I remember you like a candle blown away. Blown away. Just like that. By the evil winds of death. A pandemic ravaging the world and taking away innocent souls so many, too many to count. Ah, how has the mighty fallen!
You were buried on Tuesday and in compliance with the new normal, we had to watch your burial on a big screen inside the church, which you helped us to build. You, of whom the Holy Book says in Luke 7:5 that you so loved our nation that “you built us a synagogue.” Indeed, your mission on earth was to build for God a monumental mansion, a sanctuary, a place of worship that can rival the temple built by King Solomon—all things put together. You put all your dreams, your efforts, you passion, your strength, your spirit, your being into finishing this house of worship rightly called “My Father’s House.” No sooner did you finish than you left this world in a blaze of shock and agony. Oh, Pastor Danjuma Tafawa Balewa, my friend and my pastor!
I remember those days when you religiously read my Press Clips Pentecostal Church (PCPC) sermons on the back page of Saturday Sun and you started calling me “Pastor Mike”. You even called me “My Pastor” being an honorary member of the Press Clips Pentecostal Church. Now, how many times have you tried to drag me to preach in church on Sunday and I will look for an excuse?
“Pastor Mike, you must preach next Sunday,” you will say in that unique voice of yours.
“Not yet, Pastor. I am not yet ripe. I will preach one day,” I will reply.
“Based on what you write in your column, you are already a pastor and a good preacher. You write so well. You preach so well,” you will say.
But my problem has always been shyness. I am praying that the day will come when I will fulfill Pastor Danjuma’s prophecy and mount the pulpit confidently to preach a sermon like Danjuma, a pastor who makes his sermon comical without losing its divine flavor, a pastor whose happiest moment is to walk up to the pulpit and walk down, mingling with the crowd, preaching salvation and eternal life.
You, the preacher now gone—gone to meet your Maker. I cannot forget the sounds of wailing which echoed in church on Tuesday when your corpse was beamed for the first time on the big screen. You Pastor Danjuma in a casket, sleeping in a sleep of death, your face transformed into a bearded old man, dressed in a brand new suit, you who loved shaving and looking clean when you were here with us.
I really hate attending funerals. But the Bible says that shouldn’t be: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart,” the Bible says in Ecclesiastes.
As early as 9.45 am on Tuesday, I was in church turned into a “house of mourning” all for our beloved Pastor Danjuma, a man whose death has rocked RCCG Cornerstone (My Father’s House), 126 Okota Road, Isolo, Lagos, to the very foundation. Outside the church are framed pictures of the dead pastor festooning the walkway leading to the church. Everywhere you looked, Pastor Danjuma gazed at you in different postures. Even those driving past the church will know that indeed a great man, “God’s General” has departed this sinful world.
Glancing through a magazine filled with tributes, given out at the funeral service, I try to explore the man Pastor Danjuma Tafawa Balewa. I was touched by his widow, Vera’s tribute: “How do I begin to write a tribute to you Daddy? You were very alive, very strong, very fearless and full of faith. You move about like a bulldozer, bulldozing as you go. Ah! A man that God picked, full of grace, full of the grace of God, a man with the revelational knowledge of the word of God, a man with the spirit of excellence, the Nehemiah of our generation, the great evangelist.
“Daddy, lover of God and humanity, the work of the ministry is his heartbeat, anything for God. He can go any length for whatsoever has to do with God. Obedience to his superior in the Ministry is his second name. He will always tell me that it is better to live as if you are not married. Pastor Danjuma is a Christian fanatic; just like you have the Moslem fanatic, he is a Christian fanatic. He can do anything for the name of God and the Christian faith. As a husband, he made sure I lacked nothing. If he noticed that I need anything but did not have the means at the time, he would always do that thing when he is able. Pastor Danjuma provided for his family and his extended family. He took care of his aged mum until the day she died. He took care of my sick mum until the day she died. Pastor Danjuma is a very responsible family man. When he had to borrow money from me, he paid at times with interest. He never played with his children’s education and comfort. Though a disciplined father, he showed his children love in his own way.
“Pastor Danjuma, my husband, is a man of faith. He always says and does the impossible. I call him daddy because he is like a father to me, a brother, a friend and my pastor. He is so patient with me. He gave his all to the work of the ministry and humanity. No wonder he touched thousands of lives. He was so strong, fearless and full of life, and the grace of God. A lively soul, I do not know how this happened but God knows best.
“Danjuma, a good soldier of Christ. You came, you saw and you conquered. You are a great man. I know you did not die but slept. Heaven gained you but we miss you so much. Our hearts are filled with sorrow and pain but I know we will meet again at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
“Sleep on great man of God.”