James Ojo, Abuja As the build-up to the 2019 general electiongathers momentum, the British Government has tasked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to work together for the country; to deliver free and fair elections. The charge was given by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr…
–Rev. Mother Esther Ajayi, UK-based Nigerian pastor
Rev. Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi, popularly called Iya Aladura (Prayer Warrior) is the Founder of Love of Christ Generation (Cherubim & Seraphim) Church in Clapham, London. She’s a crowd puller as a minister of God. She was in Nigeria in December to launch her Foundation, Esther Ajayi Foundation and to attend the Ovation Red Carol, an event she co-sponsored this year. Her church is coming to Nigeria and Cappa d’Aberto is building the church edifice, vicarage and blocks of flats in Victoria Island. In this interview with Effects, at Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos, she talked about her vision, her journey into the ministry and lots more.
Can you tell us what this mission of touching one million lives is all about and what propelled your move to embark on this project?
In 2018, we want to touch and change one million lives. It’s an ambitious call. Gratitude is my attitude, giving is my character. I just want to give back to humanity. Giving doesn’t cost you anything. Your smiles, your laughter, your hello, your advice, checking on somebody and for our rulers giving to the country should be their ultimate. When you give, you kill your greed. It goes a long way. The joy of giving gift to people is what makes me happy. I have been homeless in the United Kingdom before that’s why the homeless people are at the back of my mind now because most of them have lost everything. We will build a hostel for them. I have been in the detention camp at the United Kingdom before. I knew how it was to lose your freedom. I was there for less than two weeks. The Foundation wants to go round the world to tell the world that there’s power in giving.
There’s so much controversy surrounding pastors and the amassing of wealth and also tithing, what is your take on that?
Preachers should be careful because we are going to be judged before those in the secular world. You will need to read Ephesians 3.vs 20 and John 15vs 16. I know who has called me. Giving should be a natural thing. Let the teachings be so solidified in people’s hearts that they want to give genuinely. I know the impact of tithe. I know the impact of tithe and I know the impact of offering. Anytime they are raising any money I want to be the highest giver in that church. I make sure that my offering will speak for me anywhere I go to. Because I understand that the creator of the universe is going to give me more than that. But some people don’t know they are just giving because other people are doing it. So I implore pastors to teach their congregation first about giving. When their faith is up they will give naturally. I’m not friends to politicians, what I spend is not coming from politicians. I can preach anything. If you come to bless me with money and I feel it’s not genuine, I’m going to reject it. I have done it in my church before. I don’t want to be part of the pastors that will go to hell. I know it’s by grace and that grace, I don’t want God to take it away from me.
Can you tell us your journey into the ministry?
My encounter with Jesus Christ is actually an interesting one. I have always been having dreams; sometimes I see myself holding a very big Bible. Sometimes in my dream, I see myself grabbing some people and getting fetish things out of churches. And then, some people have said to me when I visit churches and different prayer mountains that I was destined to do God’s work; at such occasions, I usually laughed. I never took any of such predictions seriously. However, in 1997, I was in Abuja at that time and the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was indebted to by N4.2 million for some apartments that I furnished for them. I was into interior decoration and furnishing business.
I was in a taxi, one of those days, and the driver was taking me home to pray. I believe in hours of prayer (9,12, 3 and 6). So, it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and I started praying, and the guy said in Yoruba “Mama e n gbadura ni?” (Mama, are you praying?), and I replied in the affirmative. Like I said, I do my thing (pray) at any place; it might be 2 minutes or 3, I will just do it. And my prayer point was that the money NEPA owed me that God should intervene, so that I will get paid. The driver joined me to say Amen. Thereafter, he informed me that there was someone we should also consult for prayers on the matter.
He mentioned Mrs. Esther Okutoyinbo, whom he described as a spiritual mother that was living in Abuja. When we got there, immediately she saw me, the Woman of God said: “our mother, pray for me; if you don’t pray for me, I would not allow you leave this place.” I was confused. I asked myself, what is she saying? I had come for prayers but I now have to pray for the same person I had come to help me pray. Anyway, to make the lady happy, I prayed and she kept shouting, Amen, Amen.
