by Akan Ido
Just like the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor celebrated 40 years in the Christian ministry recently, Bishop Tom Samson of the Christ Royal Family International Church has rolled out the drums to celebrate his 21 years in the vineyard of Christ.
The clergyman spoke with reporters on his ministry, his relationship with other men of God, private jets and others.
Please read the Punch Newspaper interview below:
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Celebrating 21 years in the ministry
It has been quite challenging and exciting. Labour can be fulfilling when you see the result. It is 21 years since I left the university and went into the ministry. The beginning was rough. It is quite unimaginable coming to start a ministry in Lagos without money. I didn’t even have money to rent a house. I had hoped to stay with my schoolmate who was already living in Lagos but his parents said they didn’t want anybody in their house. I managed somewhere in Ojuelegba. But as God would have it, the ministry I started 21 years ago with nothing, is today all over the world and touching lives. It has been rough. The early days were so rough. We have never done any fundraiser in this church.
How we became popular
It is not about miracles but about affecting lives. If you look at my vision even when I was still in the university, it has always been about setting the captives free. So many people at the Ekpoma campus of the then Bendel State University changed their lives. Cultists and prostitutes surrendered their lives to God. While at the Ekpoma campus, I went deep inside the villages and I was preaching the gospel. When I moved to Abraka campus, it was the same thing. We did ministration with passion. People were saved. It was exciting. When I left the university, the lord said he has deposited so much in me and I should go and touch lives. That was when I moved to Lagos. The gospel has to do with affecting lives. In this church, people came as nobody but their story has changed. Miracle is something that goes beyond effort. It is not all about healing.
Where I got my powers
In 1985, I gave my life to Christ. I came from a family that went through terrible oppression. Witchcraft operation was horrible at Ile-Ife where I was born. Life was tough for us then. We were under a siege. I left secondary school and I couldn’t get a job or admission into the university. But things changed when I became born again. One Rev. Akin preached in a crusade at a market square and that was where I gave my life to Christ. I followed them to the church and I continued with that little church. Later, one of their Sunday school teachers left. The pastor told me, a new convert, to be in charge of the Sunday school. He gave me the Sunday school manual. I was introduced into leadership very early in life. Shortly after that, I got into the university. I met people like Chris Oyakhilome. He was already in third year and he had his fellowship. It was dynamic on campus then. They would go to villages to preach the gospel and I would follow them. I soon discovered that I am a package of many gifts. Those days, when I lay hands on possessed people, they were set free. I had this boldness to confront cultists. My spiritual gifts started manifesting right from when I was in the campus. The campus was my training ground. I was called ‘Violent Tom’ during my university days. Some other people called me ‘Desmond Tutu’ because I was an activist. Any time there was a problem on campus, the university authority would meet me to help them to address the students. I was an orator. I was so popular.
Chris Oyakilome and I
At that early stage, Chris was the campus fellowship president. He was really a motivator. I would say that my love for village evangelism on campus was as a result of their encouragement. I used to follow them to crusades inside the villages. But when I transferred from Ekpoma campus to Abraka campus, I saw different challenges entirely. I had got some kind of exposure at Ekpoma. I remember when one deaf and dumb girl heard and spoke in one of the villages in Abraka. It was awesome. I used to watch Bishop Benson Idahosa perform miracles on the television. I just gave my life to Christ and I was on fire. I wanted to try out such miracles and I did it.
Numerous churches in Nigeria
Our ministry affects life. I have never done a fundraiser as I told you before. I have never gone to borrow money. People are not fools. When you deceive people, you would soon be discovered. For us to be 21 years now, if we were not real, we would have been discovered. The churches in Nigeria are not even enough to contain the number of people in this country. There is a need for true gospel preaching churches. In everything real, you will always see the fake of that thing. We have fake bankers, policemen and so many in other sectors. Even in the Bible, there was a fake Jesus. Everybody cannot be bad. I travel abroad and I hear some Nigerian pastors have come to extort money from people over there. But you have to prove your worth. I know that darkness can neverover come light.
Don’t the state governors own jets? Doesn’t the President have a jet? Does the Nigerian government give everybody money to buy food? No. They only make facilities available. The Bible says it will give you power to get wealth. The government only provides the enabling environment for you to be comfortable in life by providing jobs. When I was going to Abuja the other day, I spent three hours at the airport. On another occasion, I was coming from Abuja for a meeting in Lagos, I missed that meeting. I spent four hours at the Abuja airport. If I have the means, in fact, I will buy my own jet. Those of us who have ministries all over the world, do you know how many times our flights have been cancelled? But if you have your jet, it would make things easier for you. It is not about luxury but about the purpose of the jet. The governors who have jets don’t even do as much work as we do. We touch more lives than the governors and even the government officials. We help the government in their work. People are downcast and discouraged. We help the government to give these people hope. People come to us out of frustration. People think we are about making money. But do you know how much we spend on people as well? We pay people’s rents. An average church has a welfare package. Does the government provide welfare for the citizens? Nigeria is moving on because of the role the churches are playing. It is only the government that will buy a bag of rice for some individuals and they will call a press conference. We don’t see churches doing such. Those of us travelling around the world, preaching, we are suffering. How can somebody be at the airport for four hours? The purpose of what you are travelling for is always defeated. For those who can afford a jet, I congratulate them. I am trusting God for mine. For those pastors condemning the pastors that own jets, I would say that it is the way life is. People criticised Jesus. They couldn’t do what Jesus was doing. So, when they couldn’t buy the jet others were able to buy, instead of celebrating the person and in order not to look like failures in front of their congregation, they rubbish the thing. We have different callings. I am good at what I am doing; I congratulate those who do more than I am doing. God will judge everybody individually. He would only judge me by the assignment He has given me to do. Why should I feel bad about somebody’s work?
Why I wear Army fatigues
God told me that a lot of His children are in bondage. He wanted me to pull down the strongholds. He told me to put on army fatigues. It is a reflection of warfare. If I put on suit and tie for that kind of ‘battle’, people might not take me serious. When I wore ‘It is war’ camouflage, the whole Lagos shook. This was in 2004. People were wondering what I was up to. It became a slogan. People were shouting ‘It is war’. It became a yearly event and I started taking it to different cities in Nigeria and even outside Nigeria. By next year, we hope to make it a quarterly event. More people are yearning for it.
We live in a country where there is a government. It is inappropriate to take the laws into one’s hands. He that kills by the sword will die by sword. We live it for the government to handle. It started as a political problem but it has gone out of hand. I am trusting God that this government will do more than it is doing now. I am sure foreigners are part of this problem. What doesn’t have the backing of God will not stand the test of time. It doesn’t make a good governance to see lives and resources wasted.