Bro Joshua Iginla-led Champions Royal Assembly clocks 10 this month. In this interview, the philanthropic and fiery prophet opened up on his travails and grass to grace story.
How did it all begin?
My conversion began at the city of Jos. It was very strong because I’m from a Muslim background and my father’s name is Lasisi Disu Iginla and everyone of us from my elder sister to the last were all Muslims. We have names like Radiatu, Abdul Hameed, Abdul Lasisi, Bilikatu, Risikatu, Abdulfatai, etc
What was your parents’ reaction to your conversion?
My conversion didn’t go well with my father because he was not happy about it. Then I lost a lot of friends because I was a very stubborn barrack boy and some of them made jest of me saying in few days, I’ll return to my senses. But my father rejected me outrightly. I could remember that he threw me out of the house in the middle of the night. It was a painful experience. Curses were laid on me and I was treated like an outcast. My journey to glory was painful. In fact, my father’s mindset was that as time goes on, probably I will become a Mallam like the rest them. The night I came back with the Bible, I thought my father didn’t see me, not knowing he had actually discussed with my other siblings and told them I went to church. He was angry. First of all, what he did was to drag me in, used the military belt to beat me up and broke my head. I was bleeding and he chased me out of the house. It was very painful. I remembered my father disowned me and called me a bastard and a disgrace. Then there was a pastor who encourages me. He used to come to fellowship to minister. That night, I think around 12, I had to run down to see him in order to be encouraged and to squat with him. I knocked the door, he came out and I narrated all the story and he also saw me bleeding. He just told me he knows how wicked my father was and he doesn’t think he can allow me stay in his house because he doesn’t want to be locked up. I begged him to please allow me. He slammed the door and ordered me to go. I felt depressed. I remembered leaving the house of that pastor crying. My pain was not what my father did to me, but what this pastor did to me. If a man of God can get to this height of treating a new convert this way, then Christianity is a fake thing and I remember the holy spirit encouraged me that night.
What about your mum?
You know the power of a man over his wife. My mum was always supporting my father, saying I should listen to whatever my father is saying. But she wept the night I was leaving. You know mothers are precious, they don’t want to lose their son, but she was behind my father. She was just saying I should adjust and renounce this thing and whatever my father says is what I should do. I could remember I went to Ekwa Primary School to sleep in one of the classes and there were vigilante groups there. In the quest to sleep there, they thought I was a thief, they followed me and wanted to shoot me. I started screaming that I was not a thief, which prompted them to ask me what I was doing there. Before that, a dog harassed me and almost bit me. I explained to them and they told me that the place isn’t too good. I was taken to a class where they were all staying and asked me to find my level the next day. After that night, I squatted with one of them, the one that actually cocked the gun and he said because he’s an elderly man, he will see how he can follow me to my father and I stayed with him for two weeks. After that, we had issues. He said he can’t accommodate me anymore until I take him to my father. When the pressure became very much, two of them followed me to beg my father but he insisted that there’s no way. That journey led me to one of the fellowship member, late Ibrahim Baka. He’s one of those that helped me before the freedom for all nation scholarship came up. The persecution lasted for more than three years. When everything was down and things became rough and I had issues of going back to my father’s house, I met my sister on January 19 that year. She was half dead and my mother was in tears. The experience of the conversion was very strong and I told them that if they believe in Jesus, he can do this. I came back home after many years and met that scene and my mother told me to do anything I can do just to revive my sister. My father was sitting down and people were there trying to pacify him. I laid my hands on my sister and God revived her and brought her to life. That became a scene of great miracle. It brought a revolution to the whole family and the conversion of my father, mother and the acceptance of my faith. On that junction, my father was posted to Odogbo Barracks in Ibadan. When we got to Odogbo Barracks, the quest to start a ministry came up clear and we started like a joke. I started a ministry in Ibadan. It was a painful and bitter experience. The burden for the ministry started in Ibadan and that’s where we started. We started in the Army Day Secondary School in the barracks and we started with “Atmosphere of Power”. It was like an interdenominational ministry. It wasn’t really a church. We were using a classroom and people from the barracks gathered. We started a fellowship which comes up every Saturday by 3pm.
What were the challenges?
