By Christy Anyanwu

In every way, the growth of the Pentecostal ministry headed by Bishop Isaac Idahosa is a sure proof of the scripture that if a believer has faith as small as a mustard seed, the person can certainly move mountains. The ministry he heads, which started from a jinxed and abandoned property in Minna, Niger State has grown and is impacting lives. In the same vein, his marriage that has lasted for 21 years is a study in marital harmony based on the solid word of God. In the run up the 21st anniversary of his marriage, Bishop Idahosa took out time talk about the journey in ministry.

Excerpts?

How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife in Yola. That was the first time I went to preach with Bishop Fred Ado in Yola, Adamawa state. She was one of the choristers and led the praise and worship session. Eventually she gained admission to Federal University of Technology, Minna, where I was a pastor. That was 1991. She was a member of The Anointed Singers, which was the best singing group in Niger State at the time. During one of our church programs, we invited them to minister in our church. After the programme, we told her that needed help to improve the performance of our choir.? That was when I began to show more interest in her.

So it wasn?t love at first sight?

No, no, no, I appreciated her gift at first instance. I sing too, so I could connect with her gift and the level of the presence of God in her life.

Was it her talent that caught your fancy?

Talent, yes, but I saw beyond talent when we became close. The fact was that I was too shy to tell her that I wanted to marry her. Away from the pulpit, I?m a shy person. I was too shy to have told her I wanted to marry her. Body language rather than voice did it for me and she picked it up from there.

What has it been like these past 21 years?

When we first married it was not rosy. I was 27 when I got married. Now, I?m 48, you can imagine a 27-year-old young man getting into marriage. I thought it was just all about what I read that I would bring to practice not knowing that it?s a different ball game. The first three years was not too rosy because I was trying to understand her personality and she was also trying to understand me. Then over time we had our challenges but God saw us through.

When you love God much more than you love your wife then when there are challenges, the love you have for God will regulate and absorb the challenges. If God is not involved then the devil can come in and dissolve it. You see, peace is not the absence of challenges; it is calmness. What happens to any marriage does not define you; rather it?s your response to what happens that defines you. The bottom-line is to have the right attitude: ability to learn, to love, and for the wife to submit. Love and submission go hand in hand. The wife should do what she is meant to do by submitting to the man. The man on his part should love the woman as the Scripture enjoins all believers. However, the man must not wait for the woman to submit before he shows her love; similarly, the woman should not wait for the man to love her before she submits to him. They should each play their part and things would work.

Was there a time you told her to go back to her father?s house?

Yes, not only once. When we began I thought maybe she was not the right person and at a point she thought maybe I wasn?t the right person. We were apportioning blames to each other. You can?t make a head way in marriage if you keep apportioning blames. Let the man always take responsibility for what happens in the home. The rise and fall of any place lies on leadership and God wants you to be the head of the home, it can?t be otherwise. So things began to improve when I began to take all the blames to ensure that the marriage works.

Why are we seeing so many divorce cases in church these days?

Truly the marriage institution is under satanic attack.? A strong family setting is a strong church, because the Church is made up of individual families. If there is peace at home there will be peace in the church. Therefore, you see the devil attacking marriages as way of causing marital storms and destabilizing the Church of Christ. The devil is the one causing crises to weaken the power of the institution ordained by God. He will not come physically, but uses any available individual. We should learn to know that it?s not your wife or your in-laws, or husband that is the number one problem but Satan. When the issue of satanic attack has been addressed, we then focus on the communication strength of the home. How much time do you give to yourself to communicate? Where there is no communication there is bound to be misunderstanding. After all, trust is built overtime. The spouses must recognize that they came from different backgrounds, but God is now merging them together. That is why marriage is itself a miracle, where two become one but still physically separate. It takes a lot of time to understand each other. When you are courting is quite different from what happens when you are married because you get to know the other person intimately. When I realized this, I chose to accept responsibility and adjust to my wife. I didn?t have to wait for her to adjust to me; I found out her likes and dislikes. I learnt to apologize even when she?s at fault. That is the biblical recommendation. I began to appreciate her for the little things she did. There?s so much a woman can offer you if you can appreciate her. If I knew what I know now the challenges we had would have been greatly reduced.

