By Gbenga Osinaike
The race course, the open lawn, the cricket court and the entire milieu of Nigeria’s Tafawa Balewa Square was strewn with human folks on the night of Friday December 5, 2014.
It was the ninth edition of The Experience, an initiative of Pastor Paul Adefarasin, Senior Pastor of House on the Rock Church in Lekki Nigeria. The Experience is Nigeria’s most accepted Christian musical show with ecumenical dimension.
The platform accommodates gospel artists from all tribes and tongues, from all nook and cranny of the globe. The collection of artists for The Experience is always the finest among the bests.
This year’s event was no exception. Every second mattered in the all-night event, which brought together church leaders from various denominations.
By the time the programme was rounding off, the organisers had counted close to 700,000 adults besides children that graced the occasion. Food vendors had a field’s day and hawkers of various wares had willing clients. It was indeed time to make brisk business while also attending to the matter of the soul.
The security was tight. As participants came into the venue they were subjected to checks by security operatives who brooked no nonsense. At a point, entering the venue was like the proverbial horse going through the eye of a needle.
The crowd was thick and intimidating Thank God Nigeria is ebola-free such crowd would have been a fertile ground for the virus. All what the participants wanted was to experience the event and the live concerts.
But this years’ experience is not only about the musical concert as it happened in previous years. It was a potpourri of events including a wide range of gospel artists with their peculiar talent on display reaching the souls of men.
It was also a refreshing time before God where people poured their hearts to their maker. It was indeed an opportunity for the organisers to reinvent the Nigeria project. It was a time of laughter, a time for learning and a time to lead souls to the kingdom of God.
From the very beginning the tone was set and the performers came in quick succession offering praises to God. Pastor Taiwo Odukoya of the Fountain of Life Church was on hand to lead the congregation in a heart rending prayer for the city of Lagos. And then came other artistes including MC Abe who thrilled participants with extreme jokes that jolted them to laughter.
Closely following Odukoya’s intercession was a prayer session for Christians in the north. This was anchored by Pastor Austin Ukachi of His Alive ministry. Emotion poured ceaselessly for Christians in the north as participants joined their hands and hearts together calling on God to intervene in the situation in that part of the country.
And then Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission and his wife led the huge audience in healing and deliverance session. He seized the opportunity to appeal to the myriads of people who were yet to know the Lord to take a decision for Him. “What will you do with the Lord” he asked the mammoth crowd pointing out that their lives will amount to nothing if they failed to accept the free gift of salvation.
As the meeting progressed, there was palpable increase in the presence of God. The unison of the crowd was incredible. They followed patiently. They followed enthusiastically. They followed with their hearts and mind. The public address system was in perfect shape, the slides did not disappoint. Above all, those who came on the platform to render one form of performance or the other lived up to billing.
What came out strong in the event was the penchant of the organisers for a new Nigeria. Adefarasin’s address was obviously an uncanny display of his love and affection for Nigeria. He introduced the president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Dr. Felix Omobude who prayed the Nehemiah way calling on God to step into the affairs of Nigeria. Unlike other ministers who led the people to pray, Omobude stood in the gap calling on God on behalf of Nigeria while participants rendered intermittent amen.
The prayer session was then followed by a documentary on Nigeria chronicling the ills in the country. Here, Adefarasi seized the opportunity to urge the church to rise up to its responsibility of truly being the light insisting that the church has a role to play in the emancipation of a new Nigeria. “Nigeria needs to be reborn as you have been born again.” he said.
Incidentally the venue of the event was symbolic. Just behind the podium were Nigeria’s coat of arms and the National Assembly building of the second republic. All these elements evoked passion in the music lovers who prayed ceaselessly for Nigeria.
You can’t be in the programme and not love to pray for Nigeria. The crowd was then reminded that they should take advantage of the next political dispensation to be part of the electioneering process. People were urged to get their Permanent Voter Card so they could vote in leaders of their choice.
Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, a Nigeria enthusiast also led the people in about 15 minutes of prayer for Nigeria calling on God to have mercy on looters of the nation’s economy who were ready to repent as well as invoking judgment on those that are unwilling to repent. His prayers engendered a loud amen from participants.
The praise sessions were enigmatic and rapturous. Sinachi, Chioma Jesus, Don Moer, Frank Edward and a host of others entered the hearts of the seamless crowd. The audience roared. They yelled. But they were not disorderly.
As at 4.30 am on Saturday December 6 there was still so much energy in the mass of people. Comedians also helped to enliven the event. Of particular interest was one Akpororo who thrilled audience to several feats of laughter drawing lessons from Nigeria’s cultural values and that of the Europeans. His jokes drew thunderous applause from the audience. Those who had slept woke up and savoured his rendition. Also of interest was AY’s rendition and his ability to play with words. He came to the platform twice and did not disappoint the people.
Nathaniel Bassey, Midnight Crew, Donnie Maclurkin Freke Umoh made the entire event a memorable one. The presence of God became so real and infectious as they ministered. The Alabaster Box, an all-male gospel acappella from Ghana performed incredibly well rousing the audience to standing ovation.
The group literally made artificial musical instrument of no value as they used their tongues, their hands and their bodies to make glorious sounds to the Lord. Their voices produced all kinds of instruments.
The House on the Rock Choir did not disappoint as well. Angella Christie a foremost inspirational gospel saxophonist from the US who told the audience that she was proud to be black roused the audience with her dexterity at handling the sax. Micah Stample, Donnie Mcclurkinm, Chevelle Franklyn and Onos at different times thrilled the massive crowd injecting a dose of heaven in them.
As praises went to high heavens, Adefarasin whose ministry, which started in a living room with seven people, will clock 20 on December 14 this year; said the Lord had not led him to take an offering at the venue of The Experience noting however that “God had provided all that we needed for the event. The offering we want from people is for them to give their praise to God. God wants peoples praises offered to Him.”
Indeed, Adefarasin kept his word as he did in previous years. No offering was collected from the massive crowd. Everybody only offered God praises from the depths of their hearts.
Dignitaries who graced the occasion apart from church leaders who ministered included about 20 delegates from the United States Department of State, wife of the governor of Lagos State, Abimbola Fashola, Nigeria’s former ambassador to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, Professor Pat Utomi, Captains of industries, Chairman of the Lagos State Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Bishop Sola Ore, , A pediatrician and evangelist, Dr. Tayo Alakija, Nigeria’s former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, and a host of other men of God and public office holder drawn from major denominations.
Adefarasin was quick to acknowledge all denominations at the event pointing out that “it is good and beautiful when brothers dwell together in unity”. Indeed, if there is any effect the programme had on the participants, it is that it bonded them together in love. Beyond the bonding were the emotional healing and the salvation of hundreds of souls that surrendered their hearts to the Lord.