Revd. Mrs Omowumi Veronica Popoola is a lawyer and president of the Unique Women Fellowship. She and her husband oversee the Word Communication Ministries and Christ Assembly Churches. In this interview by KANGMWA GOFWEN, she speaks on how the church is contributing to nation-building, among other issues.
YOU are a lawyer by profession but now into full-time ministry, why are you not practising law?
I still practise. I discovered that practising law is also a passion for me, as much as I would have loved to put away my wig and gown to focus mainly on the ministry, I still find myself having to go back. So I’m still practising law and also in the ministry.
As a woman and a minister, what is your stand and that of your church about divorce, where do you draw the line?
I’m passionate about marriage because I believe that marriage is the brainchild of God and God is very serious concerning families because God does all His work on earth through the family. The family can never be without marriage and the family is the heart of the nation. With this background, we can understand why God would not be happy about divorce because that was not the original plan. Though society continued and we were beginning to see the intricacies, it became a permissive will of God but that was not his will. So that’s my stand. When it becomes inevitable it could be permitted because of the lives involved.
People, especially men have different definitions of submission. As a minister what really is submission in marriage?
Submission in general terms is a notion that we need for society to be sane. In every partnership, community or arrangement of human society there has to be submission to one another. Without this, we cannot live well and progressively and that is why it is more pronounced in the marriage relationship because you have a union of two people. One has to be submitted to the other so that the purpose of that marriage can be achieved, there cannot be
two masters in a boat, and one has to take the lead. But again, submission is not servitude; it is to be able to give somebody the responsibility of directing the affairs of the home.
What are some of the contributions the church can make to nation-building?
I will take it from the women’s angle; we see that the people that are more in the church are women and the church is mobilising the women in terms of teaching the women to be who they are supposed to be. We train and develop their minds because we have discovered that women are a powerful labour force for the development of the nation. So the church does a lot in developing the women so they can take their place in the nation. Every member of the society comes from the home and it is the woman that spends more time with the children, and the issues of the society come from the home so the woman must be taken care of mentally, physically and emotionally. So the church pours a lot into developing the women. The church also ensures the spiritual development of man, because, when people are developed mentally and intellectually but spiritual development is lacking then we have given a menace to the society. That’s how I see the church contributing to the nation.
You seem to have so much on your table, as a wife and mother. How do you manage your time?
I’m always faced with this question and I’m quick to say, the divine creative makeup of a woman by God is that she has been designed to multitask. It’s a grace of the woman and it’s that grace that Omowumi taps in because I know I did not just happen, God made me, God sent me here and he sent me here for a purpose and if I have to do this I have to look up to him to supply the energy and he has been doing that for me.
You have an NGO, Children of Africa Reformation by Education (CARE), what is it about and how long have you been running it?
CARE has been from 1998, it is about giving education to indigene children that might not have been able to go to school. We have had a school since the NGO started and is still running for free at Idi-Amo. At some point, we started giving the children free uniforms when we saw the situation of the children. We give books and everything for free and we pay the teachers. We have graduated several sets some of them have gone to the university, graduated and are doing very well. We also have the widows section; we recognise that there are widows that are widows indeed who do not have anybody to take care of them. So we assist them to start small businesses, we give them small loans and also give them money to do something like settle hospital bills, pay house rent and children’s school fees. There was a time we also went to the streets to take care of street boys, though it was capital intensive. When we started, we discovered that many of them were on drugs so we started rehabilitation. But we could not continue because we did not buy the house we kept them, someone gave us and when he wanted to sell it we could not buy it. So because we do not have a place to keep them we had to stop. You have a program coming up, tell us about it. The Unique Woman conference started 30 years ago and it is an annual event, the conference is hinged on the idea that every person is unique. Every woman is uniquely gifted and talented and no matter what you are going through, God has put something in you to contribute to society. We bring women together to enlighten them on how to look inward to discover what gift is deposited in them and help them develop and deploy it because until you begin to use the gifts that God has given you to contribute to the society, your fulfilment will not come. We are created to have something to contribute and when you cannot contribute you become destabilised. So what we are doing is to let every woman know that there is something God has put in her that her problem and situation cannot take away and that gift is unique to her.
