By Joel Nwokeoma
Like most people, I came to know him by reputation. Others by reading and watching his popular TV programme on his dedicated TV station, Emmanuel TV. It is reputed to be one of the most-watched Christian TV stations in the world.
My late revered uncle in whose home I stayed as I berthed in Lagos after my youth service was a devout worshipper in the Synagogue. He regaled me with tales of his simplicity and humility. He was to me like a mini-god so I had no reason to doubt anything he told me, as his protege and mentee.
It was from him and his lovely wife, also late, that I learnt closely more about the Prophet. He was not the usual Man of God on the street corner. He’s not what people said about him, they would always tell me gladly and with a missionary zeal.
Because of his uniqueness, the maddening multitude re-echoed and regurgitated the tales those who never ever walked close to his worship centre nor set eyes on him said.
They had an idea of what a man of God should look like, talk like and move like. The world revolved around them. He was too surreal to be accorded the regard as a real man of God.
But as the years rolled into decades in my sojourn in Lagos, I became more aware of his distinctiveness. As I grew in my Christian life too, I began to see deeper than what many people said about him.
Reminds me of the utter astonishment the disciples of Jesus had when they returned from going to buy bread only to find their Master having a life-changing intimate conversation with a most unfit woman from Samaria at the well.
In their little mind, a Holy God represented by Jesus shouldn’t have any chance-meeting with an adulterous woman who had an unstable marital history. But God is God, He’s no man.
It is so concerning how humans despise what they know little about and dislike those who don’t look like what they are used to. TB apparently suffered such. Those he called their Saviour his Saviour didn’t believe he was theirs. Yet, he was unperturbed. Serving his Lord and Master the way he could until his last day.
But why did the mainstream church in Nigeria never regarded the bearded prophet as part of them? Why was he never invited or allowed to their gatherings let alone allowed to mount their lectern? Nobody can tell. But surely God knows those who are His.
Aboard a huge aircraft from Addis Ababa to Lagos a few years ago, half of the aircraft were well-clad passengers from the East African country on a pilgrimage to Ikotun Egbe to worship in the Synagogue. Is there anything these other Africans saw in this man his people in Nigeria never saw or didn’t bring themselves to see? Or is it a case of a prophet lacking honours in his home town?
I asked no one. But the ecstatic Ethiopian passenger seated by my right, on the window side couldn’t hide his joy going to Nigeria to see the man of God. “You guys don’t know what you have in him,” he rubbed it in response to my question.
The death of Prophet Temitope Joshua a few days to his 58 years hit Nigerians like a thunderbolt. However, anybody saw about his weird ways, what’s not in doubt is that while he lived, his life and ministry touched a whole lot of lives.
He exemplified love towards his fellow humans as enjoined by the Lord. And preached in His Name. The ultimate decider of which side of the divide he will stay in eternity resides with the Ultimate Judge Himself.
Until then, it’s goodbye to Pastor TBJ, the man who put a remote part of Lagos on the map of philanthropy and Christian evangelism. And made the worship of the Living God real in the lives of people, status and background notwithstanding.