Another inspiring interview with the Punch Newspaper, posted on the official website of Ondo State, the home State of Pastor TB Joshua…
The founder and head of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet Temitope Joshua has witnessed remarkable changes in the last couple of years. His long robes and full beard have been replaced by designer shirts, suits and a well trimmed beard. But more importantly, he is no longer the clergy that journalists get for a chat anytime they desire. It took VINCENT AKANMODE and ADEOLA BALOGUN four days before he reluctantly granted an interview on such issues as his non-admission into the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, his childhood and his relationship with the presidents of some African countries.
What are the fond memories you have of your childhood days in Arigidi Akoko?
My days have been wonderful. You know that in spiritual time with the Lord, there are good and bad times. Each day serves a purpose, both my good days and my hard days. The hard days might have come as a way of preserving me; it may be to prepare me for the challenges ahead or to take me to a new level in life. It may be to strengthen my desire, and God can use anything to do that. It could be persecution, it could be rejection. Remember the book of Mark says the stone the builder rejected has become the chief corner stone. It is the Lord’s doing, it is marvellous in our eyes. That rejection is the Lord’s doing. The Lord allows my rejection to enable Him to take all glory and honour. He allows the persecution that comes our way to bring the best out of us.
I read it somewhere that you attended about three or four schools in a year. Why did that happen?
It’s part of what I was saying. God was using that to prepare me for the challenges. If God wants you to know or achieve many things, He can take you to a hundred places or make you experience a series of trials before you achieve that. You know in the college of God, however brilliant you are, you are not going to be given double promotion. You will have to take all the courses in order to excel because each course has a purpose. You know God has his own university too, just like He has his own primary school.
According to a documentary devoted to your growth from childhood to adulthood, you were known as Balogun Francis when you were in primary school. How did that change to Temitope Joshua which everybody calls you now?
No, when I was in school, people called me Francis, Harry and other aliases, together with Ope, Temitope and many other names.
So, it was not as if your parents named you Francis?
No, my parents did not name me Francis. In those days, the name Francis would be too far from their memory (laughs). The foreign names they knew would probably be common names in the Bible, but not Francis.
In the documentary, I noticed that when you were about 17 years, you were wearing glasses. What happened to them?
Ha, you seem to know so much about me (laughs). When I was in the primary school, even after primary school, I believed in working very hard. I would work 24 hours because whatever I wanted to do, I wanted to do my best. I believed that what was worth doing at all was worth doing well. You can see me now, I have been working here since yesterday and you would see me putting on something that would allow me to move freely while I do what I have to do. I cannot put on a tie now because the work I do is so much. What we are doing here is not ceremony; it is work. I attend to thousands of people. So, when I was in school, I used to work very hard and I used to take food that would allow me to do the job. Like today now, all I have taken since morning is tea, because if I had taken any heavy food, by now I would be feeling sleepy. I try to regulate my system in order to be able to do my job, and it shows in my stature. So, in the school, I would read every time – morning, afternoon and night. In fact, my best time to read then was in the night when everyone had gone to sleep, because I was always having many challenges. Then anywhere I was, if I came second and someone else came first, I would feel challenged. I would not envy him but I would ask myself why I could not also come first. Because of the way I took my reading, I ate so much of gari. In fact, I was taking gari 24 hours. I would soak it in water and leave it to swell up. Later, I realised that my sight was becoming impaired because of the effect of gari. Initially, I used to sit at the back. But when I could no longer see the board very well, I had to move forward before I could read what was written on the board very well. Sometimes in order to fight sleep, I would take Nescafe because of the pressure to work hard, and it paid off. In my school days, if I didn’t come first, I would come second. Then, it was only one guy that was beating me. If I came first, he would come second, and when he came first, I came second. He was an Indian; they called him Harry de Shamah, a son of a lecturer at the University of Ife. And anytime he beat me, it would be a headache for me and I would not be able to rest. I knew that with little sleep, the guy would come first. I always found myself being challenged in all I did.
One of your teachers said you started showing the signs of a preacher at an early age. She even said you disarmed a mad man. Did you realise that you wanted to be a preacher very early in life?
Yeah, when the madman came and both the teachers and the pupils didn’t know what to do, I rose to the occasion by talking to him to leave, and he did. What came out of their mouth was ‘Small Pastor,’ because I had a very small stature. They probably thought that it was only a pastor that could do that; that it was beyond human comprehension. And two, I used to have a small fellowship in our school, and I was very good in Bible Knowledge. I used to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. There was a time I was in Ansar Ud Deen School in Ikare. Then I was leading the Scriptural Union and after school hours, I would organise a fellowship. At times, the school authorities would say no. So becoming a pastor had always been my desire before it was confirmed by God.
Were you born into a Christian family?
Yes. My father was the secretary of the Anglican church in Arigidi.
But we have heard it said that your father was a herbalist, that you derived certain powers from him.
No, there was nothing like that. My father was not a herbalist. You can go to my town and find out, they will tell you. My father used to be the secretary to the church.
Is he still alive?
No, he is no more alive.
Why did you want to become a soldier?
You read that somewhere too?
Well, just to be a soldier of the Lord. You know, man proposes, God disposes. As a man, you would want to be this, you would want to be that, but God has his own plans for you.
