Pastor Sunday Adelaja, Founder and Senior Pastor of the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 27 had a comprehensive zoom chat with the Network of African Christian Journalists.
Here is part 1 of the two and half hours chat
Where did you grow up in Nigeria?. How was life before you decided to move out of the country?
I grew up in Idomila, a small town near Ijebu Ode, Ogun State Nigeria. It was not a well-off town as it were. It took a lot of effort for people to survive. My family was doing well before I was six. But after that age, a series of tragedies hit the family. Life became unbearable and tough. Thank God for people like Chief Obafemi Awowolo who introduced free education. It was the opportunity of the free education that made me go to school.
But then to finish secondary school was a problem. The military had just come in. The luxury of free education was gone. I needed to pay for WAEC. Before then government was paying. I did not have the N50 to pay for WAEC. But I went to write the exams. I was surprised I was not chased out. It was 20 years after, that I discovered somebody had paid for me.
I worked after my school certificate and did JAMB. I got admission to study Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University. I scored close to 300 in my JAMB. As good as the result was, I could not get the transport money to go Ile-Ife from Ijebu Ode to process the admission.
But then God came in for me in another way. In those days scholarship opportunities were advertised in the newspapers. I read about them in the newspaper and I applied I was successful. One scholarship option was to go to Columbia University in New York. The other option was to go to Russia.
I had to seek counsel from my pastor because I had just become born again. He advised me to go to Russia. He believed as a young man, if I survive in Russia I could survive anywhere. He felt I would be faced with a lot of temptations in the US. So I decided to go to Russia. As it turned out, God used communist Russia to give a newly born-again Christian the grace and opportunity to do his work in Russia.
Though the plan of the Russian government was to make many of us who studied in the country communists so we could come back to Nigeria to do revolution their plan failed.
I studied journalism in Russia and went to work as a broadcast journalist in Ukraine. While working, God spoke to me that he called me to publish good news not secular news. So, I left TV journalism and became a pastor. That was about 28 years ago. The Lord blessed the church and it became the biggest in Europe.
Six years ago, God spoke to me to go back to Nigeria. So, I started withdrawing from the church and handed it to my local pastors until this incident happened that made us run for our lives.
You got born again six months before you left for Russia. Was it on purpose that you went there to do God’s work?
I was a new believer. And I was not a preacher. In my church, Deeper Life Bible Church, I remember they were looking for a choir boy so I wanted to join the choir. But I was told I was not qualified because I did not have a suit.
Later on, they were looking for those who will be ushers. I wanted to join. Again, I was told I was not qualified because I had no shoes. I had only slippers. So I was not relevant in those places.
Eventually, I left Nigeria for Russia where I met one man called Paul Dahunsi from Ekiti State. He had been in Russia six years before me. He was a Christian. He was in the underground church. At that time it was tough to be a Christian in Russia. When I was complaining and saying oh, why did I not go to America, he told me God does not do anything by accident.
He said God allowed me to come to Russia for a purpose. So he asked me to pray that God would show me the purpose of my stay in Russia. I took the advice seriously. I was praying day and night. After two weeks of praying, I had an encounter with God.
The Lord Jesus came to my room three days consecutively. I saw myself standing before a crowd of about 200,000 white people preaching the gospel. All kinds of things were happening. The Lord showed me all the things that were to happen in my ministry. I heard the voice of God telling me that was what He had called me to do. That was when I can say God called me to His work.
I did not have a call while in Nigeria because I was supposedly not good enough for anything in the Church I was attending.
Thanks for this revealing background. Let’s move to the war in Ukraine. What is the background to it?
In 2009, a Prophet, Austin Moses came to our church to minister. While ministering, he prophesied there would be war in Ukraine. After he finished preaching he was asking for the addresses and contacts of all the leaders in Russia and Ukraine so he could meet them to tell them what to do to avert the war. He prophesied two times there would be war.
Apart from him, there was another man from the US that prophesied about the war. So we prayed and we thought it was okay to just pray. But later we realised that we needed to obey what God was asking us to do.
On a personal note, I had an encounter that was scary. I saw all the military persons dressed in their uniforms and I saw that they were conquering the whole Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. I saw them enter my house and took over the house. Unfortunately, the last I heard about my house is that the Russian people had taken over.
