In an age and time when many Nigerian churches and Christian ministries seem more often to ‘take’ from the community rather than give, Global Harvest Church Lagos has joined the league of those few that have redefined ministry. On April 22, 2011, Global Harvest Church Lagos launched a novel and innovative community outreach initiative tagged ‘Shop4Free’. Perhaps choosing to introduce such a concept on Good Friday was just in line with the spirit of the season, commemorating Jesus’ death and crucifixion, and indeed a perfect time to demonstrate true love. Shop 4 Free is a community project initiated with an initial goal to feed, clothe and give hope to over 1,000 people at its first outdoor market.
The doors of the venue, NECA House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, opened at 7am to a crowd of people. With an overall turnout of about three thousand people, the venue was saturated with a buzz of expectation and joy. This crowd of people comprised social workers, street cleaners, ‘okada’ riders, mechanics, law enforcement agents, the less privileged, and yes, they shopped for free. The church hall was stacked full with variety of products ranging from food items including bags of beans, rice, semovita, tins of beverage and milk, cartons of noodles, spaghetti and sugar, packs of frozen chicken, to clothing with mini boutiques set up for both male and female wear, books, drinks and personal effects. Forming a queue, people were assigned Shop4Free vouchers worth N2000 for individuals and N5000 for families. They proceeded to walk through the well structured make-shift supermarket to pick items for themselves and their families. Adequate controls were put in place by the project committee to ensure each person/family got just a voucher and used it only once, to make more available for others. The shop closed at 3pm, after 8 hours of meeting people’s needs. In the words of the Senior Pastor, Rev Victor Adeyemi, “The joy on people’s faces yesterday made it worthwhile for Global Harvest to reach out with this initiative”.
In what is seen as an exemplary case of Church Social Responsibility (CSR), Global Harvest church has joined those few others in setting the pace for community focused ministry. Departing from the general impression of prosperity for the benefit of the church, or perhaps as many may reason for the ‘Man of God’, Global Harvest church appears set to create a paradigm shift, keeping focus on more on the community. Shop4Free was funded by generous donations and wilful giving from individuals near and far. Could it be that there are still many benevolent individuals out there who seek such channels to reach out to the society? They may not be inclined to contribute to the direct needs of the church, but are enthusiastic to support whatever the church determines to do for the society. Perhaps this model of ministry is laden with such potential for growth and maximum impact. It certainly is reminiscent of the early missionaries who made their way to Africa, to preach the gospel. Their tools of outreach were embedded in the provision of service to the community, and as such they built schools, hospitals and clinics, roads and houses, many of which are still in use today.
The Nigerian society craves for change like never before. While we wait on the government to get its acts right with education, health, security and other forms of infrastructure development, there is an opportunity for non governmental institutions, including the church, to tap into. Some churches have such nationwide coverage that positions them to reach out to practically every region in the country. Embracing such possible initiatives as Shop4Free, Health4Free, Jobs4Free, Education4Free, Roads4Free, Housing4Free, with sincerity of purpose, and nationwide deployment, will certainly put joy on more faces, while drastically reducing poverty levels. There will be innumerable positive effects on society. Societal impact cannot be left strictly in the hands of the Government. The church and religious institutions must definitely play a part.
For Global Harvest church, this surely must be one of many steps in the right direction, and indeed an exemplary case of church social responsibility. There must be more to come!