One of the channels through which the vision of The Fountain of Life Church – To build the home, and thus the nation; and to equip the saints for life and ministry – is being pursued is the Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home (GSRH), a non-profit institution set up to rehabilitate street urchins. Recently, the Senior Pastor of the church, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, granted an interview to The Fountain Magazine alongside Television Continental (TVC) in his office on the activities of this NGO. Here, we serve you the interview:
PANEL: Sir, Your NGO, Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home (GSRH), has been helping to rehabilitate some street urchins, particularly around the Oshodi environs, please tell us what motivated you into setting it up?
PASTOR TAIWO: We are here to affect people’s lives positively by endeavouring to unite broken families. This NGO has been on since 1992.
PANEL: Could you please throw more light on the essence of a united family?
PASTOR TAIWO: Yes, if you consider what the Bible says, the Lord declared, “Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness.” There, you could see the Trinity acting in unison to demonstrate agreement in a family. That was the first time God deployed the use of a plural in His Creation. In that declaration, God was actually aiming at the family. In every other aspect of Creation, God simply said, “Let there be light…Let there be a firmament…Let the waters under the heavens be gathered…and so on”. To demonstrate His intention, after creating man, He declared that it was not good for man to be alone. He gave man a woman for the purpose of companionship, procreation and dominion over the earth. God aimed at bringing about synergy and cooperation on earth as demonstrated by the Godhead through His proclamation. So you can see that for man to fulfill his mandate here on earth, he will need to cooperate with another person. That is why it is said in the Book of Ecclesiastes that two are better than one. When two reason together, they will have a better reward for their labour. Therefore, the essence of a united family can never be overemphasized. That is why we are doing everything we can in this ministry to ensure unity between husband and wife, as one enhances the other. Furthermore, we are after the future of the children and society at large.
PANEL: Sir, talking about the children, what do you think is the reason behind many children flooding the streets now? Why are they escaping from home?
PASTOR TAIWO: The only reason you will find children roaming the streets is the failure of the family. It is unthinkable for a child to escape from a peaceful home. What it boils down to, therefore, is for parents to jointly take charge. Parents should endeavour to carefully and prayerfully instill the required discipline in their children, while doing everything possible to make the home as trouble-free as possible. This is because the moment the family fails, every other thing in the society fails. Where a child is not properly brought up, he becomes a problem to himself, his family and eventually the entire society. That is what we see in all the places we have operated in, like Oshodi or Onipanu. Why would a child want to leave if all is well in the home? There must be something chasing him from the home. Firstly; he has not been made to understand the reason why he should be at home, and why he should submit to the leadership and training at home.
When you talk to some of them, they say “I was abused by my father’s wife…Oh, my mother beat me and my mother would not understand why somebody accused me wrongly.” These may be flimsy excuses, but the bottom line is that there is no cohesion at home. So, when we pick them out there, the first thing we usually say to them is, “hey, we want to listen, talk to us. Don’t you think what you’re doing is wrong? Don’t you think your father and mother love you?” Usually, they would respond that if their parents loved them, they did not demonstrate it. So, the first thing that matters is that parents must demonstrate love to their children, realising that every human being gravitates towards love. When you show them love, they respond with understanding. When we talk to them, they listen to us, and when we get their attention, we can now say to them, “we will give you a place to stay, we are going to listen to you. Now, you can take your bath, we have some good things for you, you can go to school…” You will discover that the same boy who ran away from home and school now becomes interested in life once again. Everybody enjoys the atmosphere of love. And how do you achieve this if not through love? Jesus said, “By this shall men know that you are my disciples.” So, it is our own way of reaching out to the community through the love of Christ, and if we are going to really prove to them that Christ is their Lord and Saviour, we must endeavour to meet their needs. That is why we strive to do the things we do. Thankfully, most of them turn out to be submissive to the teachings.
PANEL: How easy was it locating these children and, then, being able to reunite them with their families?
