It was the second and closing day of the Female Ministers retreat which took place at the Maryland, Lagos headquarters of Agape Generation International Church in October.
Senior Pastor of the church, Rev Toyin Kehinde, was to give a closing remark. As he took over the microphone, he stirred the hearts of the attendees and brightened their spiritual tentacles. Without much prompting another session of prayers began.
That was the trend throughout the period of the conference. Speaker after speaker came with fresh unction, expounding the scripture in an uncanny way.
The women; mostly missionaries came from across Nigeria. They came with great expectations; with a desire to be empowered for the work of the ministry. And they were not disappointed at the end of the day.
God is not moved by number
Drawing from the story of Gideon in the Bible, Rev Kehinde charged them to go back to their places of assignment in the might of God. He stressed however that God does not work with number.
‘It does not matter if there are no people around to support you, as long as God is with you, you’re good to go. It is the brook that dried up in the case of Elijah, not God. It is impossible for God to go dry.’
Kehinde told participants never to place their hope and faith in anybody when it comes to getting support for the work of ministry.
He noted that out of the about 200,000 people of the four tribes of Israel God sent Gideon to, only 300 were qualified to carry out the war against the Midianites.
Together for Christ
The closing message went on and on. But the conference had started on the night of October 26 with a charge by Rev Mrs Gbemi Olaleye. She addressed female missionaries who had come a day earlier to the conference; many of them from the north and southwest of Nigeria. She also led the women in some soul-inspiring songs.
Olaleye recounted the early days of her singing ministry and how her ministry and that of her husband have become an enduring synergy. She urged the women to create their own world while supporting their husbands.
She told them they do not have to be rich to have a nice time despite the pressure of ministry. “Value honesty, mutual respect, and work with one heart. Having been married for 36 years, God blessed us by supplying all our needs. I started out as a career woman, practicing my profession as a Nurse. But later I had to resign into full-time ministry with my husband assisting him as an intercessor”
Gbemi Olaleye who waxed the popular song,” moti gba letter ayo” said she knew before her marriage that she would marry a man of God. “We coexist in ministry. He has his ministry obligation, I have mine. That your husband is the pastor does not mean you have to grab the microphone. After my marriage, I got familiarised with my God-given role as a helpmate. I had to help my husband to fulfill his calling. ”
She recalled how she used to hand over her salary to her husband but had to stop when she discovered that her husband was an incredible giver. “I discovered that my husband was always giving out all the money he had on him to church members and people who came to ask for help.”
While urging the women not to harbour bitterness against their husbands she said, “Don’t pull down your husband. He is unique. Don’t compare him with another person. Your husband is your husband celebrate him. Pray with your husband. You have to continue to pray for him in agreement. Don’t keep malice. You also have to be intentional in the kind of friends you keep. You need a godly company of true believers who will not judge you.”
Pastor Bunmi Onilude also delivered another soul-stirring message the following day on October 27 titled, “Working and walking with your husband on the field.”. Her message was in tandem with the theme of the two-day event: Walking and working together for Christ
Onilude recounted her experience as a single lady doing ministry noting that, “It is possible to be a missionary’s wife and not be a missionary. It is possible to be a pastor’s wife and not be in ministry. You got nothing to do with the Christ you don’t know.”
She said she had repudiated the idea of being a pastor’s wife. But then the Lord gave her a scripture that changed her orientation. “The Lord told me, don’t date me, be married to me. From that day I signed an agreement with the Lord. I said, Lord, apart from being married to a minister, I surrender to you.
“The Lord told me, be married to the assignment that I am bringing to you and to your husband. I knew I signed my life for God beyond being a missionary’s wife.”
She recounted the bitter experience of how God orchestrated the loss of her computer consultancy job so she could cooperate fully with her husband in the work of mission.
Onilude whose mission field is among the Egun people in Badagry charged the women to cooperate with their husbands in the task of soul winning.
PFN women wing coordinator for Ibeju Lekki, Rev Folake Oladepo, spoke on Handling family and ministry finances. She urged the women to make all the money they could make, invest, and deploy it to good use.
She noted that many are passing through financial hardship “because they don’t know seed controls the harvest. Some are also passing through hard times because they depend on men for their supply. God can use people to bless you but you don’t have to look on them for supply. Yet, there are those who go through financial strain because they don’t have several streams of income.”
She counseled the women to be intentional in handling their finances. “Have a vocation that will not affect the ministry and do all within your power to make money legitimately” she said.
Lean on God
In her message, Pastor Mrs Mojisola Orekoya emphasised the need to lean on God “Sometimes we find it difficult to be at peace especially when you look at the bill. Sometimes things happen that affect our finances. That is when we need to hold on to God. We usually tend to focus on our needs rather than focusing on God. The more you focus on your needs, the more you get worried. When you keep praying and trusting God, he will send help to you from unexpected quarters.”
She encouraged her listeners to get prayer support. “As a pastor’s wife or female minister, it’s not everybody that likes you, some people want to take your place. You need spiritual support and physical support. You need to get some people to pray for you.” she said.
Keep the fire burning
Rev Mrs Enitan Osa-Oni was more philosophical in her presentation. She said “problem happens to all men. Even Jesus had his own share of problems. Don’t despair. Keep going forward. The same energy that will take you to go back is the same energy that you will use to move forward. So it’s better to keep going.”
Enitan Osa-Oni who is the South West Coordinator of the Women Wing of the PFN urged the women to eschew all forms of competition.