Is she from your state too?

No, she is from Taraba state and I?m from Edo state.

Given that you come from different tribes, how have you been able to cope with the attendant differences?

My wife is just a nice woman who submit, forbear to marry a man like me, you need to contain with a whole lot of thing, I mean church that is not small. So many things are involve. When you marry a pastor people tend to forget that you are a woman. They just want to see you as a woman of God, even pastors children, different cultural background which we had to do whole lots of adjustments. For us to be 21 years it has to be God above all.

How did your journey into ministry happen?

My surname ?Idahosa? means to hear from God. I had this strong urge to know God right from a tender age. That was what took me to the bible school in 1985. I went to bible school just to acquire knowledge not because I wanted to become a pastor. Before then I was working, and leaving with one of my mentors, Bishop Solomon Akapyen in the north. We were born and brought up in the north. After attending bible school I went to complete my education on Niger State government scholarship. After school I felt no peace; I didn?t seek paid employment. There was a divine urge to go and work in the vineyard but the problem was that I wanted to go to Jos. The weather was nice and there was no religious upheaval at the time. But God said I must return to where I was brought up. So I went back to Niger State; I didn?t have any money. In fact, when I got to Minna I had only 50k. But I told God that I would the 50 kobo to showcase Him to the world.

50 kobo?

Yes, 50 kobo was the amount I had when I got to Minna with an intention to start a ministry. We had family friend called Idowu Maya and his wife. They offered to give me their boy?s quarters. I got to Minna with my bass guitar because I love to sing. In the evenings I would just be playing my guitar and singing. This attracted the youths to me. Gradually, the boy?s quarters filled up and I told them I needed a bigger space. We went in search of accommodation for the ministry; they never knew I had just 50 kobo. That 50 kobo I didn?t have reason to spend it. God was just bringing money from here and there. We saw a four bedroom flat and they said I should pay N6000 to rent the apartment. This was in 1989. I didn?t have the N6,000 but the people I was living with thought I had the money. I told them we were coming back to pay. On our way back home we saw an abandoned building that had an inscription, ?Gospel House? and the Holy Spirit just ministered that it was where I should start the ministry. The land swampy and nobody lived there. I told my hosts that the ministry would take off from there. They thought something was wrong with me. We went in search of the owner of that property and learnt that one Justice Shadare who presided over the case involving the house ran mad. The other person who lived there also ran mad. For this reason, it was abandoned. The place had no louvers and no doors. I went to look for the person in charge of the place and heard that it was Justice Awoniyi.? He was the then chief judge of Niger state. He was shocked that a young man like me wanted to run mad too. I told him what God said to me; he said if I was?? convinced about what I said, I should go and take the place for free. We went to clear the place and took possession on August 25, 1989. This year will be 24 years since we moved into the place. That was how we got the name God First Ministry (aka Illumination Assembly). We started with so much zeal. We had students and news started spreading about the church and within one month we had over 60 members. We had people coming to church for different reasons and God was enlarging our coast.

Could you tell us your early challenges in the ministry?

At that early stage, people misunderstood me; they saw me as a young man who didn?t want to work. God told me that if people misunderstand you don?t misunderstand yourself, if they laugh at you don?t laugh at yourself. I was living in a house that had no louvers or no doors. I was sleeping there, and just put one curtain. It was the rain season, and rain would splash into the room, no louvers and no toilets. I used to bathe once a day. I would go to people?s farmland if I needed to ease myself. That was the life I lived for almost one year. The first international invitation I had was to travel to Republic of Benin. When I heard it my head was swollen. I thought I was going to fly. I got to Lagos and said I was going to Republic of Benin. The people said I should go to the border, the journey is 45 minutes to the border. I went on the trip but when I got back to Minna I didn?t tell anybody I didn?t fly. But in 1994, I went to Jamaica through the assistance of the Maya family. Today, it?s a different story.? I travel and choose where I want to go. From there the ministry grew to the international level.

How did you come to Lagos?

