CAPRO: My experience doing missions in the last 40 years
Timothy Olonade was one of the first set of missionaries with Calvary Productions now known as Calvary Ministries; one of the leading missions agencies in Nigeria. He is Vice President of Training for Leadership Ministries Worldwide, TN, USA – a Biblical Leadership ministry that trains and equips leaders to live, teach and preach God’s word uncompromisingly.
He co-founded and serves as Executive Director of El-Rehoboth Global Leadership Foundation and also serves as team leader for M2414Initiative, a Network of leaders that Mobilize and Mentor for the Harvest to actualize Matthew 24:14 ASAP!
Brother Timothy launched the Perspectives on World Christian Movement in Nigeria and initiated Kairos Simply Mobilizing thrust to the country. He oversees the development of Encountering the World of Islam in English Speaking African countries.
An expository Bible teacher, Rev Canon Tim Olonade is an ordained gospel minister and serves in the board of several national and international organizations.
For over a decade brother Timothy led as the Pioneer Chief Executive, the Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA) – the umbrella body for 0ver 140 mission agencies and churches with over 6000 missionaries working in more than 60 countries worldwide. Olonade is married to Hannah, a fellow missionary, President WOGIN SMILE Initiative for women and vulnerable children to Show Mercy and Impact Life for Eternity.
In this interview with Church Times during the Litt Word 2019 conference, organized by Media Associate International, which held in Ghana recently, Olonade shares his missions perspective. Below are excerpts:
Your first involvement with missions was with the CAPRO missions. What is your earliest memory of the CAPRO missions?
The early members of CAPRO were Youth corps members who saw the opportunity of preaching Christ in the Muslim dominated Zaria, Kaduna. They held a crusade. It was the crusade that birthed the group. The idea of CAPRO was to produce men and women who will present the gospel to the unreached nations of the world. CAPRO started on the altar of commitment to the cause of Christ. And it came almost immediately with the media emphasis. Tracts, newsletters were published alongside the field work on the missions’ field.
When did you join the group?
I joined the CAPRO before it began in a sense because of my closeness to Uncle Bayo Famunure who was like my elder brother. He was the leader of the group. But then when it became obvious that some of us will go into the full time ministry, CAPRO was it. The Lord specifically asked me to establish a functional media that will help enhance the work when I joined. Going forward, I had to go to England and to Switzerland for training on mass media so that I could bring the experience to bear on what we do in CAPRO. I did not have a media background. I studied Finance Administration at the University of Ibadan. But when God called me to the media I felt I needed a formal training. My joy is that many of the things we were trying to do then was novel. I will never forget when we first published a full-colour magazine, people taught we were backsliding. But then it came out well. Publishing has really been an exciting experience for me from that time till now.
We heard stories of people who abandoned their course of study in the university for missions those days. What really happened then and what do you think about this?
I think people react to commitments to missions because there is a misunderstanding of what the true essence of life is. Most of people who brought the gospel to Nigeria were dentist, doctors, civil engineers and professionals in their own right who abandoned their professions for the sake of the gospel. That is why I find it amusing when people express surprise that people make certain sacrifices for the gospel.
This generation is funny. A young man who studied Biochemistry opens a fashion house after graduation and we praise him for pursuing his dream. Another young man finishes from the university and goes into missions; and we say it is a waste of the time he spent in the university. A young lady walks away from a relationship because her would-be husband would not agree to her dream to be a dramatist. And we say she is passionate about her dream. Another lady walks out of relationship to fulfil her call to missions we say she is being stupid. I think our value system is warped.
Those people who abandoned their course of study for missions were only demonstrating their value system. It is in our generation that a young man will finish Master’s Degree and he says he wants to serve God and we say that is beneath him. Another young man with a Master’s Degree is invited to work for a politician as PA and he goes to give testimony in the church of how God has been good to him. We don’t find it difficult to work for a governor who stole vote. But when it comes to serving the King of kings on the missions’ field we see it as something that is demeaning and not a privilege.
