The allure of Shiloh 2020

DELE ADEOLUWA

 

Shiloh2020!’, the pastor taking the opening prayer at the grand event, thundered into the microphone from the effulgent altar, his amplified voice ricocheting across the expansive precincts.

‘Turnaround encounters!’, the atmosphere momentarily came alive as the mammoth congregation responded, rising up into an electrifying ecstasy. It was a mass of effervescent sight. From the three wings of the main auditorium of the famed 50,000-capacity Faith Tabernacle, Canaanland, Ota,Ogun State; to the large tents adjoining each of the three wings; the church’s facilities and viewing centres in Lagos, Ota, other parts of Nigeria and across the globe, being streamed live through the large television screens placed at strategic locations, a significant segment of the global Christian population temporarily fused into a mass of unified spiritual force, as they gathered at the feet of Jesus. Welcome to Shiloh 2020, the 22nd edition of the annual convocation of the members of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, which held from December 8 to 13!

The bubbly dusk was fast dovetailing into the bright night. The exultant sea of worshippers soon burst into a dancing orgy as they observed the opening praise and worship session, led by the gaily dressed Faith Tabernacle choir.

As the night cascaded the atmosphere, the aerial view of the entire Canaanland precincts sprawled out like an expansive holiday resort. The various trees and shrubby plants dotting the landscape, as if they were in supremacy contest, sort of screened off many of the fluorescent lights, casting grotesque shadows over a substantial portion of the precincts. The combined effect presented the semblance of a beautiful, dimly-lit resort.

Peeping behind those trees and shrubby plants, those lights, from an aerial view, looked like large stars at the zenith of their radiance. It was an enthralling sight.

Inside the main auditorium of Faith Tabernacle, the festoon combined with the convivial atmosphere to complete an ethereal beauty. The tinge of the joy and exhilaration that radiated at the opening night, which dovetailed with the rest of the ‘nights of encounters’, was infectious. This is characteristic of Shiloh since inception in 1999.

Shiloh has always been orderly, in spite of the motley crowds that throng the headquarters every year, what with the avalanche of service groups whose members are positioned in strategic places, including traffic points, to ensure smooth movements.

However, there was a difference this year that was quite remarkable. Not only were movements  in and around the entire environment easier throughout the event, the various open fields were devoid of the crowds that usually massed up in them during the past Shiloh events.

Tremendous wisdom came into play to achieve this. First, the large tents adjoining the three wings of Faith Tabernacle were fully exploited to sort of mop up ‘excess crowds’ this time.

Second, a total of 153 viewing centres were created this year in Lagos and Ota for Shiloh. In addition, the leadership did a lot of pre-Shiloh sensitisation, admonishing potential attendees that, with a good exercise of faith, Shiloh would have the same miraculous effects both ‘on ground’(headquarters) and the viewing centres. This was to subtly discourage the ‘I must-be-on-ground-by-all- means’ mentality among a lot of die-hard worshippers and encourage more people to view the event at the special centres. It worked perfectly well. Hence, the crowds at the headquarters were sizeable throughout the event this year.

To set the tone of the hot and vibrant harvest of the word on the first ‘night of encounters’ was Bishop David Abioye, First Vice President of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, whose ministration centred on adequate spiritual preparations to have the desired “encounters” with God at Shiloh.

The presiding Bishop, Dr. David Oyedepo, rounded off the night with a powerful teaching on “Understanding our turnaround roots”. The two teachings did much to prepare the worshippers for what to expect from the event,with the theme, “Turnaround encounters”.

Other ministers who joined both Bishops Oyedepo and Abioye from within the house to dish out the feast of the word that made Shiloh 2020 spiritually impactful were Bishop Thomas Aremu, Pastor Faith Oyedepo and Faith Tabernacle’s Resident Pastor, David Oyedepo Jnr. Two of Oyedepo’s “spiritual sons”, Pastor David Ibiyeomie of Port Harcourt-based Salvation Ministries and Pastor Paul Eneche of Abuja-based Dynamics International, also delivered pungent, soul-searching shots of the word.

One of the hallmarks of Shiloh every year is the harvest of miracles, known as “testimonies” in spiritual parlance. This year’s event recorded a lot of such testimonies, many of which were quite unusual.

One of them was the one shared by one Edward Ibro, who attended Shiloh from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. According to to him, he came to the event with a heavy burden. Life had become so miserable for him. For years, sleep was a scarce commodity to him. It was a laborious  exercise for him every night.

However, something mysterious happened to him at Shiloh in one of the “encounter nights” during a prayer session. As the prayers went on, a watery substance like fluids began to ooze out from his legs. The stench from the fluids were so repulsive that co-worshippers around him had to move away from him. But he bore it all.

To his utter shock, when he got home after the service, he met a humongous heap of a dead python on his bed! Not long after, news came that his uncle in the village who had vowed to either kill him or ensure that his life would not amount to anything had died the same night! And for the first time in years, Edward was able to sleep like a baby.

Also remarkable was the “testimony” shared by Dr Betta Edu, Cross River Commissioner for Health, who, among other testimonies, recounted her experience during the EndSARS protests. According to her, after the protests were hijacked by hoodlums, her boss advised her to leave her official residence in Calabar because hoodlums were going round targeting political appointees for attack.

She then took a “mantle”(an handkerchief that had been blessed by a man of God) and tied it to the gate of her residence. She thereafter made a faith-laden declaration that except God did not call her prophet, Bishop Oyedepo, would her residence be attacked. She then left the house. According to the commissioner, hoodlums did invade her area and attacked houses near her residence left and right but spared her residence.

Mrs Miriam Asoluka gave a testimony of how a growth on the nose of her daughter that had been a concern to the family for over 10 years disappeared mysteriously during one of the Shiloh  prayer sessions. According to her, because of the growth, her daughter found it very hard to breathe normally. She would have to open her mouth to be able to breathe but she snored embarrassingly noisily in the process.

“During the prayer session,” she narrated, “when God’s servant(Bishop Oyedepo) asked us(the worshippers) to place our hands where we had any health challenge, my daughter was not with me. She was somewhere around the toilets serving. But by faith, I stood in for my daughter and placed my hand on my nose and took the prayer for her.

“After the service, I went to my daughter and discovered that the growth had disappeared mysteriously!”

Some of the other unusual “testimonies” recorded at Shiloh, viewed from 178 foreign nations, included the short left hand of a worshipper from Edo State,who got deformed as a result of an accident, grew mysteriously and became equal with the right arm; a medical doctor healed of COVID-19; 11-year-old worshipper healed of renal failure; a dead child who jerked back to life in Abia State during a prayer session and the story of a couple who had a set  of triplets after 17 years of barrenness and after the husband had survived stroke twice, among numerous others.