By Gbenga Osinaike
Her name is Tawa Popoola. But she would prefer to be called Esther Popoola. She was a Muslim but by the time she surrendered to Jesus, she changed her name. Many however still call her Tawa; even the man of God, Pastor Jacob Shodeinde whom God used for her, still call her Tawa.
The story of her conversion would perhaps not interest cynics. But it will be difficult to fault the story of her encounter with God’s hand of fire and healing. Her story goes back to 2001 when she was diagnosed with the dreaded HIV AIDS.
The disease was already taking toll on her. Her body had begun to shrink and she was just counting days and was about giving up on life when somebody introduced her to The Saints Gospel Church of Christ, hand of fire Ministry.
That invitation was to turn her story around. She met the man of God. According to her she was given some water that had been blessed. “By the time I started taking the water, I began to gain strength. I began to see that what I could not do before I was doing with ease. That was the beginning of the end of the HIV in my system. After a few months of persistent prayers and consecration in God’s vineyard, I went back to the hospital and I was declared HIV negative.”
Today, Tawa who shuttles between United kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria is a testimony of God’s healing grace. But she is just one of the many instances of incredible healing and deliverances taking place at the Saints Gospel Church.
Our correspondent who visited the church, located at Igando, Ikotun, Lagos was stunned to see instances of people that have been healing and hear testimonies of incredible healings and deliverance. Just about a day before this writer visited the commune which has several bungalows where those who come for prayers are living and a large tent where worship is conducted, an incredible healing of a man, Pastor Niyi Obakin had just taken place.
Obakin was flown from the UK straight to the church. He had an unusual case. His body was a repository of all kinds of diseases. He had diabetes, hypertension and all manners of diseases. He was always on drugs. His case became such an attraction because of the number of drugs he swallowed every day. It was a bag full. He was a pathetic sight when he came to the prayer ground of the church according to those who saw him.
But as God would have it, Obakin got healed on the prayer ground even without prayers from the man of God. His bag of drugs lie feverishly in the bungalow apartment where this writer spoke with the founder of the ministry.
The story of Obakin and Taiwo are just a few of the many instances of healing and deliverances on the ground of the church. Scores testified of the power of God and his presence. But the founder of the church, Pastor Shodeinde confessed to this writer that he had no input in the healing process. “I am not the healer. God is the one doing the work. I also don’t understand how these things happen. It is the fulfillment of the covenant God had with me years back.”
Shodeinde was literally dragged by God to return to Nigeria from the UK where he was residing and doing well. “In 1992 precisely God instructed me to come back to Nigeria and stay in Igando area. The whole of this environment was bush. But I had to heed the call of God. In fact God specifically instructed me to come and intercede for Nigeria to avert a 30-year civil war.”
He obeyed this call and came back to Nigeria. There was nothing on ground. But he embarked on the ministry of intercession and prayers for Nigeria. By the time it was certain that the war had been averted, the Lord gave him the vision of the Passover.
He recounts, “God instructed us to start the Passover in April 1996. During this time we gather to pray and fast for 21 days. We normally give free food to people to break their fast. In the course of the Passover we hold vigils for 14 days.”
The Passover which started with about 30 people in 1996 has become such a phenomenon that it attracts about 8000 people each time the gathering is convened. Mind boggling miracles take place in the month of the Passover.”
While observing that Jesus is our Passover, Shodeinde insists that the peculiarity of the church is informed by the direct instruction he receives from God. For instance members are not allowed to wear shoes around the worship centre.
Explaining how the church came about this practice, he said, “We used to wear shoes before now. But the idea of not wearing shoes started a few years ago when we had a crusade in Ore, Ondo state. The revival programme was so impressive that the entire town felt the presence of God. After we left the town we were told of a mysterious hand on the walls of a house close to the revival ground. It was God’s own way of confirming his presence in that town.
“Back home we experienced the appearance of the hand even while we were in the place of worship. It got to a point that the hand would appear on the ground of the church compound. It was later God told me that people should not put on shoes again as they would be stamping on this mystery hand.”
Though a bit strange, the church has had to walk through the mill of scoffers who believe they are going overboard with their strange acts. “A brother from Deeper Life once came and was picking holes in what we do. I simply asked him to go and pray and then draw his conclusion. He went to pray and the Lord opened his eyes. He saw a vision of angels descending and ascending on the prayer ground. The brother later came to tell us that indeed “this is Bethel”
For Shodeide, certain things are better experienced. “I usually get uncomfortable when people generalize. The fact that some pastors have commercialized the anointing of God does not mean every pastor is a commercial pastor. We don’t charge anybody for anything. People come here pray and get healed. We sometimes don’t even do anything. They just come and receive healing and deliverance”
For instance our correspondent was told how women with pregnancy complications come to the ground and thereafter experience divine touch that makes their delivery easy. The church compound is also home to many who come for healing and divine direction.
“Nobody pays for accommodation here. They come and live here while they are being prayed for. We don’t charge them. We also give free food to all those who live here.” He stated.
Our correspondent observed that the church runs a marathon kitchen. Pastor Shodeide explained that the mandate God gave him does not allow him to commercialise anything. “We give free food and free accommodation. “
Interestingly God had discouraged him from doing any business other than the business of the kingdom. “We don’t have a school but we give scholarship to many indigent students. Some of them are now graduates. God has enabled us to help a lot of people who are in dire straight. God is the one who supplies our need. We don’t depend on donations and we don’t task people here.”