But then we need to realize that those who brought the gospel to us were completely sold out to it. And that is one of the things that attracted me to missions.
The issue is that these people abandoned their course midway in the university. One would have expected they would complete their course if at all they wanted to go into missions?
There were just a few cases of people who did that. I think blowing up the few cases of people who abandoned their course of study for missions is a campaign of calumny against the brethren who laid their lives for the course of the gospel in those early years. In fact in the history of capro I have only known one. And it is too insignificant. It was never an ongoing thing then. But we have moved on anyway. I think people just try to call a dog a bad name so as to hang it. Despite all the laws about TV or no TV in Deeper Life in those days, some still had their TV. Despite the misgiving about medicine in some fellowship groups, some still read medicine.
Some had to leave Deeper Life to fulfil their dream of being doctors. Unfortunately, we have put too much attention on making money these days that we believe every young professional now must go into entrepreneurship. We also think the way people can proof their seriousness about doing God’s work is to do some business alongside so they will not depend on people.
Some believe those who go full time could sometimes be an embarrassment to the work of God because of the problem they face raising support. How will you react to this?
I have been on the two sides of the table. I have been involved where I was earning regular income from a job while I was also doing ministry. And I have been in full time ministry for over 40 years now. About three months after my NYSC I got a good job with a private firm in Kaduna. We were into real estate. I was doing that while also doing missions. But then I abandoned the well-paying job to go full time into missions. When people say they don’t believe in full time because it makes them beggarly I wonder what they mean because from my experience that is not true.
We need to change our understanding of missions. There is a correlation between the military and missions. In the military we have different departments: The Air force, Navy, intelligence unit, doctrinal training, those who are into logistics and so on. But the beauty is that not all those in the various departments of the force go to fight war physically.
But then, all of them are part of the Army. They are all prosecuting the war whether directly or indirectly. In missions there are people who are doing administration, those in the field, those in training and those who raise funds. When you think of it carefully, you will discover that everybody involved is working towards one goal. There are many people who will not be in the jungle doing missions but that does not mean they are not missionaries.
Unfortunately some people live in the city but also deride missionaries for going full time. That you are doing business and making money and helping in logistics of missions does not mean you should feel you are better than those who are on the field. The point I am making is that there are those who have to be on the field. We can’t do missions without somebody going to the field. We can do all the prayers and spend all the money. If nobody goes to the field, then we are not doing it right.
Many people are talking about Paul being a tent maker. But he did tent making for just three months while waiting for Silas and Timothy. (Acts 18v1-5) Paul did tent making because he was waiting for his colleagues to return and he had to keep himself busy while staying with Priscilla and Acquila. People now build philosophy round tent making and deride missionaries who are full time on the field.
But even at that tent making in modern times is employed as a means of penetrating a country that is averse to the gospel for missions. I remember I had to go to a field in the Middle East for missions. I got to the immigration and they asked what I was doing for a living, I said I was a publisher. They asked which kind of books do I publish. I said I publish books on how to live right here on earth. They stamped my passport and I entered. When people say we should be doing business and mission I say to them no matter how we try we still need people who will be fully committed to the work on the field.
If you are supporting missions and missions is not good enough to take your life you are just a sympathizer. What God is looking for are people who keep their job but they are holding such jobs as means of securing resources for those who are on the field. I know few of our partners who were working then who had to do extra jobs to get more funds so they could support missions. We must get it right. We need to understand the dynamics of missions and key into it.
What was the motivation for you to leave a paying job for full time missions work?
