Shepherd-in-Charge of Celestial Church of Christ Global, Genesis parish, Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe, has opened up on issues bothering on his life antecedents and upbringing in this bare-it-all interview with staff writer, RAHMANIS’MAIL. Excerpts…
Take us to your background and your experience about life?
I’m Israel Oladele Ogundipe, from Sanyaolu family while my mum is from royal family, Sofoluwe quarters both in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
I was born as a Muslim, my Muslim name was Abdulwasiu, my grandfather was a Muslim but my father was a staunch member of CAC.
I started my primary education in Bolade, Oshodi, Lagos. My mum was a pepper seller back then at Bolade bus stop. We vacated Oshodi and migrated to Ijaye where my father managed to build a modest face-me-I-face-you house. One thing I learned from my daddy is that, “my dad always made hay while the sun shines” and that zeal has been my driving force. My father battled poverty till he died. He once told me that he was fond of sleeping in the mosque when he relocated to Ilupeju from Abeokuta and at the time he was telling the story, we were living in a single room apartment in Oshodi with my six siblings. There was a man called “Olowo Brown”, he was the most influential man in Oshodi then, I was fond of watching television programmes in his house because my parents couldn’t afford one and hilariously and as the Lord wanted it, the said Olowo Brown is a staunch member of my church today. Our parents were poor but richer in the words of God. My dad was a disciplinarian to the core. His Christlike way of life prepared us for the future. We would go to church most times on empty stomach and on many occasions our parents would convert hunger to fasting. Which of the Lord’s favor will I deny? I am a story of grass to grace.
Frustration, hunger and so on led my dad to opt for hawking supplements in the bus. But in the course of doing that, his naivety was exposed because he wasn’t really trained in that type of business. Someone who knew him back in the village was onboard one day while he was hawking his stuff. The man called him by his Muslim name when they alighted from the bus. He said “Sulaiman, why are people making jest of you, didn’t you train on the job before you picked it up?” My dad said, “Yes, I wasn’t trained, frustration led me to pick up this job. My major business is printing.” The man in question who fortunately was a printing contractor, invited my dad and gave him job. My dad made six thousand naira from that first contract the man gave him and that was the money he used to secure a land in Ijaye where he built his house. Due to the relocation, my school was changed from Oshodi to Ebenezer School and that was where I had a fracture in my right arm. Whenever my mummy took me to Igbobi to see the orthopedic doctor in charge of my arm, she would always beg inside the bus in order to raise one hundred and fifty naira for my treatment. People would mock her thinking she was trying to use me to scam them, so I told my mum that we should stop going to Igbobi because the insult was too much.
I had slept in Kairo market in Oshodi several times, poverty pushed me out of home. I failed my WAEC despite being a brilliant boy. I did hawk bread or sachet water and even most times I ran errands for people in the market to earn a living, so there was no time for studies. I also hustled as a drummer for Dele Taiwo, I’m very sure he can’t recognize me again because I was very young then and I wasn’t officially assigned as his band member.
Were you able to continue with your education despite all the obstacles?
Well, I went to the University of Technology without an admission; doesn’t that sound hilarious? This is how it all happened. Most of my contemporaries in town had got admission into universities and I was the only one remaining. And the insults were much on my parents, so I decided to leave home and followed a friend of mine to his school in Ile Ife.
I was always attending lectures at the University of Technology and Obafemi Awolowo University simultaneously without having any admission. I used to read my friend’s text books and as a matter of fact I understood their courses better than most of them. But I was a fake student because I never entered by admission. At a point, I came back from Ife and started hustling again. I decided to venture into laundry business, I moved from one house to another to pack their dirty clothes, wash and iron them and get paid. Despite all of this, I held unto my belief, I never allowed poverty to derail me from the path of God because I had pictured the future I wanted to feature, although I had no idea how and when God would intervene. The more we prayed then the bigger our problem became. That’s why when you see someone shouting, “Repent! Jesus is coming soon”, it’s most likely influenced by poverty. I had found myself in that shoe before. But the grace of God overshadowed the poverty in my life.
With regards to your upbringing, you lived in an environment where gangsters were lords and you had slept in the market square. How did you not get influenced by those experiences?
Charity, they say, begins at home. My parents are my role models. I see them as my mentors because they’re God representatives to us their children. Often times, when I went out and came back home, my daddy would ask me to close my eyes then ask who did I see? I would tell him I saw nobody. Then he would order me to open my eyes. As an intelligent boy I had already understood the message he was trying to convey. We prayed for hours every morning and our night devotion was always powerful. Nothing was above prayer in our house back then, so there was no room to be influenced by social vices. Associating with hoodlums while seeking for a living doesn’t make me a part of them. I can be identified with them due to the nature of my journey to make a living and still never act like them just as I’m in Celestial Church and never believe in some doctrines of the Celestial Church. This is not condemning Celestial Church, though. CCC uses water and I also use water and perfumes but my own parish doesn’t believe in going to the stream.
You said that you once drummed for Dele Taiwo, when, where and how did you learn drumming?
I didn’t learn it. Hard times teach man what he knows not. School teaches you how to be lettered but can’t teach you how to excel or succeed in life. Life experience teaches you what you know not about yourself, it makes you to rediscover your hidden potential. Poverty exposes your inner beauty that would have probably be concealed if the going was good for you. I took myself out of the shell by training myself academically. I read widely and that, of course, has really helped me to have been able to author five inspirational books.
What is the inspiration behind the name of your parish, Genesis?
The name is of celestial, I mean it was divinely revealed to me. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit and it represents the beginning of salvation of my heart.
You confirmed that your parents were CAC members, why did you join the Celestial Church?
I didn’t join celestial because of their doctrines neither did I have any connection with them but rather, poverty pushed me out of CAC and Celestial Church covered the mess poverty injected in me. My mum was bullied because she wore only one pair of dress to church every Sunday. They said she was the most prayer warrior and the best when it comes to fasting yet she had not more than one two dress in her wardrobe. That is what pushed me out of CAC into Celestial Church. I took a walk down my street one day and I saw a Celestial church owned by one of my fathers, Prophet Femi Soyoye, I saw him playing with children and I joined them. That day, I beat the drum for them and they all loved my dexterity on the drum and they offered me an oversized garment and I was very happy. I was so much in love with Celestial Church then because members of the church would always come around with different foods and fruits and often times, I would take the food home though my dad would never touch it. I did eat them with my siblings. They brought those feasts only at the weekend. So what I did during the week was to go on self fasting. It was from that experience I started receiving visions. However, when some of the pastors in the church realized that God had been using me more than He did them, they began spiritual war against my calling and this frustrated me out of that church and I found my way back to my father’s house. But to my shock, my dad had rented out all the six rooms in our house, so, I was left with no choice than to be sleeping in the passage of the house until one tenant vacated the house. That was when my dad handed over the room to me and people started visiting me for prayers. I started the CCC Genesis Parish right from that single room apartment in my father’s house.
In conclusion, my life experience, coupled with the grace of God, made me who I am today. The first day I entered aeroplane, I wept profusely especially the day I flew in the first class. A white man came to me asking me why I was crying. He wanted to know if they’ve not treated me well, but I told him I was okay that he could not understand.