Why I abandoned my multimillion dollar businesses in America for Nigeria —Bishop Simmons
Written by Sunday, 27 October 2013
Bishop (Dr) Frank Simmons, a black American, has spent 32 years in Nigeria, engaging in missionary activities and raising missionaries to other parts of the world. The aged theologian and scholar tells KEHINDE OYETIMI in this interview of the driving force behind his commitment. Excerpts:
What brought you to Nigeria?
The spirit of God brought me to Nigeria. I have already spent 32 years in Nigeria. But I left the United States when God told me that I would be going to preach the gospel in Africa.
Were you married and did you have children before coming to Nigeria?
I was married and I had just one daughter then. When I informed my family that I wanted to come down to Africa, my wife refused to come with me but my daughter came along with me.
Were you able to contact your wife since you came, did she join you since then? No. She never joined me. My wife died in 2008.
How have been able to cope all this years without your wife?
I have been cooking, washing my clothes, and for the fact that I was in the U.S. army then, I saw no big deal in house chores
What were the major challenges that you faced when you came?
I did not see many challenges, but it was much different from the United States. There is no power supply in Nigeria unlike in America. There is no water supply here unlike in America. It is funny when you hear politicians in Nigeria claim to change things when they campaign but the reverse is usually the case when they are elected.
What became your perception of the country with the many churches around?
When I came, I saw a lot of church signboards, and I wondered why God had brought me here. I felt that God had sent me to the wrong place. But he told me that he had brought me to the right place.
That time, I started a little college with 129 students. And because it was tuition-free, after three months, the number went up so high that it became difficult to contain them. The membership moved from about 129 to over 5, 000. I told them to go back to where they came from; I told them that I was not starting a church. With this, we went all over the country to establish churches and to put leaders to oversee them. We built more theological schools and today we have over 12 million people in those schools.
How much impact have you been able to make when you look back to those years of evangelising?
Well, we established more than 6,000 branches in Nigeria; we have missionaries going out all over the world. We have missionaries in China.
Humanly speaking, what can you say has been your major loss since you came to Nigeria?
I have not really lost anything. You know you sometimes have to trade one thing for another thing. In the United States of America, I was a millionaire. I had so many businesses. I had two construction companies and so on. I lived in an American Mansion with 30 rooms, and so many other houses back then; I drove the biggest and most expensive exotic cars back then but I started my ministry with nothing.
What was the reaction of some of your friends when you told them that you would be coming to Africa as a missionary?
Some did not believe it at first; I came to Nigeria with nothing. I gave most of my things to the church of God back at the United States.
What will you like to be remembered for?
I will like to be remembered for the work of God that I did.
What will be your message to christians in Nigeria?
My message to Christians in Nigeria is that they should not be ordinary Christians. They should do what will make them fit for the rapture. The second coming of Christ is almost here.
You have spent 32 years in Nigeria. Don’t you think that oil is the problem of Nigeria?
No, it is not the oil; it is the corruption. Corruption comes from the heart. We need to stop being fake and be real. There is enough wealth in Nigeria for everybody to do well. But the rich wants to keep the poor poorer and that is not good. Here, they are not really preaching the gospel.