Reuben Akinwalere George was a man who will never be forgotten by the members and leaders of the Gospel Faith Mission International of Nigeria. Indeed, he must be mentioned in any history of the church, as he was the founding general overseer, and it experienced tremendous growth during his tenure.
Akinwalere George was a man who had a hunger and a thirst for God, and he was committed to the true word of God and to evangelism. He devoted his life to the study and propagation of the word of God, and he also had a great passion for evangelism and the salvation of souls. This commitment and passion gave birth to the church now known as the Gospel Faith Mission International. Akinwalere George was one of the most influential preachers, leaders, and founders of his time, especially within the Pentecostal circle.
Reuben Akinwalere George was born at Igodan-Ilesa, in the Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, in 1926. He was the first child of his family. His father, Pa George, was a strong and committed Christian. He was a member of the Christ Apostolic Church, and had been a disciple of Joseph Ayodele Babalola. Anytime Babalola visited, he was usually hosted by Reuben’s father. The family was highly devoted to Christian ideals. Reuben was a member of the choir and he eventually became the leader. He was a vibrant and dynamic youth and was also the youth leader for many years. He attended the Methodist Primary School in Igodan-Ilesa, and upon leaving the school, he learned blacksmithing, becoming successful in that trade. He later moved to Lagos and worked as a senior man in his trade with a firm called the West African Construction and Development Company, in Ebute-Meta. He also had oversight of many apprentices who were learning the art of blacksmithing.
In 1954, George married Janet Dupe, who was a princess from a family in Ikale Land, in 1954. The marriage suffered delays in childbearing, and some years later the woman died in childbirth. The child died later, and the marriage produced no surviving children. In 1967 Reuben married Deborah Dagold, from Christ Apostolic Church in Okitipupa. This marriage was blessed with six children, one of whom is Christianah Oluremilekun, who was born in1968. He did not allow this delay to affect his relationship with his Lord, and did not see it as a problem but as a challenge.
George gave his life to Christ in his youth and was highly committed to God’s work. He was zealous to see the kingdom of God established, growing and flourishing. This passion and commitment led him to be a choirmaster and a youth leader in the CAC at Igodan-Ilesa. When he moved to Lagos, he joined the Christ Apostolic Church at 83, Lagos Street, Ebute-Meta, where he continued exhibiting his passion for the growth of the church. At that church he joined a group called the Christ Army Band and became their leader. Members of this group gave their time to prayer, Bible study, and evangelism. From the time of his first encounter with Jesus, Reuben had always felt a deep conviction about the calling of God in his life. In his quest for power, he went into a period of forty days of fasting and prayer. At the end of this period he received a vision in which God showed him people in white robes. A mighty wind blew the white robes off, revealing that the people were all black inside. He then heard a voice telling him that what he saw was what the power he was asking for implied, and that instead of asking for power, he should rather ask for knowledge and understanding about God through His word. This explains why he chose to teach the word in his ministry rather than to place emphasis on miracles.
On December 3, 1955, George and his wife, together with some brothers that included David Olubode Akinremi, Meshach Adeluwoye Akinola, and Emmanuel Shokunbi, moved from Ebute-Meta to 9, Omotola Street, Iwaya, Yaba, Lagos. George and his wife rented the front room and the parlor, and the men rented the other single rooms. All of them were strong members of the CAC at Ebute-Meta, and when they moved to Iwaya, Yaba, they were still going to Ebute-Meta for worship. Discovering that going to Ebute-Meta for worship on a regular basis was strenuous because of the distance, they decided to hold Bible studies and prayer meetings in their newly rented house and to only go to Ebute-Meta for Sunday worship.
