Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Controversial UK Pastor Alex Omokudu's Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA) Examined

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Pastor Alex , founder of Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA), London.
Blunt and influential Nigerian-born Pastor Alex , founder of Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA), London, met with journalists in Lagos where he hinted on his plan to return to his home country after 15 years of being away; the reason why he remarried despite his stand on divorce; the unrest in the country, why churches should not pay tax among others. Read the excerpts:

Tell us a little about yourself?
What is remarkable about me is that I was born a deaf mute, abandoned and was unable to go to school. I survived by foraging on the streets of Lagos. Then one day I was miraculously healed of my disabilities at a church service and later ordained a pastor. I got married and relocated to the UK where I set up the VPA which is now among the fastest growing churches in the UK. I tell people my story almost every day to inspire faith in God.
To me if the story of my transformation is real then anyone’s story can be changed by God. My success is down to my compassion. Faith, love and hope are the three things ruling destiny. The greatest of them is love. Love gives victory and does not know defeat. I can go to any length to attend to the needs of those who seek my help.
Image result for Pastor Alex Omokudu of Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA)
How did you get the name for the ministry?
When God called me into ministry, he showed me a plane with the inscription VPA on it and handled the key to me. Imagine someone who did not have a bicycle and never thought of having a car. When I wanted to register the church under charity in England and the accountant with me said there was no way it can go through because it sounds familiar and that I should write their names. So I told him that if the name is altered that means God has not called me. So he went further and the name was cleared and he was amazed and that is why he respects me up till now.
You have been away for more than a decade in UK; tell us about your exploits over there?
Pastor Alex as the congregation calls me is something of a phenomenon in the UK, where feats of uncommon miracles are routinely taken with a pinch of salt. Infact I am surprised myself when some miracles happen, so I know it can only be God’s fingers at work.
Members of the ministry believe anything I touch can bring about a miracle but I never fail to remind them that God is the miracle worker and not man. A woman testified of how her daughter was cured of kidney disease after she attended one of our services. While two women with fertility problems both became pregnant after visiting the church, many couples struggling with childlessness have babies now to the glory of God. There was a woman about to undergo In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) who God ministered to me to tell her she would soon get pregnant and she ignored but after six months, she started feeling nauseous. It turned out she was pregnant. Another kind of miracle happened to Rosemond Osei, a 63-year-old Ghanaian business woman who went to seek spiritual help for her business. Instead told her to prepare for her wedding. She laughed it off, given her age, but she is now happily married. People in search of work have miraculously received job offers while those with immigration problems have been settled.
After three months in a coma following complications from kidney disease, Daniel Olery’s doctors told his family to prepare for the worst. As the family maintained their bedside vigil, his niece, Nina, visited a Pentecostal church in east London where I am known and he was given a green cloth prayed over by me, which she placed on Olery’s head. Almost immediately, he began to make a remarkable recovery. Some months later, Olery was fit enough to visit the VPA and give testimony, showing photo of himself in intensive care with tubes attached to his body following kidney failure. I have seen several cases of cancer taken care of by God. Benny Hinn, the renowned American pastor, has made VPA his partner church where he preaches up to four times in a year and last year went on a special pilgrimage with me to Israel.
In addition to the several testimonies of miracles, what are the peculiarities of your ministry?
I frown at Pastors who indulge in the vices the Bible abhors. How can you be a pastor and you are dating members of your congregation? To me holiness is prerequisite for receiving God’s blessings. Part of what I am known for is the paraphrase of the Bible, ‘On Mount Zion there shall be salvation and holiness.’ As a corollary, I believe in transparency. Many who know me know that my attitude to money stands me out. I do not make money the focus in my ministry although God has made me a very wealthy man. I make people know that God demands simple offerings of our hearts. As a blunt person I point out to them that those who request money for miracles are thieves and I do not spare sin or preach prosperity for sinners.
What is the rationale behind your decision to return to Nigeria?
When God called me if he had asked me where I would want to preach, I would say in my village. Told me that God will take me to England to do his work but I did not believe him. I did not know how I got to England. After I left this country in 2002 for the UK, I know Nigerians want what God has embedded in me. I just know that this is the time for Nigerians to know God in a different way. When God calls you he backs you up. I just got about 40 plots of land in Lekki, I tell you that I do not know how I got the land it is just God working. I believe God wants to use me to affect my country because God knows how to use foolish things to calm down the wise and to prove himself. And I know this is the time for God to prove himself in Nigeria. If the miracles experienced in British are experienced here, then God is proving himself. It is also for the preachers here to humble themselves and see what God is doing.
