Rev.(Mrs) Yinka Badejo, wife of the former General Overseer of the Foursquare Gospel Church, Rev. Wilson Badejo, turned 70 last Saturday and many people poured out to celebrate with her. There were parties as different groups chose to host her specially. But she does not feel 70. So, she has declared: ‘No retirement until God calls!’ She tells us more, in this interview with PAUL UKPABIO and BIODUN ADEYEWA.
How do you feel at 70?
I feel very happy. I feel very fulfilled and I am grateful to God. There is nothing I have desired when it comes to comforts of life that God has not given to me. So, I thank Him.
Now that you are 70, what will kind of work will you be doing?
Now, I am running a ministry. It is a private one. There is nothing like retirement for me. One does not retire in the ministry. I will keep going in the ministry until the Lord calls me. My ministry is about prayer and counsel. It is located at Gbagada and it’s called the Dew of Heaven.
What type of congregation do you minister to; is it private or public?
It is public but not a church. It is like a support arm to the church. We organise programmes mainly for women who are looking up to God for the fruit of the womb. We meet and pray for matured singles and for those facing one kind of challenge or another. It is mainly a prayer and counseling ministry. But we have a weekly fellowship, which is open to all men and women.
When you were younger and you heard that someone was 70, what readily came to your mind then?
I thought 70 is far away, that it would take eternity for me to reach there. When I turned 70, I took a hard look at myself. I recall when my father turned 70 in 1990 and we had a big ceremony for him. I remember that I thought then that I had a very long way to get there. Now, I’m there. It only shows that time is short.
What’s the secret of your agility?
I would say it is grace. I also take good care of myself in terms of eating. I watch what I eat. I am careful when it comes to food intake.
You are a known fashionista. Now that you are 70, is your fashion sense going to change?
I don’t think so. I am still going to be as fashionable as much as I can.
Do you follow the trend when it comes to fashion?
I don’t follow the normal trend of fashion. But I make myself fashionable in my own way. If I were to be dedicatedly following the fashion trend, then I will be going about naked these days because the current fashion these days is to either be naked or be very half naked (laughs). Anywhere you go these days, you find the ladies that way, and the boys wear rags. How can you buy a good trouser and then begin to cut it? I know rags are meant for mad men.Today’s fashion is somewhat faulty because what is meant to be private is not for public show.
Are you saying that because you are a pastor or because that is how you personally feel about today’s fashion?
If you look at my pictures even as a teenager, I used to always wear my high heeled shoes and I always had a hat on me. That fashion style grew up with me. I love hats.
What endears you to hats?
I just love hats. It makes a lady look good like a princess; it also makes a lady look like the child of God. It significantly completes and compliments a lady’s dress sense and style. It has been significantly a part of me from my early days.
You are 70 today; can you flash back? At age 16, 21 and at 40, what were the things that were dear to your heart?
At age 16,I was still in the secondary school. The major things we were discussing then were the type of career that we would love to have, the type of man we will like to marry. We were reading fictional literature then, novels written by Dennis Robbins and many other such writers. Dennis Robbins novels then used to convince us that when a lady marries a man, it would be happiness ever after (laughs). The passion I had then was to become an occupational therapist. There was a time one of our senior pastors came back to talk to us about career. Then I loved to sing and dance. I told him I would love to be a show girl. But he said I would have been good as a show girl, but that I was not slim and tall. But thanks to God who gave me a ministry that placed me in the public eye.
At 21, I was on the way to the university. I was more matured and I had given my life to Christ at 17. From that time on, my focus and thinking had already changed and conditioned to a gospel life.
Did it occur to you then that you would one day get married to a minister of God?
No, never. It did not even cross my mind. I never liked being a pastor’s wife because the pastors that we had then were like never do well. In the 60s, my mom and I were travelling from Lagos to Ibadan and on the way, we were chatting. She said she was grateful to God for giving her a good husband, very comfortable home and good children, but that there was one thing that she missed in life which she could refer to as her only regret. So, I asked what she missed in life. She replied that she would have loved to have been a pastor’s wife. We were attending the Anglican Church then. So she said that people respected ‘Iya Yard,’ the pastor’s wife, as she was fondly called then. I was not happy with what she said because I wondered why she would crave to be identified with poverty. Pastors then were known for their torn shirt collars and their long well worn shoes that usually looked like Sinbad, the sailor’s shoes (laughs)! I knew I could never marry a pastor because of their poverty status then.
So, how did you get to marry one who eventually became the General Overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church?
It never crossed my mind but how it happened only God knows. But at the time that we were getting married, even though we had begun serving the Lord, I thought we would still keep our profession and be going to church like normal Christian couples do. But God later called us for full-time ministry, and we had to abandon our initial vocation and face it squarely. But at 40, I could see I was already toeing the life of a minister’s wife because at 40, my husband was already a minister in the local church. He was already commissioned as a pastor. At 40, that was in 1989, he was already the senior pastor.
What was your lifestyle like at that point?
Initially, he had been working in the ministry, combining it with his career as a veterinary surgeon. But when he turned 40, he decided to answer the call to full-time ministry. I didn’t like it because that meant we were going to lose some comfort, because as the deputy manager of the company that he was then, we were entitled to so many things like free eggs, free chicken with comfort here and there. My freezer at home used to be filled to the brim and he was consulting for about 22 firms. So, I asked him if he was going to lose all these things. It took him some time to convince me that he was going into full-time ministry. To make it worse, he said he was not going to be taking salary from the church. I was a senior civil servant then but my salary was not what one could scream about. But God was faithful because our standard of living did not fall below what we had even when he went into full-time ministry. At 60, I was already the wife of a general overseer, a grand mom and I knew the intricacies of ministry and all what life is about. At 60, I had already made up my mind what I would be doing at the evening time of my life.
