As a guest at the rather posh Redemption Camp home of an ardent member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, one has the luxury of unlimited and super fast Internet access. The atmosphere is cool, the air conditioning unit is on and the noise of some people praying can be heard.
It is the 63rd Annual Convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The writer has warm memories of coming to the Redemption Camp. Mum has been attending the Camp for nearly a quarter of a century. About 21 years ago, the writer came with her. She remembers praying for her Junior Secondary School examination results.
Those days, we slept on the benches and would wait till the crowd thins out to begin the journey to Ibadan at six in the morning. Then, there was much grass and barren land. Now, it is a city. The latest auditorium is said to be three kilometres in length and width, and about four times the size of the present auditorium. Estimated to cost around N20 billion, the gist online is that the auditorium would seat three million worshippers.
It is impossible to get a taste of the hugeness of the camp by strolling across it. Over 25 years of consistent construction, growth and increase has made the Camp perhaps one of the fastest growing cities in the whole of the world. It gets bigger and bigger.
The Camp has many adjoining roads, hundreds of restaurants, a secondary school called the Redeemer High School, several primary schools and Redeemer University. The Redemption Camp has its own clinic, ATM points, super markets, shops, a public market, post office, estates built by a consortium of banks, high street banks, international guest houses, the Redeemed Christian Bible College, facilities for children and youths and its very own water, electrical and electronics departments. Dove Television has its offices on the site as well as Liveway Radio, which entertains Redemption Camp residents with excellent music, sermons all day. The ever-expanding Camp is the Nigerian version of The Vatican.
The Redemption Camp could also be described as a ‘city of paradise’. Why? Residents enjoy uninterrupted power and water supply. This may seem commonplace and a non-issue. But, when you have experienced living without power or without water, you begin to appreciate ‘little’ miracles.
Experts at holding massive events, hundreds of thousands of people gather here every year for the annual convention, which is one of the church’s flagship programmes. The RCCG hosts the Holy Ghost Congress every December and on the first Friday of the month, there is the Holy Ghost Service. These services are attended by hundreds of thousands of people. The crowds will shock you. Oxford Circus in Britain is nothing compared to this. It is probably a hundred times the crowd at the Old Trafford. Or more. Who knows? There are people everywhere.
The Redemption Camp is also a place to make money. Hundreds of small businesses exist to service the needs of the crowds that gather. There is no question or doubt in my mind that God answers prayers. He answers prayers in the Redemption Camp like He does everywhere else His name is called in ‘spirit and in truth’. So, let’s be honest, and say God answers prayers. Everywhere. Anywhere.
So if God can hear you in your home, why do people bother to come here? Why am I here? What is the attraction the Convention and the Redemption brand offers to people from across the nation? My theories are disputable. First, people come because the version of Christianity appeals to the humanity in people. The General Overseer of the church, Pastor E. A. Adeboye emphasises holiness and righteous living. In a country where corruption is in the fabric of nearly every Nigerian, the call to live holy and pure is an appeal. In a country where the people who loot the treasury and federal ministries have front row seats, the call to holiness is deeply interesting.
Secondly, the church accommodates people from all walks of life. What this translates to is that common people have a stake in the church. Most often whilst walking to the auditorium, you find mothers washing their little children on the edges of the auditorium, people washing their pots and pans, others were brushing their teeth, it is surreal. There is a mini scramble for water at the taps. Just across from them, are hundreds of people doing private things like brushing their teeth and urinating in the open view of everyone! It is unsettling and uncomfortable to behold. A few yards from them are several blocks of bathrooms and toilets for both sexes. The deacons, senior pastors, pastors and assistant pastors were not amongst this crowd. In the United Kingdom, anti-social orders would be slapped on all these people doing ‘bathroom things’ in the open.
Why do people come to the RCCG Convention? The prayers and manner of worship lay emphasis on personal emancipation and deliverance. In a country where ‘the other person is the enemy, every one has an ‘other person’ they need to pray against. It is serious business. Warfare. There is the mother-in-law, the father-in-law, the boss at work, the grand-aunt, etc to arrest in prayers. People come in millions for this type of militaristic prayer.
Furthermore, because of poor national health provision, many people come to be healed of their diseases and worn body parts. Women looking for the fruit of the womb come, pastors looking for more ‘anointing’ come. Thieves, rogues, thugs and robbers also mingle in the crowd waiting for the time to strike. The appeal is unexplainable but it works.
The appeal, unlike other churches where the rich are probably worshipped, this church has a place for all people. Rich and Poor. When you walk the length and the breadth of the camp, you find people. You find them queuing for water, you find them sleeping in ad hoc sleeping bags at the end of the service. The beauty of it is that there are hundreds of them. Poor people, sleeping on the floor, on mats, exposed to mosquitoes. They are used to it, they are happy to be there. No one complains. They are there of their own free volition.
Politics aside, there is the need for government to address several teething problems. One, bad driving which is symptomatic of the Nigerian society reflects heavily when the culprits have the words ‘Missionary’ on cars. Two, mobile and Internet receptivity is not satisfactory. This is not the fault of the RCCG, but providers would do well to make sure their brand has a presence in the city.
Three, whilst most of the roads are great, some are in dire need of construction. Four, more toilets and bathrooms need to be built to cater for thousands of people. Five, there should be more discipline and etiquette where people urinate and do personal business. Six, the church should look into providing comfortable shelter for the hundreds who sleep on mats in the auditorium. The 63rd Annual Convention has come and gone, but the All- Sufficient God will remain the same for every one. Anywhere.
There is no question or doubt in my mind that God answers prayers. He answers prayers in the Redemption Camp like He does everywhere else His name is called in ‘spirit and in truth’. So, let’s be honest, and say God answers prayers. Everywhere. Anywhere