GGMi started in a storefront building along Forestry Road for Bible study sessions. They seems to have an insatiable appetite to learn more about God’s word.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa worked at his job at Beta Shoe Company in the day time, taught the Bible study sessions in the evening, and usually traveled to the surrounding villages to preach on weekends.
He was too busy to worry about solving the problem of overcrowding in the storefront. After conducting meetings in the rented building for several months, Benson had a dream that was to affect the scope of his ministry radically.
In his dream he saw a short street leading off a main road in the Iyaro district of Benin City, behind the University of Benin. Trooping out of this street towards the main road was a large crowd of people. They seemed to be happy people. He awoke abruptly. “What have I seen? “he questioned.
He lay down again, puzzling over what the dream meant, when the Lord spoke to him: “in that place is some vacant land I have kept for myself to begin a work for my Glory. ” Benson could scarcely wait until morning to ride his motorcycle to Iyaro and find the landlord who owned that piece of property.
He found the man and told him about the vision the Lord showed him. Surprisingly, the owner responded by quoting the Bible. ” The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of, “he said (psalm 24:1). “I have no land of my own but I wish I did, because I would give it to you.
The only land on that street is a fifty by hundred foot plot, and I consider that this belongs to my second son. It is already written in my will. If you want to talk to him and give him money to buy land in another location, I will ask him to release it to you. “
“your son is my dear friend, “Benson answered, “I am going to tell him what God has shown me. I will be back to see you this evening. ,”
Benson mounted the motorcycle again, and weaving through the noisy city traffic, made his way to the school where his friend was teaching. He waited outside the door until the lecture was finished, then walked into the classroom and greeted the rather startled teacher. “I’ve just come from a visit with your father, “benson began. “He told me there is a small piece of land behind the University that he has allocated to you in his will.
I have come to explain to you how God showed me that land belongs to Him and we are to use it for a church. “
The young man sat on the corner of his desk, threw his head back and laughed uproariously. “How can God take my land from me and give it to the church? He asked. “what kind of God is that? ”
Well, the Lord needs it, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa explained.”we are going to give you money to go and buy a bigger piece of land. “
The man smirked, shaking his head.”You won’t be able to give me enough money.”
“How much money do you ask? “
“Four hundred pounds, “he answered, which was about six hundred dollars, an enormous amount of money for a little prayer group whose income at the time was sixteen dollars a month, of which twelve went to pay rent on the store building.
“How many years will it take you to get four hundred pounds?” the teacher asked with a derisive grin.
“Less than one month, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa answered confidently.
The young man looked at him in disbelief, then said, “If you bring me the money you can have the land.”
“it’s a deal, “said Archbishop Benson Idahosa, extended his hand. The teacher stood up, gave a rather uncertain handshake, and Archbishop Benson Idahosa strode out the door. He went on to his duties at his job that day, but as he worked he mentally rehearsed how he would present the project to the Bible study group.
That evening when the people crowded into the tiny building, Archbishop Benson Idahosa shared his vision about the piece of land, and his visit to the teacher that day. “The Lord told me to hurry up and the land would be provided for us, “he reported.
They voice their agreement, then cheers and shouts filled the room as the enthusiastic worshippers praised the Lord together.
The next morning, a Thursday, Archbishop Benson Idahosa went again to see the landowner.
“My people agree that we should have this land to build a church, “Benson told him. “On Sunday we will ask everyone in the group to give money to buy the land from you. “
Still dubious, the man asked, “How many people are in your congregation?”
“I expect we’ll have about forty on Sunday, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa answered.
“you will never make it, ” the landowner said, shaking his head. “Even the largest cathedral in town can barely manage to collect one hundred pounds, how can you hope to get together the price I have asked in less than one month, with only forty people?”
“You will see, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa said, flashing a broad smile. “God has promised us this land and He will provide. ”
On a Sunday in April, 1970, for the first time in his life, Archbishop Benson Idahosa asked the people to give offerings and make pledges toward the amount needed to buy the land. The response produced even more than he had asked for.
From the group of about forty people, six hundred and eighty dollars was given or pledged, and those who pledged said they would pay within one month.
“If we could borrow the money, we could get the land even more quickly, “the young pastor reasoned. “Then we could pay back the loan when the pledges come in. “
He immediately began to call on some of his relatives and shared with them how the people were giving from their meager incomes in order to buy land for a church.
A number of the relatives, though they themselves were not a Christians, were impressed by Archbishop Benson Idahosa’s enthusiasm and the dedication of his people and they made cash loans towards the project. Some of the people who had made pledges managed to borrow money to pay the pledges at once.
By the end of that week the amount needed had come in.
Barely able to contain their excitement, Archbishop Benson Idahosa and two of his elders called on the landowner on Friday afternoon and presented him with the money to buy the land.
“How did you get so much money in such a short time? “he asked, astounded.
“I told you that God would provide, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa replied, “and our people believe God. They have given and pledged to purchase this land from you, because God wants a church to be built there. He will bless the people so they can pay their pledges and we can repay out loans, “
The man drew up the legal documents with the help of lawyer K. S Inner and transferred the property to the little prayer group from Forestry Road. But they were soon to learn that this was only the beginning in their walk of faith.
A few days later the landlord who owned the storefront building they were renting notified Archbishop Benson Idahosa that they must move out in one month. And their final month’s rent would be increased from twelve to twenty dollars. The young pastor knew they had only one way to go.
”God has helped us to raise money to buy land, “he reminded the people. “Now we will continue to raise money every week to start our own building on that land. “
Archbishop Benson Idahosa went to the fifty by one hundred foot plot of land and marked off an area forty by eighty feet for the foundation. Then he talked to a friendly contractor who agreed to begin work on the building.