When did you have this revelation?
I had the revelation in 2014. But I heard my house had been occupied about two weeks ago confirming the revelation I saw. We thought we had prayed. But then it happened. We also did not believe the war would happen because Russians and Ukrainians are like brothers. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian government started to be more aggressive about going to the West and Russia did not like that.
That was what made Russia take over Cremia which is 98 percent Russian. Russia helped them to vote that they wanted to leave Ukraine. After they left, Ukraine said they were going to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That was what annoyed Russia. They said it should never happen because they don’t want the enemy to be at their doorpost.
The Ukrainian government made the decision to join NATO because they thought NATO will help them if there is a crisis.
But now that the war has started, NATO has not come in to fight because that will be dangerous. If they do, it will lead to a third world war. Russians are ready to attack America or Europe with Nuclear weapons if there is any intervention from any NATO country. We need to pray for wisdom in this matter so that the leaders will not do things that will escalate the war.
Some people are wondering why you left Ukraine, that you ought to have stayed back?
I left the country because the American government was warning there is a list of people that the Russian government would eliminate when they take over. That was why I had to leave. Thank God I left because they have come to my house to look for me. The person who was there said they did not believe I was not in the house. They broke all the doors and searched everywhere. Thank God we had left. All the Russians and Africans and Ukrainians with me had also left.
We are now outside the country. But a lot of our members are still in Ukraine because we had a big church of over 20000 people. They are there to help in the humanitarian efforts to help victims of the war.
What is the situation with your children?
They were all in college when the war broke out. Many of our church members are in the front line. But a lot of women have left the country
Let’s talk about Christianity in Ukraine. A lot of people are wondering what is in Russia that is not in Ukraine that will make an average Ukrainian receptive to Christianity and Russia be a hater of the Church?
Let me say that in the 90s when the government of Russia was led by Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, Christianity was well received the way Ukrainians received it. No difference. I started a church in Ukraine and it was the fastest-growing church in all of Europe. At that same time, we started having offshoots in different places. In Russia alone, we had over 100 churches. At that time we had 300 churches in Ukraine. But then, the influence we were having in Russia was so dynamic that when Putin came to power 17 years ago, he said our influence was becoming too much in Russia.
The problem he had was that he was not familiar with the kind of church that is not just praying to God but also having political and economic influence. He was wondering how we have politicians, and popular personalities are in our church. He feels that was a strategy the West was using to penetrate into Russia so they could bring in the American lifestyle.
When he banned me from coming into Russia, the allegation was that I was bringing western influence to Russia and I must be prohibited from entering Russia. It is Putin that put a stop to the growth of Christianity as it were. But he did not stop Christianity as a whole. It was the Christianity of his own mind that he allowed. He believes in classical Christianity where the church is conservative.
He believes if you are not 25 years old as a church, you must not be registered. He believes pure Christianity is the old Christianity. If you are just a new church, he says you have not been tried. There has been a lot of clamp down on evangelical churches. He is against churches he does not understand. If you are just doing church and not bringing influence to society, you are okay with him.
On the other hand, when it comes to general Christian values, he believes he is fighting for Christianity. He believes the West is destroying the foundation of the church. He believes the war for instance is a war against the excesses and the dictates of the western world.
He believes the western world wants to impose its value on the whole world. He is saying for instance that why is the West allowing gay marriage and homosexual practices? He is saying he would not allow that. He believes every country has its own lifestyle and no country should be influenced. He believes the civilisation we have now is Christian civilisation and that Russia is built on Christianity. He believes Christianity and Islam or satanism should not be put side by side.
If you listen to western media most of the time, they demonise Putin. But if you listen to him in his own language, the way I understand him, he is not a foolish or crazy man as people think. He has some good points. That is why it is not good to take one side. Everybody has their own fault. I am against Putin because attacking Ukraine is an act of aggression. But he also has his own truth. By the time he presents his own truth you will be compelled to reason with him also.
Let’s take you on your position on some pastors in Africa, especially in Nigeria. Some are not even sympathetic with you now because they believe you are suffering for your sins in their own perception against the church leaders in Nigeria. How will you react to this?