Pastor Gideon Shodeinde, son of Pastor Shodeinde who had lived in the UK said it was difficult for him to believe some of the stories of what is happening in the church until he came by himself to the country and experienced the mystery of God.
A graduate of Biochemistry, the young Shodeinde said the hand of God is here. “It is not something you tell people. I usually try not to convince people because it will seem as if you are telling fiction. But when people come and see they believe. What is happening here is beyond my scientific mind”
An elder in the church, John Adeyemi told our correspondent that he was a testimony of God’s greatness as experienced in the church. “I came to the church when I was at the point of death. It took God’s intervention in my life to come back to life. I have been to several hospitals. Doctors could not even diagnose what the ailment was.
“But as God would have it, my brother, who is the chief security officer of the church brought me to the church and I was here when I experienced the healing hand of God. I saw myself in a vision and I saw angels working on my body. They removed all kinds of nails from my head and I saw them pulling out a long rope from my body. By the time I was conscious I discovered that I had been healed.”
Adeyemi who facilitated the tour of the church said it was not possible to come to the ground and not experience the hand of God. “I have experienced it and I can tell all who care to listen that God is here.”
The praying ground occupies an expansive area off Igando road in Lagos. Scores of people were seen all over the ground praying and interceding when this writer visited. Those who spoke with our correspondent were too confident they will get result when then pray.
Just in the midst of the massive compound is also a secluded piece of land described as a place of mercy where people go to pray. Church members also have a tradition of bowing down to worship each time they come to the place of prayer. Right behind the praying ground is a room where kegs of water are placed. It is believed that water placed there will eventually carry the supernatural which ultimately leads to healing.
Shodeinde however noted, “We do as we are led by the spirit of God. There are many times people come here and get their healing without my prayers or any other person’s prayer for that matter. There were times I’m not around and miracles take place. It goes to tell you that God is the one doing the work”
He said further, “all along we have had to play it low because God had not allowed us to make noise about what is happening here. People come here and get their healing. But we have had to come out to begin to broadcast the goodness of God because God just gave us the permission to do that. It is not about me. It is about the hand of God.”
The church is otherwise known as “hand of fire”. It is so named because that was the way God introduced himself to Pastor Shodeinde when he was called. Worshipers believe it is a place where the hand of God works mystery. Despite the miracles and the fact that many important personalities in search of healing and deliverance have visited this haven, the founder still maintains a low profile.
ABOUT PASTOR SHODEINDE
The Pastor in-charge of the Saints’ Gospel Church of Christ Hand Of Fire, Pastor J. A. Shodeinde, started his missionary and pastoral call in Lagos State Nigeria in the early (70’s). God called him to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the entire universe according to the scriptures.
Shoedeinde who told this writer that there had been some prophetic words at his birth that he would be a prophet began his work in the evangelical field at the Gospel Faith Mission International. He worked there for one year between 1978 and 79 before he started a branch of the church in 1980. He grew the church population to above four hundred members.
Gospel Faith Mission International, a Bible based ministry gave him the right hand of fellowship. He began, “Holy Ghost Night” service in the church in 1986 and was soon made the first prayer co-coordinator for the ministry.
In 1990, Pastor Shodeinde travelled to England with the hope to pursue further studies but was called by God specifically at Bethnal-Green County in England in 1992 where God revealed Himself to him to return back to Nigeria with the mandate to come and pray to avert a 30 year civil war.
He said God expressly instructed him that I “THE HAND OF FIRE”, is sending you to set free, conquer, build, destroy and deliver those in bondage on Mount Zion, because the Bible says upon Mount Zion there shall be deliverance. The Saints’ Gospel Church of Christ Hand Of Fire commenced, till date doing wondrous things. Obadiah 1:17, Isaiah 61:1-2”
He said he saw a vision of the late Apostle Ayo Babalola, the General Evangelist of Christ Apostolic Church (who was already resting with the Lord). Then the Lord said “I am taking you through the path which Ayo-Babalola had trodden; do not return back to the previous ministry where you had been a Pastor for many years because your labour there had been concluded and your reward is awaiting you in Heaven”.
God began to move in mysterious ways from that time in his life. God used him to solve many problems in the UK at a Christ Apostolic Church. His prophetic call has been so strong that he had the usual grace of telling people the specific time God would move on their behalf
He left London on 14th of August 1992 on God’s instruction to begin a fresh work. “He said it was a glorious exit. The Ark of the Ministry was revealed to me, the angels and the Host of Heaven were readily waiting for my departure from London to Nigeria. Although some brethren in London encouraged me to stay back and also made different promises of taking up responsibilities of starting the Ministry over there in London. They even enticed me with the promises of getting visa for all my children but I refused because what God had instructed me is quite different from their tempting offers.
In 1992 the church began in a public primary school. “Then our services were bit by bit. We made use of Igando Primary School through the assistance of The Late Pa Gold Ogunbewon of blessed memory. In late 1992, a plank church was built, eventually the ministry flagged-off fully in January 1993 at Igando town, Lagos State, Nigeria – West Africa.”
Today, the church is expanding and spreading its tentacles around Nigeria making impact from its base in Igando. It’s a commune where people come for healing deliverance and get counsel for their lives.
Official contact of the church: 234-708-777-72570 and 234-803-319-1507