•What He Said At Daddy G.O’s Birthday
Pastor Tony Rapu is the Senior Pastor of the House of Freedom, which has ‘Expressions’ including This Present House, Lekki, The Water brook Church, Victoria Island, The God Bless Nigeria Church, and The Potter’s House of Lagos, Iponri. He is one of the most loved pastors amongst the youth and his church has grown in leaps and bounds. Pastor Tony Rapu’s life is a life filled with uncommon favours and the story of his life could better be told by him as he sometimes talks about it. His journey to the ministry and therefore becoming a pastor is a motivating one when his part crossed with the general overseer of the redeemed church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
It was a worthy and divine encounter when their path met as far back as the early 80s and that was what changed Pastor Tony Rapu’s life thus starting a new life in Christ in a tribute written by the founder of Rainbow book club, kalango, while pastor Tony Rapu was working as a Medical Doctor at Eko Hospital, in 1986, he gave his life to Christ at a Friendship Bible Study meeting in the Ikoyi residence of his eldest sister, Mrs Bridget Itsueli. Shortly after his conversion, he had an epiphany and in a bid to make sense of it, his sister introduced him to a doctor of mathematics-turned-preacher called Pastor E.A. Adeboye. Pastor Adeboye describes the meeting as a divine one. He explained that the day Tony Rapu stepped into his office, God told him the young man was one of three men who would be instrumental to the realization of the vision of the RCCG to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Since he officially put down his stethoscope and picked up the Bible some 25 years ago, in 1991, exactly 5 years after, Tony Rapu continues to step beyond the confines of the pulpit, into the pews, and beyond the pews to meet the people where they are.
This closeness between Pastor Adeboye and Pastor Tony Rapu grew cordial and greater in growing Pastor Adeboye’s vision for the redeemed church that they also held a house fellowship in the Rapu family home, at 27 Ekololu Street, Surulere, where they lived.
Pastor Tony Rapu worked assiduously to propagate the gospel and to take the redeemed church a notch higher and God used this movement to trigger off the unprecedented church growth that would transform the Redeemed Christian Church of God to what is perhaps the fastest-growing denomination in the world today. Pastor Adeboye once described Pastor Tony Rapu as ‘‘…a great man of God…a man of awesome potential, intelligent, articulate, a man passionately in love with God…” He added, “If I have a thousand boys like Tony Rapu I will deliver the world to Jesus Christ in less than 5 years…” In the late 90s,19 years ago, He founded This present house church having relocated from London and that has not haltered his closeness with Pastor Adeboye. When Pastor Adeboye celebrated his 80the birthday few weeks back, pastor Tony Rapu was one of the top pastors who honoured to see Pastor Adeboye in his residence and thereafter wrote a glowing tribute about the man whose encounter shaped his life.
“I met Pastor E.A. Adeboye, “Daddy” as we fondly called him, in 1986. I was 29 and he had just turned 44. At the time, I had just completed my horsemanship at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and was working as a medical officer in a private hospital. I had met the girl I wanted to marry and was now at a crossroads, contemplating a post-graduate program as many of my colleagues were doing at the time.
My encounter with Pastor Adeboye was as life-changing as it was destiny-defining. I recall how, during one of our subsequent discussions, he asked me how long my postgraduate program would last, to which I replied, “about 5 years.” Without much hesitation, he said, “we don’t have that much time.” Those conclusive words propelled me into a remarkable and multi-faceted lifelong journey of faith and the diverse expressions of God’s call upon my life. Not long after this encounter, we went on to establish the Apapa Parish (later known as Freedom Hall) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Freedom Hall marked an era of revival which brought many professionals into the kingdom of God.