First of all, I don’t need anything from the Nigerian church leaders and the people generally. I do not want their sympathy. What I will like to say is that this war could escalate to a third world war. And third world war is not just going to be ordinary. It will be a nuclear war. If it becomes a third world war, Russia is weaker and inferior to NATO. The only thing they could use not to make the war a disgrace to them is to use their nuclear weapon.
And I have heard Putin say there is no sense in having a world where Russia will not be there. They see the war against Ukraine as a war against the West. My own interest is to let the world know the war might not end in Ukraine. That is why I am interested in talking to us.
No special help from Nigeria that I need and I don’t need sympathy from Nigerians. I would rather say people should learn from the predicament I am going through and what the world is going through. They should pick anything they can learn. If some people think this thing has happened because I spoke against some pastors and that will be a lesson to them, let them learn. If they think this is a good opportunity to come back at me. It’s their time. I am not going to be angry. And if they now want to attack me, I am okay with it. People are at liberty to do what they want to do.
But then I must also admit that yes, as a result of my campaign or crusade online to sanctify the church in Nigeria and Africa, I have stepped on people’s toes. I have overemphasised or done some things that are way off. Even people who are here today might feel I offended them in the way I spoke against their leaders. I will not say I did not do these things and I won’t say I was right in everything I did.
I know I am a man on a mission. I was sent to do what I needed to do to speak about the issues in the Nigerian church. My approach must have offended some people. But the mission itself I don’t have any regret. I don’t regret my actions and the fact that I raise those issues I raise.
I want to use this opportunity bearing in mind that I am a human being to apologise and to ask for forgiveness. All people who must have been offended, wronged, abused, or angered by my method, action, style, or language. Anything that I did that has become a stumbling block, I sincerely apologise.
But not for the message. Not for the mission. I believe the mission and message are assignments from God. I know as a result of what I did there is a lot of awareness in the body of Christ about the things that are wrong. The things I was talking about at that time are being talked about by many now.
Many are now admitting the things we said. Maybe some things could have been done differently. But then, I am happy I allowed myself to be used to do what I did. I believe I did what God wanted me to do and I have no regret for that.
Thanks for your response. Back to the Russia Ukraine war, how do we reconcile this with the words of Jesus about the end of time?
I believe only God’s plan will come to pass. In the second world war, the population of the world was about 1 billion. At that time over 40 million people died in the war. The world might not come to an end. God forbid. If we experience the third world war, it might lead to the death of 80 percent of the world population. That is why the church has a role to play. We need to let the world know what is going on so that we don’t take sides and push the other side to do the unthinkable.
Don’t you think that this persecution is the plan of Jesus to make the gospel spread to all the world?
I agree with you. Not just because of the Jerusalem example when the church faced persecution and it was scattered, but because God showed it to me.
God told me to go back to Africa and I said what will happen to the church I spent all my life building. He showed me what will happen. I saw a volcano. I saw members of my church like lava flowing from one country to the other. I saw it vividly just like what happened to the Jerusalem Church. But I did not know it would happen through war.
If you study Europe, you will find out that Ukraine has the largest number of Christians. A lot of these people are now all over the world. I am sure God will use their presence in those countries to expand his kingdom.
Earlier you said God showed you the war and there were prophecies. Did you at any time plan to meet Putin or some other leaders to avert the war?
I did not. There were members of his government in my church but I did not have any personal interaction with him. When he declared me personal non Grata, I took him to court. When the day of the court came the judge dismissed the case. I never had a good relationship with him. It has always been conflict.
Sometimes we think everything could be resolved by prayers. When the revelation came, I thought we could resolve everything by praying. I thought its in the hands of God. I have come to realise that prayer sometimes is not enough.
Would you say the war is God’s judgment on Ukraine and the west considering the way western values are spreading across the world including Ukraine?. Will it mark the end of the global hegemony of the US over other countries?
I believe it is God’s judgment on Russia and Ukraine for things best known to God. Abominations might be one of those things like same-sex marriage. But I think there are things that are embedded in their past in these nations through communism that God wants to deal with. We can’t deny it is God’s judgment on Ukraine and Russia.
