Booming miracles: Real or imagined? .
To many a people, Christians or faithfuls of whatever faith, physical signs and wonders are the only proof of a pastor's calling. This, unfortunately, explains why most men of God would go to any
length to harp on this at any slightest opportunity. The fallout of this has been twofold. One: Desperation, dishonesty and deceits on the part of the givers. Two: Cheating and denial on the part of the beneficiaries. However, while many famous churches have come under fierce criticism for laying claim, persistently, to such wonders, which are allegedly momentary for some inexplicable reasons, in some instances, some other few still lay hold to cognate mouth-widening miracles till today. But do genuine miracles still exist? If yes, what are the yardsticks for confirming this? These and others are the issues YEMISI ADENIRAN raised in this write-up.
Victor Okoeki walked gracefully from the crowd of an excited congregation to the podium as the pastor kept beckoning on him. Although absolutely oblivious of this unusual 'altar call,' his face was radiant, his spirit evidently on the high side. Standing behind him and much closely, were his equally elated parents, grinning. The source of their joy was not farfetched. Victor, their first and male child, had just being delivered from his crippled state through a servant of God called Pastor Joseph Eloma, the general overseer of the Christ Temple International Ministry, Lagos.
Victor, according to his mother, Stella Okoeki, had never walked ever since he was born in 2008. This, they noticed when he was just three months old. “ His legs, at about three months old were always vibrating unusually. “At first, we thought it was nothing strange and that it was an ailment that would likely fade out with time and so, we were not so troubled,” she recalled.
However, the situation took a worst turn as their precious child, unlike his many mates, wouldn't walk around even after he had clocked one year. So, the race for succour took off. “ We moved from one hospital to the other. We went to Ayinke House, ran some tests and was given an appointment for some eight months after,” narrated Okoeki. She had continued the search for a way out together with her husband, until a friend of theirs, simply called brother Victor, invited them to his church for a crusade billed for that period. They went and a simple antidote was prescribed by the pastor-in-charge. “ Go and fast for 21 days and go for vigil for 40 days,” the pastor had said.
As for the husband, this was too tasking. 'I was almost giving that option up for the Ayinke's which was only eight days ahead. But, my wife was insistent and we both decided to give it a trial afterall,' he said.
As fate would have it, the decision ended up as the best they would ever take in life. Seven days into the fasting and praying session, Victor, suddenly got up and attempted his first few steps in life. “ I almost ran mad,” said Stella who could,'t believe her eyes. But that settled their years of agony. Ever since last year when the boy got impacted with this miracle, he had never stopped walking. Stella and her husband were all grateful to God Almighty, just as they brandished Victor's picture as he sat helplessly on the ground during one of those terrible days, apparently to convince any doubting Thomases who might just be in the congregation.
The Okoeki were, however, not the only lucky family in this particular congregation. There was also an Alhaja who was also delivered from the deadly grasp of cancer disease.
Mama Rofi or Alhaja Sherifat Daoda, 55, as she is popularly called, used to have a cancerous growth on her chest region between her left breast since 2008. Her medical doctor at the University College Hospital( UCH), Ibadan, Dr. Oyewole, had gone through her medical history, which was diagnosed as a grade 3 Medullary Carcinoma. It was almost an hopeless case that only a divine hand of God could heal. Ironically, it was this same doctor that referred her to see the pastor.“ Her antidote: ' Accept Christ into your life and confess Him openly,' Eloma told him. Readily, she agreed to the condition but was very reluctant to attend church services. ' I insisted lip service to the Lord will not do it, she was convinced and started fellowshipping with us,' recalled Eloma. Strangely, the cancerous growth grew bigger and more potruded such that it had an appearance of another breast in the middle of the other two. The more they prayed, the more sleepless nights she had with the pains. “Her faith amazingly, appeared to increase even as the pain became severe. Then, on one of her visits to LUTH, the doctors, according to her, recommended a list of drugs after they had done necessary tests. 'During this period I went to Ghana to Minister in October/ November 2009, while I was there the Lord had shown me in Ghana she should not use those drugs. But by the hand of faith, she waited for me to pray on the drugs before she commence the use of the drugs. The drugs were what I understand to be alternative to Chemotherapy.I arrived middle of November, 2009 from Ghana. She brought the drugs to me. I told her she must not use the drugs as the Lord me. She obliged. The cancer had grown bigger, she had to use a veil to cover her chest at all times, It was about 3 1/2 inches projection. It was much hotter than the rest of her body. She became worried. She told me she would visit LUTH again. She could not sleep some of the time due to pains. I hanged on to faith, but how do you tell a woman in that state not to go to Hospital? She went to LUTH again. The doctor in LUTH asked her of the drugs they told her to use. She replied she takes only panadol and orheptal blood tonic. Frustrated, the Doctor told her to go back home. They refused to attend to her any further.'