My initial experience with Pastor Adeboye began at 1A Cemetery Street, Ebute Metta, the then headquarters of RCCG. I had recently given my life to Christ at a Friendship Bible Coffee (FBC) meeting in a private home. The FBC meetings were bible study groups guided by Mrs Bridget Itsueli (my eldest sister) and some other ladies. Before then, I was lukewarm towards religion, but following my decision in her home that Sunday evening, Mrs Itsueli later convinced me to have a meeting with Pastor Adeboye. He was at the time a mentor to the FBC ladies and often spoke at their events. She described him as a learned mathematician with whom I would be able to relate. And so after some persuasion and perhaps a little out of curiosity, I accepted and she booked an appointment for us to see him. We arrived a little late that Monday evening at the Ebute Metta venue, and Pastor Adeboye was already in the church for the ‘Digging Deep’ weekday service. We accepted to wait and see him after the service, and so we joined the congregation.
Until then, I was used to sedate services in very orthodox settings, so this initial experience was profoundly different. The prayers were loud and the congregation quite expressive. The environment certainly was not something I was used to. I was like fish out of water. When Pastor Adeboye mounted the podium to preach, he spoke alongside a Yoruba interpreter — this may have been the first sermon I ever really heard in a Pentecostal setting.
His sermon was laced with stories about hearing God’s voice, and his experiences as a Christian lecturer in Ilorin. His message was as interesting as it was thought-provoking. After the service, we met him in his office. It was cozy with a dark blue carpet and comfortable blue sofas. We exchanged pleasantries briefly and we told him about my recent decision to accept Christ. His response was just as brief, encouraging me to return whenever I had questions to ask. He ended with a simple prayer, after which we left.
In early 1987, just a few months after this initial meeting, I attended an all-night vigil in a home in Ikeja where I fell into a trance for about 4 hours. When the meeting ended at about 5 am, I drove all the way to the RCCG Camp Ground on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, where I had heard Pastor Adeboye resided. He had asked me to come back if I had any questions, and that night’s experience was alarming enough to warrant a trip at that hour. You must recall at this time there were no mobile phones and the campground had not yet been developed. There was just one auditorium and a few buildings. I arrived at about 6 am without an appointment and Pastor Akindele, the Church Secretary at the time, was gracious enough to grant me an audience. He explained that Pastor Adeboye had himself just concluded an all-night vigil. I requested to see him for a few minutes to help me make sense of what had just happened earlier.
I was ushered into Pastor Adeboye’s office a few moments later. I reminded him of who I was and to my pleasant surprise, he recognized me. In a few words, he explained that I had just experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and those were the gifts of the Spirit in manifestation. His exact words were, “that’s new wine bursting forth on you. Young man, go and rejoice.” He added that it was regrettable that those leading the meeting were themselves inexperienced. It was just a few minutes again with him but it was a defining moment for me. The very next Sunday, I was at the morning service at the headquarters in Ebute Metta, and from then on became a member of the RCCG.
One thing led to another as I became more regular at the services. After a while, I attended the discipleship classes. In addition to the ‘combined service’ with the Yoruba interpreter, Pastor Adeboye introduced an early morning 6.50 am ‘English Service’ for the benefit of a new community who were now joining the RCCG, some of whom were my friends. Pastor Adeboye’s messages were short, sharp, powerful, insightful and very practical. His unique blend of humility, academic prowess and deep spirituality made me embrace his messages wholeheartedly. We were disappointed on the Sundays he was not in church, but later began to enjoy the sermons from Pastor M.O Ojo.
I was growing as a Christian and volunteered to be an usher at the ‘English Service’ and from there moved to the New Guest department. Shortly after, Pastor Adeboye introduced the ‘Model Parish’ church planting program and that was the beginning of a revolution. He asked me to join the pioneering team that planted Ikeja Parish, and later on, requested that I join the team that also set up Ikoyi Parish. Finally, he gave me the go-ahead to raise a team myself to plant the Apapa Parish at the Roxy Cinema in Apapa and on Sunday, May 5th 1991, Pastor Adeboye himself was there to inaugurate the new church. We later moved to Jimoh Odutola Street in the Eric Moore area of Surulere. This was the beginning of an intense church growth season that culminated in the setting up of hundreds of churches. Pastor Adeboye’s influence and impact during this time cannot be quantified.
