CW: We want to first congratulate all members of Covenant Cathedral for the dedication of its new clinic. This is a great achievement for the Parish and is worthy of praise.
If you don’t mind sir, could you please kindly introduce yourself and the role you played in making this clinic a reality?
Dr O: My name is Dr Anthony Omolola; I’m a specialist family physician. I’ve been in medical practice for over 36 years. I’ve held different positions in the medical space, including Lagos State chairman; private sector – the national president, also a member of the medical advisory committee to the past governor of Lagos State – Babatunde Fashola. I’ve also held other positions; once in the World Council.
At a stage, it came to my mind and I wondered how we could assist the poor people? Primarily within the church, and it’s environment. And I think one of the major areas we have challenges is health care delivery in Nigeria. It’s not affordable, it’s not accessible and I believe that if we have something that is affordable and accessible within the church premises it will be a plus to Christendom and it will help with evangelism and bringing Christ closer to our people. We thank God that the committee has accepted that vision. They accepted the proposal and we started.
In my own little capacity with the assistance of the Church Patron, plus some few equipment we could afford for now to start a clinic… and what we have done is to ensure the clinic is run by qualified nurses and doctors for now, on a part-time basis. We are making sacrifices on our own, until when we are able to actually have a doctor fully that will run the place.
CW: You mentioned ‘evangelism’ earlier; this means different things to different people. For some, it is to go out and preach to those who don’t know Christ. For others, it is to live a life worthy of imitation, and for some it could simply mean serving humanity as and when the need arises. What is Covenant Cathedral’s belief when it comes to evangelism, and how does this clinic fit into that?
Dr O: Thank you very much. Evangelism is about bringing Christ to everybody that has not known Christ; ensuring that the gospel is spread all over into all nooks and corners. The clinic fits in this way; You know, in Nigeria, I can tell you a lot of people cannot access health care. The clinic is not meant for us alone. There will be some people that will be going around, the information will be spreading around “there is a clinic at Covenant Cathedral”. They may not be Christians. By the time they get to the clinic, the Spirit of God will envelope the whole environment and when you talk to them about Christ they will say “oh wow, this is a church doing this!”
You know you have to use something to bring someone closer to God which was done years ago by the early Christianity churches, like the Catholic. They brought education, they brought hospitals, and people from there become members, and from there they get to know Christ. We believe in such a way, when we bring people around who are not born again, from there they can know Christ. It’s a way to evangelise and talk about Christ to people.
CW: Agreed. Okay, thank you for explaining this sir.
The next question we have is this: Celestial Church of Christ is possibly one of the largest churches in Africa. We are never short of programs to meet the spiritual needs of people.
Do you think we are also making good efforts to meet the physical needs of people?
Are we doing enough as a church?
Dr O: Emmm, I just think we are doing – but it’s not enough. We are talking about the Celestial fold worldwide, or in Africa specifically. But in Covenant Cathedral parish, we’ve been delivering a lot of programs to meet the needs, the physical needs. Like food; we distribute raw foods. We also ensure we distribute other materials that members can benefit from.
I think one thing that I believe is that the spiritual need is there, but I always say, “health is life”. And I believe that if you are able to meet the health challenges of many of the members – which is part of the physical – and also feeding, and some few other materials that are needed. And at times, Covenant Cathedral, in some of the cases, finds out the needs of our people and we made them to establish small scale businesses for them. But we can actually do more. I would like to encourage all churches as much as possible, and as much as God has blessed them, to ensure that the physical needs of people are met.
CW: On that note sir, what other humanitarian initiatives would you like to see Covenant Cathedral – and C.C.C. in general – embark on in the next 10 years?
Dr O: I just want to make sure that in the next 10 years C.C.C. all over will have a robust hospital platform at subsidised rates, just like some of the other churches are doing.
One of the challenges many of the members have is that they have cataracts – they cannot read bible. We had to arrange one way or another for them to go to where they could have the surgery done at very cheap rate. And I can say one of the testimonies; one man said “wow, wow! This is how life is, I can read my bible now!” So, we can make a provision whereby there will be specialised centres created by the church where people can access quality health at reduced prices compared to what’s going on within a locality or areas.
The other one is entrepreneurship. There’s nothing bad in business ventures. We can decide to even open a factory where we can employ quite a lot of youths. Open factories, get foreign investment, run it as a business. We can be involved in legitimate business ventures that will provide a lot of opportunities for the young people to work. Once you are not idle in mind and soul, you tend to think less about negative devices. And this entrepreneurship venture is something we can start – I’m not saying we’re going to do it today – but in the next 10 years, what is wrong in Celestial Church having one of the best factories locally where we can source most of the raw materials within each nation. We have quite a lot of raw materials, and we can bring expertise within the celestial fold and outside of the celestial fold to run a very profitable business. We want to see our people work and earn good money so they can give back to God.
