The excitements expressed and controlled were expected; but not at the level they unfolded. As trucks loaded with food items and clothes wheeled into each of the 11 Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in the Federal Capital Territory, shouts of joy filled the atmosphere. In one of the camps, while the children jumped, clapped and shouted in celebration, the adults married and unmarried, young and old, men and women displayed subdued emotions in anticipation of what was coming. Some could not hold back tears especially women. They were tears of joy.
The men, as usual, bit their lips and tried to brave it through. They could not jump and clap as the children did, neither could they cry openly as the women. They simply stood and watched. Men will always be men. When Living Faith Church visited the IDPs The mixed bag of emotion unfolded when pastors and members of the Living Faith Church, also known as Winners’ Chapel, visited camps occupied by IDPs Internally Displaced Persons to deliver special messages from Bishop David Oyedepo. The messages were packaged in the form of 77 bags of rice, 2,400 tubers of yam, 44 bags of white beans, 72 bags of millet, 83 bags of maize, 254 cartons of indomie, 57 bags of sugar, 21 cartons of magi cubes, 36 bags of salt and 23 cartons of five-litres oil.
Added to these items were three trailers loaded with clothes contributed as love gifts by members of the church. The materials were distributed to the camps located in Dagba Area 1, New Kuchingoro, near Games Village, Wasa in Apo, Waro, in Apo, Sabo Lugbe along the Airport Road, Gongola in Lugbe, Kekeshi in Abaji, Pandagi in Abaji and Vine Heritage in Gwagwalada. In addition to the items given to these stranded Nigerians was the word of God delivered by the leader of the welfare team, Pastor Sunny Nkemdi. The church did not go there on a crusade. But at each camp, as the team arrived with the loaded trucks, shout of “Alleluia!’ “Praise the Lord!” and “Jesus loves you,” filled the air.
However, a different atmosphere unfolded at one of the camps visited. Despite the initial shout of joy by the children and a few adults, the reporter noticed something more than hunger in the faces of the some of the elders occupying the camp. It was almost indescribable. They seemed lifted on the inside. Hope came alive; and as bags and cartons of goods were brought out of the trucks, the mood of the people completely changed. Pastor Abraham Ojeme who oversees the Living Faith Church in the Federal Capital Territory said both the church that donated the goods and the recipients were affected by the emotional atmosphere in the camps visited: “Reaction is double-edged. Sometimes it brings tears from your eyes when you see the excitement in them and you could see hope in their faces. We are happy for that but it brings tears. Can we as human beings join hands together to help each other? They did not plan to be in IDP, many of them had homes before and all of a sudden, overnight, they found themselves there. That wasn’t their plan but God will change their story, God will give them a new beginning. For the hope we saw on their faces, God will do it for them.
Staying in the IDP camps seems to have created a bond of friendship and unprecedented sense of togetherness among the people. They have become morally bound even if it is a marriage of convenience. Both Christians and Muslims have come to see themselves as brothers and sisters—passengers in the same boat abandoned on an island by circumstances beyond their comprehension. The visit of the church was therefore not seen—even among the unbelievers—as a religious expedition, but as a demonstration of God’s love. Most of IDPs wore brand new or freshly-ironed clothes for the first time in several years because the church went there. Some had shoes given to them and could not believe that such luxuries still existed.
While providing the clue as to the mission of the church in investing millions of naira in a population comprising mostly Muslims, Pastor Ojeme explained that what has happened so far—the donation by the Living Faith Church—is the beginning, not the end: “Well, we are not talking about the millions now, because you cannot even quantify their own souls. How dare you try to quantify what you invest in them? What I am looking forward to is what God will make out of their lives. The Bible says what will you compare a soul to? How much is a soul worth? This is just the beginning and this same thing happening in FCT is happening all over the states of Nigeria.
We have done this many times before. We have done it for nations. We did it for Liberia. I was in Liberia in the midst of the war. We sent shiploads of materials to them and I could see how excited they were. We have done it in Sierra Leone, we have done it in Rwanda and we will keep doing it all over the world.” Few things, if any, create satisfaction and raise hope in the midst of calamity than the knowledge that somebody cares. When words of hope are spoken, the weak bones receive strength. When hands of succour are stretched in moments of distress, agony turns to joy; tears turn smiles. All these unfolded across the 11 IDP camps visited by the Living Faith Church two weeks ago.
As the divinely-inspired visitation wrapped up at the last camp visited, Pastor Ojeme prophesied hope even in the face of hopelessness. He said: “I see a people that will soon come out of their present condition. It is only a matter a time. Watch what will soon happen. The Bible says God raises the poor from the dung-hill. He lifts the servant from the ground and puts him on the horses. Their story will soon change. Some of them and their families will never know the road to an IDP camp again in life. Now, for what they have gone through, when God visits them and the changes come, they will know the difference, they will know how to appreciate God.”