A lot of ladies are running away from marrying pastors, what is your message to that kind of ladies?
In those days that we got into the ministry, it was not the vogue for young girls to like to marry a pastor but these days the face of the ministry has changed. Back then, pastors lived sacrificial lives and there was nothing glamorous about it. I remember when my husband proposed to me, he made me know that he was sensing God calling him into ministry, I had mixed feelings and had to rethink it because I knew a pastor’s life was like signing up to suffer. He gave me the choice to end the relationship if I wanted but God spoke to my heart that it was the way to go and I surrendered to him. So my advice to young ladies is that life is about the impact and anyone who has lived for himself alone would discover at the end of life that he has lived in vain. Though the life of a pastor is sacrificial, ladies who have the understanding that our life is about impact should see it as an opportunity to contribute to people. So, basically, they should not run away but rather seek to develop to be able to meet up the challenge of developing others.
Social media has painted marriage in a bad light, how much impact do you think social media has on marriage?
Like it is said, marriage is the brainchild of God, unfortunately, social media has different definitions. We need to come back to the manufacturer of marriage to know what marriage should be because it is God that made marriage and if we want to know how it should be run we need to go back to Him. So, I will like people to be careful because it is not everything that goes on the society that is the authority, we will not be safe if we rely on social media.
Is it good for couples to invite a third party to settle misunderstandings in their marriage?
The third-party that is legitimately allowed in the marriage is God because it is a union between a man and a woman, so the parties involved must communicate because communication is important. When the couples communicate more, they will be able to understand each other more so that the incidence of a third party would be reduced. God has his word, so is either they study to know what God is saying about the situation or someone that is a custodian of the word and someone that is mature in handling spiritual affairs can talk to them. But I will quickly warn that couples must be careful who they share their issues with, the only person that can solve their issue is themselves.
You have been in ministry for over 30 years, what has kept you going and what are some of the challenges you face?
What has kept me going for the past 37 years is the fact that my life is giving meaning to others, so I get lost in the fact that I am working. That my life is blessing people gets me tickled and that in itself is energy to me and I count myself lucky and blessed that even in my few years of existence I have seen my life touch thousands of people and that is a huge motivation for me. Ministry is people; our commodity is people and whenever you find people together challenges are bound. I am a public speaker, I have to teach the congregation, so sometimes when you correct a person they do not see it the way you see it.
And when members have problems, as a leader, you have problems too. Sometimes, we lose a member. No pastor wants to bury his member, but it is inevitable. I remember sometime in 2011 when we lost a member and his three children to a flood. It was a terrible time and I wished it did not happen. Sometimes you may say something you are not meant to say. You may offend people and it becomes a problem, and those are areas I have seen challenges. But I have always looked to God to help me.
The Owo terror incident has sparked questions in the minds of people. What can you say about the unfortunate incident?
We are in the last days, and this is part of the characteristics of the time when unimaginable wickedness will be happening. It is so unfortunate that the place we feel is the safe place to be will be the place where bandits will invade to kill people unprovoked: The worshippers were vulnerable because they were there. We will see more of these things. However, it is very sad. We can only hope that God would give succour to all the people concerned and let us not see these kinds of things again.
The times are increasingly becoming tough. What is your message to women and to Christians in general?
There is a saying that when the going gets tough, only the tough get going. This means that you also need to get toughened and tell yourself that you have to keep going. You also need to remember those that depend on you. I’ll tell women especially, that you cannot just take your bags and leave because there are people that are connected to your life. You have your children, husband and even some of the extended family. So, because of that, you have to take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Try as much as possible to remove things that do not matter. These are times that people, especially women, need to live intentionally and purposefully. This is not the time you can do everything because so many lives depend on you. You have to be strong to weather the storm for yourself and other people.
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