If the adage, ‘good wine needs no bush’ is anything to go by, then the crowd at Synagogue of All Nations may not just be ordinary spectators. They come with a load of problems seeking one form of miracles or the other.
Miracles were parts of the ministries of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and of course, Jesus and the apostles. Their miracles primarily served the purpose of confirming their message as being from God.
Today, many people still seek to experience miracles and some will go any length to have that experience. At Synagogue Church of All Nations, (SCOAN) located at Ikotun- Egbe in Lagos state, an outstanding edifice structured to contain more than 20,000 worshipers with a quarter of that population mostly foreigners, it is a destination for miracles seekers.
People are assured that on seeing the Prophet, TB Joshua, their load of problems would be solved. Little wonder that people especially foreigners besiege the church in search of miracles. Just imagine more than 80 South Africans dying in the collapsed foreign guest house building at the church on September 12.
Thousands throng into the Synagogue Church of All Nations for miracles. But how real are these miracles that are spreading like wildfire world over? Saturday Vanguard deployed reporters out to get the feelings of both past and present members of the church including some foreign worshipers on the issue. They filed in this report:
Mr. Michael French, a 45 years old Cameroonian suffering from acute Diabetes traveled all the way from Cameroun for more than 13 hours by bus, stool ling and urinating frequently on the way. Mr. French was insulted by passengers in the vehicle due to his constant call of nature, but he endured it all hoping that when he gets to Lagos, “it would be a thing of the past.” He arrived Lagos very late and slept at the park because there was no vehicle going to the church.
Mr. French was one of the few that landed at the church the very next morning. He felt that he was already healed because of the adrenaline of hope and excitement in his body. His feet couldn’t hold him; he had read and watched the exploit of this man back home in Cameroun. He knew it was his day to be healed. After all the songs and Sunday School, the Prophet climbed on the podium and started praying for sick people.
“I prayed so hard to be the first to reveive the healing. I wanted to tell the world what God has done for me through the prophet. But l didn’t get to give my testimony that day. l didn’t receive any sign of healing. So many people came out to give testimonies of their healing and I envied them, but I prayed and hoped that my own healing would come, perhaps on the second day.
“As usual, l was there early alongside my sister the following day. We had carried everything we had saved for this trip. We believed so much that God would settle us that second day. We went there the second day and it was the same thing, a few others received their healing, but l still didn’t get any. By the third day, I became worried because I was running out of money.
I called Cameroun for money to be sent, but l didn’t received any alert. We were still spending money on accommodation, feeding and by then, our faith which was aflame when we entered into Nigeria began to die fast just as our pockets were draining fast.
“It got to a point when all we had was our transport fare back to Cameroun; we approached the church, but they couldn’t help to sustain our stay. We were so sad and left Lagos utterly disappointed. I prayed to God for help to survive the long journey back to Cameroun so that I can manage my health just like l was advised by the doctor in the first place. I came to Nigeria because l was told l would be healed; l would say that l spent the worst one week of my life in Nigeria and l didn’t receive what l came for.”
Again, the story of Awele, a 37-year-old mother is more horrifying. Awele, a breast cancer patient based in Lagos told Saturday Vanguard her experience at the Synagogue while searching for miracle. After series of tests, she had been told that her both breasts would go under the knife or she goes to join her ancestors in less than eight months.
She couldn’t believe that she was going to die so soon. She thought about the possiblity of her only daughter becoming an orphan at 18. Amidst that awful verdict, she exuded faith and decided to seek a miracle at Synagogue.
“On visiting Prophet Joshua’s church I was directed to see any of the four Wise-men. (Saturday Vanguard last week wrote about the ‘four wise-men’ ). After discussing my case with the Wise men, I observed there were three other similar cases involving two men and one other woman. We were all kept in a room. Few days after, we were not attended to and I insisted on seeing the prophet himself.”
“But after three days, instead of the prophet, it was one of the wise-men that visited us and nothing was done.”
She said further: “About the fourth day of our stay in the church, we noticed that one of us died, we screamed for help!