I wonder why people attribute leaving secular jobs to answer God’s call as something special. When I made the move to join the ministry it was at the height of my job. I was flying; going to Lagos three times a week from the North. I was doing that with joy. I then began to ask questions. The scripture that came to me is that the little that the righteous has is better with God’s blessings. I then made a move. I won’t say God spoke to me in an audible voice. As a matter of fact I was a member of the Chapel of Goodness then in Kaduna. The church is still there. I left the chapel when we were 1000 in membership. At that time Bishop David Oyedepo was just coming to Kaduna and we were hosting him then in our meetings. When I resigned from my job, I was invited to be the chaplain of the chapel. But I turned the offer down because that was not what was being laid in my heart. If I was looking for something big I would have embraced that offer. I resigned to go to the missions’ field. So when people say did God tell you to go into the missions’ field, I will say yes because God had already told everybody to go into the world and preach the gospel. You need to say you did not hear God. The simple instruction is go to the world. Any other thing is secondary. That was what informed my first book: Motivation for Missions. I remember my boss then, Mr. Lawal who said to me: what did you do to God that he decided to punish you. That was because I told him I was leaving my job to go into missions.
I also think the believer needs to track the antecedent of how God deals with him. I did my youth service in 1982. After the service year, many of my colleagues were looking for jobs in the big cities all over the country. But I stayed back. Three months after, I went to see a friend. He was the GM of Nal Merchant then in Kaduna who told me about a job opening. He showed me the advert. I traced the office. I was interviewed for the job. And got the job. I was told to start on December 16 of that year. But I said I could not because it would affect the December retreat we were planning. And it won’t be fair on the company for me to start getting permission from work that early for the retreat. The man was surprised that I could differ my resumption. I also asked for the philosophy of the company. I told them they should be ready to lose contracts because I was not going to be part of giving bribes.
Eventually I agreed to resume on January 6 the following year. I spent two years in the company and made tremendous impact. But when it was time for me to leave I had to leave. When people now ask me: What is the motivation, I say it is the love of Christ. CT Studd once said, if Christ be God and he gave himself for man, there is no sacrifice too great for him.
One of the issues with missions is that missionaries are exposed to too much risk. Some people say CAPRO missionaries go on missions without a backup so to say. From your experience on the field, what practical things did you do that have helped in your missions’ career?
Life is full of risk. Everything we do is risky. Without risk we can’t live well. The Bible has helped us to know how to take that risk by telling us that the just shall live by faith. And I will like to add that the unjust will die by doubt. The idea of saying you don’t have back-up is a modern trend of saying don’t throw your eggs in one basket. But for me I think you can keep all your eggs in one basket but you hand over the basket to God. Some people say you will end up living from hand to mouth as a missionary. But I say, so, what is wrong with that? I have been living from hand to mouth since I began missions. But the fact is that it is the hand of God and the mouth of Timothy. And my mouth is too tiny for the big hand of God.
It is a matter of orientation. People say we take undue risk but what we have done so far are no risk compared to others who paid the supreme sacrifice to bring the gospel to us. There was a time mosquito was a killer disease. People left Europe for Africa and died on high sea and their bodies would be thrown into the sea. Yet, they kept coming. There was a missions’ body called Basser Missions in Switzerland. They lost 60 percent of their staff to death in the first 10 years of their operation. There were people coming to Africa who put all their belongings into a small coffin so that when they come to Africa and die they would not become a liability. People went that way and paid a lot of price to spread the gospel. But today we are acting differently. I don’t know whether we are going to a different heaven. People brought the gospel at the peril of their lives. But today we are trying to misinterpret God. We are trying to make it look as if those who brought the gospel to us were foolish. The people that brought the gospel to us came in the furnace of affliction. But today we are making light of their sacrifice.
When the Bible says whoever goes out weeping bearing precious seed shall come back rejoicing, we should take solace in that scripture. The going out may be painful. But the end result will be glorious. The risk we talk about is no risk if we talk about the power of God and His grace to save the world. The more we think of mission as helping God to survive the more we idolize rebellion and give people a bad impression about God. Many of us have an unrealistic definition of the essence of our faith. Jesus became poor so that we will be rich but we don’t think of the other part which is: We are supposed to become poor so that others will be rich.
And I think we should de-emphasize this talk about Capro and the supposed sacrifice. I have left CAPRO now for about19 years and have gone ahead to lead NEMA and El-Rehoboth foundation. The missions’ body have continued to grow. If people are doing full time on the field there should be full time funding. People who are in full time funding and full time serving are on the same page when it comes to missions.
