By Bisi Daniels
At his age he should have been resting to celebrate the big day in style – big thanksgiving service, followed by a grand reception, with people pouring in from as far as his popularity has spread around the world – over 195 countries.
Then they would proudly rain encomiums, recounting the many achievements of the celebrator.
But in that sense and lifestyle, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, who turns 80 today, is an unusual person.
A grand birthday celebration would perhaps be the most uncomfortable situation for the General Overseer.
For a man who often admits that he is nothing without God, and there was nothing he achieved which God did not make, you are most unlikely ever to see him take or share the glory of God. His body language as people attempt to praise him is visible discomfort.
Close observers say it is something of a reflex action psychologists call classical conditioning from his encounters with God.
One example of such an encounter was when a car door slammed on his fingers.
He said, “some years ago, we were in the United States where we had a very successful programme. God came down mightily. I mean mightily.
“We were all very excited as we drove back to the hotel from the church, chatting heartily in the car about a wonderful night and a wonderful visitation.’
“One of my sons sat in the passenger’s side of the car and I sat behind.
“At the hotel, my son got down, opened his door and rushed to open my door for me. Somehow, I still don’t know how my hand got into the front door. So when he opened the back door and jammed the front door, it caught my fingers.
“For those of you who have had this experience yourselves, you will understand that it is not a joking matter at all.
“I cried out in pain as the others quickly opened the door in panic, saying, ‘What shall we do? Where are we going to get some ice?’
“I said, ‘Let’s get to the hotel, let’s get to the hotel quickly.’
“The pain was horrible. As we went, I asked God, “Daddy, why?”
“And He said to me, ‘I visited you and you didn’t say thank you. Everybody was commending the event and you didn’t say thank you to me.’
“Then I said, ‘Daddy, how could I be so stupid? I’m very sorry and I really, really, mean it. How could I be so stupid? I’m very sorry.’
“Before we got upstairs to my room, the pain had disappeared completely. There was no need for iced water, ice block or any other remedy.”
Rather than rest, it was more work for the tireless General Overseer, as he hit the road to harvest souls for God.
For many days, the revered cleric was in the air and on the road, harvesting souls for Christ from around the country in a programme tagged “Reach4Christ,” designed to win 8 million souls in 80 days.
“Soul-winning is his first love, which he practices at every opportunity,” said a source.
“He will do it even at a wedding reception, and if you don’t like it don’t give him the microphone for his remarks at a public function.”
Pastor Adeboye explains, “From the very first Monday after I gave my life to Jesus and up until now, those of you who know me may know that nothing gives me more joy than to see those who are going to hell come in to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ.
Nobody taught me to do that; as soon as I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I wanted to do something for God.”
He gave an example: “Some years ago, I received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ibadan. It was a large gathering with eminent personalities like the political elite, traditional title holders and academicians, gracefully adorned in their beautiful gowns.
“At some point, they gave me the microphone and told me I had just five minutes to say something. I thanked them for honouring me and quickly added that but for Jesus I would not have received that honour.
“I went on to say that there is an honour waiting for some people in Heaven and that if they do not give their lives to Jesus, although they can be honoured here on earth, they would lose the honour of Heaven.
“I then gave an altar call. Beloved, witnessing for Jesus is our assignment wherever we go. Talk about Jesus everywhere you go and He will repay you with signs and wonders.”
Several activities have been performed to celebrate the 80th birthday of Pastor Adeboye, 40 of his years in the position of General Overseer, during which the church grew from about 40 parishes to thousands of parishes in over 195 countries. The church is also the fastest growing Pentecostal church in the United Kingdom.
Activities for the 8-million soul-winning challenge included crusades in some major towns and cities by members of the church with his active participation in some of them.
There was “Gospel Invasion” of 40 higher institutions and 2000 secondary schools; outreaches to 40 correctional facilities, and 40 mission field outreaches. There was also 80-hours of non-stop God’s praise from 7a.m. on February 28, which featured several prominent gospel artists at the Redemption Camp on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Pastor Adeboye personally lit up crusades in Bayelsa, Delta, Osun, Enugu, the Federal Capital Territory, and Gombe, Lagos, among others.
In Gombe, he told his host that he was in the State to honour his spiritual children who organised “Light up Nigeria” to mark his 80th birthday
The Governor, Muhammadu Yahaya, noted that it was the prayers of clerics such as Pastor Adeboye, and others that have been sustaining Nigeria. He thanked the pastor for choosing Gombe as one of the states to visit for his reach-out campaign.
Also, for the commemoration of the birthday, the Love Foundation of the church donated Enoch and Folu Adeboye Dialysis Centres to teaching hospitals in Bauchi State and the FCT. It was the 20th in the series of specialised medical interventions Intensive Care Units (ICU)/ Dialysis Centres / Cancer Screening Centre / Primary Healthcare Centres by HLF across Nigeria.
In Abuja, the Foundation said: “The donation is also driven by the mantra of the church to touch people’s lives by providing good education and health through infrastructural development.”
Unveiling the centre, Federal Capital Territory Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu commended the church’s leadership for the choice of a lifesaving project at this time of rising cases of kidney disease. She stressed that the church was playing one of its crucial roles in caring for society’s downtrodden.
In Bauchi, Governor Bala Mohammed said the state was embracing the opportunity to work with the church to implement social intervention programmes that would be beneficial to all residents of the state and urged other religious bodies to emulate RCCG’s intervention, stressing that government would make greater impacts with collaborations.
Earlier, the church, in partnership with some stakeholders, offered free surgery for cleft lip and palate patients from across the country.
Pastor Adeboye’s unusual nature is not limited to celebrations. Indeed, his birth was somehow accidental.
He said, “You may not believe it but my parents thought I came into this world accidentally. Daddy and Mummy had agreed they would not have children anymore because they had a boy and three girls already and thought that was enough.
“But somewhere along the line, the only boy they had died. I think, at that point, they decided to have another child and hoped that it would be a boy. That is how I came to be born.
His birth in 1942 in a room in the family house at Ifewara, Osun State, was mysterious.
When he asked his mother, who was very dear to him how he was born, she said it was a Sunday when an event was being celebrated in the church, and that she was alone in the house when she delivered me.
She said it was a strange Sunday because the rain was falling and the sun was shining simultaneously, indicating in Yoruba that a tiger was being born.
Cracking a joke about it Pastor Adeboye said, “You may think I’m joking but it is true: one of my nicknames is “The Tiger”. But do I look like a tiger to you now? I am Enoch, Elisha, Sunday, Adejare, Adetona, Olagundoye, Adeboye, alias The Tiger.”
From that humble background, “The Tiger,” through debilitating poverty that challenged his education; and near misses like a day he and her sister were in a pit with a poisonous snake; and with divine intervention later became a lecturer at the University of Lagos, with an ambition to be the youngest vice-chancellor in Africa.
That was where “The Tiger” was arrested and tamed to the level, where he addresses his subordinates as “Sir.”
As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo once noted, “The life of Daddy (Pastor Adeboye) in itself is one big miracle! For a man born to financially-challenged parents in the remote village of Ifewara, Osun State, who had no shoes at 18 years old, who was not a Born Again Christian until the time he was a mathematics teacher at the University of Lagos, becoming the leader of a church with a strong presence in over 195 countries is indeed, a miracle worth knowing. For this same man to remain infectiously humble, despite his enormous power, influence and popularity is also a miracle in itself.”