A member of Bishop David Oyedepo-led Winners’ Chapel, Mr. Samuel Eleng, is the father of a four-year-old girl, Praise, who returned home last week after spending two years and three with her kidnappers. He spoke on how she got missing, the trauma the family went through and how she eventually regained freedom.
My daughter, Praise, is four years and three months old. She has a twin sister, Glory. I am a member of the Winners’ Chapel. I have been a member since 2000.
They were given birth to on April 17, 2009 at Festac town. The way they were delivered was a miracle- 19 children were delivered and they were the only twins and they were taken to the altar and were anointed.
When they clocked two years and 10 months on April 17, 2011, I came here with my children, it was an anointing service. I told my wife, “Can we take them to Children’s Department?” and she said “yes.”
Praise was not happy about going to the children’s department that day. I didn’t understand was she was saying. So, I forced them to go that day.
We all went to the children’s department and two tags were given to us. And we came back to the service celebrating in God’s presence.
After the service I told my wife to pick the children from the Children’s Department and meet me in the bus. She agreed. So, we went to our bus and we were all waiting. We waited for five minutes and she did not come and we started getting worried. The driver of the bus asked what was delaying her and I said ‘may be my wife was finding it difficult bringing the children’. Then, I went to look for her.
What did you see when you got to the Children’sDepartment?
When I got to the children’s department, I saw her weeping outside and asked what the problem was. She said ‘our baby Praise cannot be found’. I asked the teacher in charge and she said the person who gave them the two tags had gone for fourth service. I said, ‘madam, do you people play negligence here?’ She said, ‘no, everywhere is well secured.’ Then I said, ‘how come my baby is missing? How can a baby get out of this environment without you observing it?’ She said I should check the next class. We checked the next class, all to no avail.
Throughout that day, we were in confusion; I refused to go home and insisted on seeing Bishop David Oyedepo.
At the end of the service, I saw the Bishop and told him what happened. He quickly rushed with me to the Children’s Department and asked where the class was. I pointed at it and he made declarations: ‘I have not sensed any evil signal; that child is coming back.’ I held on to that word because he is a man I love so much. I keyed to the word and I said, ‘daddy what next?’ He said I should go to the camp house and stay with my wife. I said ‘ok’.
What happened thereafter?
That was when we started our problem. Monday came, nothing happened. On Tuesday too, there was nothing. The Bishop always came to visit us, asking how we were. I always told him we were fine. He kept proclaiming the same declarations that she would be found. And we held on to it. But as a man in the flesh, I was touched and started weeping and crying. One day, we said ‘ok, if that is the case, let’s make it public’ and we contacted AIT. We went there and she was on telecast and we continued our prayers. We still held on to God. Neighbours made comments and nicknames were given that I had used my child for rituals; that I had connived with the bishop and it is only me who know what has happened to my child. Whatsoever they said, I paid deaf ears to it. But my sure assurance was that brethren gathered in the presence of God. I never attempted to go anywhere else.
You said people gave you names. What names? Did you lose hope of finding her and how were you comporting yourself amidst the name-calling and trauma?My bishop gave an instruction at the Church Secretariat, up to the secretary on the last floor – that if I came to the office, nobody must say that he was not around. He said anytime I came, they should take me up and he would be comforting me with the word of God and that’s what I did. So, anytime I felt down, I would just come down to the church. My wife came with the little baby, that she wanted to see daddy.
I said, ‘daddy this is what they have said again concerning me’. He would then say, “Samuel kneel down” and I would go on my knees and he would embrace me and say, “I transfer my peace to you” So, that was how it went on. It was his peace that was sustaining me.
After the 2011 incident, I was here for Shiloh 2012. When it got to the police, the way and manner people were handling it was not to my comfort.
When we went to the police, they said they wanted to take the case to court but I said no, I said ‘how can I stand in court against my father?’ So, that was how I didn’t show up in court.
Some members of the church went there and they called me to come but I refused. Because there was no way I was going to stand against my father, Bishop David Oyedepo, in court. I said, “God, if you cannot do it, just leave it; but there is one thing I assure you of, I will never go another way.’
I left the church for a while and didn’t attend any church. I locked myself inside the house and would always place my baby’s picture inside my Bible and cry unto God.
It became a thing of friendship between me and God. God started assuring me, “Samuel, your baby will come back!” I never met with the Bishop again. I consulted no pastor again.
My wife and I prayed in the mid-night hours, naked before God, crying unto heaven. I would weep all night and when it was daybreak, I would be the happiest man, going about my business, as usual.
My baby, Glory, would comfort me, saying, ‘daddy don’t cry, I saw Jesus carrying Praise on His shoulders’. My wife said she wanted to be pregnant again in order to find comfort. So, she got pregnant.
What really broke the head of the devil is where I am going now. when my wife was pregnant, we went to the Redemption Camp frequently to pray until the day of delivery.
On December 27, 2012, my wife went to the hospital for delivery at about 7.p.m. I was on my way to the hospital when I heard a voice, “Samuel, shut your mouth. Whether you pray or you don’t pray, the way and manner this child will be delivered, that is the way your baby, Praise, will come back." I looked around me but saw nobody.