I came to Lagos in 1991 or 92. The Lord asked me to come over to Lagos. Before then we had built branches in the north. I was there last year for the 24th anniversary with Dr Ron Kenoly.?? We started in Surulere before moving to Ajao estate. I was in Paris four years ago, when the Lord said to me to move to the island to transform lives and transport lives. It was a tough decision. I used to go from Ajao estate to the Island for Sunday services at 2pm at Grand Media hotel, close to Lagos business school. We now moved to Protea Hotel before buying a new property of our own.

For someone who is a bishop, you look so young. How did it happen?

I began at a tender age. Whatever you are doing for 25 years if I were in the military I would have been a general. If I was in the banking world from then till now I would have been a bank MD. Whosoever is saying that does not have a close relationship. The face also is deceptive. I?m 48 for crying out loud! Some state governors are just 40 or 41 years.

How have you been able to cope in ministry with women who want your attention or to tempt the man of God?

Temptation is not a sin. The problem is when you yield to it. Jesus was tempted in all things but he stood his ground. No man stands on his own; it is grace that keeps you. Paul said I am what I am by the grace of God.

Are you related to the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa?

No, we bear common name. That is the question people have asked all over the world everywhere I went to preach. Ayo Oritshejafor is my mentor. He comes here once a year. When you are called into ministry and you don?t have somebody you are accountable to then you will have a mega-problem. If you don?t have a mentor then you go on tormenting people. He has a wealth of experience. I admire his grace and his calling; he puts me in check. When you pastor thousands of people and there is no one that tells you ?ok stand up, sit down? that is not good. I remember that I used to travel like a bird before until I met him and Dr Abel Damina. I said to him, ?Papa, to gather people is difficult,? and he told me that I have what it takes to pastor thousands of people in Lagos but I have to sit down. The mystery of the growth of this ministry is hearing God and doing it but you can?t hear God when you are too busy. The bible says, ?Be still and know that I?m God.? Sitting down requires character, people will know you, people will understand you and the more they know you the more they trust you and the more they believe in what you are saying. O harness the power of church growth, the first thing is to sit down if you are called to be a pastor except otherwise. Pastor Oritshejafor has influenced my ways, life and ministry in many ways.? His life is an exemplary study book, excellence and integrity; it?s an epitome of grace.? If you must rise, you must find those who are up there to connect you.

If you were not a minister what would you have become?

I have tried to think about it but I have never been able to think it through. The best thing I love doing is what grace is available for. I read mechanical engineering; I haven?t worked with that certificate for one full day. Not once. I started preaching at the very tender age of 17; and I was also serving as an interpreter for men of God who came to the north. All my life has been in the church. I assure you that if I had not been called into ministry, anything I do would have been done very well. I believe in excellence, I believe in details. I have a focus because until you get to the top you don?t become the topic and it attracts a whole lot.? Some people overestimate you, others underestimate you but you have to know your true self at all times. When you begin to make your impact on people?s lives, some will talk and wag their tongue. Don?t let them talk you out of what God has called you to do.

Any challenges in ministry work?

Many challenges. Oftentimes you know what to do but you don?t have what it takes to do it; so you have to continue trusting God to bring to pass what he has told you. You need people to understand the vision; if you are in a hurry you will make mistakes. I have had challenges where I will hear God tell me to do certain things but God would not show me what would happen before I get to the end. God shows you where you are going to but he will not show you what you will go through. When God told me to move to Lagos, I was doing well in Minna. I got to Lagos and the Lord said move to Ajao estate. I obeyed. Each time I moved there was always an improvement of ministry life. Again, being misunderstood by friends who ought to have understood you is also a major challenge; when you say this is your friend and he goes to speculate on things that have no bearing. When distant people say what they want to say, it is different from when a man you call your friend bears tales about you. How do you cope with that when the standard of the word of God is to love your enemy?

Live as an author and singer

I have written several books and I have two albums to my credit. My first album, ?Don?t Give Up? was released in 1998 in Germany and France. The video was shot in France while the studio work done in Hamburg, Germany. It was converted into French, German and Dutch. Till tomorrow I receive royalty from abroad.

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