“Our problems are time-based. Everybody has their own time of challenge so we need not compete with ourselves. The fact that I am having a good time now, does not mean I have not gone through a hard time before. So we have no reason to envy ourselves.” she quipped.
The programme featured several sessions of intercession and testimonies including a session with Bishop Abraham Olaleye who showed up to encourage the women and prayed with them. Some of the participants shared their experiences in the mission field.
Barbaric killings stopped
A lady recounted how the Lord used her ministry along with her husband to stop the barbaric act of killing twins in some parts of Adamawa State about 20 years ago.
She said the culture of the tribe was so bad that apart from their belief that twins are evil, they also believed any child that does not come with its head descending at birth is a harbinger of evil. Such child is killed immediately after birth.
The good news however is that since they stepped into the community, God has used them to stop the tide. Some of the children that should have been killed are now in universities.
Many of the participants expressed great joy for the opportunity to be part of the two-day retreat
In an interview with Church Times, Abraham Ayerite said she was attending the event for the first time.
She said, “I stopped attending this kind of conference because of past experiences I had in some other places. But this one is different. Before I came God gave me a revelation that confirmed that I needed to be here. So when I was coming I knew God wanted to meet with me. I must confess that the conference has opened my eyes to new possibilities and given me insight into areas I need to make amends.”
Ayerite who had put in 20 years on the mission field had been a missionary before she married. She said, “ I see the sincerity and openness. The Lord told me that I am not alone. I wept when I heard the first message at the conference. When she was ministering, I knew she was speaking to me. I feel like doing more for the kingdom. The idea of submitting to my husband came to me fresh. The programme is a confirmation of what God has been calling me to do.”
Her ministry, Jesus Discipleship Fellowship is based in Koka off Moniya in Ibadan. “It took us six years to locate the village in Akinyele Local Government from where we used to be. God actually directed us to the place which now serves as a base for us to reach the hundreds of other villages in that area. We are yet to reach many of the villages.”
She testified how a man received his sight after prayers during one of their outings and how God miraculously saved her from a deadly snake that encircled her thighs on the mission field.
What gives her the greatest joy is the rate at which many Muslims and animists in the village are embracing Christ “Many Alhajis and Alhajas have received Christ. There are a lot of secret disciples of Jesus in the village. Apart from that, God used us to lead the Baale (chief) of the village to Christ. We gave him a gift of the Bible. The testimony about the baale is that as soon as he embraced Christ, peace was restored to the village. Before that time, he was always at loggerheads with his siblings.”
Despite personal challenges including a near-death experience of her husband, Ayerite said, God has remained faithful. “In 2021, my husband was seriously sick. I thought he would die. For four days he was not responding to treatment. He vomited a ring in the process. He had to undergo surgery. It was during that challenge that our landlady asked us to pack out of her house. As God would have it God used an unlikely source to provide for us some money which we used to secure a piece of land. Right now, we have a makeshift apartment on the land. There is no roof yet, but we are joyful that God has been able to save us the embarrassment of where to stay”
We experienced love
For Faith John, it was the love she experienced at the conference that came to her as priceless. Faith John who is the wife of the Pastor of RCCG, Habitation of Trinity in Akwanga, Nasarawa State said, “I enjoyed every bit of the programme. I feel encouraged and challenged at the same time. I enjoy the love that has been extended to us. They have also been able to motivate us.”
She said, it will do well if established churches can respond to mission needs just like Agape Generation International Church is doing. “They are not denominational. They don’t even want to know the denomination we belong, they are just interested in supporting the work. There are many things crying for attention on the mission field. But it seems the big churches including where I belong are not giving enough support to missions.”
Faith John’s husband was formerly working with Burden Bearer Mission Agency before it folded up. The agency now handed its workers and converts to RCCG.
I did not regret coming
Another participant, Ibiwunmi Toveda said she initially did not want to come but that she has not regretted attending the conference.
A nurse by profession, Toveda said she only practiced her profession for a few years before joining her husband on the mission field in Adamawa State. She has put in 29 years in missions. She and her husband were once in Koma Hill doing missions before moving to Kemberi where she works with Children Evangelical Ministry.
Bitrus Shawulu also shared her experience. She was one of the participants who spent three days on the road to get to Lagos for the conference.
She said distance for her is no barrier. “no matter where the conference is held, I will make time to be there because the impact is greater than what we experience on the road.”
Saved from terrorists
She testified how God had saved her family from being killed by terrorists on several occasions in the north. “We used to be in Maiduguri but we had to leave the place when the crisis was getting too much. We now operate in Taraba State
Her experience over the years has toughened her “I am dead in Christ. I have no fear again. There was a time when Boko Haram people came and wanted to burn us with the house we were living in. But God used some of the Muslims to shield us because we have been kind to them. They gave us covering until the assailants left” she said.
The conference according to her has been a blessing in all areas. “My hope is renewed. I also want to thank Agape Generation International Church. We get regular support from them. My spirit is lifted. There is something dormant in me that needed to be stirred up which I believe is being stirred up.”
Indeed, for all participants, it was time to be stirred up for greater work. The convener, Dr Shade Toyin Kehinde was full of appreciation to God for yet another successful conference. “We give glory to God. I am grateful to God for all participants. People traveled from far places to be at the conference. The Lord granted them a safe journey. We believe they will all go back to their base safely. It was indeed an exciting time to be with the Lord.”
Story by Gbenga Osinaike