When the members came, all they did was to take away the lifeless body of the man; we didn’t know what happened to him again. Not even a single word of prayer was said in our presence for the guy. The man didn’t return to the room, but his luggage was still there. Two days later, they visited the room again to check on us as they usually did that period. We asked after the man’s whereabouts and we were told that he had been healed and had left.”
Awele continued: “I sensed a lie because the man’s luggage was still with us and the man was taken away lifeless. So, if he was healed, he would have returned to pick his luggage and would have given testimony of the miracle. But we never saw him again. All this while, we were feeding ourselves while waiting to be touched by the servants of the Lord.
“Again, after a few days, one of us who complained of feeling very bad the previous night died the following morning. We shouted for help, like we had done in the previous case. The church members came to see what the problem was and took the lifeless body of this man away.
They didn’t return to tell us what had happened to the man, just like they did in the last case. But l knew that the man had died, as his body was very cold.”
“I felt that the story would be like the previous one, so, I waited for their next visit. When they visited again, I asked the whereabouts of the man they took away. They said that the man had gone home because he had been healed.
So, l asked the impossible question. “Why didn’t they come back for their belongings when they got healed?” Perhaps they didn’t believe that we would ever remember to ask because they were not prepared hence they were caught off-balance. They claimed the church had made provision for them to go home with new clothes, so, they did not need their old luggage.
There, l made up my mind to leave the Synagogue as soon as possible because there appeared not to be hope. I felt they were only waiting for us to die so that they could do away with our bodies. To me, I was convinced that the so- called miracle thing going on there is a big fraud.”
“I have decided to live my life as though it was the last because surely my end is near as I was told by my doctors. I don’t understand why some pastors claim to heal people when they can’t heal anybody,” Awele said.
Awele went back to the hospital for the breast surgery. She did not live to witness the collapse of Pastor TB Joshua’s hostel building two weeks ago. She died at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital shortly after the surgery.
“How I was deceived at the Synagogue mountain”
“I was invited by my sister in-law in the year 2011 to Synagogue church for healing and deliverance when I was having some problems which I would not like to tell you. So, when I got to the church, I was told that mothers whose children were below six years were not allowed to sit in the main church auditorium with their children.
Their reason was that since the program was always a live-broadcast, they would not like children to distract the camera men. They keep mothers and their kids at a separate place. If your kid is above six, they will register him/her to Children Sunday School. So, that very day, I went with my little daughter to the church. When we got to the church after observing all the protocols, we were kept with other mothers. So, suddenly, one of the wise men came to us and said that the man of God wanted to see all the nursing mothers and therefore, he ordered that all of us should be brought into the main church auditorium. When we came in, we were told to kneel at the alter for a prayer session.”
“While the prayer was going on, I fell under the power of anointing. After the prayer session, they came to all of us that fell during the prayer session and said that we would be going to the mountain for deliverance.
We were all booked for the mountain, when I told my sister in-law who invited me for the program, she congratulated me for being lucky saying that as far as I was scheduled to go to the mountain, all my problems had been solved.
“On that day, we assembled at the church premises where the bus came to take us to the mountain located in Agodo, Ikotun, area of Lagos state. The rule while going to the mountain was that, “you do not talk to each other when you get to the mountain.”
“The mountain is a riverside area just like a very long street. There were so many animals in the river. There were huts constructed with planks where people that came for deliverance at the mountain including the man of God stay. I asked them why did they choose this kind of place as the mountain, they said that was the place the man of God first stepped his foot when he was fasting to build the Church. Right there, we were asked to pick a red piece of paper which was passed round to others present.
On the piece of paper, some quotations from the Holy Bible were written on it and you will be asked to pick your choice for prayer. You will also be asked to buy the Holy water which goes for N5,000 and pray with it and it ends there. I did not get any deliverance, neither was there any miraculous changes on the issues that took me there.”
Again, Mrs Ruth revealed that, the deceit in the church was also discovered by her own brother who was based in Norway. According to her, one of the major criteria for seeing the man of God, especially if you are coming from outside the country, is that you will keep sending e-mail until you get a reply.
