Pastor Oluyemi Agbaje, the founder and pastor in charge of Household of Grace Bible Church, Ibadan, Oyo State, is also the executive director of Self Help Advancement People Centre (SEHAP). In this interview with OLAIDE SOKOYA, he speaks on the challenges he has faced combining his calling as a minister and overseeing a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), and how divine intervention can rescue Nigeria’s economy. Excerpts:
With your experience as a cleric and as a director of a non-governmental financial institution, what do think is wrong with Nigeria’s economy?
It is only God that can redeem Nigeria’s economy. A lot of people have placed their hopes where there is no hope. The Bible states that ‘woe to people that put their trust in man.’ In fact, when this administration was about to take over, people had high hopes, and some even said we had got a Messiah that would rescue the nation. However, the situation is getting worse. One thing I believe is that when we believe in the work of our hands, we can never suffer. When we believe in God, there is no way we won’t survive the current economic hardship.
It is not uncommon for pastors to set up private businesses outisde their ministry. How did you find yourself directing a microfinance institution?
It was by divine direction. SEHAP focuses on assisting the underprivileged in the society. It is a non-governmental microfinance institution, and is an idea developed through God’s inspiration and the vision to address the near-absence of financial aid to the large population of economically-active poor people, to engage in small businesses.
How has the organisation impacted positively in people’s lives?
This organisation has helped a lot of people financially. It has impacted and is still impacting positively in the lives of the people by God’s grace. In Nigeria, a lot of people have business ideas but no money to execute such ideas. So, as a cleric, I realised that a way we could assist people was to set up this organisation. Many people have gained a lot from SEHAP. There are people who started their businesses with N10,000 but today, can boast of having built their own houses.
As a cleric, how do you handle clients who default on loans without offending God?
I handle them through the word of God; we convince them by the word of God. In this kind of business, it is very easy for a pastor to lose heaven if care is not taken. There is room for you to hold your tongue so that you will not offend God through the people you are dealing with. So, we retrieve our money through admonishing them with the word of God. The worst we do is to tell them we will arrest them but in my mind, I don’t arrest people and I have never done it. We have a system we use to retrieve the money.
How would you advise government on the current economic hardship?
The only organisation that can meet the needs of the people is this kind of non-governmental organisation that arrests the issue of poverty from the grassroots. My only advice is for the government to ensure that they invest more in microfinance institutions. By this, they will be able to meet the needs of the people, especially the poor.
What are some challenges you have faced running a microfinace institution alongside pastoring a church?
There have been challenges. For instance, when we give out loans and the reward we get is debt, what would one do? One time, we decided to pool all the resources of our clients and sought the services of a bank for loans. There were cases of people not paying back these loans as promised. My background as a pastor also helps me to tackle the challenges that may arise from the microfinance institution with godly wisdom. We trust God in all situations.