A challenge I don’t wish my enemy go through because first, when we started in the barracks, I was seen as a riff-raff who doesn’t know what he’s doing because we take drums from one block to the other and a lot of youths follow me. We clap our hands, people come from the blocks and we go to villages. My understanding about ministry then wasn’t for money or offering. It was only just to preach the gospel. We survived by working in farms. The stipends we earned were used for crusade. We later moved to Overcomers Prevailing Evangelical Ministry and we started the ministry in Hope International School. We were using the primary school, which has now become a living place. We were using one of the classrooms. We pleaded with the proprietress to allow us stay. We were using that school and the class couldn’t take up to 100 people. We were around 30 and we later had up to 70. It was a huge crowd to us. In fact, we celebrated it. We didn’t have drum set or keyboard. We used to rent a local drum in Iwo Road and whenever we have that drum set, the praise, worship and the power of God will come down very well. We celebrated the move of God. The church wasn’t big and we had cases of members making vow. The highest tither then was N1,000 and he so much intimidated me whenever he gives tithe. We had to use visitation to pay for the tithe.
How did you survive those trying periods?
There was a time I had to go to a block industry to carry blocks and some of my members saw me but I hid my face from them. They argued if it was me or not. It was a shameful thing. It was better I did that than to steal or go into occultism. Some people see our glory today and think we just arrived. We have told ourselves that irrespective of our poverty, we won’t eat on Jezebel’s table. I kept saying that if I didn’t backslide then, nothing will take me away from God. I was living in one room apartment with my team. We can smile about it now, but the experience was bad. I was staying in that room with my pastors – Emeka Clement, Moses, Segun, Sunday Adamson. We had a foam and by the right side of the room, I put a plank and an iron rod, which was used as my wall hanger and we fold ourselves. Even at that, I couldn’t pay N300 for house rent, which is N6,000 in a year. I had an “international stove”. It was terrible. Each time I lit the stove, the fire just blows up and I’ll have to pour a lot of water. Everywhere will be filled with smoke and my landlord will come and say: “Pasito, do you want to burn down my house?” Though he’s late now. It became a big argument and the smoke will be entering everybody’s eyes because it was an old stove. We had to use three stones to balance it. One of the terrible experiences was that I had eba but there was no soup and there was no money. Poverty can make you have all manner of wisdom. I went to the woman selling food around me and told her to sell food for me and normally we tell them they shouldn’t put meat and they should put soup separately in another plate. When she finished selling it, I told her she didn’t give me the right thing so she got angry and poured the soup back in the pot so I took the empty plate home, left with little soup in it and used it to take my eba. It was an experience in my life I felt my poverty was bad. I wept.
What’s that memorable experience you recalled during such period?
There was a case of betrayal where one of the sons whom I raised came back and met me in that one room and was supposed to call me “Papa”, but he said: “Pauper, so you are still here.” He repeated it again. It’s one experience I’ll never forget because when he left, I knelt down on my bed and wept. I told God that I’m not asking him to make me rich as a pastor, I’m asking him to give me a means to live my life in order to bless lives. Of course, I wasn’t lazy. I did security job, teaching job, I carried blocks, I already started training in a Nigerian depot before God intervened. So my story isn’t a story of a man who just came to ministry overnight. The experience was bitter because of the house I lived in. The house is a one room apartment and I stayed there for seven years. I couldn’t pay my landlord’s rent. There was a bad well you could even see germs on it. That was the water I drank. Even the bathroom was so terrible that you will have to cover your nose before you take your bath because they would have defecated on it. The one room was so bad that there wasn’t even a ceiling and the window was bad. All through the seven years, sometimes in the middle of the night, I go into the bush to pass out feaces. It was bad that sometimes I use omo to take my bath. Even my landlady pitied me whenever she sees me. My landlady, called Iya eleko, sells pap and I used to collect from her on credit and sometimes when I don’t pay, she will harass me. There was a little breakthrough that came in, I moved to another house in Aligongo. I call my landlord Baba Dudu. He’s a wonderful landlord. He’s both positive and negative wire. I couldn’t pay his house rent too and I could remember I used to tip-toe when I come late at night and his wife will blow a whistle signalling the landlord that I’m around. Then the landlord will harass me that I don’t want to pay his rent and I call myself a man of God. I’ll kneel down and start begging. He will say I’m not a good pastor. The experience was bad. There was a provision store close to me. I owed them money too for goods and I will hide so they won’t see me. Even I didn’t believe there can be a future with that experience. There was one of my pastors that told me that if my life was like that, what confidence do they have as my followers because truly my life was bad. Ninety per cent of my early pastors left me not because they didn’t love me, but because the poverty was bad and there was no hope. In fact, I was living on them. There was a time Pastor Emeka would go and do block work and bring money to me. It became a pain. There was a day my landlady abused me that how can I be a pastor, asking if God can’t see my sufferings because it was bad. I was the usher, the sanctuary cleaner at the early stage of the ministry.