George was very active in arranging and leading the Bible studies and prayer meetings that were held in his sitting room. Soon, the group began to hold Bible studies, evangelism, and regular services in the neighborhood. Through the personal evangelistic efforts of George and the other members, more people began to join the group and it grew rapidly, to the extent that his sitting room was no longer large enough. He discussed this with the caretaker of the house, who allowed them to erect a tent in the compound. So, in 1957, a signboard bearing the inscription “CAC” was placed in front of the tent church. The church continued to grow through evangelism and incisive Bible study, to the point that the tent had to be extended until it covered the entire left-hand side of the ten room house.
George was the leader of the church and the chairman of the church committee. It should be stated here that until that time the church was still under the CAC at Ebute-Meta and people were being sent from there to come and preach and to lead the services. The young church at Omotola Street was strongly motivated to evangelize and was also given to the preaching of the Scriptures. George provided the necessary materials for teaching, and sound Bible teaching and evangelism formed the bedrock of the churches’ activities. The members were very enlightened by his teaching of the word of God, and their knowledge caused some Jehovah’s Witnesses to engage them in several debates about the Bible. It was apparent to the Jehovah’s Witnesses that the members of the Omotola Street CAC studied the Bible more closely than any other church in Iwaya at that time. One evening, at the close of one of these protracted and heated debates about the Bible, the leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said, “I am convinced that we cannot persuade you to turn from what you believe, and that you cannot persuade us to stray from what we believe in.” This prompted the church members to study the Bible even more.
George led the church to be cohesive, to live as a family that loves all of its’ members, and to have as their main objective the preaching of the Gospel and the teaching of the word of God, coupled with prayer and fasting, which the CAC was known for. The church was always yearning for deeper spiritual experience, and this desire to grow more in the knowledge of the word of God, coupled with an unquenchable thirst for deeper spiritual awareness, led the church to pull out of membership in the Christ Apostolic Church on July 24, 1958. George led the church to be affiliated with the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, now known as the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which was then being led by Pastor Akindolie, who was later known as Pastor Akindayomi. Through this alliance, the church became more developed in spiritual matters.
On December 13, 1959, George was ordained as the first full-time pastor of the Omotola church by Pastor Akindolie. He had resigned his appointment and left his trade aside because of his conviction about God’s call on his life. The church went through a lot of changes, such as changing Sunday school from evening to morning, and making it for children and adults alike. At that time, Sunday school in the CAC was basically for children. The church also stopped the excessive drumming, clapping, and dancing. During the affiliation, George also had a relationship with another pastor in the person of S. F. Odunaike, of the Apostolic Church. This relationship helped the church and its leaders to become more rooted in Biblical truth through regular training and teaching led by Pastor Odunaike. However, the affiliation with the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa did not last more than two years because of George’s uncompromising zeal. There was a doctrinal issue that caused disagreement between the two groups. The crux of the matter was that the Willoughby assembly of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa believed in the total eradication of sin: once one is saved, sin is literally uprooted and can no longer take root. The Omotola assembly disagreed with this position in the light of the word of God, which says that sin can be “forgiven” or “covered,” according to Psalm 32, verse 1, but not uprooted in a once and for all occurrence. This disagreement happened in 1960, shortly after Pastor P. D. Lee Roux, who had visited from South Africa, returned. After breaking away, the church adopted “Apostolic Faith Mission of West Africa” as its new name.
George led the church to partner with different churches for assistance in carrying out its mission, especially that of evangelism. He first met with the Church of New Jerusalem that was located at 9 Fatiregun Street, Brickfield Road, off Apapa Road, Ebute-Meta, Lagos, which was being led by Tunde Ogunsanya. The equipment belonging to that church was used for crusade outreaches throughout the period of the partnership. He also met with another church called the Gospel Mission, located at Palm Avenue, Mushin, Lagos, which was being led by Pastor J. O. Martins. He developed some interest in the pastor and the principles of that church, which led to high level discussions, in the hope of an eventual merger. Each church wanted to maintain some level of identity in the merger, so they agreed that since they had the word “Mission” in common, each should choose another preferred word from their respective names. Thus, Gospel Mission chose “Gospel,” while Reuben’s group chose “Faith.” This brought about the new name of the church, which became “Gospel Faith Mission,” and they both dropped their former names. It was then agreed upon that George should move from Iwaya to the Mushin church on Palm Avenue. On July 20, 1962, he moved to Palm Avenue and became the pastor in charge of the Mushin church, living on the church premises. His commitment and selfless service made the new church experience tremendous growth and development. At this time, E. O. Abina was asked to lead the Iwaya church.