Of course, she came back home, that was in March, 2010 and from the look of things, all hope seemed to be lost. Amazingly, that was when her miracle came knocking. The pains suddenly ceased. The growth which appear to ripen like a boil started darkening as if it was smoked with fire. The 3 1/2 inches projection receded within one week. Alhaja is healed of deadly cancer! Her skin became radiant and he was asked to go and show herself to the Doctors at LUTH. She went and according to her, the Doctors called themselves together in amazement of the miraculous restoration. “Some of the Christian Doctors seeing the silver tooth I wore, wondered and asked me of the source of my miracle. I told them I became born again in July 2009 and that Jesus Christ is the one that healed me. One of the female doctors who also happens to be a Christians in serious bewilderment, called her back pleading with her to stay glued to her newly professed faith.“These are just some out of the many people who came out of the congregation recently at the fifth year anniversay of the Christ Temple International Church, ,to testify of the goodness of God in their lives.“Meanwhile, Chucks Imodikwe, a resident in Abule Egba area of the state, shares no glee in the matter. As far as he is concerned, miracles, simply don't exist, the ones many display as wonders, he believes, are presumably arranged as gimmicks designed to win the allegiance of worshipers and consequently increase the number of their congregation. But Imodikwe wouldn't have felt this way if not for an experience he had some years ago. Recalling his bitter experience which few years ago, Imodike related the story of how her elder sister who was lame went for a crusade organised by a Christ Apostolic Church,at Osogbo, Osun State, and became healed on the second day of the five-days revival. ' We were all happy and grateful that she could walk again. She was like that for the remaining days of the crusade and was the talk of the entire town till we were permitted to leave there for Lagos State, our own base. Surprisingly, less than a week after we got to Lagos, she slept, woke up only to loose the use of her two legs all over again. All efforts to get through to the pastor through whom the legs were healed was futile. After a long trial, we stopped looking for him and resolved to fate. The girl is now happily married and rearing children somewhere in the east now.'
Imodikwe, an illusionist, however, did not put any blame on either her sister's healer nor her sister again. Instead, he believes that many people who claimed to be beneficiaries of one miracle or the other are mere victims of psychosomatic and organic illnesses. If a beneficiary suffers from a functional illness, he is likely to be healed by almost any the rules and practices of faith healing. A functional disease is that with a change in the function of the bodily organ or tissue without any tissue damage. For instance, diseases such as high blood pressure, addictions, low back pain syndrome or most headaches, there is no demonstrable tissue damage such as broken bones, paralysis from severe nerves, congenital malformations or coronary artery disease evidence, a very clear change in tissue. Explaining further, he noted that if such a person finds himself in a highly festive and emotionally charged atmosphere of faith-healing service, the brain can be stipulated to release endorphins into the nervous system. ''This is why many people say the pain is gone and come out telling the story gleefully and when the effect wears off some hours after, they are returned to their formal state,'' he concluded.
But this would never go down well with Mrs Hannah Oluwatoyin Adewole. As far as she is concerned, Imodikwe is only a critic because true miracles really exist. Telling her story, Adewole, who works with Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).said she was once afflicted by a strange illness that made her womb came out through her virgina.'' The doctors already recommended a surgery to push it inside in 2008 when I was introduced to this pastor. I did not contact this while I was in the church and it was while prayer was on that I felt a hand push it in. The sight was horrible. It was like shaki. Since 2008 till now, I have never had that experience, so miracles are real,'' she stated factly.
Over the years, a lot of evangelists, prophets and pastors in Nigeria and overseas, coming up with such miracles as their trademarks have been preys of more damning criticism from far and near, both by people within the same faith and without it. Nonetheless, many still clamour for it and more men of God still aspire to be able to have such chain of miracles trail them at all cost. While their critics insist that Christianity is not all about miracles, but more of soul saving, men of God, all over, also re-affirm the essence of miracles in establishing people's faith. This, they founded in the book of John, chapter 4 verse 48 where Jesus told His disciples clearly that “ Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, Jesus told him, you will never believe.” That was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed during His ministry on earth. For Him, laying of hands were not mandatory, but the words and the faith level of the recipient, because at the same hour when he told the man whose child was dying to go home and rejoice because his son was healed, was recorded as the exact hour the boy got healed. No matter the situation, the fact remains that everyone needs a change and change is one thing that is most constant. What then is the basic requirement for real miracles and how best should men of God go about it like their master Jesus?