Now at 70, what advice do you have to young women and single women?
I will tell the mothers first that they should train their children the way of the Lord so that when they grow, they won’t depart from it. Let mothers do their homework properly; stop hiding under the canopy of ‘my husband is not doing this, my husband is not doing that’. The children are from both of you; so you both have stakes. If the children fail, then you have failed as a mother. The father can change you and start another family with another woman and you become the loser. So, in a home, my advice is that women should let their concentration be on the home. Work hard on your home; be diligent. If nothing is coming from your man, God has already earmarked you to be a helpmate. You are to help him and not to put everything on him. And in a situation where he is not even contributing, leave him to God. After all, if he dies, you still have to face the children yourself. If you take time to train and nurture your children well, they will turn out well. Some mothers tell their young girls to take advantage of their feminine nature, indirectly introducing them into prostitution. And when they become full blown prostitutes, then they begin to shout. But when the girl was bringing the reward, you were not asking her where the money was coming from. If Charles Wesley’s mother could train about 19 children, how many does an average mother have today? Women should stop laying faults on the men’s table. Make sure you are grooming godly seeds that you are giving back to the society, godly children.
What example do you have in your children to share?
To the glory of God, I have children that are married. I have never been called once to come over to settle quarrels. They are all at peace and I have my peace. If their homes are not at peace, a mother cannot enjoy peace at old age. So, why not do the necessary work of a good mother when you still have the strength to do so? Young girls are to seek God early. When you are properly focused and know God, you are not likely to miss your footsteps in life. If as a girl you are on God’s side, if there are 100 girls and 20 men, you will get your own man among the 20 because you serve God. You do not have to run helter-skelter or compromise your faith with the people of the world. A girl should, lastly, have a good vocation, focus on it and do well.
The number of single women has kept increasing over the years, what can you say about this?
Single women have always been around; it’s just that the rate at which it is increasing is alarming. Some are divorced women or the man just walked away or came back much later. The increase is alarming too but it’s also because good jobs are reducing; many men are leaving the country; many men are also dying; there’s higher mortality among the men than women. The men are not ready to marry young. By the time most of them decide to marry, they go for the younger ones and the older ones are left on the shelves.
At that point, what should the ladies left behind do? Should they accept their fate and become single moms?
I have said that the Christians among them will get husbands even if the ratio is 20 men to one lady. And there are some women that are not just earmarked for marriage. They don’t need it because they can’t live with a man. Some, their ego is a problem. And when a man assesses such women and realises that he can’t control her, he runs away.
You’ve come far in life; what does success mean to you?
It means fulfillment of destiny. It is when you are what God has destined you to be. When you are there, it is success. If God has destined you to be a medical doctor, ministering his healing powers, and you are there, that is my own understanding of success. If God has destined you to be a pastor and you are there ministering to His people, then you are fulfilled. Fulfillment of your destiny in life as God has ordained is success.
Can you point to one or two situations in life that have made you grateful to God during the course of your ministry?
There are many of them. But one of them is that some years ago, I had cancer! It was a major battle. Immediately I confirmed it, I laid in the comfort of my bed and told God that it’s either He takes me or He takes the cancer away, that two of us cannot live together. And God heard my prayer. He came to me in a trance. He took me to the spiritual. He was with a fork and a knife. He ripped open my breast (she touches the particular breast). That was how I knew in the spiritual what cancer cells look like. When He finished removing the cancer, He closed my ripped breast up and I regained consciousness. The lump was gone. It used to be very painful. My husband is a medical person. By the time I was examined again, it was gone. And the problem of cancer is majorly the pain. It was gone. There are some cancers that are malignant but when it is really cancer, it comes with pain. I knew that cancer is from the peak of hell, an affliction.
How old were you then?
I was in my late 50s. It disappeared totally; nowhere to be traced. A second situation is when I was looking for the fruit of the womb. We went to the best hospitals then, and there was nothing seen that was preventing pregnancy in me. At one of the hospitals that we went then along Western Avenue as that road was called then, after the man checked everything, he called my husband aside and asked him: ‘Why did you marry this thing? This one cannot have a child!’
How did you take it when you heard what he said?
I wept. He told my husband that he had made a mistake; that I can never have a child. That was the beginning of my seeking the face of God in prayers. And the day that God came to visit me, I was praying on my knees and fell into a trance. I saw myself lying down on a table. There was a ladder on that table, which stretched all the way from the top. Then this huge figure came just like the bible describes Him. I couldn’t look into His eyes. He descended the ladder; He had a knife in His hands and as He came down and he said: ‘I am coming to do the work myself’. Earthly doctors could not do it because perhaps it was a spiritual battle and they couldn’t see what had gone wrong.When, he got to where I was, He thrust the knife into my womb and I regained consciousness. I realised that I was still on my knees. So I ran to my husband and told him what just happened. He told me to go and record it and I did as he said. Exactly nine months after, I had my first child. After that, I had more children and now I have grandchildren too.
After these two instances, did you have another encounter with God?
I hear His voice from time to time. There was a time I waited on God for 60 days. But I didn’t see or hear from Him. So, it was like I wasted my time. But on the 60th day when I wanted to round up. I heard a voice say: ‘Go on another three days of praises.’ So, I started praising God. On the third day, it was like wool was removed from my ears and I could hear Him vividly. And on each topic that I had tabled before him, He gave an answer. God is certainly still alive.