Are you ready for the challenges?
Which challenges? God who called me has been backing me up so I do not fear challenges. Without challenges I won’t be here. I love my country and I want to impact my country. Based on what has been happening in London I am not afraid. A criminal case was forced on me and God proved himself that he is with me, so I am not afraid of whatever the challenges maybe because God is on my side.
Do you think churches should pay taxes?
I do not believe churches pay taxes but every Pastor should make self assessment. A Pastor should pay tax on the money he is collecting, it is called self assessment and it is very important.
How do you see the incessant unrest around the globe and particularly in Nigeria?
It is already written in the Bible, this is part of the signs of the end time which necessitates the need for us as Christians to stand strong in our walk with God. I believe God can take over this country and those who do not know him will come to the light.
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There have been calls for the separation for the country, what is your take?
I do not believe we should separate because the country is better as one; our diversity makes the country interesting. Having the Igbos, Yorubas, Edos and other tribes add beauty to us as a nation; there is law to put those who want to divide the country where they belong. We all grew up to see Nigeria as a country so why do we want it to divide? The north is known for producing a good number of food we consume, while the Igbos are known for business and other regions too have their areas of specialisation. I am very proud of my country and I love my nation. We should pray that God touches the hearts of the president and the national leaders to look towards the poor. Let them listen to the cries of the poor who are dying. This is why I want to come back to Nigeria to impact lives.
What is your message to Nigerians?
The country needs God when there is fear of God. Nigeria truly needs God people are battered and when I think of where God brought me for my heart is broken for Nigeria, I see people and I cry in my heart because of suffering. People will suffer and go to school and end up not getting a job. I have come to my country to affect my country.
There has been an increased rate of domestic violence. On what basis should any man divorce his wife aside adultery?
You know one thing about me, I am very open because if I deceive you I am deceiving God. I just divorced and I am very happy but believe me I am against divorce and I make sure there is no divorce, but when it comes to a case where a woman brings out knife to stab her husband, I will tell the man to run. Same applies to a woman, when a man is violent and carrying knife to kill her, at that point she should run for her life. I have already remarried left for me I did not want to remarry but God said I should get out of it and consoled me. One day a woman came to me during counselling and God said ‘look at her’ and I was like ‘look at her for what?’ I told one of my pastors and he wanted to call her and I said ‘no he should not that if God is the one talking he will talk to her.’ That was how she came later to tell me what God said to her, that she should take care of me and I am still wondering if I am dreaming or if it is real.
How long can a person stay before remarrying?
I do not believe a person should stay for long before remarrying. Any man that stays two to three years before remarrying is committing adultery.
London-based Nigerian clergy, Pastor Alex Omokudu had once been on the spotlight for allegedly selling items suspected to be Blackcurrant and olive oil as ‘miracle cure’ for cancer and HIV in his Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA), Manchester, England.

According to reporters who investigated the matter, patrons of the cleric are irked because the substance, packaged in two bottles, were being sold for about N4,000 instead of their combined street value of about N1,500. 
The development is coming against the background of a recent N6 million fine reportedly, imposed on the pastor’s television channel, Believe TV by the British industry regulator, Ofcom. The same channel had been reprimanded by Ofcom in 2011 for allegedly making claims regulators deemed capable of exploiting vulnerable viewers. 
The church's website describes Omokudu as one that is uniquely called into the Christian ministry who possesses “an uncommon anointing for healing, miracles, extraordinary breakthroughs and deliverance.”
The site states that the clergy had once raised a dead Muslim woman back to life as well as another man who had died from HIV infection. No dates or locations are mentioned for the said miracles.
But the church has been defending its integrity. On its website is a disclaimer warning viewers of its television programmes. According to the site, though the testimonies of healings were made genuinely, viewers should always seek medical counsels on their ailments.
Image result for Pastor Alex Omokudu of Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA)
Members of the Victorious Pentecostal Assembly church protesting outside Barking Town Hall
The text reads: “The Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA) programmes on TV contain testimonies of true stories by people who have received divine healing through the ministry of VPA. They gave these voluntarily without any directive from VPA. We advise you to always seek your medical practitioner’s advice before making any decision based on these testimonies.”
A report in the Daily Mail stated that the claims of using the said olive oil and blackcurrant to cure terminal diseases is being investigated. According to the paper, under the UK's Cancer Act 1939, it is illegal for anyone to run any advertisement, including verbal claims, promoting products as treatments or cures for cancer. Trading standards officers have been told about the practice and they have promised to investigate the case.
