By Vincent Kalu
Founder and Senior Pastor of Ikorodu, Lagos-based Joy Cometh Ministries (JCM), Olaitan Aromolaran is an unassuming cleric whose evangelistic missions have been well documented from Nigeria to other parts of Africa, as well as Europe and North America. Besides ministering the gospel to non-believers, the Joy Cometh Ministries has, in the last six years, been involved in incredible humanitarian activities and community service.
In this encounter with Saturday Sun, Pastor Aromolaran recalled his teenage years when he indulged in iniquitous and unethical acts before he got converted mysteriously one night while in the university.
He also spoke about the many humanitarian and philanthropic activities of the church that he started.
The Joy Cometh Ministries was six last November. How has the journey been?
Beginning a new thing always comes with challenges. There is no man that can ever walk on the water except he comes out from the boat, and walking on the water would not even be easy, but God has been on our side; He has been so faithful.
You left your former church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, as a provincial evangelist, at a time you were known and people were expecting you to even achieve more in that church. What propelled that decision?
God is a God of process, a God of purpose and a God of time. Before He showcases a man; before He builds a man, He must make resources available in order to pass through places. He said if you are faithful over little, then I will give you your own. So, to me, The Redeemed Christian Church of God was a training ground, a place of preparation. It was a place where God took me to prepare me for my own assignment. So when the time was ripe, He brought me out to give me my own assignment.
As at the time you were referring to, the popularity was nothing to me; my assignment takes pre-eminence over anything. It was so easy for me when God said that I should move out, as there was nothing to lose.
What about the church you were leaving? What was the reaction of the members? How did they feel when you wanted to move?
If you have studied the nature of any tree, whenever it is ripe for a leave to fall, you will see that the tree will not bleed and the leave will also not bleed. But if you pluck the leave when it is not yet ripe for the leave to fall, you will see that both the tree and the leave are bleeding. If you pluck a fruit when it is not yet ripe, you will see both tree and fruit bringing out water. But when the fruit is ripe it falls on its own, and both will not bleed.
So, it was the right time for me to leave. Where I was leaving was not bleeding and where I was headed was also not bleeding.
I’m aware that you didn’t make any announcement, neither were flyers printed that you were starting a new ministry. Yet nearly 1000 worshippers attended that first service. How did that happen?
In the days of His power, the Bible says, the people shall be willing. Wherever you see God, you must see people. Everything in life moves towards the direction of power and God is the custodian of that power. If it is God, He will open a supermarket, and men will now patronise it, except it wasn’t God that opened up that venture. So, wherever the carcass is the eagles will gather. That was the first time in that ministry. Since then we have gone through so many things, but we don’t look like what we have been through. It is God that programmed everything; it is God that gives the power to will and to do. He says, ‘without me, you can do nothing.’ It is God displaying His potency.
Do you have any ideas to launch out?
As of today, we have six branches. We halted the spread because you cannot just be spreading without adequate training. We want to produce leaders that can withstand challenges; withstand all weathers. We thought we should consolidate, build on what we have got and then spread again.
Are the branches in the same area?
Yes. Ikorodu in Lagos is our catchment area for now; it is a place where we must work for now. It is our Jerusalem; it is where we have started from, and so all those branches are now in Ikorodu. By the time we build it into a very enviable structure, then we can begin to spread to other parts of the country and abroad.
At six, the church is still relatively young, but it has too many activities and programmes. One of them is the Night of 365 Hallelujah. Can you tell us more about it?
Now, 365 Hallelujah is just a gathering that takes place once in a year to appreciate the goodness of God in order for us to secure the coming year. Mostly, it takes place in December to appreciate God for the old year and to secure the next 365 days, that is the coming year. It is one Hallelujah for one day. It is a prophetic programme, where people gather in their tens of thousands to praise the Lord. We couldn’t hold it last year and the year before because of COVID-19 restrictions that prohibited large crowds. We also discovered that even the venue we were using before COVID-19 has become too small and this year we will be looking for a bigger venue.
How many people do you host during the Night of 365 Hallelujah?
We host between 35,000 and 40,000 people.
The church is involved in a lot of humanitarian programmes. Can you throw more light on it?
Last year alone, we attended to about 5,000 people that needed medical attention. In the church we have a mini clinic that attends to the community. We have a department that we called Club Five Loaves. You remember when Jesus fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread. This department is to attend to the immediate needs of people – food, clothing, money, etc. It is not only our church members but outsiders. Last year, we attended to thousands of people. The department has a truck, which they use to move items from one location to the other. They stock the truck with food items, clothing and so on. We are reaching out to people. Not only that, we have a school, and as at today, by the grace of God, we have about 500 students. It is not tuition-free because we want people to value what we are doing, but it is highly subsidised. I was to register my child in a school around where I live, but the money was outrageous. So, I asked myself, how much would it take to replicate the standard of that school? So, I took their curriculum and made the school fees very cheap. God is raising stars there.
The church also started a football team. So, why should a church have a football team?
