You can’t ignore her cheerfulness! Not only in outward appearance, where she dispenses smiles and laughter at any given opportunity, but Reverend Mother Esther Ajayi is also a cheerful giver. Her giving grace is unparalled and has since remained unequalled. In a society and race where some pastors are labelled to be on the receiving end, Iya Adura, as she is fondly called, shifted the goal post—her cassock exhumes a generosity that can be likened to the biblical David, who gave thousands of oxens in worship of God. Founder of the Love of Christ Generation Church, C & S which is situated in London, Iya Adura shares her intriguing story of grace. She lets us into her family background, the man who married her 34 years ago and what she gains when she gives to people, society and organizations
Who is the personality behind Iya Adura?
Rev Mother Abimbola Esther Ajayi is the personality. She is a God-fearing person that God has been kind to and who is under the special grace of God.
You were a businesswoman turned pastor, how did that happen?
I’ve always had dreams of having a bell and a big Bible in my hands. I dreamt of sending people out of church that have gone fetish and cleansing dirty altars. My journey to ministry kick-started in 1997, when as a businesswoman, the then, National Electric Power Authority, NEPA owed me N4.2m. I was in Abuja and was bent retrieving my money because I was owing a bank and was servicing heavily. One day, I boarded a taxi and as my usual practice, I would always pray every hour. The taxi driver, who I called Baba Ogbomoso (he’s late now) saw me praying in the taxi at 3pm and I asked if he would join me. We prayed together after which he asked if all was well. I told him about NEPA owing me. He quickly asked me if I would meet a woman of God to pray for me. Desperate for help, I agreed to see the prophetess. That was how I met Rev Esther Oguntoyinbo. Immediately I got there, she knelt down and asked me to pray for her. I was confused and wondered what she was saying because I had come to her to pray for me. She persisted and I just said a short prayer. Then, she said God wants me to carry His cross and that God would prove this with the payment from NEPA, which she said, would be paid within 7 days. That way, I would know that God wants me to carry His cross. Before I left her place, again, she asked me to pray for her.
On my way back, I wasn’t pleased with what the prophetess said because I needed my money to be paid and not carrying any cross. But on the fifth day, I went to meet the Chief of Army Staff, General Oladipo Diya in Aso Rock. He is from my husband’s town, Odogbolu, Ogun State. He had always warned me against taking government contracts. That day when I saw him, I told him my plight with NEPA and explained that I needed the money because my business wasn’t doing well and the loan I collected from Intercontinental Bank was still unpaid. Gen Diya then asked a soldier to follow me to NEPA and that was how I got my money.
I was shocked because I thought the prophecy would come to pass like a month and not on the fifth day! So, I went back to the prophetess to pay my tithe and she explained to me how I would start God’s work. She said I could start with morning cry, preach the gospel and I should use a bell. I knew I would be too ashamed to do that. So, I would drive to a place, alight from my car, bring out the bell, ring it and rush back to the car. I was ashamed!
After that experience, I went to a prayer mountain in Iragbiji, Osun State and I got an instruction from God to ring the bell from my house to the streets if I don’t want anything bad to happen to any of my kids. That got me! The day I wanted to start, I went to tell my husband. He took the pillows and covered his ears. But, I took the bell and started ringing. From these experiences, I reasoned that the Lord wanted me to summon up enough courage and tell the world about Him and that I am not ashamed of the gospel.
That was how I started preaching and I would preach on my streets, everywhere and even when we came to London. I would ring the bell and preach the gospel on the streets of London, saying, ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Initially, people looked at me but they got used to it and said hello.
Most women would tell you that there are hindrances to heeding God’s calling. How did you manage yours?
God has been kind to me. If God is the one who sent you, the mission becomes so easy. My situation is a special one and that’s why I’d always be kind to humanity. Initially, my husband, like every other African man, was not in support of such gesture when, according to him, I should be facing my business and making money. He mocked me when I started the Bible College and wondered what we were doing in the College from 8am till evening! He saw me as wasting my time in Bible College when I should be in my shop. Amazingly, God arrested him and he is now a lecturer at the same Faith Bible College. During my graduation, he came and He cannot believe how God arrested him.
