By Kazeem Ugbodaga
With strict observance of COVID-19 protocols, the Deeper Christian Life Ministry braved the odds to hold its National December Retreat last year. The church normally holds its retreat twice a year-Easter and December. Because of the deadly pandemic that raged worldwide, the Easter Retreat was canceled.
With December 2020 approaching, the church announced December 24 to 27 for its national retreat. Preparations were in top gear and because Coronavirus was abating then, the event was scheduled to hold in groups of districts unlike when the entire church in Lagos would converge at its camp ground on KM 42, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway for the great event.
The theme was fixed: “Turning Bitterness to Sweetness.” The theme was timely in view of a turbulent COVID-19 year where many people died, coupled with a bitter lockdown lasting for months.
In the midst of preparation, the second wave of the virus sets in. Lagos is the most hit, serving as epicenter of the deadly virus. Like a flash, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a bid to stem the tide of COVID-19 brought back the old relaxed protocols, “no church should hold service more than two hours.”
The December Retreat was threatened. Cancellation, like what happened in April stared in the face. But it stayed. The General Superintendent of the Church, Pastor William Kumuyi approved that the Retreat should hold on district basis and in locations, with two sessions lasting for two hours and then members then dispersed to their houses for another two sessions virtually and then come back to the churches in the evening for the last two sessions last for two hours. By that, the great event was held. It was very impactful, with participants deriving maximum benefits and satisfaction from the programme.
Participants were in jubilant mood all through the Retreat, as they listened with keen interest to Kumuyi’s messages
On the first night, Kumuyi preached on “Heavenly Breakthrough despite hard Bondage,” when the children of Israel were delivered from the Egyptian bondage, saying that they were in bitterness before God turned it to sweetness, delivering them from torments. “Pharaoh represents the devil. Without sin, there will be no satanic oppression in the world. Sin is the greatest of all bondage. The Lord will only give us freedom if we cherished the freedom. Our first loyalty is to our Saviour,” he said.
The man of God also spoke on “From the Burning Bush to the Promised Land,” “His Sacrifice, our Sufficiency,” “Fear not, the Promise is still Good,” “The Bride’s Covenant with the Heavenly Bridegroom,” “The Purpose of Pentecost,” among others. His messages were beamed to the participants through telecast.
Participants told stories of blessings and of the wonderful works of God. A participant in Lagos, Amofuokhai Audu described the Retreat as insightful and wonderful as messages from the man of God really showered blessings on him. He said his bitterness was turned to sweetness at the retreat. This was because he experienced the turbulent side of COVID-19 during lockdown when he almost died.
A pastor in one of the local government areas of Abia State, who gave his name as Goodluck Anyatonwu, told our correspondent that “Devil never outsmarts God.”
According to Anyatonwu, “God is God all the time. Devil cannot frustrate the plan of God. The programme was great in our location. The attendance was great. Those who would not have attended the retreat if it held at our retreat ground, had the opportunity to attend. We really thank God for the success across the country.”
Another participant, Daniel Bamigbayan, the Young Professionals Forum (YPF) president, said the retreat was a great time in God’s presence, as it was an opportunity to take a break from the hustles and bustles of work and get refreshed spiritually.
He further said that though the retreat was decentralised on the back of the COVID-19 restriction nationwide, the spacing of the messages gave more room for deeper reflection.
“The most visible impact of the sudden change in venue is the effect on the planned human and material resources for the event. However, this impact was not significant because the change in venue also came with reduction in participants’ size at the new locations,” Bamigbayan said, adding that it made management of the retreat easier.
He added that the last minute change in the initial programme and venue of the retreat reinforced the priority of agility as a key skill in this era. He also said that the church was not exempted from this necessity of being adaptable to change in order to survive.
“The change in messages robbed a bit on expectations especially in view of the theme of the event. However, because the new messages were still the word of God, I benefited immensely and got new learning from the retreat,” Bamigbayan said.
Nnamdi Alex Onyeukwu, another participant in Lagos stated that the retreat was successful despite the challenges, saying the only challenge was the change in messages which did not strictly conform to the programme sheet that was distributed earlier.
For Elect Abolarin, who had her retreat in Akure, Ondo State, the event was wonderful as she enjoyed every aspects of the programme, as she was extremely blessed.