When you are a nobody, you need material things to define you. But we already know our definition as believers in Christ. So we don’t need material things for validation.Rev Ladi Thompson
He was 60 on August 21, 2021. But he refused to roll out the drums. Attempts to force celebration on him did not work either. His family members and the church he oversees had planned a ‘coup’, hoping to take him by surprise, but he got wind, and quickly changed the narrative.
Rather than put up a bogus celebration, Rev Ladi Thompson reached out to some leaders in the church in less than 24 hours to his birthday; to come for a live debate on how birthdays should be celebrated.
Though very close to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, he notified him at a time he won’t be able to prepare his entourage to come. But the VP won’t let the day pass. He sent a video message to rejoice with him sharing rare thoughts.
For those who know Rev Thompson; founder of Living Waters Unlimited Church; his 60th birthday would have just been a perfect day to make some noise and get some attention to himself. It would have been a day to attract some favour as it were. But he won’t have any of that. Rather, he held to his age-long belief of no celebration.
The reason for this stance is not far-fetched. He had schooled in the North at the Ahmadu Bello University and had experienced the repression of Christians and many riots that claimed lives. Over the years he had attended to cases of women who lost their husbands to religious riots, children who lost their parents and had seen all manner of persecutions in the north.
His long years of interaction with believers in the North informed the Macedonia Initiative, a para-church organisation he established about 20 years ago. The group has over the years been of great help to displaced Christians especially in the north of Nigeria.
So for Rev Thompson, there is really no basis for celebration when lives are being decimated at will in some parts of the country.
Some of his friends who braced all odds to attend the impromptu seminar at the Anthony village Church centre attested to how he had travelled out of the country 24 hours to his birthday in the past. But rather than jetting out this time, he chose the occasion to engage a live debate on the basis of celebration.
Do we really need to celebrate birthdays?
Some leaders of the church were invited to share thoughts so the church could formulate policy on how not to celebrate. But before they shared their perspectives, Rev Thompson also known as the Oracle was quick to announce that, “Anybody celebrating birthdays has to be careful. The two occasions that birthdays were celebrated ended in disaster. Herod’s birthday ended in the beheading of John the baptist, Pharaoh’s birthday led to the beheading of his chief baker. Everyone should approach birthday with caution.”
He stressed further that “this is a sober time in our country. So we have to be really careful about celebration”
Mrs. Bunmi Oke who was compere at the event was however quick to point attendees attention to how Jesus was celebrated at his birth by wise men from the east. That drew some excitement from the audience.
By the time the panelists began to chew on the subject, it became clear that all of them had bought into the narrative of Rev Thompson of how not to celebrate. They averred that in counting our blessings, we must understand what counts to God. One of the panelists who also just celebrated his birthday said he celebrated with the poor in his environment drawing from Jesus’ admonition that when celebrating we should invite the poor. He said Rev Thompson had changed his perspective about celebration.
Bishop Sam Ayedogbon, one of the close allies of Rev Thompson however took time to espouse Thompson’s sterling qualities describing him as a gift to the body of Christ. “We will celebrate with the poor, but the way to go is to gather our friends during our celebrations to raise support for the poor.” He said. He emphasised that there is nothing wrong in celebrating a man like Rev Ladi Thompson who has lived all his life for the poor.
Members of the panel were unanimous in their submission that it is how we celebrate that matters and not the celebration. They posit that our celebration must inspire people to bring them to the kingdom.
Many attested to the impact Rev Thompson has made in their lives. But one of the most profound of such testimonies is that of a lady who recalled how Rev Thompson’s words brought her out of depression when she lost her husband some years ago at the age of 29. Life literally stopped for her. “But God used Pastor to bring me back to life,” she said, noting that most of the profound statements made by Rev Thompson were made in passing.
The Chairman of Kaduna chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Joseph Hayab who flew in from Kaduna for the event gave graphic details of how Rev Thompson has been the vanguard of the poor for years.
Hayab who came at short notice said Rev Thompson has been celebrating the poor since the year 2000 through the Macedonia Initiative. He recalled how God used him to bring succour to relatives of those who lost their lives in the north due to religious riots. He recalled the many hazardous journeys they undertook together in the north of Nigeria and all the sacrifices of love from Rev Thompson for Christians in that part of the country.
Shortly after Hayab’s submission, the message of VP Osinbajo was relayed. Osinbajo who spoke from his heart said, “Pastor Ladi, Dolly and I are pleased to join our Sister Taiwo, the children, brothers and sisters in the faith and other faiths and all our leaders, friends, partners in government and men all over the world in congratulating you on your 60th birthday.
“We celebrate today a Christian leader of profound understanding, not just of the scripture but of the place of our faith in healing, uniting, and inspiring our nation.
“When hardly anyone was talking about resolving religious conflicts in the North, you had the foresight in the late 90s and early 20s to start the Macedonia Initiative to give succour and hope to victims of religious conflicts especially in the North of Nigeria.
“Your involvement in shaping opinions, in balancing the sometimes extreme positions in our national conversations, and your insistence on the principles of non-violent communication as the effective currency for the public discourse of the sometimes emotive issues of religion and ethnicity is a major component of our toolbox for peace-building and stability in our nation.
“Through the years I have watched with great admiration how you have represented us both locally and internationally on matters of conflict resolution and curtailing religious extremism with such competence yet without seeking praise or personal reward.
“We are all extremely proud of you and your sterling achievements over the years. And so today, we pray for you, as your days so shall your strength, so shall your wisdom, so shall your favour with God. Happy birthday my brother. God bless you”
The message turned out to be the icing for many other messages that Saturday. His wife, Pastor Mrs. Taiwo Thompson, his children, and his siblings all took turns to wish him a blessed day thanking God for his impact and how he has been a blessing to this generation.
The Birthday Message
For Rev Thompson however, the day was not done without sending across the twin message of the need for Nigerians to change their value system and as well for the nation to begin to resolve to tackle the coming tsunami in the land in a non-violent way.
He told journalists in his office that Nigerians needed to begin to change their priorities and values. “I think for us who are believers, our value is in Christ not in things. How much can you buy the blood of Jesus? When you are a nobody, you need material things to define you. But we already know our definition as believers in Christ. So we don’t need material things for validation.”
Rev Thompson posits further that the mind of Christ is the standard mind construct for believers urging all to jettison the craze for material wealth at the expense of their souls and values.
It was indeed a refreshing perspective to birthday celebration. If we must celebrate, Rev Thompson says, we must follow Jesus’ injunction to reach out to those who really need to be blessed and not our rich friends. “our celebration should be purposeful and it must be kingdom based”