By Olayinka Latona
MGBIDI, the seat of Oru West Local Government Area of Imo State is made up of 11 villages collectively known as Mgbidi Town, the gateway to Imo State which plays host to the annual international crusade of The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Movement.
The town owes its speedy development and galloping popularity to the yearly massive influx of vehicular and human traffic which in turn has lifted the profile of the indigenes via heightened commercial activities associated with the annual spiritual exercise in and outside the community.
Members of the community, their neighbouring towns and villages are often excited at the beginning of every year when The Lords Chosen Charismatic Revival Movement attracts millions of worshippers from across the globe for the annual crusade both for its spiritual and commercial benefits. The three day duration of the crusade has always turned out to be very rewarding for the residents of the community and its environ as it provides them an opportunity to mingle, hobnob and exchange pleasantries with quality foreign and local visitors attracted to the sleepy agrarian community.
Farmers, hoteliers, filling stations, transporters, mechanics, shoe makers and all manner of people in the locale often look forward to the crusade as it offer them unequalled opportunity to smile to the banks. While transporters make brisk business taking people to and from the venue of the crusade, residents of the town convert their homes to hostels to meet the growing accommodation needs of participants, just as other commercially-oriented individuals sell various items ranging from fairly used wears to consumable and non-consumable items.
Landlords and other property owners also capitalise on the heavy traffic to make cool money from their properties, which they lease out to emergency food vendors and other business concerns who readily establish makeshift shops for the period of the crusade; as well as parking lots for the visitors.
Several uncompleted and even abandoned buildings were horriedly refurbished and rented out while some landlords vacated their apartments and rented them out to the visitors for fees ranging from N2,000 to N3,000 per room depending on the facilities available in such apartments.
One of the visitors to the just concluded 2016 crusade, told our reporter that she paid over N15,000 for her rented apartment for the three days while thousands of worshippers who could not afford such exuberant fees took solace in the open crusade ground where they built different ‘self-contained’ shades, laying on the expansive grassy field without protection and in that harsh cold harmattan weather. Some smart participants made home of every available space in the church school building where they erected mosquito nets from the trees for the three days revival.
Shop space, we learnt, was going for N5,000, N10,000 and upward while most of the vendors went home with N20,000 daily. One Mama Chika, a native of the community who specialised on local delicacies said she travelled all the way from Lagos for the crusade. She used the opportunity of the crusade to spend some time with her family members, saying: “This is a great opportunity for me and I have to grab it. I went home each day with over N20,000 after paying my four workers.”
Described as ‘Mountain top crusade’, the programme ordinarily may look uninteresting to a new comer or first timer, since the Chosen service whoch starts as early as 8.00 a.m. and ends as late as 7.00 or 8.00 p.m. focuses on testimonies and miracles but the expression on the faces of the worshippers was always that of joy and enthusiasm with some yearning for more—not showing any sign of tiredness.
When the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Lazarus Muoka announced on the second day that there was the likelihood of extending the crusade by another day, majority of the participants shouted for approval. Only a handful of worshippers who had booked their retirn flights grumbled and kicked against the announcement, and the programme ended as scheduled.
Water shortage: Obana Stream to the rescue
One unique feature of the crusade was the revelation that the Obana Stream running behind the neighbouring Chosen International Secondary School, Mgbidi serves as the major source of water for the mammoth crowd of worshippers. The churctons said to channel the water via septic pipes to different locations on the camp ground for bathing and washing. The water was never enough, so some worshippers daily find their way to the Obana Stream despite series of warning from security personnel.
It was further revealed that majority of the participants especially the younger ones visited the stream to either swim or fish, a practice said to be forbidden in Mgbidi.
According to one of the natives who pleaded anonymity: “The stream serves the Chosen members a lot, especially during their crusades but the challenge is that most of the people preferred to come to the stream to fetch the water directly, swim and fish.
Swimming and fishing in the stream is not allowed because it is an abomination.”
Despite the shortcomings, both old and young worshippers, showed a lot of determination to receive from God as they defied the harsh weather condition to stay at the open ground, without roof over their heads, for worship as the General Overseer, Pastor Muoka prayed for the sick and the afflicted for instant miracles. Many lame, deaf, dumb, and others with diverse health challenges testified openly of their deliverances and healings.
Worshippers in their thousands came from the United States, Egypt, Congo, Ireland, Ukraine, Australia, Ghana, North Korea, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, South Korea and other parts of the world to witness this year crusade themed: “What God Has Determined To Do Shall Be Done”. Each of the foreign representatives was given opportunity to thrill the congregation ministering in songs.