By Gbenga Osinaike
In this clime when a man turns 80, there is every reason to rejoice. But when he turns 80 as God’s servant; it’s double celebration.
That was the lot of Pa Isaiah Ogunbomehin; Senior Pastor, Mount of Joy and Grace Church; when he celebrated his 80th birthday in November 2017. The choir of the church led by his son, Pastor Seyi Ogunbomehin held the congregation at the celebration for about 30 minutes singing soulful songs to appreciate God’s grace in his life. The lyrics of the songs seeped through the quiet audience who nodded along.
The songs tell the story of the celebrant. of his exploits in faith, of his perseverance, his love for humanity and his passion for service in God’s vineyard. Participants at the event could not resist the temptation of joining the choir. Without being asked; the majority of those present, stood up, danced and hummed along even when the lyrics of the songs were alien to them.
Pa Ogunbomehin sat quietly inside the church’s chancel, savouring God’s glory and acknowledging His goodness. The choir punctuated their verses with a reminder that for all the exploits of Pa Ogunbomehin in his 58 years of doing ministry, the glory goes back to God.
Indeed for 58 years and still counting, Pa Ogunbomehin bestrode the evangelical landscape in Nigeria like a colossus. He started his ministry in Church of New Jerusalem in Ebute Metta at the age of 22. The mission took him to Obior, now Delta state where he made so much impact that the King of the town could not resist the temptation of asking for his prayers on a regular basis.
There was a myth then that the king had the power to change to wild animals. That understanding put fear in the minds of his subjects and made many stay away from him but he would secretly invite young Ogunbomehin into his room for prayers. That privileged relationship with this king made him plant a church in the town despite the people’s antagonisms to the gospel. The church is still thriving today.
He joined CAC when the Lord led him to hold a revival in a CAC church in Somolu Lagos. Despite a standing rule that forbids non CAC members from preaching in CAC; the church authority welcomed him. They told him God had already revealed to them that a man was coming to hold a revival programme in the church. The revival was held and God was glorified. Healings took place while many were brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus. After the revival in July 1968 he joined the church.
As a pastor in CAC, his son, Seyi disclosed that “he started with a 50-member congregation who were largely school certificate holders and applicants. There were a few salary earners. Some were even living with him. In those days when someone buys a bicycle there would be special thanksgiving in the church. That was when the saying “as poor as a church rat” was commonly used to describe a poor person.”
Today, the church that was full of struggling poor people now has a number of successful highly placed individuals. “For me, it could only be God. Those days can’t be compared to what we have now. But God saw us through the challenges. We have cause to thank Him,” said Pa Ogunbomehin at the anniversary event.
One of the great things that he would be remembered for among generations yet unborn is the Ikeji Arakeji project in Osun State. The project according to his son, Pastor Seyi Ogunbomehin saw him “mobilizing human and material resources for what has become the pride of CAC today in Ikeji Arakeji. He took members of his church in Lagos to the town which was bereft of any major infrastructure, launched a special evangelism campaign and eventually won the heart of the community.
He was able to secure about 36 acres of land for CAC through a well-structured relationship with the leaders of the town, who had earlier received a revelation some years back that a man of God was coming to the town that would make it popular. So, it was easy for inhabitants to give up their land for the church.”
But he did not secure the land on a platter of gold. He waged spiritual war before the land was eventually delivered to the church. “Within a four-year period, 1989-1992 the location was transformed into a mini-city. Hostels, chalets, street lights and a big generator were among several things he handed over to CAC in 1998.”
Today the Ikeji Arakeji has turned out to be the convention ground of the CAC with the permanent site of the Joseph Ayo Babalola University situated there. Ogunbomehin’s impact in the town informed the decision of the King of Ikeji to give him a chieftaincy title, ‘Atunluse of Ikeji Arakeji’, which he turned down.
Pa Ogunbomehin’s integrity quotient stands out. His spartan lifestyle belies the fact that he had handled resources worth millions of naira. It is on record according to his son that “Pastor Ogunbomehin has no private mansion, no landed property anywhere, has one vehicle, lives in the church compound built on one plot of land with a congregation of about 500.”
Though there is no official recognition by the CAC authority of what the Lord used him to do; the Ijebu Irolu Remo, Ogun state born cleric has remained undaunted. He has continued to distinguish himself as God’s servant with great commitment to evangelism.
His prediction on the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election has also attested to his prophetic gifting. Though it was clear Chief Moshood Abiola was victorious in that election, he told his congregation who were majorly supporters of Chief Abiola in 1993 prior to the elections that the results would be annulled. Many were taken aback by that prophecy. But that was what happened.
Beyond church, Pa Ogunbomehin impacts his immediate community. This is evident in the number of community leaders who graced the birthday celebration. They took turn to eulogise him noting that he has impacted them greatly. He is known to have bought electric transformer for the street where his church is located, got the road tarred and supported many indigent individuals. His commitment to humanity has earned him lots of respect.
His son, Seyi, discloses that “Muslims who worship in the mosque opposite his church deliberately lower the volume of their public speaker on Sundays in order not to disturb his church service. In turn, he also closes the service early when they want to do a special programme. They felicitate with him every year during his birthday and worship with him in the church though they are Muslims. He has been able to build that level of tolerance in the community”
This particular Sunday when Pa Ogunbomehin was being celebrated dignitaries came from all over the country and abroad. Some notable church leaders from both the orthodox and evangelical churches graced the occasion. Also present was Dr. Francis Akin John who squeezed time to honour the patriarch despite his tight schedule for the day.
Pa Ogunbomehin was overwhelmed by the show of love and affection by a broad spectrum of people. He was particularly humbled by the number of communinty heads who graced the occasion recalling that they had promised to come en-masse. “I recall that the traditional leader of this community had promised last year- to come grace this occasion; bringing along several other village heads. And that is what we are experiencing today. I am indeed grateful to you. I am grateful to all those who took time to honour me. May the Lord honour you. “
The preacher at the special occasion had stirred the audience when he relayed how he prayed to God to give him a miracle to mark the celebration of Pa Ogunbomehin and how God miraculously provided him an exotic car. “I was on my way for this event. But I had prayed that I needed a miracle from God to remember this celebration. Before I got here my son called me and told me somebody brought an exotic car as a gift to me. The car is waiting for me at home now. I believe everybody who has graced this occasion will get a miracle.”
He preached on the efficacy of the name of Jesus noting that the name of Jesus has been bastardised in many gatherings. “The name of Jesus was given to save humanity. It is the only name that has been given in heaven and on earth whereby we will be saved. No other name like that name. It heals, it saves, it delivers. Unfortunately, those who have been given the privilege of using that name don’t know how to use it. Rather the name is being bastardised.”