Looking at the nation today, you realise that one of the causes of insecurity is that the youths are not engaged. We sat and analysed the situation and we felt that we should engage the youths. We have a football club, and some of our young stars have already represented Nigeria in the Under-17 competition and are already playing football in Europe. Those young boys are already changing the lives of their families. We are also coming up with a studio to afford young people to showcase their creative talents. If you see people that are coming you will know how much help we have got from God.
You also hold vocation trainings. Is it an annual thing?
It is something we do always. Any church that embraces the concept of giving money to people is not building the people. Make them know that there are ways to make money. We have been able to train several people – Christians and Muslims. There is no discrimination and it is free. We have been able to train so many people and most of them are standing on their feet today.
All these programmes that your church holds need money for proper execution. The football club, Club Five loaves, vocation training, empowerment programmes all need money. How do you fund them?
The gospel is self sufficient. Whenever God is going to make a man fulfil a vision, what He does is to raise men for you. I have friends that buy into what we are doing, and the members too understand the concept of giving back to the society.
In every street in Nigeria, there are churches, yet we have crimes everywhere. But in the West, churches are even closing, but they behave as if God lives with them. What do you say to this?
In every dispensation, there is always a pattern. These overseas countries you are referring to have gone through this era. There was the era of revival in the western world where factories were being turned into churches. Countries were declaring national holidays to attend church programmes. That was when they began to get it right. Nobody gets it right without God. So, the era they were in then is the era we are in now. Even the democracy we are now shouting about in Nigeria started in America about 1731. That was the era, which we are now into, and we are not yet getting it right the way they are doing. So every nation has its own era. We are in the era revival in Nigeria.
Can we get to an era where there would be fewer churches in Nigeria?
No. It might not be so. The reason is that every indication in the Bible points to the fact that Jesus will soon come, and one of the signs of His arrival is that the gospel shall spread to every corner. So, going by that, what happened in the western world might not befall a nation like Nigeria because of the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is election season, and different pastors have said God showed them the winner of the presidential election, but each of them has different candidates that God purportedly showed them. What do you think is happening?
That tells us that we should always know that no man of God, no matter how big, is God. God will remain God and man will remain man.
How was your beginning, your childhood like? Did you ever know that you were going to be a pastor? How did it happen?
The gap between my elder brother and I is a little bit wide. My mother told me that when she was looking for another child, she went to some herbalists and nothing worked. She said to me that a Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) woman was holding a crusade in Ilorin, and my mother was invited there. According to her, as she was entering the church, the CAC woman pointed at her and told her that she would give birth to a boy, and he would be a pastor. But growing up, I didn’t look like someone that would be a pastor. I was the most stubborn of my siblings. As a teenager, I started smoking marijuana. Then some friends introduced me to cocaine. At a [point in my teenage years, Indian hemp was like candy (sweet) to me. There was nothing to show that I would be a pastor.
At what point did God arrest you?
While I was in the university, several things happened. Manipulations took over my destiny. For instance, there was a day I spoke to myself. By then, I had not met Jesus. I said, ‘Olaitan, get serious about your life.’ That was the day I made up my mind to get serious, as our exam was approaching, and I already had several carryover courses. I went to one primary school to read, and I borrowed some note books. This manipulation is still as clear now as it was then. As I was studying, it was the first time in the university that I began to understand what I was reading. Then, I saw a very beautiful kitten in the classroom. I left the book that I was reading and went to pick it. I have people that are witnesses to what I’m saying. I went to pick the kitten and put it on my table and I began to admire it. That was the end of reading session, and the end of my determination to get serious. I took that cat to my hostel and began to nurse it. I christened it Segma. Segma is a goddess of the water. This name came to me from nowhere. It was later I searched for it and discovered that Segma is a goddess of water. Because of this cat, I wouldn’t go for lectures; I was sleeping on the same bed with the cat. When I returned from anywhere I went to, it was the cat that would welcome me. It was a week to my becoming born again that this cat disappeared. Meanwhile I had locked it inside the room, but when I returned, I couldn’t find it.
My being born again was another mystery. I was coming from a hotel with my friends, smoking. I just heard my name, ‘Olaitan, I am Jesus, give your life to me.’ That was how I became born again. It was a Saturday night. My friends thought I was crazy. I had no peace of mind. The following morning, I went to church and listened to the message. That was how I got converted. Nobody actually came to me to preach about Jesus.
Nigeria is tensed, and we have just had an election that threw up agitations here and there. What message do you have for Nigerians?
Nigeria can never be worse than this. We are expecting a better nation and God will make it possible. We will see it and we will eat out of it.
You regularly travel to Europe and North America to preach. Any plans to establish a branch in any of those places?
Spreading must be intentional and you don’t spread until you are well established. If you spread before you are well established, that is not spreading. What we are doing now is to form a formidable force, a team. Then we can now spread. Right now, we are not in a hurry to spread. We want to build a system so that the system will now run itself through the Holy Ghost.