The venture in faith seemed to be well under way when four of the five elders of the group called on Archbishop Benson Idahosa to protest the size of the building he had laid out.
“Your eyes are too big, “they said. “We feel the new church should seat about fifty people, and the building you have in mind will seat five hundred. We can not have a hand in such a foolish project .”
Archbishop Benson Idahosa listened to their argument, but he told the contractor to continue laying blocks for the foundation. One morning before going to his office, Archbishop Benson Idahosa arrived at the building site to find the contractor quite agitated.
“pastor Idahosa , “he shouted over the noise of the cement mixer, “someone has removed some of the foundation blocks we laid yesterday! One of my workers says an elder of your church did it.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa walked over to inspect the damage, his indignation rising as he went. “whoever removed these blocks will see this building erected, but will not worship here, “he said prophetically.
With that, he instructed the contractor to replace the blocks and continue work on the building as planned, then went on to his job at the shoe company.
The following Sunday Archbishop Benson Idahosa announced to the congregation how some of the elders had removed some of the foundation blocks because they thought the building was too large. “On Tuesday I must go on a trip to Lagos for a meeting at the University of Lagos. I am appointing Elder Ogolo to be in charge of the church in my absence, but I expect work on the building to continue. “
The special meetings in Lagos, about two hundred miles away, were planned to last through the next Sunday, but at three o’clock in the morning on that Sunday, Archbishop Benson Idahosa was suddenly awakened. “There is a problem at home: you must go back immediately, “the Lord told him.
There was no mistaking message. Benson got up, dress hurriedly, and hired a taxi to drive him back to Benin City. About eight o’clock the same morning he walked into the house to find his wife Margaret sitting at the kitchen table weeping.
“what happened, why are you here? She asked, startled. “I didn’t expect you home until Monday.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa sat down beside her and took her hand in his. ”The Lord told me to come home because there is a problem. What is it?
“There was a meeting held yesterday, “she replied, dropping her head and beginning to weep again. “You have been replaced as pastor of the church. The elders have elected Elder Ogolo.
“If the Lord wants to raise this man up, He will see that Elder Ogolo remains,”Archbishop Benson Idahosa said, giving his wife, Margaret a handkerchief to wipe her tears. “But if it is not the Lord’s doing, I will take my position.
I am not fighting to be pastor, because I am still doing my job at Beta Shoe Company. Come, wash your face and let’s go to church. “
Archbishop Benson Idahosa fired up the motorcycle as his wife Margaret took a seat on the rear fender, and they headed for Forestry Road. When they arrived at the storefront church about nine o’clock, the main service had not yet begun, but the new pastor had already taken his place behind the pulpit.
“Have you read today’s newspaper?”the man asked as Benson approached the platform with his Bible under his arm. At this point only a few worshippers had gathered in the building.
“No, I haven’t” Archbishop Benson idahosa answered.
“you should read page five, “Elder Ogolo continue… “There is the story that I have been ordained as the new pastor”
“I am greatfull, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa said crossing his arm across his chest.“what would you want me to do?“
“Well… Just take your seat in the congregation as an ordinary member of the congregation, “Elder Ogolo answered, nervously wiping the perspiration from his face.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa gazed intently at the man for a few moments, then without another word turned and sat beside his wife Margaret near the front.
Elder Ogolo began conducting the service, leading the songs and calling on another of the elders to lead in prayer.
After the prayer, and before Elder Ogolo had time to resume his position behind the pulpit, Archbishop Benson Idahosa quickly walked up on the makeshift platform. “I am preaching to you today from John 3:16,”he announced to the people, “a sermon on the love of God. “
The worshippers were surprised to see Archbishop Benson Idahosa come to pulpit, because they thought he was still in Lagos.
However, most of them did not yet know a new pastor had been elected. Elder Ogolo had planned to break the news in the service that morning.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa began his sermon, with his rival sitting behind him, hissing and pushing, trying to make him sit-down. As he continued preaching about God’s love, the people began to weep.
The young preacher concluded by saying, “I’m not going to fight. If what God wanted to use me for is finished here, I cannot contest it.
But people, I want you to know that when I went to Lagos I was still your pastor, and before I came home a new man had been appointed. I am no more your pastor after today.”
When he started to walk off the platform the people all stood up and several of them called out, “You are our leader, you are our pastor. That man is not, “pointing to Elder Ogolo.
“We will leave the matter in God’s hands, and see what happens, “Archbishop Benson Idahosa said.
He and his wife Margaret returned home, and on Monday morning he went to his office in town as he usually did. But as the week progressed it seemed apparent that God was indeed directing the affairs of the little church on Forestry Road.
On Tuesday, the son of the man who chaired the meeting in which Archbishop Benson Idahosa had been removed as pastor died of malaria.
On Wednesday, the Elder who had removed the foundation stones from the building site lost his daughter because of illness.
On Thursday, the third protesting Elder was taken to the hospital with tuberculosis.
And on Friday, Elder Ogolo, the newly ordained pastor, was rushed to a hospital with a heart attack, then taken to Calabar for treatment.
Within days, the four troublemakers were removed. Archbishop Benson Idahosa resumed the pastoral duties of the little church.
The following week he conducted funerals for the two children who had died. He went to the hospital to pray for the elder with tuberculosis, but the man later died from the disease.
After a time Elder Ogolo recovered, but he moved away from Benin City and got a job as a bricklayer.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa’s position as pastor and leader was unquestionably vindicated.
Yet his problems were far from over. There remained the responsibility of raising the necessary funds for moving ahead with the building project. It was a big undertaking for a small independent congregation with no financial backing. But Archbishop Benson Idahosa sensed in his spirit that he was moving in the right direction and that somehow God would make a way.
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