apostolic Church, don’t believe in using drugs. We believe in the power of the Holy Ghost. We eat food and drink water; that’s all – without any drugs. But nowadays, people are just deviating from such. The old laid down rule is that there should be no form of medication. I believe my faith in this has kept me strong. Through this and the power of the Holy Ghost, no illness or evil spirit has been able to cut my life short.
So you’ve not used drugs for how many years now?
Well, I am about 89 and for over 50 years, I have not used any medicine. The only drug I used was an eye drop as a result of a rascal who shot me at the right eye with a bow and arrow around 1942. But in 1948, the Lord told me that towards the end of my life, I would have eye problem. So it is because of the warning of God that I kept using the eye drop.
What happened? Were you fighting?
Not at all! The boy was a rascal. He just foolishly picked up a bow and arrow that day and aimed it at me. Being a small boy then, I pleaded with him, “Deboye, don’t shoot that arrow.” All of a sudden, he shot it and the arrow hit my right eye. Then blood started to gush out.
Were there hospitals then that could have taken care of you?
No, we did not know of hospitals then. We just used our native herb to rub the eye; that’s all. I did not know there would be any future implication. It was about three months after the incident that I began to notice mucus around my eyes. But when I got to this church in 1947, it went off. Up till today, there is no problem.
Where did you grow up?
I am a native of Ogbomoso in Oyo State. I did not grow up with my parents. I was barely a month old when I was taken from them by my grandmother who took care of me. It was later around 1938 that I went back my parents. I stayed with them for just about three months; later, someone took me away from them and he was the one who sent me to school till I passed out in 1947. His name is Pa Sanni and he worked at a Post Office then.
Where was that?
It was in the Northern Province; then later he came to Ibadan. It was in Ibadan that he gave up the ghost.
Your guardian sent you to which school?
He sent me to a Christian primary school in the North then; but when I got to Standard Four, we relocated to the West and I continued my education at Ebenezer African Primary School at Ekotedo, Ibadan where I passed out. From October 30, 1949 to April 1952, I worked at P & T. Then I left the job when I heard the call of God.
You left your job? How was it like?
I felt the urge, but before then, I thought I could save some large amount of money before I would leave. I knew that pastors had nothing physically in those days; I wanted to save so I would not suffer. I tried to, but it was not successful. But God has sustained me up till now. Then the person who brought me up also became a minister in the church. Because of the love he had for me and through the inspiration of God, he used to send £10 to me monthly. From that money, I began to save to expand the church, and to the glory of God, the ministry has been successful.
How old were you when you got the call?
I was about 21 years old.
Didn’t people say you were perhaps mad when you left your job?
They said I did not think deeply. They said there would be regrets in the near future; it was my mentor who believed in me and began to give me £10 to survive, knowing the condition of pastors in those days. He was a member of this church and he was the one who brought me here. He was aware. I was in Ibadan and he was in Kaduna.
What was the motivation then when you got the call?
In those days in the Apostolic Church, we were taught not to be worldly and materialistic. We never looked at worldly things in those days; we set our minds on God. In fact, some elders then would not allow their children go so far in their education so that they would not be misled. When I came out of school, the inspiration I had made me not to even speak English anymore. I stopped to read English books so I would not be mislead away.
You’re speaking English now. Was it the one you learnt before you joined the ministry or you developed further?
The teachers in those days taught children wholeheartedly; and also, the education I had was a standard one. But when I got to the church, I was brushed up, especially through the seminary. It is through the mixing up with the children of God.
Unlike today when pastors use TV and other media to preach, what did you use then?
There were nothing like these then. On Sundays when we wanted to propagate the gospel, we used to go out with drums, dancing, clapping and singing. We would then stop occasionally to preach. That was how people came to church. Then again, there were perfect miracles of God; so when they came to the church, all those charms they had, they brought them to the church and we burnt them.
Then, there was explosion of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Why did you move from Ibadan to Lagos?