So how did the story turn to glory?
It was on that quest when the pressure became high that God told me that the place isn’t where I’ll prosper. He opened the scripture to me and told me how he told Abraham to leave his father’s house to a land he will show him. He said my allocation has expired in Ibadan and the place I’ll prosper is Abuja. I borrowed the money that took me from Ibadan to Abuja. I landed in Dutse Alhaji in Abuja. I had a friend there who was part of my prayer band at the youth fellowship in Jos. His name is Rev. Joseph Yusuf Haruna. He’s the founder of Gospel Grace ministry. I stayed in his house. I slept on his three-seater. He was better than me. I became like an Assistant Pastor to him because it was preferable to stay in Abuja than Ibadan. The storm was so much and I already ran from my landlord in Ibadan due to non-payment of rent and at that time. While I was with him, I learnt that seven of my pastors left and all broke out. I won’t blame them because if you see my condition, even if you are genuine and called by God, you will lose hope. It was the prophetic word of God that kept me going and after sometime, we had little issues and I kept telling him what God told me, which was my conviction. That led me to go to Global Light Assembly, Buari. Imagine a General Overseer applying to work under a ministry. I told myself that it was better I’m into the system of the ministry than to backslide or to dip my hands into things that isn’t of God. The leader was Rev. Gbenga. He was a wonderful man. He taught me in the area of giving.
So how did champions Royal Assembly come into being ?
Champions Royal Assembly is a sweet part of the story. While I was in Buari, God started speaking to me that it is time to raise a champions generation. God said I shouldn’t use my first church name, which was Overcomers. That we already overcame. So I used Champions Assembly, but I was willing to stay with Rev. Gbenga and what God did was there was a strong wind of pressure from everywhere. Rev. Gbenga called me one day and said he knows God has called me. After one of two things, God said to me that I shouldn’t betray Rev. Gbenga because I have a call but he didn’t know I was a senior pastor. I didn’t tell him but I later confessed. I was living in a room and parlour then. He was a wonderful man. He told his wife at home and I believe she told him to let me go. He released me. I didn’t have money, I didn’t know where to start. In all honesty, Rev. Gbenga is an angel because he came to meet me in the early hours of one morning and told me that he loves me so much and he believes I have the leading of God. He gave me N70,000 to start a church and told me not to let his wife know. I took the money and started looking for a house that can serve as a ministry place. I met an agent called Chuks. He said there’s an abandoned house I can use. It was abandoned because thieves were always disturbing the owners. I told him there’s no problem that the only thing that can be stolen is my bible. I have nothing else. That’s how we got to the place. We packed in on a Friday, cut the grass on Saturday and we started the church on Sunday. We were just four in number. I faced a lot of resistance. Some people mocked me. I remember the first fellowship, there was no cotton. I just came out of the gate and some women started laughing at me saying we are hungry and looking for money. It was shameful. I was passing one day and they were saying what kind of end time pastor I was. There was no tambourine and the first offering was collected with a Bible. That was how we started. I started having issues with the owner of the place in Millionaires Quarters when we were becoming much. I went to the landlord to allow me use the little tent in the compound, which he agreed, and after sometime we will be paying for it. We agreed. We rented the tent and the following week, the wife came to the place, fought me, abused me, I couldn’t talk. I covered my face in shame. I entered the house and kept quiet. The man denied permitting me because the wife was in charge. They pulled down the whole structure and asked us not to use it for church any longer. Then one of our members borrowed us his land in that same Millionaires Quarters. We erected tent and used sack to cover the tent and started the church.
How did the breakthrough come?
