Nigerian journalist Kayode Oladeji recounts his unforgettable encounter with Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, who died on 7 December, eighteen years ago. And how he and his colleagues who collaborated on the German-born Christian missioner’s crusade experienced an uncommon turn in their lives.
I was heading for a social engagement, a wedding program to be specific, on Saturday, 7 December 2019, when the shocking news of Reinhard Bonnke’s demise hit the bewildered Christian world. I promptly broke the news to the two persons in my car. And, as should be expected, the three of us got lost in thoughts momentarily. I supposed that we all went down memory lane to reminisce on as much of the departed iconic televangelist as we individually knew.
Though much has been said and is still being said about the renowned man of God, one common thread that runs through the commentaries, is that the German-born Evangelist was engrossed in God’s work as reflected in his crusades whenever and wherever he had it.
Closely related to this incontestable fact; is that in particular, Bonnke had a heart for Africa and for Africans. He really loved Africans and, as such, Bonnke chose the continent of the Black people as a focal point of his evangelical campaigns.
On a personal note, my close encounters with this great Man of God, were in the year 2001, when he came for a crusade at Osogbo Stadium and during the early life of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s administration in 2003 when he came for another crusade outside the state capital.
I happened to be part of a 10-man Media Committee put in place for the purpose of the crusade that took place in 2001. The committee was headed by Seun Adeoye, then of The Guardian Newspapers, now a fully consecrated Bishop and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministry.
Other members of the committee included Bamidele Salam, now a member of the House of Representatives, Dele Tomori, Kehinde Ajibade, Pastor Niyi Kolawole, Adeolu Adeyemo, Mrs. Tunrayo Isola, Felix Ajide, Ayo Bello, and Raphael Adeyemo.
The committee produced a musical jingle for the crusade as directed by Kehinde Ajibade. The song: “Reinhard Bonnke nbo l’Osogbo, ewagbo; Osogbo yio gbalejo re, ewa gbo; Ipinle Osun tise orire, Ewa gbo; Jesu yio ja ide, atu ide …” became an instant hit and a common refrain on the lips of the expectant residents of the state. It was massively promoted on the state radio.
I recall, rather painfully, that three days to the take-off of the much publicised crusade, some religious extremists who didn’t want Bonnke to come, struck. At the end of the momentary madness, about 8 churches were destroyed in Egbatedo area of Osogbo while a young man who was pasting Bonnke’s posters, was killed!
Interestingly, however, Chief Bisi Akande, who was then the sitting governor, did very well to ensure that nothing hindered the take-off and smooth conduct of the crusade. This, thus, truncated the plans of those behind the violence.
Of significant importance to me was the fact that in order to ensure a hitch-free media work, the Bonnke Organisation, released money to our Committee. And, I am humbly proud that conscientiously, we utilised the money judiciously.
In our prudence, we ensured that we were honest and transparent in all our transactions. At the end, we still had about 300,000 naira left which was a huge some of money at the time. Quite unfortunately, this almost became an object of division in the Committee. While some of us advised that the remaining funds be returned to Bonnke, others felt that the remainders should be shared by the Committee members. However, we (the advocates of returning the amount left),insisted that if those clamoring that the money be shared should have their way, then we should be left out of the sharing spree.
It’s gladdening that at last, reasons prevailed and everybody agreed and saw the need for us to toe the path of honour. Consequently, we returned the remaining balance of about 300k to the coffers of Bonnke’s organisation. Rev. Daku, a Ghanaian, who was then the African Coordinator of Bonnke Crusade Organisation, was amazed at our gesture.
This even became more instructive given the fact in most of the other committees, all of which were largely populated by Pastors, there were nauseating stories of strives caused by money given to their committees. Some of them were even accused of selling the books given out by Bonnke free of charge and which were meant for free distribution.
To God’s glory, I can testify to the fact that by a design that could only be divine, some months after the crusade,virtually all members of our Committee became evidently blessed, one way or another.
Soberly speaking, where is Bonnke, the man behind the mighty crusades? He is no more and can no longer be with us physically on this side of eternity!
One day; yes surely, one day, we shall also reach our individual terminal port of no return. This is inevitable. Time and space, differ. When, where, what will cause it and how it will come calling, nobody knows. What is sure like the rise and fall of the day is that the garb of death shall be worn by all regardless of status, religious belief, creed, colour or political leanings.
The Boys Scouts motto readily comes to mind, here: Be Prepared!
Adieu, Reinhard Bonke, great servant of The Most High, great lover of Africa. Rest on!