“My brother who is a Redeemed Pastor, based in Norway with his family, has his two children, his son and daughter, deaf and dumb right from birth. The man being ignorant of the procedures for seeing the man of God, flew into the country with his family with the hope of seeing the man of God for a miracle, but he was told he could not see the man of God since he did not get any reply to his mails. So, they were asked to go back and keep sending mails until they get a reply. The man went back and kept sending mails to see the man of God. When they eventually got the nod to come, they did not go with the kids.
The wife was scheduled to go to the mountain as well, but after going through all these processes of mountain and anointed water, the children still remained the same, nothing changed in any of them,”she explained.
But many worshipers believe miracle as being taunted by Pastor T.B Joshua is a function of individual faith. A worshiper who preferred anonymity, at the church recently told Saturday Vanguard that: “Just like in every other church, it is your faith that heals you. I am not a regular worshiper here, I come here once in a while for prayers and healing, I believe that it is your faith that heals you. No amount of prayer from a man of God can set you free, if you do not have faith,” she said.
There are those who attest to the efficacy of prayers offered by Joshua.
Another eye witness who was met at the premises of the collapsed building said that the building initially was meant for just restaurant but because of the high demand of worshipers, they have to add buildings on top which resulted in the collapse.
“If you watch out, you will see that the ground floor was used as canteen where worshipers both in the church and those that lodged in the hotel come to eat. But because of the influx of people and the demand for accommodation especially, foreigners, they decided to add additional floors. These collapsed building is for people from different countries and it costs between N50,000-N60,000 per night including feeding.
While the other one standing not too far from the collapsed building is for ministers and top government officials and it costs between N100,000 and above. And if you are lodged in the hotel, you are not allowed to have visitors until you leave. Everything you want, all kinds of food will be made available to you in the hotel, so there is no reason to have visitors,” he said.
He added that only members of the church are allowed to work in the hotel. “None members are not allowed in the hotel either as visitor or worker. If you do not worship in the church, forget about working there. From the contractor to the least person, they all worship in the church. The church is doing that as a way of empowering their members,” he disclosed.
Miracles are stage-managed
“A friend told me about prophet T.B Joshua in 2010 when my late son had swollen penis. He suffered for two years before I went to T.B Joshua. I took my son there and after a while, I was given a card to see the prophet. I was among several other people who were having problems.
In the deliverance and miracle section, the ailments were categorised into different parts, so, you were expected to go to your deliverance section.
“It was very tough before we could see the man. And because of the state of my son, we had to rent an apartment in the area so that we could keep close contact.
At about the time, there were about100 people waiting to see the prophet, yet we could not see the prophet after three months.
“I was helpless but I held on and believed that once I saw the man, everything would be fine. Everyday, my son was groaning in pains and we were not financially buoyant. So, we wanted to see the man at all cost so that my son would be healed.
“One the day, my son was asked to come for the deliverance, we came as early as 5am. I was anxiously waiting for the man, but he didn’t show up until 4pm. He was accompanied by his press crew and other people in his ministry. Ï saw the man, he saw my son, but he didn’t lay hands on my son. Ï called on him desperately but he ignored me and my son. Someone close to him said to me: “it seems the prophet wasn’t directed to heal my son. I was perplexed and asked why. But he later told me to come the next month. Perhaps, God will direct him to heal my son. I was disappointed and went back home.
“The next month, I went back to the church but to my surprise, I was asked to start the process of seeing the prophet all over again. I was devastated, I did not know what to do. At that time, my son’s condition had deteriorated. He shrunk and paled. I cried for help but nobody heard me.
A man told me to go and buy the anointing water and give my son. I bought the anointing water and gave it to him but nothing happened. Instead of my son to be healed, he was getting worse by the day. At that time, there was nobody to help me. I tried all I could to get to the man, all to no avail. Then, I went back home and started praying to God to save my son. Unfortunately, the boy died after two weeks.
Since, then, I have decided not to go back to that man’s church because there’s nothing called miracle there. What you see are all stage-managed miracles.”
I got initiated in the dream by drinking green water
One man told us his story this way: “It all started when I came to Lagos in search of financial empowerment. I was advised to go to Synagogue Church and that the man of God there empowers people financially.
One month later, I came in contact with the prophet. I was told to drink the green water and go home.
