Tosin Ajirire; Precious Igbava
The sprawling city of Ikorodu, near Lagos, will on Good Friday be locked down with a gospel music festival tagged: ‘EMBRACE 11’.
Themed: “The Awesome God”, the 11th edition of the annual musical crusade will draw about half a million Christians and non-Christians to the city. And as he has done over the years, juju icon turned-gospel music maestro, Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, would lead the pack of top gospel artistes that will rock the city from dusk till dawn.
In this exclusive chat, the programme’s visioner and Senior Pastor of Ikorodu-based Embrace International Assembly, Pastor Isaac Adeyemi, opens up on why people should attend the music crusade. Enjoy it.
What is Embrace all about, what are you embracing?
We are embracing the society. The bible says we are in the world but we are not of the world. For God to give us His only son, Jesus, means he loved the world. So, we should also love the world. We are saying ‘come and accept Christ as your Lord and saviour’. We are embracing men into God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God is not full yet so, we still have so much to offer. That is what we are embracing. We are embracing everyone in general, and unless you embrace, you can’t catch people.
When were you called into ministry?
I was a Christ Apostolic Church person. I was born again in the Christ Apostolic Church. When I was called, I was in business actually for several years. I never wanted to come into ministry at that time. I had children who were already attending good schools, but God said I should come into ministry. But then, I never wanted to, because pastors at that time were very poor.
You mean if you had obeyed the call, there was no way you could pay your bills?
Yes, I was thinking of how I was going to pay my bills. I never thought things could get better with ministers. So, leaving my job to do ministry work, how do I pay my children’s school fees? How do I continue to give my family better life? So, the situation continued to get thickened but with the encouragement of my wife, who was a banker and very spiritual, she felt that if God was calling me there’s no way out. At the end of the day, my businesses began to crumble, but as soon as I came into ministry, things began to pull up again for me; the businesses that were crashing began to pull up. That was how I came into ministry. I was attracted to Foursquare by the then Provost of the Bible College, Rev. James Temidara. I was appointed initially the evangelist of the church at Life Seminary Chapel and thereafter I became the resident pastor.
How exactly did the call come, what were the signs?
I used to have a pastor who showed so much interest in me but he is late now. He’s Pastor Modurodola. He was very close to us and he was pastoring a Christ Apostolic Church. Like I said earlier, my wife was spiritual and also spiritual till now. She actually got born again before I got born again and she caught the idea of the call first. She said that it appeared God was calling me to do something but I didn’t want to listen. Then something happened, we had to move to another Christ Apostolic Church, we were under Pastor Omochagor, who was about 85-years-old. We were at a prayer meeting one night, and the old man came to me, laid hands on me and was declaring the words of God upon my life. The whole thing looked so strange to me.
However, God had showed his face in my life early. I was born into the Aladura church. In fact, my immediate elder brother shared the experience with me that, he never thought I would be a minister because while I was young, I was always acting ‘Baba Aladura’ in children’s play. So, that night, the man concentrated all his prayers on me so much that I was embarrassed. He was just declaring and praying until that night passed. A few weeks later, he called me and said he’s sending me to pioneer a church. So, my wife and I went to pioneer a Christ Apostolic Church in Agura, Ikorodu from where we came to the bible college.
What kind of business were you doing before your call?
I am a trained builder, but before the call, I was selling printing papers.
Let’s talk about Embrace, how did the concert come about?
Actually, we don’t call it concert; we call it Embrace Musical Crusade because it is a coming together of artistes and making people happy. But the essence of this is to win souls. We ensure that the artistes coming to perform are gospel musicians; they are not just singing for people to enjoy, they are also singing for people to hear the gospel, and if you have not known Christ, it will be an opportunity for you to make a decision. That’s why it is called a musical crusade.
The whole idea started in 2008 when I attended the maiden edition of The Experience. The things I saw at the event touched me, and on my way home, I heard God ask me ‘can you put a similar thing together for my people?’ To me, it was an impossible task because when you get to The Experience and see the size of the congregation and what was put together, you will think it’s impossible. But I am such a person that when I receive something from God, I want to give it a trial. The following Sunday, which was about the last Sunday of the year 2007, I gathered my leaders together and I told them that God has given me a vision and it was meant for Good Friday. While I was addressing them, Good Friday was just three months away, but surprisingly before I finished talking, people began to say they would support it. And that was how it started.
The first musical crusade cost us about N11 million. How we raised the money I didn’t know but what I know is that we brought ourselves together and shared the vision and immediately began to give towards it. And when that happened, I knew it’s a vision from God and that’s how we have moved from the first to the eleventh edition.
Did the first edition take place in Ikorodu town?
Yes, it took place in Ikorodu town and it has always been there. The first edition featured top artistes like Asu Ekiye, Olorioko, Midnight Crew Adekunle Fuji, Tope Alabi, and Keffe. All of them were brought together and that attracted the youths to the crusade. Ebenezer Obey was also there and it became the talk of the town. As I speak to you now, Embrace Musical Crusade is one of the biggest events in Ikorodu, whether spiritual or secular.
I observed that you did not take offering at the last edition, how then do you raise funds for an event of such magnitude?
Embrace is not an investment to bring back financial returns. It is an investment to win souls. Sincerely speaking, I think no amount of money invested in soul winning that is too much. If Jesus could invest his own life to win all of us, it means nothing is too much an investment to win souls. We see investment in Embrace as part of ‘inputment’ into God’s kingdom. If you tag it as an Embrace collection of offering, people will not be interested. For the past 10 years, we never raised a penny through offering, even there are times I was advised by some fathers in the Lord to do so, but I declined.
Is Embrace limited to only music?
Embrace is not limited to just music alone. In the morning of Good Friday, from 8am to 4pm, we do health outreach where scores of people would be given free medical examination and treatment.
What are the challenges encountered in putting the show together?
We have always had the challenge of crowd control, although God has been helping us. Every year, we bring in all the security apparatuses including the military, police, FRSC, LASTMA etc. And we have not recorded any untoward incidence.
What are the plans to make this year’s edition a success?
In our usual manner, the caliber of artistes we invite is key to the success of the crusade. As he has done most of the past 11 years, juju music legend and gospel music maestro, Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi will lead the pack of top gospel artistes that will rock the city from dusk till dawn on Good Friday. Other topflight artistes on the bill are Tope Alabi, Chioma Jesus, Tim Godfrey, Tolu David, Battle Axe, Vickel, Olori Oladapo, The Spirit and Life Choir, and Olubukola. Like we have done over the years, EMBRACE 11 will bring down God’s glory to Ikorodu, Lagos and Nigeria in a manner never before experienced. God will visit Nigeria through this programme, and revive millions of souls languishing in economic, social and spiritual recession.
What’s the future of Embrace music crusade?
By the grace of God, we tend to pull the programme out of Ikorodu. Even though, Ikorodu will still be heard, we intend to move the crusade around Africa like going to Ghana, Liberia and so on. By going to these places, we can minister to them. As a matter of fact, we have taken step. When I turned 60 last year; we launched a Foundation for the African child. We intend to use this medium to share clothes and shoes to the children of Africa.