COVID-19: The Church has a lot more to do than donating to govt —Revd (Mrs) Popoola

Reverend (Mrs) Omowumi Popoola is the president of Women Intercessory Network and wife of president of Word Communication Ministries (WOCOM), Apostle Sunday Popoola. In this interview by SEYI SOKOYA and ADEOLA OTEMADE, she speaks on the situation of the Church and the effects of the pandemic on the Church and the country at large.

The Church has been feeling the heat of the pandemic for the past one month and there is no hope that things will return to normal anytime soon. As a minister, how would you say this development has reshaped the Church?

The Church is a living organism and it cannot be shut down, but congregational worship has been disallowed because of the coronavirus pandemic. I believe that every adversity is giving us an opportunity to see and do something differently and it can actually become an advancement and this is what we have seen. Though we cannot congregate as a church, there have been churches in every house and that has resulted in the growth of the Church. That is what we have seen, it has also made every Christian to become a pastor sort of, because we have to watch for one another’s back and beyond that, the members also have to watch out for their neighbours and their relatives.

So in a way, we have seen the priesthood of every believer and we have actually seen what the Church is supposed to be. At this period, we see that we are ensuring that nobody is left uncared for. Everybody is asking after their brothers and their sisters; at this time nobody is spending money on things that are not necessary but ensuring that people around them are fine. We can really see the Church in real action. I can see that the Church has maximised this time to a fruitful use.

 

Can you let us know how much you miss the ambience of church congregation?

Yes, we miss our coming together, embracing and fellowshipping with one another. We miss all those, but we have been closely knitted. This development has even shown us another dimension that we need to take care of one another in our communities. So, in terms of fellowshipping with ourselves, we miss one another, but in terms of touching one another, we are really closer, looking for one another and praying together. So much of prayer has been going on; the men and women fellowships organise prayer meetings online. So, we are touching one another and sustaining constant communication. To us as pastors, I think we are enjoying it; it’s really good.

 

There have been reactions in the country as regards some churches giving to government’s efforts to curtail the pandemic instead of giving back to their church members. Do you see this as a right step?

I can’t say anything for anybody; we have motives that make us to do things in the way we do them. I may donate to an organisation because I want to court your friendship. There are motives; there are reasons for people doing things. What I know is that our church hasn’t donated to the government, but that doesn’t mean that we are not helping the government. I believe that the government can’t do it alone. There is the dimension of the church to the development of the society but to be candid, I think the Church already has enough to do, especially with their members.

I have heard people criticise the Church for taking offerings at this time. The Church has not just started to take care of members and the community; it was doing it before the pandemic. If not for the Church in Nigeria, there would have been more cries on the street. We live in a society whereby there is too much complaint on the street. It’s only that the government is very impervious most of the time to the cries of the people they are supposed to be leading. They don’t know how it is touching them. It’s the Church that has been taking care of the people. The people come to church twice in a week at least to be fed with the word that makes them happy as well as hear the words of hopes from their church leaders. For example, in our church, we have always had the welfare department which takes care of people’s needs. The Church has been doing a lot of help to the government by making sure the people are not unruly as well as not to take law into their own hands. So, I don’t think donating to the government is the ideal, especially when you see that there are corrupt elements in government. If the money of this country is judiciously used nobody should be hungry, but the money has its way into the pockets of those in government from the head to the bottom and that is why the situation of the country has become worsened.

 

What lessons would you say the pandemic has taught you as a woman, pastor’s wife and mother?

We usually have a programme at the end of every year tagged ‘Insight Summit’ and that is the time we look up to God to tell us what will happen the following year. My husband, Apostle Sunday Popoola told us that 2020 will be challenging. He emphasised it and he kept saying it to the extent that I felt offended. When the pandemic started, a lot of us had to go back to our notes to confirm his prophecies. He emphasised that 2020 would be a year of darkness and gross darkness; he said the year 2020 would be threatening. It is only that we really don’t know that it’s going to be COVID-19.

But he also said that there are lots of blessing in the year; that the year would come disguised, because it would be so threatening, but for the children of God, the threat would be turned into a treat. We all thought it was going to be the usual issues going on in Nigeria such as economic crises, educational crises, not knowing it would come in the form of a deadly virus. So, as a person, the lesson I have learnt is that as a believer, we should rest assured that God is in control, no matter what one might be passing through or how hard the situation might be, the promises of God are for His children and for those who believe in His words.

 

How have you and your husband been coping with the situation of things as a result of COVID-19?

He is never disturbed; I wish I could be like him. Nothing disturbs him, he is a man of peace and faith and I think that is a function of someone who knows God and always with God. Though this period is challenging, it is tough, especially when you hear about the massive death reports; it is gloomy but when you are on the side of God, you will be at peace. It is in the time of trouble that you will know the stuff you are made of and you will know if what you have taken in would be able to sustain you. There is more to life than food, this time lots of us have availed ourselves to fast and intercede for the country and the world at large. We fast almost every day. The only thing that is painful is the death of people all over the world and we have been calling on God to intervene and we can see the hand of God, because normalcy is currently returning to most affected countries.

 

What effects do you think this pandemic would have on the nation as a whole when normalcy is finally restored?

One thing I know is that this COVID-19 will not leave us the same. Our responsiveness to government must be taken seriously. Government is the representation of the people, especially in democratic setting, we elected them, we voted them to represent us, they are not there to rule us; they are not rulers, but unfortunately, we the people have failed to respond and to be responsive towards them. We don’t call them to question, we don’t make them accountable and that is something I know that will change after this pandemic is over.

We need to begin to hold our government responsible, how do we come to a point that we don’t have infrastructure that could sustain our society that would make people productive. I want the government to be able to handle one thing. Nigeria has lots of problems, we have lots of issues, but let each successive government handle a particular thing and do it well.  If it is education or health, do it well and let us see. Put infrastructure in place; good roads, good hospitals, electricity, so that the people can be productive.

Also, people should stop worshipping our political leaders. Recently, these people came around for people’s vote in and the moment they were voted in, they became tin gods and inaccessible. How can a governor be hailed for paying salaries? So these are the issues that we need to resolve and begin to do well and by God’s grace, we the Church as well will continue to teach our people, mobilise them on how to do their own responsibilities towards government in paying their taxes and how to also be responsive.

How have you been able to juggle between being a pastor’s wife, a minister and a mother?

It has been the grace of God. For somebody like me, I am not just a pastor’s wife, not just a pastor of a congregation alongside my husband or overseeing pastoring congregations and beyond the ministry, I also have several fellowships of women. I head an organisation called ‘The Unique Woman Fellowship’, where we have members all over the country. I am glad to inform you that we have over 20,000 members at present. I am also the president of Women Intercessory Network and I have women I am leading. Aside that, I am a farmer; I am into livestock farming. Among all these, I still have time for my home, I also perform my conjugal responsibility towards my husband. I take care of my home, so it’s all rolled into one.

 

 

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