When I got home, I started experiencing some strange things at home. I didn’t know what they were until I slept off. I saw the man in my dream and in a way, I was initiated and I started seeing strange things. I couldn’t explain everything I saw but I knew I was initiated. Then, I left everything, family and came to the church.
I lived in the church for more than one year but there was nothing like empowerment. I was working as a cleaner.
One year after, I was told to leave the church environment, that my services were no longer needed. I did not know what was wrong. I left and went back to my family. It was when I got home that my father told me how they had been into intercessory prayers for my restoration, that I was initiated and lost my mind.
Why foreigners believe in Prophet T.B Joshua
To several others, T.B Joshua is like a man-of God who is not honoured in his hometown. This perhaps lends credence to the influx of foreign nationals to the Synagogue.
According to investigation, Pastor Joshua has good relations with highly-placed foreigners including presidents both serving and former leaders of some countries in Africa and beyond. They come in droves from all corners of the planet for spiritual healing and solutions to different ailments or problems. Saturday Vanguard encountered an Asian woman from Singapore at the SCOAN recently.
When asked why she chose to travel so far to attend a church service here in Ikotun, Lagos Nigeria, the woman who pleaded anonymity said: “Why will I not believe him when I witnessed many miracles taking place before my very eyes. I witnessed those “wheel-chair bounds’ getting up on their feet and instantaneously walking after his touch and prayers.
I witnessed the cancer-stricken patients getting healed. I witnessed people possessed by the spirit of lizard, possessed by the spirit of snake, possessed by the spirit of monkey receiving deliverance and being delivered from the evil spirit living in them for many years. You are not going to believe this, but you have to. I even witnessed a HIV infected woman getting cured.”
Another European man in his 50s who came to Nigeria three years ago said: “When T.B Joshua comes to the pulpit to preach, his sermons are great. Another thing that fascinates me about this special man of God, instead of posing himself as another miracle worker and asking people to donate large sum of money, this man of God preaches with strong conviction and clear message of holiness.
“Prophet T. B Joshua will always say “Healing without putting the Word of God as our standard will not stand the test of time” and I adore him for that. This humble man of God attributes Jesus as the healer and he preaches about putting the Word of God as the central principle guiding our lives, one on which through the Word, healing, peace, and others are built upon. So, tell me what more I need to believe? He is a true messenger of God,” he queried.
Why many South Africans died in the tragedy
According to reliable sources, South Africans are passionate about the Synagogue Church, always coming there on pilgrimage.
There is a tour package which cost an average of 10,000 Rands each for one week. The collapsed building was meant for Southern African groups like worshipers from Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana and the Republic of South Africa.
. Worshipers from Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan also use the collapsed building but investigation revealed that South Africans were more because Pastor Joshua decided to give more opportunities for the South Africans who have remained insistent and shown solidarity to SCOAN. No fewer than 84 South Africans were killed in the tragedy.
Healing of sicknesses and diseases also bring nationals from other countries to Synagogue – all for miracles. Holy water, otherwise called anointing water, is sold to pilgrims between N5000 and N10,000 per bottle.
Even thousands of anointing water bottles are exported to some West African countries. Worshipers from foreign nations are encouraged to stay until after seven days. They are always screened and registered by the church authorities. Those with financial problems believe that use of the anointing oil restore their finances.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the ruling African National Congress, ANC, Youth Wing had warned Pastor T.B. Joshua not to come to South Africa. He should not enter the country until they know what happened to their compatriots in Nigeria. According to Bandile Masuku of ANC Youth League, “we will make sure that Pastor T.B. Joshua is not issued with a South African visa.”
The influx of foreign nationals into the church could be explained by the adage that a Prophet is not acknowledged or recognised in his own country. But with this tragedy, many people are becoming scared of the Synagogue church and more knowledgeable about what goes on there.
Strangely, however, several South Africans, we reliably learnt, are still anxious to return to Nigeria to patronize the church because of their believed spiritual prowess of Pastor T.B. Joshua.
He is feared and highly respected by politicians, including prime ministers, presidents and ministers. Even sports men come to the Synagogue not only for healing when injured but also for for success in their outings. Prominent athletes and footballers have gone there to seek one form of help or another.