The report reads: “Cancer and HIV patients have been told to buy bottles of ordinary blackcurrant squash and olive oil for £14 by a church claiming the blessed goods are a 'miracle cure' for their illnesses. The Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA) sells the over-inflated goods with the claim that once blessed by a pastor they can cure a host of serious health conditions.
Undercover reporters found that members of the VPA congregation in Manchester were told that if a terminally-ill person drank a mixture of the specially blessed litre of squash and 500ml bottle of olive oil, which were being sold at double their real value, their ailments would disappear.
Image result for Pastor Alex Omokudu of Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA)
A church leader who identified himself as Pastor Mbenga also claimed to have previously cured diabetes and a brain tumour using the concoction. He said the mixture would 'do what no man can do' through divine intervention and guaranteed the cancer would be cured. “God will take over with divine intervention and the cancer will disappear,” Pastor Mbenga told the reporters from Manchester Evening News.
The church’s founder, Pastor Alex Omokudu, who lives in a £1.8million mansion in Hornchurch, Essex, has also regularly appeared in television adverts claiming, “doctors do not have the answer - we have got the answer. We have got the answer to healing.” The products sell in several supermarkets for less than £6.
Now a cancer charity has warned the practice is deliberately targeting the vulnerable and could stop patients from seeking proper medical treatment. Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK said people should be wary of 'miracle cures' and consult the advice of professionals.
He said: “It is shocking that anyone could exploit people with cancer in this way. “We would encourage anyone affected by cancer to be cautious of any alternative therapies, especially those that claim to be "miracle cures." If a therapist encourages them to use an alternative treatment instead of conventional medicine prescribed by a qualified doctor, we would also advise caution.”
Dr. Michelle Harvie, research dietician at the Genesis Cancer Prevention South Manchester Trust, urged patients to always seek the advice of medical professionals.
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She said: “When people are suffering from cancer they are often desperate and will seek out alternative or a miraculous cure when it is often the more mundane treatments will do them the most good. The problem is none of this is based on any real evidence, but sufferers are often being told what they want to hear rather than what is a medical fact.
“The sad fact is when someone is suffering from cancer, they can often be at their most vulnerable and they control, but it is really important they adhere to treatments planned by their doctors and lead a healthy lifestyle.”
The church opened in Manchester last year and is the first northern base of the VPA. It has three other churches in Hackney, Luton and Barking. The organisation has previously been fined by Ofcom for making similar claims on its television channel. Believe TV, which is available on Sky and via the internet. It has twice been blasted by the regulator for running promotional campaigns with testimonies from people claiming to have been cured of HIV, cancer and infertility.
The church may also be breaking the law, as any advertisement, including verbal claims, promoting products as treatments or cures for cancer is illegal under the Cancer Act 1939.
Pastor Mbenga however said he was not aware the church was breaking the law.
He said: “It is the word of God. It is in the scriptures that God can heal these illnesses and that is the message we are passing on to people.
“I wasn’t aware of that law. But we live in a free society and if this is what people believe then people should be free to believe in it and carry out their faith.
“We have seen divine intervention in the past where people have been healed of terrible diseases, and believe that God has the supernatural power to bring about miracles. This is what we believe and we are just trying to help people, trying to help them live a better life by giving them the power through God to make changes in their lives. We are not hurting anyone.”
VPA leaders have previously landed in trouble over claims of curing serious illnesses. The church, based in Barking, Essex, was founded in 2004 by Pastor Omokudu. his wife Patricia is listed as director of The Light Academy which runs the religious channel of Believe TV from the same address.
In the one of the channel's broadcast which fail foul of U.K's TV regulator in August 2011, it featured Pastor Omokudu saying that people had been cured of serious illnesses by the church.
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One woman said she had collapsed with “a tumour in my head.” A relative added that she had thrown away her cancer medication and purchased "blackcurrant and oil" from the church. And claimed that when she went to hospital for a scan, there was “no longer a problem.”
Another man told the audience he was given two years to live with a brain tumour. The man said he had come to VPA and had been cured with 'olive oil' – to which Pastor Omokudu responded: “We have got the answer to healing.”
The report concluded that “there was a material risk that susceptible members of the audience may be exploited by the material broadcast on Believe TV'. In February this year the channel was fined £25,000 by the regulator for another broadcast featuring Pastor Omokudu.”