PASTOR TAIWO: In the first place, locating them, that is, getting to meet them, was never a problem to us. This is because we know the flash points and their specific areas of operation. You will notice that any time there is crisis in town, it is usually worse around Oshodi and Onipanu because of the presence of these boys. Apart from that, some of our members have been attacked by these youths. So, for our own good and for the good of the youths, we just did what we had to do.
I was somewhere in the United States, and one Bishop was wondering why we would go to such places in search of such people, I reminded him that the Bible says “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creatures.” I mean, the Bible says this for our own good particularly. Why? If we fail to reach them on time, they will reach us, and when they reach us, they will reach us on their own terms. So, why don’t we reach them first on our own terms and in love? The truth is that if we allow them to reach us first, they would not reach us in love, they would do so in anger, frustration and resentment. So there is wisdom in reaching them first in love.
Again, it helps us to discover some potential great leaders among these children. Some of them have now graduated from tertiary institutions, and some are currently in the universities. These were boys that would rape and maim under the bridge. Now, you are asking how easy it has been reuniting them with their families. It is pretty easy; when a man is converted, everything about him becomes converted. If, before we took them to the Home, we asked them where they lived, they would not tell us. But now, suddenly they discover a nice home, and are looking forward to a bright future, and at this juncture, when you ask them, “who are your parents?”, they will tell you right away, “where do they live?, they will tell you straight away. The first thing we do as we are reuniting them is to get an assurance from them that they are not going back the same way they came. They are going back with knowledge. They still have God, and they can always talk to us, their education would continue, their coming to church would continue, their interaction with positive members of their community would continue. So, they go back home happy. They go back home to help reform where they are coming from. What chased them out of their homes in the first place is not strong enough anymore to confront them. They are out to change their environments. In fact, they are made leaders in their communities. Besides, we have fulltime staff, people like Lara Ogunbosi and other leaders who take these boys one-on-one in counselling and travel with them to their homes, some outside the country. Some are in Republic of Benin, and some in Togo.
PANEL: Thank you very much Sir. How much longer is this programme going to last? What is going to be its lifespan?
PASTOR TAIWO: We started this programme in the ‘90s, and it has grown tremendously. Initially, we had a problem of where to put the boys, so we had to rent a house at Ikorodu. Now we have bought over the property. Initially, it was just a plot, but now we have an additional plot, and we are restructuring. That tells you that we are growing. One of the future plans is to also rehabilitate the women in one of the properties we are currently developing also at Ikorodu. We are equally looking forward to collaborating with those who have the facilities for drugs rehabilitation programme. So, to answer your question on how long we are going to do this? I’ll say until the Lord comes. If God permits us, we will even like to get a place as large as Ilupeju for rehabilitation programmes. We are ready to do the much we can because, you never can tell; the next President of Nigeria may be among those waiting to be rehabilitated. We have a particular interest in these youths who are being abused, but it is our reposibility to find ways of bringing this abuse to an end.
But, other than this, we have some other programmes with the Lagos State Government schools at Ilupeju. Some of the students we have assisted under the programme, in the neighbourhood of between 20 and 30, are in universities now. We will continue to do the best we can. Picking them off the streets, we will continue to reconcile them back to their parents, and God will continue to give us grace in Jesus’ name.
PANEL: Amen. Any word of advice for parents?
PASTOR TAIWO: Yes, I would not like to see my children where I saw these boys, and I do not think any right-thinking parent would want that. So, my advice to parents is that it has got nothing to do with how much money you have, but how much love you are ready to share with your children. If you let them know how much you have and how much you can afford, they will stay and make themselves useful and strive under the circumstance that they find themselves. Love is very important. Carry them along, show them love. Let them know that you have a measure of faith. If you are a Christian, take them along to church. If your faith is Islam, take them to the mosque. Do not let them feel that they dropped from heaven. When they have problems, they must have the confidence to approach you. Let them see you as offering solutions to their problems. Let them know that there is value to life and let them know that home is where God has ordained that we develop the leadership for tomorrow, and I know that God will take the glory in Jesus’ name.
PANEL: Amen, thank you Sir.