As the church grew, I made frequent trips to see him at the campgrounds and shortly after, began to travel the world with him. First to Zambia in 1992, then to Germany the year after. It was while we were in the home of the then Nigerian Ambassador to Germany and in the company of Jacque Heasley our friend from Conway, Arkansas in the USA, that Pastor Adeboye gave me the Joshua charge. He took words straight from the words of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. He said to me: “Joshua, I charge you. I encourage you. Be strengthened.” That night in Bonn, Germany, I began to make plans to set up a church in London. It was there I conceptualised the name and brand of “Jesus House” for the international churches which commenced with the setting up of Jesus House London. We had our inaugural service on Sunday, March 6th 1994 in the 128-seater theatre (which we quickly outgrew) at Warner Bros Cinema in Leicester Square, Central London. I later came back to Bonn to set up the church there and shortly after planted Jesus House DC in downtown Washington DC, in the USA. Pastor Adeboye’s influence on us at this time remained as huge as his impact was immense.
Pastor Adeboye belongs to that generation of pioneers who advanced the kingdom from the early 70s, a commitment which he has steadfastly maintained from then until now. In this period, spanning over 4 decades, he has faithfully and tirelessly overseen the monumental growth of The Redeemed Christian Church of God. His diligence, discipline, endurance, wisdom and extreme patience are noteworthy.
His resilience, self-effacing nature, reticence, tenacity and strength in quietness, were all qualities that endeared us to him. Pastor Adeboye is a mentor of mentors and a leader of leaders, and like Abraham, has become a father of many nations.
We could see the high value he placed on family life. In spite of his intense ministry schedule, he was clearly a devoted husband and a loving father. He was and continues to be, a man of prayer who regularly engages in the discipline of fasting. His capacity to maintain individual and personal relationships with his many spiritual children is extraordinary.
We cannot conclude this tribute without mentioning the invaluable support that Mummy Adeboye has provided to the monumental success of Pastor Adeboye’s global ministry. She was on many of those trips I was privileged to take with Pastor Adeboye, and those times provided us with the opportunity to learn from him and study the Bible. Back in Nigeria, we would often go to Camp at times not necessarily to see Pastor Adeboye, but to visit with Mummy who regularly indulged us with good food. We salute her endurance and steadfastness and the love she shows to a huge number of spiritual children across the globe.
Pastor Adeboye’s son, Adeolu and I became close in the early 90s while we were pioneering the Jesus House church and we would often meet in the Adesanyas’ home in North-West London. Adeolu’s shop on Edgware Road was where I got many of the fitted suits I wore at the time. This is also an opportunity to thank Adeolu for his consistent support and friendship over the past 30 years. As I moved on to establish This Present House, Adeolu became the link that ensured I received invitations and attended significant occasions hosted by Daddy and Mummy G.O.
My wife Nkoyo and I heartily congratulate Pastor Adeboye on attaining this significant milestone and we thank God for preserving him in strength and grace over the past eight decades. Our prayer is that the Lord will continue to bless him and his family immensely. He has been a tremendous blessing to us and a legendary figure in the Kingdom of God. Pastor Tony Rapu. The House of Freedom”.
Today Pastor Tony continues his work under the House of Freedom, the umbrella organization reaching out to different strata of society – This Present House (the flagship church), The Water Brook (church for young adults), God Bless Nigeria (church reaching out to the poor indigent communities), Holy Trinity Church (for an orthodox yet vibrant expression of faith), The Potters House, (a community church in Costain), and Mount Zion (a church reaching out in areas like Alpha Beach and Jakande). Through the Freedom Foundation, he oversees Genesis House and House of Refuge (rehabilitation and empowerment organizations) and Bethesda (an education agency). His social reform work is the subject of the video documentary My Lagos Diaries, which was presented to a select audience, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, in October and presented to a wider audience on January 21st 2017.
This reformer, Tony Rapu was born in Kano on January 1st 1957, now 65 years old, he is the only son of an Ibo Catholic family. He is the fourth of six children. His father, T.D. Rapu, worked with the Nigerian Customs while his mother, Maria Rapu (nee Ofili), was a teacher. He grew up like any well-bred, middle-class young man and attended King’s College Lagos in the 70s and later in the 80s at the University of Ibadan where he took a degree in Zoology and later in Medicine.