BY SOLA OJEWUSI
The church is unarguably one of Nigeria’s fastest growing. Always filled to the brim and attended by a mix of the high, mighty, ordinary Nigerians and people from numerous nations, it is perhaps Abuja’s most talk about religious centre. Known as Champions Royal Assembly and headed by Joshua Iginla, the church has in just nine years catapulted itself to the pinnacle of serious evangelism in Abuja, granting spiritual cum material succor to millions of people.
What manner of pastor is this? In a nation where many a pastor have coveted church wealth to personal use and self aggrandisement, what inspired this man to give so generously and so uniquely?
Considering the fact that most of the stars who entertain the nation and have brought so much glory to our nation worldwide are largely poor, this gesture from Iginla was not only timely and unique, it is a lesson for those who would rather spend church money on frivolities or on personal exaltation. I decided to visit Abuja and find out for myself.
Located in a rather suburban section of Byazhin, Kubwa a satellite town under Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Champions Royal Assembly has in nine years transformed that community to a big tourist destination of sorts, adding serious value, by its presence, to the economy, apart from its primary duty of imparting spiritual well being to the people.
Known around the world by virtue of its free-to-air satellite TV channel, Champions TV, where tourists from all corners of the world rivet their attention everyday for the wondrous works going on in the church, the church has become one of the most sought after by hundreds of thousands congregants and millions more TV viewers worldwide.
The first thing I noticed was that though he could afford luxury living many times over, Iginla has largely chosen the low profile. He drives no flashy car. He chauffeurs himself most of the time to the church and mixes freely with people. Slender and self effecting, you would not believe that this is the man who moves the congregation to a frenzy on the pulpit and wows millions with his astounding gifts. In a world where pastors drive around in convoys that would turn even Heads of States jealous, Iginla apparently believes in no such things.
He seems determined to follow in Jesus’ humble servant disposition. But, surprisingly, he ensures that his staff are well paid and made comfortable enough to help him in the challenge of shepherding a church fast becoming an international phenomenon.
What is indeed most stunning is the spiritual dimension. I was struck pleasantly by the wondrous works of miracle going on here.
You could easily see it and with the great output of miraculous happenings in the church, one can no longer wonder why such a young church has achieved so much and become so famous.
There is something really special about the Joshua Iginla anointing and it radiated and glowed throughout my observation of the church. Despite the long hours on a given Sunday, there is never a dull moment. From the moving way Iginla preaches, full of inspiring sayings of scholarly dimension, to the soulful music of the well-groomed choir and to the astonishing miracles, you simply can’t be bored.
One given reason by observers is the humility and simple dispositions of the General Overseer, Brother Joshua Iginla. It was easy to see. According to a church member who pleaded anonymity, “In spite of the pressure of tending to the spiritual, and even sometimes financial needs of tens of thousands who flock into the church daily, Brother Iginla is never perturbed. He is blessed with this generous spirit that wants to give more and more of himself to everyone.” And in the words of another member, “This man of God is blessed with unbelievably divine energy to do the near impossible for his church.”
Everyone seems to agree that there is something divinely special about Iginla. Simple, unassuming and down to earth, Iginla who prefers to be addressed simply as “Brother Joshua Iginla” but is sometimes called Papa by church members has everything that has made great shepherds in his disposition. A very busy man, he, despite the stress and the drudgery, loves to have a one-to-one with his flock. On a given counselling day, thousands of people with myriads of problems seeking solution converge on the main auditorium for this personal touch and he calmly sits on the altar, attending to all before retiring for the day.
Iginla is in high demand around Africa and the world. If he’s not being invited from Gabon today, he is wanted in South Africa tomorrow. Devotees from Mexico, Colombia, The US, Asia and many lands are itching to visit this church. On the day when your sincerely was there, I encountered many nationals of Cameroon, Spain, Canada, Ghana, all tourists paying hard currency to visit our country in search of spiritual and sundry succor.
More than many other national institutions, the Joshua Iginla-led Champions Royal Assembly has brought so much pride to Nigeria; so much respect and impression that Nigerians could really be good people. Every day you visit the church, you meet hundreds tourists from around the world coming for one spiritual issue or the other while many also visit just to experience the joy of this Nigerian phenomenon. At a time when Nigeria’s image has been battered by the dastardly outrage of the Boko Haram lunatics, Champions is one of the outstanding oases of hope for the Nigerian image. Yours sincerely has been called by friends from around the world for information that could better enlighten them about the church. Visit the Champions website or Facebook page and you would be pleasantly shocked by thousands of posts from fellow Africans and other citizens of the world expressing warm, heartfelt impressions and goodwill about our nation as exemplified by the Joshua Iginla example.
Now, I wonder what my compatriots at the Federal and State tourism organizations are doing to recognize this ‘hidden’ tourism treasure and explore its fantastic opportunities to further boost the image of Nigeria. So much has been done in the tourism ministries to promote the image of Nigeria at home and abroad without any seriously positive and discernible outcome.
We spend millions on tourism fairs, gatherings and events worldwide yearly with trickles coming as dividends. Have we really considered the tourism potentials of places like Champions?
This is not necessarily about religion. The Yorubas would say ‘’if your masquerade dances well, one would be elated’’. In bringing positive light upon our nation around the world, in attracting thousands of foreign visitors to Abuja – visitors who come here to see the good side of our land and relatively boost our economy while also boosting their personal spiritual well-being – Joshua Iginla has helped to advance our tourism industry.
The earlier the tourism authorities found a way of reaching out to institutions like this for collaboration and idea exchange the better for us. Religious tourism is a money-spinner for countries that value it and explore its many ramifications.
Saudi Arabia, Italy, India and China have earned much from religious tourism through the Hajj, the Vatican and Catholicism etc. What stops Nigerians from encouraging religious tourism, cashing in on the leading light already provided by the Champions Royal Assembly?
The Redeemed Church is also helping in this through the influx of foreign visitors during its Holy Ghost Congress. But Champions, to me, is unique in its clearly daily hosting of throngs of visitors from around the world. All of these visitors have something good to say about our country.
Why wouldn’t our government assist institutions like Champions to continue to promote our land a s a nation of blessed, talented people?
I think our tourism authorities should work with icons like Joshua Iginla to further boost the image of Nigeria. One clue? The church’s Champions TV, seen around the world, can be used as a medium to further advertise the good things that would keep drawing people from around the world just like the Champions Royal Assembly is doing. Pastors like Iginla can also be encouraged to use their extensive media networks to promote Nigeria as a beautiful land of peaceful, God-fearing people and not the image of a hell-house of violence that the Boko Haram sacrilege is giving it.
Another potential tourist attraction, apart from its spiritual ramification, is the architectural wonder that Brother Iginla’s church is putting up as its world headquarters. Christened “City of Wonders,” this colossal church auditorium will turn the Faith Tabernacles and other cathedrals green with envy considering the sheer, ornate magnitude and avant garde nature of its architecture. I am sure that this is one church made to remain influential for hundreds of years to come.