The VPA website gives Omokudu’s background thus: “Pastor Alex Omokudu was born in Nigeria where he was also residing when God called him into ministry. He was born dumb, with a childhood that could barely be identified as normal or enjoyable; Pastor Alex struggled through to adulthood.
“He met with God when there seemed to be no way. His relative had suggested he sold
all of his belongings in order to raise some money to go to Germany where he would start a new life. He did so and also gave up his room where he stayed at no cost – an offer given to him by a very kind man. With the funds raised and his room now given up, he went to see his brother who claimed to have the ability to help him with his travel to Germany.
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He lives rent-free in a £1.1m mansion owned by the church
“Upon his arrival at his brother's, his brother immediately asked him about the money (two hundred thousand naira), which he had told Pastor Alex to bring along with him. Pastor Alex then told him that he had less than he had asked for as he could not raise the whole amount. His brother then mockingly took the money from him and sent him away, but Pastor Alex couldn't help but mention that he had no money to fund his return.
“His brother then gave him back a small fraction of the money which he had taken from him, to enable him fund transportation costs for his return to Lagos, Nigeria. Before sending Pastor Alex away, his brother did not cease to comment that the funds he had raised was just enough for the cost of his proposed travel to Germany. He also told him that he would require over four times the amount of money he had in his possession to fund the remaining costs of his travel. At this point, Pastor Alex was devastated, had no home to go back to as he had given away his room where he lived in Lagos.
were lost and got on what he described to be his “longest bus ride" back to Lagos where he had given up the room he lived in. On the bus he told God that it would be better if he died as all his hopes were lost.
“On his arrival in Lagos, he stopped at the gate of the building where his old room was and cried. He had bid farewell to everyone only a short while ago when he believed he was going to be on his way to Germany. He didn't know what he would say to them when he got into the building. As he stood there crying, two men who also lived in the building emerged to help him into the building after they had noticed him outside. He found that his room had been given away to someone else as they believed he had gone to Germany. It dawned on him that he had to start all over again.
“The thought of starting all over again was strenuous for him, the situation was surreal. 
As he slept that night, the Holy Spirit was waking him up but he would not wake. Then the Holy Spirit slapped him on the face re-iterating that he woke up to read the book of Isaiah 61:1-3. On the same night he challenged God and that night he experienced an encounter with God and was given a vision. In the vision, God showed Pastor Alex a green plane he would use to go preaching the gospel all over the world, the plane was written "Victorious Pentecostal Assembly". From that day, he had more encounters with God and God showed him more things to come.”
Thus began his early ministry which specialised in, as the website stated: “Healing the Sick and Raising the Dead.”
The biography continues: “God sent Pastor Alex to the hospital; he did not know why but he obeyed God and went. When he arrived at the hospital, they would not allow him into the premises to pray for the sick. He was later allowed in to pray for the children only. He prayed for the sick children there and someone there told him that he was just where he was needed and then he knew why God had sent him there. Then he saw a very ill person who was dying and rose up his hands and said, “God, over to you”, and the person was well again.”
Hence, the minister began his cleric work around the city of Lagos “where he had always lived and was known as a common man who had not always been right with God... He obeyed God and remained in the city even though it bothered him what people might think of him. He believed that God would make a way.” His healing work in Lagos was a maze of eventful work and fortune. The website reports that he continued till one day when he got to a Muslim woman who had died. “He prayed for her and she woke up from the dead,” it tated.
“As the woman woke up, she was grateful to the God of Pastor Alex and gave her life to Christ. On another occasion, He sent Pastor Alex to a man who died of HIV. Pastor Alex prayed for him and God restored his life and he was alive again.”
“In the very beginning, God had caused Pastor Alex to have encounters with a man of God in his dreams on three separate occasions. He had never met or known the man before. In those dreams, the man of God was always sorting him out in the crowd and calling him by his name.
Pastor Alex later attended a crusade and there he saw that the ministering Pastor at the crusade was the man whom God had been showing him in his dreams, his name was Bishop Oyedepo. Bishop Oyedepo approached him and took his hand and spoke a lot about ‘more grace.’ Bishop Oyedepo later turned out to be one of the platforms set by God to support Pastor Alex in his journey to becoming a soldier of Christ.
“Pastor Alex began preaching the Gospel to many, giving them hope and healing the sick and oppressed. He would preach in public buses and people would come to him to pray for them. As God began to open up even more to him, he would see visions on the people he preached to on the bus and he would tell them what God showed him.

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