People say you are more popular and more accepted by foreigners than your fellow Nigerians. Why is it so?
Well, I don’t see that as anything strange. Whatever you put on as a person, how many of them were made in Nigeria, including your spectacles? If you remove all these things you are wearing now, you will be naked. Are you then not happy that foreigners accept you because you are using everything that they make? There is nothing you put on that is wholly Nigerian. Is that not what everybody is praying for? Have you not heard that a prophet is not honoured in his home? It is written and you cannot rewrite the Bible. Not only prophets, whatever you are doing, you will be more appreciated outside than your country. We have many geniuses today in Nigeria, was it Nigeria that discovered them? See many lawyers, Nobel laureates, doctors, even army generals – where were they trained? Was it in Nigeria? It is a normal thing to be appreciated and accepted outside your country. When what you are doing is not genuine, your people will accept you while those outside the country will not touch you. See this publication, (he tenders an edition of Time magazine where his photograph was put on the cover and he was described as a faith healer). Time is the leading newsmagazine all over the world, and here is my picture as a man who heals with faith. If a magazine of this calibre can go all out looking for me, why should I bother myself so much about not being more accepted at home?
Are you not bothered that you have not been admitted into the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. Pastor Adeboye was quoted as saying that you have to explain certain things before you could be accepted?
I can only be bothered when I am not a man of God. I am a child of God, okay? You mean I should be bothered that my own biological father rejected me or God rejected me? So what are you saying? I still see no reason why you are bringing up these questions after all what you have seen in Time magazine about me. I want to say something here, for me, I am very busy here. I don’t even have time for the local media, that is why I didn’t want to attend to you people, because there are some certain things I don’t want to hear. Who is supposed to judge whether one is a man of God or not?
The first time we came, we saw you carrying sand with a pan on your head alongside other members of the church at one of your construction sites. Why did you have to do that?
It is because I am being led by the Holy Spirit. You people expected me to be doing what others are doing, that is why you are saying somebody rejected me? When you are being led by the Holy Spirit, you will do something different. It is not necessarily important I build my church the way others built their own. I should do it the way God wants me to do it. I don’t necessarily have to belong to an association; you should belong to the association God wants you to belong to. That I carry cement on my head and worked with my members is no big deal. It is a rare privilege to work with them.
How do you cope with having to attend to hundreds of people on a daily basis?
It is the Lord’s doing. That is why it is very difficult to join any association.
Why have presidents been coming here to see and fellowship with you?
It is the work of God. Is that why you think I should join an association? Since I am not the only person that has not joined an association, I think God’s association is more important and better.
You have also been hosting celebrities?
Forget about celebrities. It is all about the work of God.
You used to wear a long robe when you started your ministry, but now you wear designer shirts and suits. What was responsible for the change?
I was only wearing a long robe when I wanted to pray or when I wanted to go to the mountain, which is a normal thing. And again, you wear a long robe when you want to sleep.
Since you were very brilliant when you were in school, why didn’t you pursue your education up to the university?
Well, I believe God took me to His own university. The way and manner God executes His plans in our lives is different. Again, that has not been a handicap to my job. I thank God for that.
President Yar’Adua is not enjoying the best of health. Why have you not deemed it necessary to heal him?
Did the president tell you that he is sick?
We know that he is not okay because of his many foreign medical trips?
That is where his faith lies, and I have not been approached. For me, I don’t have any problem with people going on medical trips.
If he approaches you, would you help?
I have told you, he goes to where his faith lies. I think as Nigerians, we all have to pray for our president.
What message do you have for Nigerians in this era of economic meltdown?
We should do what is good instead of criticising or condemning. We should pray instead of raining curses. Everything will be okay.
You used to wear a full beard?
The beard is still there (laughs).
Did Time magazine get to know about you through your Emmanuel TV or because so many presidents have been coming here?
This picture (he points to his picture in Time magazine) was taken five years ago. The reporter came here at that time and they still went ahead to release the picture after five years because they still believe we are on course.
Do you suspect envy on the part of pastors that criticise you?
If you are not a graduate of persecution or intimidation, you may not be able to maintain the power or glory. You must know what it is to be persecuted. The Bible has said it that the stone the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. Whatever comment people pass about me, God allows it in order to strengthen me.
Is it possible to estimate how much you spend on charity in a year?
Well, that should not be my assignment. The most important thing is to touch people’s lives.
Do you insist that someone should be a member of the Synagogue before he or she can benefit from your charity?
Synagogue is in the body of Christ. And in the body of Christ, there are many parts.
Why is it that you have only one branch of the Synagogue in Nigeria while others are in Ghana, London and others around the world?
But the single branch is where everybody has been coming to receive blessing. Emmanuel TV is there and some of these questions you are asking me are answered on it.
Each time your church got destroyed by rainstorm, you had it filmed before it was rebuilt. Why were you doing that and what force was behind that?
It was a force I could not resist. It was a force that I know was backed by God. Look at all of you here now, you cannot tell me that you have the record of everything about your life somewhere in tapes. All you probably have is the record of maybe your birthday, graduation, wedding or funeral.
SOURCE: The Punch, Nigeria