These are the areas I think Celestial Church should get involved in the next 10 years; education, entrepreneurship, hospitals and the likes.
CW: Wow, you seem to be a man with a great vision. May The Lord establish the plans in your heart.
Just moving on to the next question now, normally what we see is that other churches and ministries across Africa are known for building universities and schools – some of which even their own members can’t afford to attend. But we don’t often see churches build clinics.
If you don’t mind, could you please expand on what influenced the Covenant Cathedral Parish’s decision to do something different and go for a clinic as its main project?
Dr O: Thank you very much. There’s a new concept all over the world; they used to say that “health is wealth” but it’s changing to “health is life”. When you are healthy you will be able to serve God better. We believe that when we have a healthy society – the young, middle and aged, they’ll be able to serve God better because the healthy soul will be able to do quite a lot of things – pray, read bible and worship God like you want to. You’ll also be able to do more evangelism- that is, going out going for crusades and all the other areas of evangelism. If you are healthy, you’ll be able to attend your services, make contributions, you’ll be able to read your bible more and you’ll get to know more of the word of God. And you will be a happier person.
CW: That’s great sir. It’s evident that Covenant Cathedral’s focus is such that it’s not a profit-driven initiative. Rather, it would seem what it desires for its members and all who come to the fold is the fullness of life promised by Jesus.
Dr O: Exactly
CW: You mentioned earlier that the church gathered the resources which it was able to do and employed people on a part time basis.
So, what we’d like to ask also is how was the church able to gather resources for this initiative? Was it the contribution of the members, were the local residents involved, or were there external investors?
Dr O: For now, what we have done is to ensure that members contributed locally within the church, according to his blessings. Every member had to contribute towards that project, however small – even if it’s just 10 naira. Because I’m very confident in Jesus name that none of us cannot afford 10 naira. So, our preaching is that everybody should be a partaker in that laudable project.
Even if it’s 10 naira, we will accept this. And we thank God, we’ve been seeing some contribution. All of us are involved too, we’re making sure we do as much as God has enabled us. And we hope to do more, we’re not going to be tired, because our aim isn’t profit. It’s not a profit-programme. It’s about service. What we need is just to sustain that vision and mission, and not what we want to get. It’s like an NGO.
CW: You briefly touched on the running of the clinic earlier. How will the clinic be run? Will it provide employment opportunities for members of the church, or will it be managed externally? And how affordable will be the treatment offered?
Dr O: Thank you very much. For now, the clinic will be run by qualified staff. For now, we have seen about two good nurses from the fold. We are going to ensure we pay them. One is retired and two are still serving. So, they use their times when they’re not on their shifts, and I myself go to consult. So, we put our heads together, if there’s any case which needs my attention, I’ll attend to such a case.
But what we are going to do in the near future is to ensure we employ a doctor that is going to man the place fully – very very soon. Not too long a time. By the time we run this thing for about two or three months, we believe we would have employed a full doctor that will be there. We will employ qualified people and all the necessary documentation will be done, so that we will be working as a full clinic, which we know very very soon by the grace of God is going to turn into a hospital. The next thing is moving into a hospital where we run 24-hour services. And our vision in the next 10 years’ time is that it’s going to move to a teaching hospital.
As for now, what we’re doing with treatment is we’re test-running it and we’re giving treatment free. Nobody is paying a kobo. We have sourced some of the materials we are using because when you start telling them (patients) to pay anything for now… you understand the economy of Nigeria. It’s quite morbid. But for those who have been blessed, we’re appealing to them to support us in terms of medication.
We have gone to some pharmaceutical companies, and we’ve paid them, and they’re going to supply us some drugs which we’ll be giving free. But as time goes on it will be so token that everybody will be able to afford it.
CW: Amen, Amen! Thank you, sir…
Now, in closing, do you have any pictures, or is anybody able to record a video tour showing the public what resources the clinic is working with?
Dr O: Yes, we have pictures. Our press crew took my speech during the dedication. We’ll send these over to you.
CW: That brings the interview to an end. We’re very grateful for the time you’ve taken to speak to us. Do you have any other comments you’d like to add?
Dr O: Thank you very much. Let me first appreciate this interview for even giving your time, and for the interest you have in the church. Because it’s not everybody that can spare his or her time. But when you do, you always receive God’s blessings. I appreciate CW.
I want the whole Celestial fold and beyond to know that we have started a good thing within the Celestial fold. We want the support of all members worldwide in making this clinic great. It will be a Celestial property because it will be a pride of the church.
I thank you so much, and God bless you.
CW: Thank you for your time sir.