On the western hegemony, Putin thinks it is not fair to have one polar world, a world under the dictation of one power. He believes how can the US for instance come to Nigeria to say if we don’t give gay rights they will sanction us or that we allow same-sex marriage.
Putin is against that. One of the anger of Putin is that some countries like the US give rights to satanic churches. He is saying how can you say in the name of equal rights you allow evil and good to cohabit. Putin believes if we allow these things to go on, the world would be turned upside down.
I can’t justify his invasion of Ukraine. But there are some truth in some of the things he says. One has to look at it objectively. He believes the centre of influence must be multipolar. For now, we should not demonise any of the sides. God might use any of these things to glorify His name. Remember God used Pharaoh for his own purpose. He used Cyrus for his purpose too. He said Cyrus is His servant. Sometimes there are some things God would not mind using ungodly people to do so he could have his way.
If I get you right, did you say earlier that God asked you to come back to Nigeria?
Yes. In 2016 I had a revelation about the Nigerian church. God told me he was done with me in Europe, that Europe was my school and that the next phase of my ministry was in Africa. At the point God asked me to leave, I could not leave because I had a lawsuit in my name and I wanted to clear my name before coming to Nigeria. I was in court and I was saying I won’t leave until I clear my name.
Ironically, the prophet who came to prophesy about the war in our church had told me that the judgment would not hold. The case has been on for 12 years and I said we had just one year for it to reach the deadline when the case will be decided by law in 2023.
But the prophet said the case won’t be decided. And here we are. The courts were bombed and I was forced to leave the country. Now I am thinking seriously about my African mission and how to face Africa. I just need to know how the thing would go.
Would you consider your refusal to come to Africa immediately was an act of disobedience?
It could be regarded as an act of disobedience by some people. But in my heart I know it is not disobedience. If I had left, people would say I was running away that I was trying to avoid justice. I think it was a thing of integrity to remain and clear my name so that when I go I won’t need to be hiding.
If you say the war is God’s judgment, what about other nations that are also swimming in sin?
I don’t have a doubt that it is the judgment of God on Ukraine and Russia. Over 4 million have left Ukraine scattered everywhere. About four years ago, there was a big crisis that hit the nation of Syria, Afghanistan. Many of them fled those countries. A few countries in Europe took them in. But Ukrainians were laughing at those refugees. They did not show human sympathy. They never thought of housing them. They were jesting and abusing Europeans who took them in and saying they ought to have put them away. They were saying the Arabs were going to dominate their countries.
Now Ukrainians are in the same position as those Arabs they despised. If you recall when George Floyd was killed in the US, there was an eruption of demonstrations all over the world. There was nothing like that in Ukraine and Russia. They were ridiculing the blacks. They mocked the black life matter campaign. They were not comfortable with the idea of the black man coming into Europe. They believed Floyd was a criminal. They said it is a disgrace that America was demonstrating. They didn’t see what happened to Floyd as racism.
What happened when they would not want the black people to pass the border to escape when war broke out in Ukraine was what I have been fighting against in the past 30 years.
They would first allow their own people to pass, then their pet before the black person can pass. But the irony of the whole thing is that they are now suffering the faith of the refugees that they once despised. God is breaking the whole essence of the nation. He is using this war to bring out the humanity in them.
If Putin is fighting against same-sex marriage, would you say God is using him to fight the Christian cause?
What is happening in Ukraine right now is pathetic and so unfortunate. Lives are being lost. My house which is worth about 4 million dollars has been burnt . I left the country only in one shirt. But I will not allow my pain and tears to block my eyes to see. I’m beginning to believe that this Vladimir Putin who everybody is saying is mad and demon-possessed is the same man that is fighting for traditional values of the Christian faith. He is saying Christianity and satanism are not equal. He is against homosexuals. He is saying same-sex marriage is wrong.
He is saying Christianity is what brought us civilization. He had to attack Ukraine because that is the nearest country to Russia that is holding to western values which he detests. That is why I believe we should not be in a hurry to demomise Putin.
What he is doing is evil because he has attacked my country but God may be using him to stop a greater evil that is coming. Some people say why will God allow the killing of children, the destruction of Amalekites in the Bible, and some of the wars we have seen. Sometimes God will allow those kinds of evil and destruction to prevent a greater evil.