Reverend Thomas Shikaan is the Senior Pastor of the Spirit Christian Life Assembly which has several churches and schools across Benue State. He is also the current chairman of the State Christian Pilgrim’s Welfare Board. In the last three years he also served as the Central Planning Committee chairman of the Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers and is carrying out the same assignment in 2019. He spoke with AUSTINE TULE, on the objectives of the conference and general strategy to tackle and overcome challenges of the Christian gospel in Tivland. Excerpts:
Can you introduce yourself to us?
I’m Rev. Shikaan Thomas Orsar. I’m the Senior Pastor of Spirit Life Christian Assembly and the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers.
What are the objectives of the conference?
The first and paramount reason why we are gathering is for awakening, it’s for a revival, it’s for the people to encounter the fire of God again in preparation for the great call of God upon the Tiv nation. We trust God that as we gather, the people will be fired up so that they can go, carrying fire to provoke changes wherever they are serving. Secondly, we trust God that COTGOM is a forum where the ministers of Tiv stock come together to have a platform to rub minds, to encourage ourselves, to work to create synergy for the work that God has called us to do. It’s a place where we trust that we can corporately pray believing that as we corporately pray, there are more answers because if two will chase ten thousand, I believe that with a thousand pastors, there is no matter confronting the Tiv Nation that Tiv Pastors will gather for three, four days praying that will not bow. So we are believing that as we gather, these three things will be workable and will be clearly made manifest in our meetings.
Who are participants at the conference?
The name of the conference is ‘Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers.’ So every Tiv man who is involved in Gospel work – winning souls, changing lives; they belong to this conference. They can come along and we’ll welcome them. So it’s not restricted to Pentecostal Pastors at all.
Can you give us the history of the conference and also share your experience?
This conference began about three years ago. We have held about three editions, this year will be the fourth edition. So the conference began three years ago precisely in August, 2016 and it has been an awesome meeting. Pastors have been affected positively. I think a programme’s impact is known by the level of impartation and at the end of each conference, pastors keep calling to say that their work is improving; that they have received much more grace; that they are much better now; that they have learnt new things and we believe that it has made a lot of impact in the lives of the pastors – changing ministries and pushing people forward. Another big thing that the conference is doing is that it is uniting us. It is breaking barriers and bringing the Tiv Gospel ministers together. That is a big achievement on its own. Thirdly, we’ve been placing ministry materials in gospel ministers’ hands and these materials have been very useful. I remember we were in Buruku few days ago and a pastor said “Pastor, the material you placed in my hand – The Shepherd Staff, I’m using it to train my workers now. In fact today, the training is going on.” So we believe that these materials have been doing a good work in the lives of people as we place them in their hands in the course of the conference.
You mentioned one of the materials. Are there also some others that you put in the hands of the gospel Ministers?
Yes. In the first year, we placed in their hands the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. The second year, we placed The Shepherd Staff which is more like a Bible School itself and in the third year, we placed in their hands God’s Generals and several other books and they have been very useful to these people.
What are the other issues that engage when you gather?
There are so many things confronting us but one of the biggest problems we have is that if people don’t change, you can’t make much progress. Government and Churches have very good programmes but good programmes must be run by transformed people and we are praying very specifically that God will bring a revival in our land. He will cause and spark multitudes of conversions in our land. Secondly, we have issues that are political in nature and we can’t shy away from them. For instance, we have the issue of the herdsmen killing us. We have issues that they want to take our land. These are issues that bother us that we are praying against. I’m trusting that God will step in and change a lot of matters surrounding our lives.
We have issues of crises in our land. There are communal crises, there are all kinds of crises. We are trusting that God will intervene and cause a change in this matter. We are also praying about our land which is an agricultural hub. We are trusting that pastors are going to rise up, to get into agriculture. We are trusting that pastors will rise up and lead the way because there are a lot of opportunities. But you know, one thing about people is that people don’t just do things because they are told, they do things more because they see other people doing them. So we are trusting that our pastors will rise up and get themselves involved in agriculture and that a lot of people will buy in and that there will be a lot of transformation even in that area. Not just only doing peasant farming, but mechanized farming and also try to process our raw materials. We are praying and encouraging our pastors to be involved.
Can you give us an insight into how many people have participated in the programme and how many you are expecting this year?
In last year’s programmes, we had about a thousand people and we are trusting that this year conservatively, 1,500. But because we want to be realistic, I will say about 1,300 people will be around in our conference this year.
What are some of the personal challenges that these gospel ministers who live mostly in the rural areas face and how can they be assisted to overcome them?
We’ve gone around the terrain of our land and we find out that there are pastors who have been working for ten years in some communities and some of them even to wear good trousers is a case. Some of them to pay the children’s fees is another difficulty; they cannot afford good schools. Others even where to sleep – they sleep on mats, some on blankets and we feel that for as many Christians who are privileged, they can come along to assist them. They will see them themselves during the programme which comes up between 14th and 17th of August, 2019 and be able to assist as many pastors as they can because these pastors have leaders. We have leaders at every Local Government, and they understand the pains and what the pastors are going through. So I think they can assist them – things to sleep on, clothes to wear, shoes, books and you can even put up a scholarship to pay some pastors’ children’s school fees.
When you bring together over 1000 gospel ministers, who pays the bills?
We trust God that He will pay the bills. He always has. He pays the bills through mobilizing his own people to support the programme because the pastors are fed, they are accommodated and what have you, and God has never failed us. We believe that this year also, He’s going to touch His people and they’ll send in one or two contributions and the bills will be paid.
Where is the venue of the conference?
This conference will take place at the New Covenant Christian College International, located at Km. 8, Naka Road, Makurdi. We have a facility there that accommodates participants and we have a good hall there that can take care of the meetings.