Rev Toyin Kehinde is the Senior Pastor of Agape Generation International Church. He is also the convener of the Global Mandate Conference, the yearly conference that brings missionaries across Africa together for rejuvenation. The conference this year holds from February 16 to 19 on two venues in succession.
In this interview with Church Times Nigeria, he shares the experience of hosting missionaries in the last 15 years.
How does it feel like hosting missionaries from across Africa every year? What is the weight on you?
I think God has made the weight on us light as the year goes by. When we started supporting missionaries we had just about three of them. We used to call it homecoming. They come, we host them, make them relax and make them have a feel of the city life. That was about 15 years ago. But over time the number multiplied.
In the last five years, we came up with the Global Mandate Conference. It is the platform that brings missionaries from across Africa together for about three days in the headquarters of our church.
In 2020, just before the covid-19 restriction, we hosted well over 200 missionaries from across Africa. The beauty about the project is that over the years we have been able to share the vision with many people especially church leaders and have communicated with them effectively.
So they have been able to help carry the burden. The burden is no longer on one person. Many of our partners now look forward to it. It is now more of excitement rather than a load. As each person contributes their quota, they see results in their lives.
They see God doing wonders in their own ministries too. They also hear testimonies from mission fields about how their contributions have been making impact. People volunteer to do many things during the conference. A sister for instance volunteers to drive the bus used in conveying the missionaries from their hotel accommodation to the venue of the conference each time we meet. Many of the missionaries were fascinated by such a show of love and support.
When you hear their testimonies, you are excited. The joy is not that you have money but that your little effort is able to make a difference.
Looking back, what would you consider to be the greatest challenge bringing the missionaries together?
I think logistics. For you to be able to get specific missionaries doing specific work is not easy. To now bring them down to Lagos from across Africa is another challenge. I think what makes it challenging is that we don’t just bring in people who call themselves missionaries. We look out for those who are doing specific work on different mission fields.
It is a heavy cost on us bringing them from their various destinations and taking them back. One year, we spent about N4 million to foot their travels. There was a year we had to get about 150 hotel rooms to cater for them. It was a whole lot. But then, God has increased our strength and capacity. We also have the challenge of funding their stay. We make them eat three times a day because we don’t want them to come and be fasting. We know they have been doing both natural and artificial fasting in their various fields. So when they come we want them to rest and enjoy themselves.
But do they really come to rest in the real sense of the word since they still come to hear messages and pray all through?
Yes, they do come to rest. We ensure they are more relaxed when they come. The meetings don’t extend to the night and we ensure it’s a more relaxed atmosphere. There was a year we took them to the beach. Some of them have not been to the beach before. We also make sure they get a good hotel to stay in. They are not the ones in the kitchen. They are treated like kings and queens when they come. We also ensure they do some medical checks to be sure they are fit before they go back.
Talking about getting real missionaries to come to the conference, what has been the experience? Have you had instances where pretenders come to the conference just to benefit from the goodies given to missionaries?
We try to get mission agencies that will recommend and validate the people we invite. So we have not had such issue. We don’t want to run to the error of entertaining fake missionaries. We ensure they have a root.
I discover there are one or two missionaries from ministries that have a strong financial base that you still give support to. Why do you still have to spend money on such missionaries since their churches have the capacity to take care of them?
It’s been a mental challenge for us too. I have had cause to think about it. But when I discussed with our mission board they feel we should continue to support them because they are working for the kingdom. We believe that the purpose of God is eternal and he could use anybody. Yes, it crosses my mind that we should not be sponsoring missionaries from big ministries. But then on the other side, we feel since these missionaries need support and the churches that sent them are not doing enough to support them we should just continue with what we are doing.
Have you had cause to discuss with the leaders of these big churches their nonchalant attitude to their missionaries?