George led the new church, Gospel Faith Mission, to have a branch in Ibadan. However, shortly after the establishment of the Ibadan branch, the merger experienced a crisis and it was abolished. This happened in 1963, and the Mushin church reverted to its former name of Gospel Mission, while the Iwaya church retained the new name of Gospel Faith Mission. George remained in the newly established branch at Ibadan. At this time, the church already had three branches, which were Iwaya, Bariga, and Ibadan, with three full-time pastors. Under George, the leadership of the church realized that there was no longer a need to seek affiliation or merger. The church could stand on its own and struggle to survive, with God’s strength.
On October 9, 1967, the Gospel Faith Mission became an incorporated body under George’s leadership, with perpetual succession and a corporate seal under the Land Perpetual Succession Act, Cap 98. The church registration number is 950. This was the beginning of Gospel Faith Mission International, led by Reuben Akinwalere George, who was from the CAC. George’s emphasis became the emphasis and mission statement of the church: salvation of the soul from sin through Jesus Christ, the son of God. Through his commitment, selflessness, resolute focus and doggedness, the church continued to grow and to spread throughout Nigeria, Africa and beyond. In 1965 the church was established at Fiditi, along Oyo road, and at Okitipupa, George’s hometown, in February of 1967. Branches of the church were also established at Ile-Ife in 1967; at Ikot-Ekpene, Kano, and Abeokuta in 1972; at Benin City in 1973; at Akure in 1974; at Sapele in 1978; at Effunrun in1979; at Warii in 1980; at Ikpoba in 1983, and at Afashio, Ekiti in 1985. Under George the church spread to Ghana, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, and Liberia. Also in 1983, Gospel Faith Mission International spread to Europe, and by 1984, it had spread to the U.S.A., with different branches across America.
George was a persistent preacher, and an evangelist to the core. He was also a good administrator and an encourager, and a loving and meek person. As the founding general overseer of the church, he imparted his life to many people and spent his life and possession to give the church a strong foundation, which is why the church is still very strong today. He acquired a vast area of land for the use of the church in the Ojoo area of Ibadan, and another parcel of land in the Igbo Oloyin area of Ojoo, as a convention grounds for the mission. The mission’s headquarters were eventually located at the Ojoo site. George loved education and the acquisition of knowledge with a passion, so he led the mission to establish schools for both secular and theological training. He also led the church to have a publications department, where Christian materials and the word of God are being published and circulated for the growth and edification of the body of Christ. George’s contributions to the body of Christ cannot be exhaustively listed.
George died on November 9, 1987, at the age of sixty-one, and an interdenominational funeral service was held in his honor at the Interdenominational Gospel Center of the Gospel Faith Mission in Ojoo, on December 19, 1987.
George was a man who lived out his faith, practicing what he preached. He believed in preaching the word of God to bring people into the membership of God’s family, and in teaching the word of God to enhance their freedom and to promote Christian maturity. He believed in binding the people to God for service and in helping them to live out the word of God so that they could demonstrate their new life in Christ to the world.
Samuel Olugbenga Oladiran
Adebisi (deacon), Gospel Faith Mission International, PPS assembly, Bodija-Ibadan.
Akinola Olagoke, Gospel Faith Mission International, Bodija.
GOFAMINT, Past and Present (Ojoo-Ibadan: GOFAMINT Press and Bookshops Limited, 2004).
This article, received in 2010, was written by Samuel Olugbenga Oladiran, a student at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu and Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.