By Lawrence Enyoghasu
Fakanbi, a lightly populated street in Egbeda, Lagos State, Nigeria, isn’t your regular metropolitan street where “sanity” prevails. A short street, Fakanbi has just 18 buildings. Surprisingly, half of these buildings are churches, located on opposite sides.
As far as beautiful streets go, Fakanbi Street is an antithesis.
The sloppy street is close to the popular military estate —Gowon Estate — where silence is a luxury and a melange of noises is a given on Sundays. From music blaring from sound systems, choruses by choristers, fervent prayers and preaching from the pulpit, Sunday mornings to evenings never offer a lull for a moment. Some days, these noises last till the morning.
Some of these worshippers have thrown caution to the winds. For one, the oldest church in the vicinity, Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Iyanu, is located in the most dangerous place —at the tip of a canal. If there is any natural disaster, the consequences would be enormous. There are even two churches from the same denomination here. One started from a parking lot but now has a mansion. Another church changed its name after it was involved in a fraud that led to a breakaway. The newest church in the area is headed by a lady.
The churches at a glance
From the entrance, the Redeemed Christian Church of God Parish —City Changer, can be seen. Its gigantic wall makes it conspicuous to all. City Changer is one of the most popular churches in the community. It is not located in Fakanbi Street but rather opposite it. However, there is no way one can be directed to Fakanbi Street without using the church as a landmark, vice versa.
According to Mr. Tolu Olalekan, when City Changer came to the area, it was the only church that gave the youth some leadership roles.
“Most of the youths in the area like going to the church. Some are friends outside the church. They made it compulsory for them to be friends beyond the four walls of the church. The youths were given roles to preach on the altar. The responsibility made them sway their friends to come around. They used concerts to attract the congregation to the church. There is hardly a month they don’t have one musical programme going on,” he stated.
Not far into the street, the next church is the House of Levi, popularly called the Tabernacle of Testimony. The church is located inside a hospital compound, its entrance fused to the drainage. It is very obvious to notice that something is wrong with the church. It was gathered that the church was formerly called Living Faith Parish before the pastor had a fallout with the church, which led to a breakaway.
The members of the church are few; they can’t be more than five families, yet they make more noise than the bigger church close to it. It has fewer cars, meaning they don’t contest for parking space like the other churches close to each other.
Opposite House of Levi is the newly located church in the street —The Father’s Passion Church. The church is the one headed by a female pastor, Fola Afuye.
A three-bedroom apartment was converted into a mini-auditorium. The compound is a four-tenant apartment. It is the only church that does not engage in any vigil programme.
The next is the oldest church in the area, Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Iyanu. It is located very close to a canal channel in the street. The fence of the church is almost collapsing. The foundation of the church is exposed to every passerby. It is like an accident waiting to happen. The congregation is the second largest in the street. They are mostly residents of the street and the most friendly. The yellow-painted church is mostly filled with old women and children.
After four buildings, God’s Mercy Revival Ministry (GOREM), led by Pastor Jonathan Babalola, is next on the same lane. The church seems hidden but is massively loud. They have the highest number of congregation cars parked in the street. Its members are mostly men. Incredibly, the two sound systems face the road and the nearest church!
Beside GOREM is the most popular church in the street – Mountain of Fire Ministry (The Grace and Power Family). It has the lengthiest service on Sundays and ranks second in terms of weekly activities among the churches in the street.
Of all the churches, Celestial Church, Iyanu Oluwa Olameji Parish, led by Prophet Michael Abeleje, has the most activities week round. There is no resting day at all. The church is located behind the Mountain of Fire Ministry. Each day, there is an activity going on, including Friday vigils for singles, women, family, and those in special need.
At the end of the short, sloppy street is a Deeper Life Bible Church, a relatively quiet centre most times. “This is the only church that considers the environment. They do not make a noise like others,” a resident, Jackson Onoife, stated.
The residents of Fakanbi are crying for help, but here everybody is guilty of disrupting public peace, for everyone attends one or two churches in the street. If the Redeemed Church is not holding a worship service, MFM might be having a prayer session, or the Celestial Church is having a two-day vigil. It is never a quiet moment on Fakanbi Street. The visitors to the street are often coming to a particular church for the first time.
A landlord, Seun Oladare, who spoke with Saturday Sun, lamented that he hardly has a good night’s rest after work. “These churches make much noise that we have to shut the windows so that our children can sleep. There is no day there is no programme in one of the churches. The worst one is the Celestial Church behind us. They have programmes every day. They have started their end-of-the-year prayer session, which will run every day till December 31, and would start another beginning-of-the-year prayer that will end in March, which is about time their Easter progamme would start. It is hell for us close to this church,” Oladare stated.
A young man, Sunday Iheanyi, just packed into the street, his house located opposite the MFM Church. He admitted that each time the church pastes a poster about an event, he scurries away from the vicinity to stay temporarily with a friend. “I don’t wait for the programme to start. I avoid such, because they give me sleepless nights. I work with a tech company on the island, and, after driving in the traffic, I would come home to loud music and prayer. I don’t even put on my personal sound system to tell you how much I like quiet places, but I am here living among almost 10 churches on one street,” Iheanyi stated.
A community leader, Deji Adesoji, is concerned most about the churches not participating in community development and the cold war ongoing among the pastors, who avoid each other like a plague. “You can’t have a community meeting and find anyone of them. It is either they use their tight schedule or any other reason as an excuse. You rarely bring any suggestion that they accept. They don’t even relate well with each other. The loudspeakers and unending programmes are declarations of superiority. If you attend these churches, you will hear them say you need to outdo the other churches, because God is in their church. Another matter is the fight for parking space. Another member can’t park in front of another church. They would ask the person to move his car.”
Abeleje, the Celestial Church pastor said that the street was conducive for churches. “That is why you see everyone coming here. There are other places but it is not everywhere one can erect a house of God. It is in the Bible, God showed His disciples where to build his ark. On the parking space and grudges; most pastors here don’t relate with each other because of different doctrines. It is only fair that members park in front of their churches to avoid issues.”
Pastor Afuye also agreed with Abeleje, saying that Fakunbi Street was blessed and had rich qualities needed for a church’s growth.
“When I got the place, I had to pray about it before proceeding, and all I prayed for was right. The Lord showed me that there was a need for the church to be here. We had other options, but this place was the only place that God assigned. The people complaining about noises and others are just against the church. We have only Sunday and Wednesday services, which are mostly short periods. Our neighbours have to bear with us for now,” she stated.