I have not because there is so much bureaucracy around the big churches. I feel it’s their responsibility to find out concerning missionaries they sent out to the field. These missionaries went out in their name. I feel they should be concerned. But if they are not it will be a waste of time to go tell them to do it. So as the Lord helps us we still support them when we see the strategic nature of the work the missionaries are doing and their need for help.
How many missionaries did you host last?
We had 215 missionaries from across Africa in 2020 as I said earlier. In 2021 we could not gather many of them because of the covid-19 restrictions. We had the meeting in several parts of Lagos because there was no approval for one single large gathering and we were able to get more city pastors to support them.
So what was the outcome of last year’s event?
I think the restriction to the number of gatherings per venue was a blessing in disguise. Like I said we had several meeting points in Lagos. We were able to reach 800 city pastors along with the missionaries that came. We were able to get about 60 pastors who made a commitment to support missionaries during the meeting. That is a big one for us and for the missionaries.
What are we expecting this year for the conference?
We concluded that we will have the meeting in two locations in Lagos. One in Ifako Ijaiye and the other on the island. For the first time, we would be working with pastors who have not been working with us to host the missionaries. Because of this, we decided to just bring in 60 missionaries. That is just what we can manage since we are experimenting with a new method of hosting them.
This will enable us to see the lapses in the experiment and be able to up our game in subsequent years. We won’t be bringing any missionaries from outside Nigeria because of the covid-19 restrictions and protocols. We hope by next year things would have improved and we would do better.
So, what is special about this year’s GMC?
The good thing about this year’s GMC is that we will be able to network with more pastors in the city. We are hoping that more pastors in the city will catch the fire for missions support and we will have big revivals.
From our calculations, we will be having about1000 city pastors who will be attending the conferences alongside the 60 missionaries. We believe these pastors will have a feel of what missions support is all about. I was in Lekki to meet with the Local Organising Committee and a pastor was saying he was getting to know about missions in its simple form for the first time. He made a commitment to begin to support them at that meeting. We believe more pastors will be informed and they will throw their weight behind the missionaries.
How did you arrive at the 60 missionaries that will be coming for the 2022 GMC?
We used our database to connect with them. The 60 will be coming from both the north and south of Nigeria. 30 will come from each region.
What has been the report you get from the fields so far?
We have had a lot of encouraging reports. We have had a lot of conversions and baptisms in the mission fields. Some of those who are coming will be giving their reports when they come. The challenge of banditry and kidnapping are still there but God has been proving Himself. What has often bothered me is that while we at the city are telling them to leave the field until the situation becomes normal, the missionaries are telling us they would rather stay back.
They say they can’t deny their faith and give out their land. One of the things that challenge me is the illustration of a house on fire. People in the house are running out but the firefighters are running to the house to salvage those that are trapped in the fire and also the property. The firefighters are running to the fire not because they want to commit suicide but because they may save some people. The challenge is there; terrorism, banditry. But the missionaries have the conviction that somebody could still be saved despite the terrifying situation.
Will also like to share the testimony of a pastor who read about the story of the GMC meeting in Church Times. He followed up and began supporting missionaries. He joined a missionary in a village to hold a crusade and later posted the video of the crusade on Facebook. One of his church members, a sister saw it and was excited that a crusade could take place in her village. It was a shock for that sister who had taught her village was a no-go area for evangelism because of the perceived danger in the place. Because of that, she gave the church a land in the village. Incidentally, the church had been trusting God for land.
What message do you have for pastors as you prepare for this year’s GMC?
I will like to tell them that the harvest is plenteous, but the labourers are few. We need to encourage those on the field. We need to strengthen their hands. Unfortunately, have a theology of self-fulfillment and self-preservation. The theology of dying for Christ is no longer part of us
People want to get land, money, and all the good things. Those things are good. But what about leaving father and mother for the sake of the kingdom. What about dying for Christ. What about the baptism that Jesus spoke about to his disciples? I think we should begin to change the narrative and begin to see how we can support missionaries and strengthen their hands.