Where and how did you and your husband meet each other?
We met in the same secondary school, we were in the same class but I dropped in form three and he became my senior. He is a smart person and he would always help to teach me Physics, Chemistry and Biology. He is a student that would question the teacher whenever he scored 98!
When did you get married?
We got married in 1984 but we were at the Ikoyi Registry in 1989.
Successful women in ministry sometimes, encounter challenges in their marriage. How did you scale through that hurdle?
That’s no challenge. Humility comes before honour. A woman needs to exhibit humility as a wife. Ego is in every male—black or white. Grace has gotten me this far, but humility also takes you far in ministry as a woman. Whenever I am ministering and my husband is present, I would kneel down and greet him first. Who doesn’t love honour? That I am a woman of God doesn’t stop the scripture in Ephesians chapter 5 which admonishes women to submit to their husbands. It doesn’t stop you from cooking. It doesn’t change my name as Esther. It doesn’t change me as the Esther the world sees. As long as it gives me peace in my marriage, why won’t I do it? I understand the fact that some women have terrible husbands but, you cannot use darkness to chase out darkness. Remain humble and God will intervene.
You still cook for your husband?
Yes and I enjoy cooking. I cook for my husband anytime I’m around. Vegetable is my signature dish which I cook with Egusi.
How do you run the church in London and still shuttle between, Nigeria and other countries?
Whenever I am not around on a Sunday, they put me on the projector and other digital devices and I pray for the congregation. I talk to them too and I do live sessions with them. A good leader breeds leaders. There are able hands in the church running the affairs of the London church. They have gone to pastoral schools. Amazingly, my children are in the ministry and they are doing well. If you listen to any of my children ministering, you would bless the Almighty on my behalf. I’m under God’s special grace.
Who are your parents?
My parents are of blessed memory and they are both Aworis. They are Lagosians—my father is from Agboyi and my mum from Ikotun.
Did your parents witness seeing you as a pastor?
Yes, we were members of the Cherubim and Seraphim church together. My father was meant to be a king and interacted well with his people. We slaughtered ram during festival but he died before he was made king. It was my great-grandfather that brought the Methodist church to Agboyi town. From age 19 or 20, I had been feeding my parents. In fact I built my first storey building before age 25. They were collecting the rent but I renovated and rented it out after their death.
Was there any significant occurrence before, after or when you were born?
Well, my parents told me that when my mum was pregnant with me, there was an abundant supply of everything including money. That is why I got the name Abimbola (born into wealth) my mum would always insist that I bought goods from her before she went to the market. She would call me and give me money to buy first. Even the neighbours did that too.
Was there prophecy that heralded your pastoral call?
I recall when I was age 14 or 15, and my mother was ill. I was called to come and pray for her because she was lying down in the room and had sweats all over her. I prayed for her and the next day, everyone started thanking me that my mum was healed. I just looked and wondered what was happening.
Then, I remember a particular woman was pregnant and was long overdue for delivery. I just told her to bring a bowl of water and I instructed her to walk over the water and also drink it. She did and started having contractions. She named the baby, Oluwasanmi.
Then, there was the time the prophetess I went to in Abuja also asked that I prayed for her that God wanted to use me. I see it as unmerited favour from God.
You are renowned to be a committed and generous giver. When it comes to giving what inspires you?
Luke 6:38 admonishes us to give and it shall be given back to you in good measures pressed down, shaken together and running over. Giving attracts God who gives back more. Currently, we are building our church in Victoria Island, Lagos and when the church is commissioned, I am going to narrate the story that people will be in awe. Nobody can believe how God used people to help me, how I got a church of 5.2million pounds in London. It’s a story that inspires you. God owes no man anything. In the book of Hebrew 11:6 says, ‘God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.’ I don’t believe in hoarding money. Why not give it to those who need it and will pray for you.
What is your advice to Christians?
Keep loving. The book of John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…’ I have always believed that the more you love, the more selfless you become. Love will even kill your greed.