In my own case, when I started I had a prayer group. We meet regularly. I was going to join the missions in Kaduna. About seven of them signed undertaking to support me on a monthly basis. I was excited about it. When I left for missions I shared with them extensively what God was doing on the field. As at today six of the seven who offered to support me on a monthly basis are into missions’ full time. They saw that missions was beautiful. They could not stay on secular job when they saw what God was doing on the field. When I joined capro we were given stipends. What we were paid was less than my tithe in my former job. A lot of money was coming to the ministry but we had to keep using it for missions not for personal purpose
When I got involved in the CAPRO media we generated a lot of funds through it. There was a year we made N10 million. A family contributed 70 percent of the production cost for 12 years. That made the cost of production bearable for us. We were making money but yet we don’t have money because the money we were making was not our money. They were money meant for the missions work. We had a full fledge printing press, video house. But there were times we shut down the press and we all went to missions’ field.
Let me emphasize that it is the grace of God that made us survive. And it is for real. There was a year things were so tough for me and my family. We had money in the ministry. But I did not have personal money. On one Tuesday my son went to school and came back and said he won’t go to school the following day because we had not paid his school fees. He did not go to school on Wednesday. One of our staff went to midweek service and a pastor sent a note to me through him to tell me I was going to preach the following Sunday. He put a cheque along with the note and sent it through the brother. The cheque was N1000. My son’s school fees was N960 naira. On Thursday I asked the boy to dress up. And I went to the bank to get the money. I have many instances of God’s miraculous intervention. My son once asked me, daddy are we poor or are we rich? I then threw the question back to him. He responded that “there were times we don’t have money, there were times we have money. But we pray too much to get money. I can’t say we are poor and I can’t say we are rich” But the truth is that God has been faithful in supplying our needs. Things are tough at times but that is just part of life.
Were there those who were casualties on the missions’ field that you know of?
Yes of course. There were those who died in the course of the work. A friend died of cancer at the age of 43. His wife was bitter. She wondered why a loving God would allow her husband to die at such age and was asking where God was. It was a painful experience. But then it is always good to realize that God is a loving God always. We should also bear in mind that the only son of God was murdered at 33. So nothing happens to us that God does not know about. But in the cause of this work, I have never come across anybody who died of hunger. We have had cases of people who withdrew from the field because their friends were mocking them. And there are some missionaries who place unnecessary obligation on their lives and become bogged down by those obligations.
For instance I never bought aso ebi.(uniform dress for parties) Why must I buy? I don’t buy Christmas dress for my children. They grew up with that tradition in our house they know us for that. My children once asked me how I will cope with old age since I did not have any visible investment. I told them God would take care of me. But then somebody came to my house the other day and said if he knew missionaries could have this kind of house he would have been a missionary. But the truth is that God supplies all our needs and sometimes embarrasses us with his blessings.
You have been to a number of countries for missions. What has been your experience on the field?
I have had a situation where I travelled with a sheik by my side who wanted to meet my boss because I had told him I was travelling with my boss. My boss was Jesus. I ended up preaching to him. I travelled to a country and was told I must not convert anybody and was asked to do an undertaking. I wrote an undertaking that I would not convert anybody. I was given the visa of the country. My first evening in that country, a Hindu lawyer gave her life to Christ. And truly I was not the one who converted the Hindu lawyer. It was Christ. God did not call us to convert the world. He asked us to reach the world. Unfortunately we are not reaching the world and we want God to convert the world.
I once missed my flight and I was put in another flight. I was the last person to enter the aircraft. I ended up sitting in the midst of an Indian lady and an American lady. The American woman said to me that it was God that made it possible for me to catch the flight. And I asked the American lady if she was a Christian or American Christian. She said she was a Christian and later informed me she had a friend in Nigeria but could not remember her name. By the time she described the person, I was able to supply the name. She was shocked. When we got to Chicago she asked if she could give me a small gift. She gave me a gift of $500. Beyond that when we were buying property for National Evangelical Missions Agency she was one of the instruments God used to provide for that property.