Pastor Adeboye was right.
“I have never seen a thing like this all my life,” said a fair-complexioned lady of about 45 years old on Friday afternoon as she dangled her car key unconsciously.
Like the reporter, as early as 4.30 p.m. for an event that would start at 8pm, she had to park her car near the entrance of the new Camp at Simawa, and walk several metres to the Arena, the 3-kilometre-by-three-kilometre auditorium, which was purposeful built for an envisaged crowd of that size. But it would seem that on a day like that the auditorium would still come under pressure.
Many people had considered exit challenges and parked along the road metres before the entrance.
By 5p.m, The Arena was almost packed to capacity.
It was to be a night of multiple highpoints witnessed by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, state governors, including Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Samuel Ortom of Benue and others top political office holders, top traditional leaders, and many other dignitaries who were actually participants rather than mere observers.
With the completed sections of The Arena full to capacity, over three million people must have been there. Amazingly, the old auditorium at the Redemption Camp was almost full, even without the physical presence of Pastor Adeboye there. The auditorium seats three million people.
People also participated at viewing centres of the numerous RCCG parishes around the country, and in 194 other countries around the world.
Another highpoint of the “special day” of the praise singing and dancing, sermons and prayers was the call for “barren” women who had been blessed by God through prayers of the church to have babies in the last 20 months to take the children to the altar at the Arena for dedication.
From the reporter’s vantage front seat position, he tried to count the number of joyous women pouring in from his right; he counted over two thousand and gave up when the surge made it impossible.
People were also pouring in from all angles. In the end, an estimated pool of thousands of mothers had gathered at the altar, some of them shedding tears of joy.
The scene at the old auditorium, beamed on the screen, showed a similar pool. The same exercise was done at other viewing centres.
“I rejoice with you all because my father visited your wombs and gave you joy,” he said as he prayed for them.
In a church that doesn’t do image laundering, a count of the women was not taken. It would have been a waste of precious time anyway because of the numbers; same if attendance at such events should be counted.
The pace at such ceremonies does not also give room for the publicity of instant miracles, but it does allow people who have experienced God’s touch in the recent past to show appreciation to God in testimony-sharing sessions.
Yesterday, many families who had looked for the fruit of the womb, some for many years, gave testimony. Other testimonies came from a UK-resident whose vocal cord had been ripped mistakenly by doctors, who still wonder why he can speak; a female US citizen, who US doctors had declared mentally incapable of achieving high education because of an illness that afflicted her but had her mental capacity restored and now has a doctorate degree; many people with complicated diseases who had been cured among others.
Ahead of Pastor Adeboye, Rev Joe Olaiya, a popular evangelist had ministered on the futility of sinners trying to please or “buy God” with giving and sacrifices without begging for His mercy and salvation. When he did the altar call for sinners to seek God’s mercy, a large crowd of about the size of a football field responded at The Arena alone.
That was followed by a prayer session led by Pastor Mrs. Folu Adeboye for “nations and leaders at all levels.” She specifically prayed for the speedy recovery of President Buhari, as the church always does.
Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide, also known as Winners’ Chapel, ministered next. He stressed the importance of praise. He listed the power of praise as including the invitation of God’s presence and glory, which provides His favour, healing, access to revelation, breakthrough, and fresh oil.
“Even if you have lost something precious, there is need to praise God because you didn’t lose everything,” he advised.
Pastor Adeboye, dressed in a green outfit, as his wife, took the pulpit next after songs from the Mass Choir of over a thousand members.
He also preached praise, showing why there is no excuse for one not to praise God. He said among every set of people, there are three subsets, comprising those who have lost battles in life, those still engaged in battles, and those who have won battles recently.
For all three groups, he said, there is need to praise God continuously – the first set for hope and restoration; the second for God to fight their battles; and the third, who should not forget God and go partying because life is full of unending round of battles.
As usual he also invited people to the altar for salvation.
He took the night to a climax when he called for special attention to announce a special prayer session.
Like the night before, he took time to prepare the congregation for what some people might deem childish.
He extolled the achievements of the founder of the church, the late Rev Joseph Akindayomi, recalling that although he was illiterate God had done many great things for the church through revelations He gave him.
Among them was the name of the church given an illiterate in English; that he would travel the world over, which he did before he died; and spread the church, which is now 195 countries and counting.
That said, he paused and let out what was a secret to many people: God had instructed Rev Akindayomi to make a short wooden staff to be blessed; and to be handed over to his successor.
Hmmmmmm, the congregation went quiet for more information about that; and when he lifted up the staff, people went wild with excitement.
Again, he called for attention and explained that the staff had been given to him years ago but God ordered that it should be used sparingly: he was going to use it at the Convention for three special prayers, including a prayer for God to make a way where there is no way. He would raise it raise up, mention a prayer point and the congregation would pray.
The prayers done, he raised it up again to bless handkerchiefs – as he did and prayed, the congregation waved the handkerchiefs with shouts of “Halleluyah, halleluyah.”
“What a night!” Many people were heard saying later as they streamed out of the Arena at about 2a.m on Saturday, forgetting what it had taken them to get to the venue, and the challenge of exiting the packed venue.