Getting government jobs, taking bank loans to finance them only to become a regular and endless visitor to government offices for payment became the norm. There were happy days and there were sad ones. Interests piled up at the bank as payments were delayed, swallowing up profits, causing defaults in repayments at times. As I was learning lessons from these experiences as a teenager, one of my resolutions was to stay as far away from loans as I could. My mind was also made up this line of business was not going to be for me.
Fast forward to a decade later and I am a pastor of a fast-growing church. God had blessed my second pastorate like the first one and with over 1000 worshippers by the first anniversary, the quest for a permanent place of worship began in earnest. According to a prophecy I received in the first year, God had reserved a place for Global Harvest in the Ring Road area of Ibadan, Nigeria and this property was offered to us in the second year at Liberty Road, off Ring Road. Payments for it were negotiated by myself and a trustee to be in three installments. We paid the first from savings, raised funds to pay the second and got stuck. The only way out as advised by the other trustee was to take a loan secured by the financial assets of a member of his family. We paid and secured the land with a 6-month term loan and all hell broke loose on our finances.
My 27-year-old mind which had been scarred by my dad’s experiences could not rest anymore and sleepless nights resulted. The burden of developing a young ministry, paying back a loan and paying rental bills of a hotel conference hall weighed heavily on my heart until the hotel owner called me to his office one Sunday morning. He was not a Pentecostal Christian like me nor a regular churchgoer, but he believed I must have some extraordinary ‘spiritual power’ with which large crowds were drawn to me within a short time. ‘You cannot pay my money because you are worried and distracted by the problem. If you will settle down, meditate and focus, you will get the money…’ I left his office amused to the extent God will go to get our attention at times. What he just told me tallied with Philippians 4.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 MSG
I gave myself to prayer for a few hours one morning and then the gentle still small voice of the Spirit spoke to me as God’s peace flooded my heart. God had declared the year ‘A year of laughter’ and our miracles were to flow as we laughed. The debt burden had taken laughter out of my mouth and also from my parishioners. ‘Start laughing again’ was the instruction. ‘Also, hold a groundbreaking service on the landed property and begin the building project’. This second instruction did not make any human sense to my young mind, but I was certain God had spoken to my heart and although risky, only the obedience of faith would be the right response to my Lord and master. I started laughing again, the church followed in tow, we held a groundbreaking service and started our building project in the midst of a debt we couldn’t pay. My worries had given way to peace, my fears to faith, complaints to laughter and a new wave of faith and commitment had swept through the church.
The following one year was interesting with amazing testimonies. The debt was paid, the building built at supersonic speed and God was glorified. But I am ashamed to admit, another debt challenge came up again! Like the first one, I learned valuable lessons that will serve me well and serve our ministry to this day.