I'm In A New Relationship---Liz Benson
What would Nollywood be without a certain Liz Benson? She is not only an A-list actress, she is also beautiful with little signs of having three grown up children. Liz is now spreading the word of God as a minister in the vineyard. For her, that is priority over Nollywood, and everything else. As a matter of fact, when ASSISTANT EDITOR, Jude Nwauzor, met her in Calabar, Cross River State recently, she tried everything possible to avoid the interview, insisted it was better to share the word of God. Once portrayed as a wanton seductress and gold digger, but we met a sober, matronly actress on a different missionary journey.
Have you finally signed out of the movie industry?
God forbid bad thing. I have not.
So, where are you based at the moment because you are definitely not in Lagos, which is the capital of Nollywood?
I would not be able to disclose that. What I would tell you is that when Paul in the Bible was called, he moved around a lot and I'm moving around a lot now and God has not told me to slow down or settle in one particular place. God would be the one to tell me where to be exactly. For now I'm taking the gospel around and anywhere my suitcase lands that is where I would be.
Tell me how did the Lord arrest you for this new role?
It's a long story, which would take a long time to recall.
I have all the time in the world to listen to it.
I want people to know that the Bible tells us that the harvest is plenty but the labourers are few. Even when you look now there are so many churches and all that, but I still believe there is a lot that still needs to be done. God is in a state right now of using whosoever comes forward. I just wanted to be a child who wants to do what would please her father and I found that God turned it all around for my own good because I think it is a wonderful privilege to be able to serve God. Right now I go everywhere; mechanic workshops, motor parks, among other such places to share the word of God because the gospel is meant to be the love of God. It is a privilege to be able to speak about the Cross. I did not call myself; I did not go to a Bible school so I couldn't have called myself. But I believe that just as God opened my eyes to the truth that has always been with me, which is the word of God, I believe that God can open that of others to see what I have seen. Let it not come as a surprise that I'm into spreading the gospel because sometimes I amaze even myself but it is not by my grace. It is by the grace of the Almighty Father and so as many as would submit to God, he would use because God can use anybody or anything. I used to think the same way when I saw bishops and other men of God, I used to believe that God created them to come and work in the vineyard of the Lord. But I have since come to realise that God can turn anybody into a tool for the gospel. Years back, if somebody had told me that I would become a fulltime pastor, it would have been natural to believe that that person did not know what he or she was talking about. But then, there is even more joy and enjoyment in the presence of God. It is not something that I willed but it was the will of God that prevailed upon my life so I'm most thankful.
During the church service to mark the eighth anniversary of Mountain Dew in Calabar recently, I watched you preach and even lead praise and worship, I never knew you could sing.
Oh! my God. The word of God says that we should worship God in the beauty of His holiness and you cannot be a true worshipper without having something to say to Him. It could come out in form of songs and the Holy Spirit helps you to present at the table of the Almighty. So, in every form of worship, even for those of us who do not take up the microphone professionally as musicians, we find ourselves being drafted into it. But it's all by the grace of God. It is the Holy Spirit that helps you achieve that. I did not really preach at that service but what happened was that I shared my testimonies and had few minutes of exaltations challenging my brothers and sisters in the church to take up the Armour of God. But I think I still need to go for voice training so that it would all be to His glory.
How big do you want to make your ministry?
It is not about me making it this big or that big. People should understand that God is the owner of everything so it is impossible for you to limit yourself or say I want it this big or this small. Do you know that so many preachers have had cause to say, 'I wish God would take this away from me and let others do it?' But it is impossible because when God sends you on that errand, honestly you have to pray for the grace to be able to obey. So for the ministry and me it is God that would determine how big or how small it would be. When I got into the movie industry I did not set any target for myself but knowingly or unknowingly, all I needed was a medium to be able to express what was inside of me. I believe God has deposited in me concerning his work and that is why my attention for now is to make people understand the love of God, I want people to understand the message in I Corinthians 1: 18 that the preaching of the Cross to those who are perishing is foolishness, but to those who are saved, it is the power of God. So I want people to understand the power of God to be able to share in the love of Jesus Christ, and the love of God. Like my spiritual father, Dr. Immah Isong shared the seven keys to life with the congregation during the eighth anniversary of Morning Dew, a monthly revival service of the Christian Central Chapel International (CCCI). Those keys are very important because they are life. I tell people that it takes the grace of God to be able to give out what God has given to you. It is that kind of spirit that we need to share the grace of God. So I cannot say this is where I want the ministry to be in so, so and so years. I just wish to serve God in the best possible means. I want God to use me and use me thoroughly. Let me be a sign to this generation, I want to be a contributing factor to drawing people back into the kingdom of God. That, for now, is what I can call my goal. I want to be driven by that.
I know your story as Liz Benson, the celebrated Nollywood personality, mother of three and so many others. But I don't know what made you decide that it was going to be God's work you want to do henceforth.
