INTERVIEW: Doing Good Makes Me Happy – Esther Ajayi
What do you remember about your childhood?
I have realised that the Lord always prepares one for the future. When I was younger, people usually put money in my hands and ask me to give it back to them. Some would even put the money on the floor and ask me to take it and give it to them, just so that my hands would touch the money. Afterwards, they would say they had a bumper harvest simply because my hands touched their money. These reports always amazed me because I did not fully grasp what they meant. I also remember going to visit my late mother on her sickbed. When I got into her room, I touched every part of her body. She started sweating all over and said she knew that once I arrived, she would be well again. When people heard her speaking again, they rushed inside the room, praising God that I was around. When I remember those days, I realise that God was preparing me for the future. My father was educated. He retired from the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
What can you tell us about your journey to becoming a minister of God?
God has given me the gift of having dreams and visions. I see things like I am watching television. I had been having dreams that I would have a gigantic Bible with a bell. In the dreams, I usually saw myself delivering people from the shackles of the enemies. But, I didn’t know the meaning then. However, in 1993, I met someone called Esther at the Faith Bible College. We were having a prayer session and she went into a trance. She said that God was going to use me and I would establish a church, which would be called ‘Love of Christ’. I didn’t write it down but it stuck in my memory. She said other things I never forgot.
Also, when I was in the business world, the old National Electric Power Authority was owing me some money. I had furnished their Abuja apartment to the tune of N4.2m. They had said they would pay me within a month. But after two months, I had not received anything. I was in a cab one day praying that God should touch their heart to pay my money when the cab driver said he could introduce me to his ‘mother in the Lord’ to pray for me. I agreed and he took me there but when the cleric saw me, she stood up and said, “Our mother, pray for me. If you don’t pray, I will not pray for you too.” I initially thought she was joking but she insisted. I simply said, ‘May God have mercy on you’. After her prayers, she told me that NEPA would pay me within seven days. She also told me that God had called me, adding that I would be a very popular evangelist. She advised me to answer the call soon. She also told me not to be afraid whenever God was speaking to me. She was actually crying while speaking with me, perhaps because she was seeing my future. Surprisingly, the money was paid on the fifth day after that encounter. I told myself that if the first vision could come to pass, then the second might also be true.
Afterwards, armed robbers came to our house. They shot sporadically and the bullets landed in my children’s bedroom. However, I was surprised that all the valuables the armed robbers took from our home were later dropped outside our home. Thankfully, they did not harm us as they did to the other residents in the neighbourhood. After a while, my business started going down. I remembered what the woman of God told me that I should quickly heed the voice of God and I started to become afraid. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when armed robbers attacked our home the second time. This time, our security guard was shot dead. The incident shook me so much and I remembered the warnings I had been receiving from God through the people He sent to me. In fact, my husband escaped being shot on that day. The incident made me run to God and I started doing the evangelism I had been running away from. I was scared that more negative occurrences could happen if I did not heed the call of God. By all standards, we were one of the most comfortable families in that neighbourhood, and so many people were surprised to see me ringing a bell around the vicinity, telling people to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. However, I was not ashamed of preaching the gospel on the streets of Lagos. One thing led to another and here I am today, fulfilling the prophecies I received many years ago.
In 1993, I fully gave my life to Christ at the Faith Bible College in Sango Ota, Ogun State.
What birthed the vision of your new church building in Lekki, Lagos State?
I have always believed that the best should be for God, and when the opportunity came, I seized it. Also, the people that God used to finance the project told me that they wanted to build a big cathedral by the seaside. I knew it was going to be a magnificent structure. Nobody can receive anything except it is given by God. I think God wants to use me as a turning point for the Cherubim and Seraphim church. Recently, I sat in my office and looked around at what God had done for me. I almost cried. I wondered why God loves me this much. He also gave me spiritual fathers such as Pastor and Pastor Mrs Enoch Adeboye and Bishop David Oyedepo. I see the Adeboyes as very great vessels in the Hand of God and I love them so much. I love and respect the anointing on them. I wonder how God could use a man to turn a wilderness into a city which is now the Redemption Camp. When I visited the RCCG camp, I was in awe of God’s power. It still baffles me that God could bring someone like them into my life. I remember a particular day that Pastor Adeboye prayed for me over the phone, I was just shedding tears because it could only be God. Now more than ever, I know that God can do all things.
In some quarters, you are referred to as a ‘billionaire pastor’. Do you agree with that description?
Everybody has a right to say whatever want but I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Without billions, one cannot build this kind of cathedral. If I say I am not a billionaire, that would be a lie. Many people have an idea of how much land is sold in the Victoria Island axis of Lagos State. Anyone who sees the edifice would have an idea of what has gone into it.
How impactful has the Esther Ajayi Foundation being to Nigerians and Africa?