One of the things that exploded this ministry was the death of a member. She dropped dead in the church and everybody ran away and started telling people that I wanted to kill people for rituals. In the quest of praying for that woman, she came back to life. The news broke out in the whole Kubwa and the next Sunday, the church number rose up. As soon as the church started growing, some members of the church went to the man who gave us the land and told him that I want to take over and that he should send us packing. He was a member, but he gave us notice to quit the land. One thing led to another and we got another and we got another place through God’s breakthrough. The glory started changing levels. That breakthrough brought about a turning point in my life. There was also a senator who sent people to tell me to come and see him. I was so excited but God asked me not to go. I didn’t hear from them for more than two months and I felt bad within myself. Later, one night he came to see me at that bush I was living so I prayed for him and I gave him a prophetic word. He was menstruating like a woman. Every 28 days he passes out blood. He went to America for treatment but no cure. He ran back. He brought out money after the prayer. It was my first time of seeing that kind of money and the holy spirit asked me not to collect it. I remember my hands were shaking and I told him I would have loved to collect the money but the holy spirit asked me not to. He laughed and I felt bad. The holy spirit told me that if I had collected the money, there won’t be healing for the man. After some period, he called back and asked to see me after four months only to discover that he has been healed. He brought money in a little bag. It was my first time of seeing that kind of money. I didn’t know it was money. He just dropped it and I opened it and saw money. My body was shaking and I grabbed it before the holy spirit would say I shouldn’t collect it. That was the turning point. He left and I was so excited. I wept and rolled before God. It pays to wait upon the Lord. It pays to stand and believe God can do all things. It was in the midst of all this that the miracle started. In fact, that money gave birth to the first land where we built our church today. When the Glory started changing levels, some pastors who do not know me in Kubwa thought I came overnight. City of Wonders vision has been there since 1996. The Lord spoke to me and gave me the vision. I have it in my prophetic book. I never knew it’s going to come this time. I have seen this vision and the lord said to me that I’ll gather the whole world in here. When it was time, we started having overflow in the other church. God told me it was time. God gave me the vision of where it would be and I announced it. It will be of interest to know that when i announced it, people thought I had the money on ground. No. But when there’s a vision, there is a provision. We started building. We never envisaged it as a 80,000 capacity building. We just wanted to build a place that can accommodate people. I even quarrelled with the architect for doing that kind of drawing though I said he should build a big church, but not of that magnitude. I got angry and went home. Then God told me that I shouldn’t deduct a dime from it. So that was how the building started. Some people are thinking we are competing with some great men of God, No. Anything that is done out of competition can’t stand the test of time. You won’t even be able to complete it. This is just a vision of 10 years. How do you build this kind of capacity except the Lord is with you? If it is done out of competition, God will not allow the resources to come. We have ministries, which have been there for a long time, but haven’t attained this kind of height. Yet within 13 months, we were able to do this without borrowing money from the bank. People ask me where I got the money from. I didn’t take money from bank, foreign countries. The money came from inside and because we have a lot of things we do, God gave us. Not even a politician or president gave us the money. I have sons who are wealthy, but they are not part of it though God has blessed me with men who are oil moguls, wealthy people who are just blessed, but God has blessed me too. All I can say is thank God because we didn’t owe anyone. Not even a bag of cement. I’ll simply say my story was that of grass to grace. Grace is an unmerited favour of God that brings a man out of obscurity, qualifying the unqualified. I feel God loves me so much. He has used me to show the world that you don’t need to belong to some cabal in the ministry to get to the top if He is behind you. I respect fatherhood in the ministry and I know God has placed some people before you. But the truth is there’s a belief that you must come through a cabal. In my own case, God has done mine this way. Not even a prophet can take glory over my life. God did what He has to do for me. In fact, I was rejected by top ministers. I remember staying from morning to night at one of the great men of God’s place but I was frustrated by even the sons under him. But I thank God that didn’t happen because today some men would have taken the glory. God allowed it to happen so I can become a litre of love to some generation. Minus men plus God, all things are possible. My life is a typical example of grass to grace and we are just in grace primary one. We have not started. I feel the glory is just about to unfold itself. Like I said to the church, this isn’t the vision God has given me. This is just the primary vision. Somebody asked me if there’s something beyond City of wonders, I said yes. I’m already on it because this is just the stepping stone for the real vision I have. Indeed, it is a story of grass to grace.