It may sound strange, but I would want to say that for some of us it has been there. I grew up in a Christian home and I think I belong to the third generation in my family that is serving God. My elder sister is a reverend pastor though she resides outside the country. My late father was a founding member of one of the Christian churches in Lagos; my grand fathers (maternal and paternal)were both founding members and elders of the Presbyterian and Qua Iboe church respectively. I grew up in the way of the Lord. And like the Bible said, 'bring up a child in the way of the Lord and when he grows up he would never depart from it.' I grew up with the word of God but I got into the movie industry. But because strong Christian attitudes have been instilled in you early in life and as a child, it draws you back to God. That was why after a while; I gave my life to God in 1996 as a form of saying thank you God because I had gone through an experience where I lost my husband at a very young age, and I was with three children. God made me understand He was the one keeping me but I had always known God. So in spite of my partying, and whatever I did, I knew that I had no other person than God. So, my giving my life to God was to say thank you; though He took my husband He remained the husband of the widow. He was father to my children, which was why I gave up my life to serve him. I did it honestly as a form of gratitude. I had a tanker accident that nearly consumed my life, experienced series of terrible robberies among others. I guess God wanted to draw me back to him. Every time I escaped from these problems, I usually asked God why me? For example, during the tanker accident where over 200 people died, I survived. I asked questions and got answered from the Bible and each time I read the bible I would cry. So, I asked God what He wanted me to do. But He was guiding me towards a particular line, which was why with every step I was getting closer to the word. At the time I gave myself to God, it was difficult to come out and say it openly. It is not like today when it almost like a cliche to say 'I'm born again.' Then people would resent you. So, it was a problem then because as far back as that I would tell them on set that I was born again and because of that I couldn't do this or that but people would not take it serious, they would think it a joke. When it continued that way, I decided to keep it to myself and worship God in private, you know. But the time came when I decided to take some time off completely.
You were reported to have gone to live in Ghana. Was that correct?
No, I didn't go to live in Ghana. I put myself away to be able to grow my spiritual life and develop my affinity with God.
I had to come out in the open about my new relationship and that has been it for me, and I tell you, it has been wonderful. The word of God is so strong, which is why it says, 'I have not given you the spirit of fear.' So, I can come out and proclaim the word of God. He sent me to the movie industry for a purpose, and he is using me in the gospel ministry to be able to stand out and preach the word.
When you see Liz Benson preaching, you should know that it is not by my own power, but that it is by the spirit of God that I stand out to speak. I did not create myself and I believe I'm one of those 'foolish' things God is using to confirm the wise. It has been a long journey. I tell you, being born again is just one step; it is when you experience the conviction that I would tell you, welcome to the kingdom. I say this because without that conviction it is difficult to understand and that conviction leads one to a level of intimacy that when you are not in it, you would know you are missing something. Intimacy with the Holy Spirit is wonderful and beautiful.
Where are your children and what are are they doing?
The two girls are in school in the UK but the other one, the boy just got into school in Yola (Adamawa State).
Why didn't you re-marry when you lost your husband just six years after your marriage?
I had never really looked at it in the past because my late husband and the father to my children was a wonderful man. Even though we had very short time together, he was wonderful to me and to the kids. I have had most of my friends accuse me that I always put everyman that comes to me on the scale of my late husband but I don't think that is the case. The thing is I'm one person who believes that marriage should be without an end, I do not believe in divorce and all that. The man I was married to would love to see his kids doing well. If he were around he would want to give the kids the very best. My husband was an 'A' class person and because he was no more around and because he had very, very great love for me, I decided to transfer that love to my children and that did not allow me to see myself being married to someone else. The attention was all on my children. So, those kids were my direct responsibility since my husband died, I had to abandon every other thing to take very good care of them. That was one very important thing that kept me away from a second marriage because I think of them first even before myself. It was not that proposals were not coming. When the two got into the university I thought about getting married, but life is not all about that. But I have told God that whatever He desires is what must be done. Whenever it is God's time I would see the man who would say, 'Liz, I want to marry you.' I would then go to my father to seek His consent. I would not allow my flesh to take control of me. I know nobody is perfect, which is why God accepts us the way we are. When we wake up in the morning with a smelly mouth, we kneel down to praise God; he accepts our prayers irrespective of the smelly mouth. In the same way, I'm not perfect just like no one is, so I would pray to God that when he gives me someone, it would be someone that I can cope with, someone I can adjust to, someone that we can strike a balance, someone that would be able to take my inadequacies and I would take his to enable us make something out of this beautiful life God has given us. Life is too short to begin to waste it on things that don't really matter. So I look out for the best from God.
There is this belief that since your peers in Nollywood left, the movie industry dropped to all time low.
I would not want to use the word drop. I think it's a kind of restructuring that is going on in the industry. And as you know when there is restructuring a lot of things have to be cleared up. Even for nations at times you experience war, after the war there would be time to clear things up. After that comes the rebuilding, which makes the nation stronger and better. I think Nollywood is in that situation right now, a kind of recess, which I know we would pull through. Other countries have had teething problems and of course they are not to be measured with where we are right now because they started decades back. But then, we are meant to encounter problems. I believe we would overcome these problems because it's most necessary we have the recess because it would make Nollywood better.