Reverend Tamaraebi Siloko is the presiding pastor of the New Life Baptist Church, Suncity, Abuja. In this interview by FUNMILAYO AREMU, he speaks about the effect of coronavirus on the Church and other national issues.
The current pandemic COVID-19 has altered activities and affected a lot of businesses. What do you think is the way out? Has God revealed anything to you concerning the virus?
The first precaution to take is to maintain personal hygiene, always take care of your health, follow the instruction of the ministry of health and keep a distance from people and above all, pray. Though God has not shown me anything about it, seeing everything that has been happening, shows that the world is coming to an end. God is using this experience as a warning to turn to Him. This world is coming to an end. People should rely on God as He is the only solution and the only healer. He is the only one who can help us at this time. A disease that has no cure can only be stopped by God. I believe God is giving us His revelation already by the happenings around. Those who are yet to accept Jesus should do that because the coming of Christ is near. The Book of Revelation talks about the opening of a seal and disease comes into the third part of the world to kill people, but we should be very careful with our health and follow God, because He is the only one that can take away this virus. So, let us all keep faith and God will help us.
What precaution is the Church taking against the spread of coronavirus? Is it true that this will affect the growth of the Church as some churches have gone online?
We have not had much case in Nigeria, but at present the Church will also need to reduce some of its activities and at the same time pray more than before. The Church also needs to encourage people. It is true that the development will definitely affect the growth of the Church because people will be afraid to come to church and our network system is still not very good in Nigeria. For now, there is no need to panic, but to take precautions and all will go well. A lot of people, even the aged, are not computer-literate and also cannot afford to go online. All these challenges will affect the growth of the Church. This will also affect the finances of the Church as well as the one-on-one ministry. But people should be mindful of the fact that the Church is in the heart, so, let everybody stay connected to the Church. It is only for a season, this time too will pass.
What is your opinion on the proposed bill for ‘repentant’ Boko Haram terrorists to study abroad?
We should be very careful, let it not be a ploy to raise more people that will come and Islamise Nigeria. In the general sense, there is nothing wrong if people who repent are given a better life after their repentance for which Christ also gave to those who received and believed in Him and gave them the right to be called the children of God. God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. If they are truly repentant, it is a good bill, but there should be serious work to ascertain that they are truly repentant. Forgiveness is also needed for mindset to be changed. Justice should first be passed on them, before forgiving them. But on the other hand if God forgives them, some of us have done worse things, we might not have killed people but we might have killed their ambitions, dreams and destinies. The Bible says in 1 John 3: 15: “He that hates his brother is a murderer. Those who hate and go the extra mile to malign their brothers have also killed people. God forgives us and shows mercy.” I am looking at it from the angle of forgiveness and not what they have done. My advice to the government is to be careful, because I don’t believe those who are raising the bill have good intentions.
Do you think ex-Boko Haram terrorists can be truly reformed?
There is nothing God cannot do. There is no one God cannot change. Boko Haram is an ideology; it is not just a battle of arms. What is the government doing to change their ideology? If this is genuinely done then they can be truly reformed. They can only be reformed by reforming their ideology.
What is your opinion on the current state of national security?
The government should do more and recruit more security personnel. Most importantly, we should have more technology that will help us detect crimes. We don’t have surveillance everywhere, we don’t have gadgets that will help track and detect criminals. Our security system in this nation is very poor. For me, the government should invest more in the security and technological development of the nation and really see it through. People are afraid because we are suspecting everyone around us. People are dying more because of insecurity.
How did you receive your call and how many years have you been in the ministry?
I gave my life to Christ in 1993 and since then, I have had the passion to know God deeper and seek Him. I had no pastor to guide me, but I had the spirit of God guiding me all the way. I sensed the call of God over my life after a few years but I had to resist it because I grew up from a poor background and I have 10 younger siblings that I needed to take care of. So, after my first degree, I started a little job to take care of them as an educator, but God kept speaking to me and
everywhere I went and when people heard me, they wondered why I was not a pastor because they could see the call of God upon my life to confirm what I had already been hearing from God. I began my ministry in 1999; I began to go from village to village in Rivers State, preaching the gospel, doing crusades, outreaches and revivals. In the university, I was the
president of all fellowships and I decided that after my university I would go to the seminary and become a full time pastor. I entered the seminary in 2004 and graduated in 2007. I have been in the ministry for 21 years, but I entered into full time ministry under the Baptist convention in 2007.
What challenges have you been facing so far in the vineyard?
I have had cause to start two churches from scratch, including the one I am currently pasturing. I relocated to Abuja from Port Harcourt through my senior pastor. God asked me to move here to start a fresh work with my wife and little daughter. The challenge of door-to-door evangelism is finances, especially getting a land for the church was an enormous challenge. In all, God gives us the victory and strength. It has been wonderful serving in His vineyard.