It was through the call of God. I stayed in Ibadan for 10 years; I started the work there in April 1952. Then, God called me here in 1962, and we started the church here in November 1962. It was specifically through the voice of God. He told me I should go and organise revivals. I heard the voice of God to come to Lagos and He gave me the date that I should leave. But I could not leave the day He told me to because I was given an assignment by my mother church which I was pastoring then. I prayed to God to give me a week more so as to finish the assignment.
How did you know when God was telling you something?
In the Bible, God talked to people in many ways – through visions, dreams, trance and His voice. It is still happening today and it will still continue till the coming of Christ.
When you got to Lagos, what challenges did you face?
There were many challenges. The very day I landed in Lagos, I began to feel sad. I had so many disappointments. But to my surprise, within some hours, God gave me encouragement and made me happy. I went to one of our brothers who was in Surulere who also helped me out. Since then, I felt relieved. The way God showed up gave me the grace to establish the church. It was a marvelous way. The brother in Surulere contributed to the rent of the church, and we eventually started the church in a building at that time; but today, it has expanded.
How are you able to remember the dates when some of these events happened?
God made it so. It is by God that I am able to remember.
Compare church planting nowadays to then.
These days, things are faster for many reasons. Unlike those days when we did not have the microphone, loud speaker, TV, internet, etc, church planting is easier now because of these things. We never needed those things then – maybe because they were not available. We only beat Samba drums then.
People say that the best and fastest way to make money these days is to start a church. When you hear that, what comes to your mind?
Those who establish churches today just to make money are not after God’s way. Christ started the ministry out of nothing and yet it spread all over the world. The church is still growing. But today there are many ministers who are vocal, not because they are of God. In those days, we spoke with the true mind of God. Since the scriptures have said that many false prophets shall rise, this is not a surprise.
What is responsible for the growth of your church?
It is by the grace of God, but one thing I can say is that we believe in God’s miracles. When we started this church, there were some women who were looking for the fruits of the womb. They came and they were blessed with children. In fact, some of them gave birth to their children on their own. When people saw this, they began to come, even those who hated us. I can say the church has prospered because of God’s wonderful miracles.
People say we don’t have many genuine ministers again.
Those who manipulate the miracles of God don’t last. They are only there to make the money, but they will pack one day and go.
Some say some pastors live big whereas their members are poor.
Pastors are supposed to live simple lives.
What of those who fly private jets?
I cannot say much about that because those who understand God’s way have the Spirit of God to the extent that they can buy anything for their pastors. It can happen.
Would you accept a private jet as a gift?
No, they should not give me because I do not have the means to maintain it. If I get such gift, that means I would have to dip my hands into the pocket of the church which is not right. I would rather use such money to develop the church.
Is it not necessary for the propagation of the gospel?
It is necessary if God says yes.
Was it fashionable for ladies then to want to marry a pastors?
No, they were not. Then it was a taboo for a girl to say she wanted to marry a man of God. In fact, she would be mocked as someone who wanted to walk into penury eye opened. For instance, before I got married, it took time. There was even a lady who I wanted to marry that time, but because of the pressure on her, she walked out of the relationship and nobody ever knew why. It was shocking because everyone had known in both families that we were getting married. Her parents threatened to punish her if she did not change her mind but she refused. She refused to tell anyone why she was no longer going to marry me. Probably, which was the practice then, they told her that pastors had nothing; that they would have to pray for God’s provision before they could eat; they had no clothes to put on, etc. I eventually married one who God wanted me to marry.
Nigerians hardly tolerate themselves today because of religion. Was it like that?
In those days, it was not like this. There was much difference. We stayed together. Though there were still divisions then, but it was not really pronounced like what we have today.
What is the way out now?
It is through the mercy of God. We should all pray for God’s help and liberation.
Have you retired from preaching?
I have not retired yet. It is a permanent work which I will do until I die.
Some pastors’ children are wayward. Are your children like that too?
By the grace of God, my wife and children are all in the same church, even those who have married. They are following the way of God. They are all pastors now and it is not because I forced any. God spoke to all of them. Even the one that is a medical doctor still combines it with the work of a pastor.
Would you say you are fulfilled?
Yes, by the grace of God. I am a fulfilled man.