When I finished, she said, “Look, you are going to be a great preacher of the Word, all over the world.” She then told me firmly: “This is the sign that will tell you that God wants to use you, the money they owe you; they are going to pay it in the next seven days…”That was a heart-warming prediction for me, it was the kind of news I wanted to hear, because I had borrowed the funds I used to execute the job from a bank here in Nigeria and the bank was charging me N180, 000 per month interest on the facility. To cut the long story short, on the fifth day after our visit, I got paid the full amount. I was stunned. I was shocked because I was not expecting all the payment at once. But that woman’s prediction came to pass. After I took the money, I went back to pay my tithe to her church and she said: “Pray for me again.” And that was when it dawned on me that God was calling me to do his work. Interestingly, before this incident, in 1993, I had gone to the Faith Bible College. I did a course in Theology for no reason. From that moment the vision began to take shape. I was praying for people regularly. It got to a point that I will pray for people and the next day they will say; “Mummy, thank you for the prayer, I have come to bless you,” and they would bring me a gift. As I pray for people and it comes to pass, they would bring foodstuffs. I was in somebody’s church for two years and, in 2007, Love of Christ Generation Church (Glory of God shines) was born.
How did you survive in the UK as a pastor?
We got to the United Kingdom in 2004. When God sends you on a mission there’s always a provision. The church started in 2007. The first vigil we had, 18 people were in attendance. A lady I had been praying for (Sandra) came looking for me after she learnt I have founded Love of Christ Generation Church. She brought another guy (Franklin) and two of them came with drum sets, Konga, and Piano and we started. We became homeless at a point. In the UK, the congregation doesn’t give like that because they have their mortgage, bills to pay. The Lord told me to start working in the front of the church. You have to hold God tight if you want to succeed as a man of God. In the UK, they don’t contribute money like that ooh. It’s in this country a man of God will say they need 100 million and people come out in lines but in the UK the pastor will see only himself on the line. The reception they gave me at the airport when I arrived this country few days ago tells me that Nigerians are ready to serve. People do it in the UK but not like the mammoth crowd I saw at the airport. If you want to have a breakthrough as a pastor in the UK you have to hold Jesus very firmly. It could be rough, it could be tough but when there is a relationship, provision follows. He is my rock. I know how to go hungry to serve Him, I know how to be wealthy to serve Him, and I know how to be poor to serve Him. I have done all these. So, I have zeroed it that when there is a mission, there is a provision. Jehovah Jireh is my provider.
Your white robe is really stylish, when you are not in white how do you like to dress up?
People are used to seeing me in this regalia. Anytime I m going to be in secular dress, I go all out for it. I’m wearing this (white garment) because this is what the Lord showed me. People showered me with things: Gucci, Louis Viton, Prada as if I want to open a shop. When you are a pastor people at some point know how fake and genuine you are. You can’t hide character for a long time. It’s a flame, and it will come up at some point. When above average people discover that you are genuine, you are fearless and you have the spirit of the Lord in you, they can go to any length to bless you. I’m talking to you from my experience. Sometimes when they bring things to me, I’m baffled.
How do you relax?
After the altar, it is exercise for me. There’s something I run called Fit Faith Club. If I’m not preaching, I’m exercising. There are different songs that keep you fit as pastors e.g, ‘I feel like jumping’… you have to jump when singing the song. I have about four personal trainers in the UK. If you are spiritually okay and not physically okay that is not good. If you are physically all right and not spiritually all right, at some point you are not going to be okay. I used to be obese (size 24) I must make sure I take two litres of water everyday. If I’m not fasting I must finish 1 litre of water first before anything. Once your lifestyle is tilted to that it will work. I love exercises and I believe in healthy living. I eat healthy. I still eat everything. I eat pounded yam and amala but with plenty vegetables.