The foundation has really gladdened my heart. One of the beneficiaries is a child named Eliana. I remember the first time I met her at Sheraton Hotels in Ikeja, Lagos. She was like a vegetable. But, seeing her now running around the church is a miracle for me. Also, I remember how God used us for veteran actor, Baba Suwe, and other lives that have been touched. There are people that had been on the verge of being deported from the United Kingdom but we were able to pay for solicitors and they were given their ‘papers’ to the glory of God. Doing good makes me happy; it gives me joy. We recently empowered 10 traders with N500,000 each. Seeing them happy was fulfilling. Giving is in my character. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t give, and I pray that day never comes. We feed a lot of people on regular basis. I can’t thank God enough for this foundation.
You are reported to have once said that you don’t want a private jet. Why did you say that?
I did not say that. I was asked if I wanted a private jet. I replied that I did not have one. I further explained that private jets for preachers is not a luxury. It has become one of the tools that clerics use for evangelism. There was a day I was invited to preach in Abuja and Lagos State, so I had to hire a private jet. At some point, it will come but I don’t want to buy it now because it will turn me into a miser. Maintaining a private jet is not a joke. If one wants to continue doing charity, one must have a lot of funds.
You are close to a number of notable politicians and even traditional rulers. How were you able to build those relationships?
The key is humility, love and giving. When some people meet me at social gatherings, they could have thought that I might be arrogant, haughty or even have a ‘holier than thou’ disposition. But, when they see me being jovial, they would loosen up. We are humans at the end of the day. I won’t do anything that is not in accordance with the Bible, and people cannot but fall in love with me. Some people don’t even expect me to speak good English because I am from a white garment church.
You seem to enjoy social gatherings. Why is that?
Most times, the hosts want me to say the opening prayers at their events and also pray with them. I was at Richard Mofe- Damijo’s sixtieth birthday to pray for him and say the opening prayer.
What are some of the lessons life has taught you so far?
Life has taught me to put my complete trust in God.
Are your children toeing your path in the ministry?
Yes, they are. I left the United Kingdom voluntarily and my children ran the church for three years. I know that some clerics’ children don’t follow their parents’ footsteps but God has helped me in that area. We do things together.
There have been a lot of media buzz about your exit from the United Kingdom. What is the true picture?
I left voluntarily (because) I had overstayed. On October 22, 2017, God said to me, “Esther Ajayi, leave the United Kingdom. I want to use you all over the world. Go to Nigeria”. I left and there was a lot of buzz about it. I have gone back on visits to the United Kingdom. I was there in June and August.
You have been married for over 39 years. What has kept your home?
I met my husband in 1974 (while in school). One day, we were both in front of the principal’s office and people were jokingly calling us husband and wife. Since then, we have not looked back. The secret of our marriage is understanding. They say a prophet does not have honour in his home but my own honour started from our bedroom. We prayed and he believed in my vision. There were times we didn’t have money, yet we would invest in big projects. I would usually tell him not to worry about the finances and in a short time, there would be a breakthrough like I had prophesied. That has convinced my husband and children to believe in my dreams.
You speak so fondly of your husband. What fuels the love between you?
I have been wearing the wedding ring my husband gave me when we got married many years ago. I have never changed it because that was what he could afford at that time. Even after many years, I refused to change it to a more sophisticated one. As close as I and my husband are, we sometimes disagree. For example, he likes to press the toothpaste from the middle, but I prefer to press it from the bottom. Sometimes, I nag about it but we would simply laugh over it later. There’s no home without misunderstanding, but how one goes about it is important.
You’re always smiling and generally in high spirits. Does it mean you don’t have any worries or challenges that shake you?
The ‘trick’ is to cast all my burdens on God because He cares for me. Happiness is not something one can hide. I don’t harbour negativity in my heart. If a person does evil to me, I would still love the person. I don’t want to have malice towards anybody because that might steal my joy. I have an invisible remote control and the only thing I play is ‘joy.’
You have been trying to promote oneness between the Celestial Church of Christ and Cherubim and Seraphim. How far have you gone in achieving this purpose?
The body of Christ should be one and this is scriptural. There shouldn’t be segregation among us. There are bad people everywhere, irrespective of the church denomination. The way forward is for us to treat ourselves with love.
You seem to be in good shape. How do you keep fit?
I like to exercise. When I am not fasting, I drink a lot of water. On an average day, before 4:30 pm, I would have drunk at least 2.5 litres of water. Even when I am fasting, I break the fast with one litre of water. You would always see bottles of water around me. There are many benefits of drinking water. I also like massages. I love to do facial treatments as well because I don’t wear make-up.
With so many people around to help you, do you still cook?
I love to cook. Once this church is established, I plan to organise cooking lessons. It took me a while before I could employ a cook. I really enjoy cooking. Some people know how to cook but don’t like to cook. But, I know how to cook and I enjoy doing it. Whenever my husband enjoys a dish, he would keep thanking me for it.
What are your thoughts about the state of the nation?
There is time for everything under the sun. In the history of Nigeria, there have always been times when we lament and think we’re living in the most trying times. But suddenly, somebody would come and there would be a relief. The troubles (we are facing) will end someday. I don’t have to be a cleric to know this. I know that there would not be war. God will scatter those that love wars. I always pray about that. There would be peace because even our creator wants us to have peace. We would all see the light at the end of the tunnel. The developed countries that we see today have also experienced their ups and downs. Nigeria will bounce back because God will help us.
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