I went to the hospital and was eager to see how the miracle was going to happen. I saw my wife and I said, “How do you feel? Have they attended to you?” And she said no. She said there were other people in the delivery room. She said I should pray and I said “No. Let’s us not pray” having said that, I told her what the Lord had told me on my way to the hospital.
Behold, the baby in her womb pulled out without her entering into the delivery room. From that day on, I cast away worry. The Lord said to me, “Samuel, I have come to give you peace.” So the pain in me, the feeling of pain was erased from my heart.
Every where I went, I took my Bible, encouraging myself in the Lord. Three months after that, I started going to a nearby church. I kept waiting on the Lord to speak and I kept giving thanks everyday, especially in the midnight, with my little baby.
On June 12, I dressed my daughter up for school and I put the food on the dining table. I asked her to come and eat. We usually pray together before eating and she prays this way: “Father, thank you for today. As we are about to eat, bring my sister, Praise, and let her come and join us in this table.”
That particular day, my daughter said, “Daddy, but we have been praying for Praise, where has Praise gone to?” I said to her, “Praise has travelled with mummy and she will soon come back”. I never knew that those words were words of prophecy.
The following day, I took her to school and two days went by and nothing happened. But on Saturday, June 15, I was in the shop and I received a call, “Are you the father of the twins?” I said, “Yes” and she said “I am Mrs. Adewale” I said, “from where?” She said she was from Obasanjo Farm Police Station. I asked her what she wanted and she said my baby had been found. I asked her whose baby because it was too shocking.
At first, I was scared, because I thought it was another plan of kidnap. I called the woman back and said, “This is me ma. The I. P. O. before was Mrs. Lawal , so why is it Mrs. Adewale that is calling me now? She said, “Lawal has been transferred.”
I then asked of the D. P. O. because I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth. She said it was another DPO that was there. I went to pick one of my brothers and two other men to accompany me to the station.
So you saw her at the station?
When I saw my baby at the entrance of the police station, I was shocked and amazed at the same time. I fell down and I collapsed and the police started carrying me up.
I thought I was no more because I didn’t imagine God doing this kind of thing. I know that I have followed God in sincerity of heart. I said “God can you do this thing?”
I turned to my daughter and carried her. When she saw me, she said she wanted to go and sleep. She no longer speaks English; it is Igbo language that she speaks now. I called her Praise and she said ‘Yes’ I said ‘I am your daddy’. She hugged me and kissed me.
The police men said, ‘If a miracle like this is happening, the whole of the station will be worshipping the God of Oyedepo.’ I bless the name of the Lord! God is awesome. I thought my waiting was in vain, but I have now seen the hand of God. I will serve God all the days of my life.
Have you gotten any idea who the kidnappers of your baby were?
There were speculations. Some said that the person who took her must have printed a fake tag. They said that the kidnapper might be someone we know. I said the only person that is close to me is a printer and I was the one who invited him to this church in February 2011 and then in April Praise was kidnapped.
The police said that if that was the case, the man was a suspect . So, we went to arrest him. I told them I didn’t want to go to the court but I was forced to.
On getting to the court I saw the brethren all there. As at that time, I had never been to the court before. The judge complained that I was asked to come to court before but I refused; so, the case was adjourned. I went on my knees and said, “God have mercy; you are the judge of all.”
Do you know the man that made the confession? Have you ever had any dealing with him?
No, I don’t know him. We were told that he came to confess to the Bishop and after the confession he became blind again and died. He is in the mortuary right now.
The police came to meet the Bishop here and that was where he was interrogated.
We heard that there was a syndicate; the person who stole the child, the person who bought her for N40, 000 and the last recipient in Enugu who bought her…
The person who took the child to sell is in the police custody and the person or people who bought the child are still in Enugu.
Don’t you need to know to what extent they dealt with the child while with the syndicate?
I don’t think that is necessary because the Bishop said they have carried out medical tests on the child and the child is okay.
You have an idea what they were using your child for these past two years?
They are in the police custody; so, the police will let us know.
As the father of the child, you should find out from the police what really happened, don’t you think?
Yes. It is necessary!
How has Praise’s interaction with you been since she returned?
It was just yesterday that she returned. Blood is thicker than water. The Bishop gave us a car to go and pick her twin sister. When we got home, to my surprise, nobody told Praise to embrace her beloved sister. I asked her “am I your daddy? She said, “Yes” and she also spoke to her mother on the phone calling her “mummy”; she was so happy. Praise and her sister were playing and so they didn’t go to bed on time. Even while they were asleep, they crossed their hands together.
What was your wife’s reaction when you told her on the phone that Praise had returned home?
I don’t know whether she cried or laughed, but I heard a loud voice. She shouted like never before. She kept calling and asking me if I was sure that Praise had returned. It was until she spoke to Praise herself that she believed.
She is on her way now; she said that she wanted to lead the praise in Winners Chapel before coming back! She travelled with our last daughter so they are coming back together.