Changing Lives Forever: Festival of Life
19th April 2018
The biggest annual Christian event: Festival of Life is held in three major regions in England.
Birthed in April 1996 by the Redeemed Christian Church of God, every year England's masses rush to its venue.
But could this all-night miracle service really change your life forever? - Yeside Fawehinmi
The DLR doors ping as they open, hundreds of congested footsteps rush up the platform stairs as they head to the automatic doors swishing opening and closing.
This is absolutely nothing compared to the thousands of rushing voices murmuring in excitement as everyone heads to the venue.
Tonight is the night 40,000 Christians from different walks of life would have an encounter that would somewhat change their lives forever. The London Excel Exhibition Centre holds an annual all-night vigil where Christians gather together to not only sing songs of praise and worship but to listen to guest speakers preach the word of God through their own life experiences. ‘Festival of Life’ is an internationally renowned event that has been ongoing since 1996.
It starts at 7pm but the doors open from 6pm because everyone wants to get a good seat and be able to see the stage. I got here at 5:55pm and the queue to the auditorium was already the shape of a boa constrictor.
At first, I let out a loud sigh of disbelief of having to stand in this whilst the sounds of chatter fill my eardrums, babies in pushchairs loaded with heavy duty bags and children running in and out of ‘daddy’s’ leg. “Stop it!” a woman says as she scolds her little one.
Let’s face it, the later you come the more likely it is you’re going to be watching the whole service from the flat screens installed in each row- which to me defeats the purpose of such events.
Up close and personal is where you see all the magic unfold, all the women with little children on the far left incase they fall asleep and set out their sleeping bags and most of all where the exit and entrance of the stage is.
I know what you’re thinking: “What on earth?” However, for 27-year-old hospitality worker Mercy Ahonkhai the most part of these eventful 12 hours spent in this venue,
“Is a time for different performances, reflection, meditating on what you would like to achieve and a time where you just take advantage of this gathering by proclaiming positivity and rejecting negativity.”Mercy Ahonkhai
“Not only that", interrupts an older woman, Debbie Aguirre a 50-year-old housewife from Belgium.
“I’ve been coming here for the past 6 years and I know what God has done for me, every year I come with three things I want God to do for me and every year he fulfils them. I must get my ‘Testimony! Testimony, Testimony!”Debbie Aguirre
Her faith is infectious.
Finally in, an usher shows me to my seat. Looking around, harmonious music is playing on the keyboard, the choir’s colour-coded attire and melodic voices is so captivating.
For as long as we stood in the queue it takes a matter of moments for more than half of the auditorium seats to fill up. “N2” I say to myself. That’s the name of the row I’m sitting in, I must remember that so I don’t get lost incase I need to go out. A few moments later, a lady takes centre stage and starts to lead the choir in praise and worship.
Thousands of hands are in the air waving side to side, eyes closed and and voices raised in unison. ”Let the Holy Spirit fill this place…” she sings continuously and before I know it the euphoric atmosphere is so contagious it draws me in. I start to think of Debbie and all the things I want God to do for me and decide right there and then I’m going to have that same smile and joyful dance of ‘Testimonies’.
Three hours have gone by and I’m in dire need of a toilet break. Every toilet I’ve been to has a long queue when I finally see one on the opposite end of the hall with a queue half the size. I pick up the pace as I not only don’t want to miss too much of the event but I don’t want a truck load of people to suddenly notice the shorter queue.
A man is humming to himself and I recognise the song, Nathaniel Bassey, ‘Onise Iyanu’. This past year has been a great year for him in terms of recognition. He is a renowned Gospel Artist and minister from Nigeria and his songs have been sung in churches all over the world. The man looks at me and we share a smile and from there we get talking.
“I just love Nathaniel Bassey, says 30-year-old Kunmi Adebiyi from Woolwich. Whenever he ministers its always so powerful. The Lord really blessed him with a gift to minister because he doesn’t even know he changed my life. Growing up I used to chill with my friends, getting up to all sorts and never really was a fan of church or these big gatherings but my sister forced me to join this ‘Hallelujah Challenge’ that he did on Instagram and Facebook Live every day in June and honestly, I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t joined that. When I found out he would actually be ministering here, I just had to come- I mean, its Nathaniel Bassey!”-Kunmi Adebiyi
Kunmi’s statement resonates with me and its all I can think about as we go our separate ways. I realise that many people from all walks of life are here for different reasons. Some are here to get ‘Testimonies’, some are here to change their lives and some are here as a form of gratitude to God or someone who helped them be who they are today, at this precise moment.
The festival is a collection of different Christian churches from all over the world but organised by Pastor Wale Gibson of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Headquarters in Brent Cross, Jesus House. The idea was to unite Christians from all over the world and celebrate the Christian religion as a whole.
The General Overseer, Daddy G.O. or Pastor Enoch Adeboye as many refer to him started the festival in Nigeria and it was a huge success. Every year the 76-year-old comes to London with his wife, Pastor Mrs. Foluke Adeboye to preach a sermon at around 12 midnight and is the one most people come to see. His teachings and sermons often share personal stories of his life, people he has prayed for and testimonies he has experienced.
“The Lord spoke to him and laid it on his heart to come to the UK and do it in major cities, London being one of them. We used to do it twice a year in London one in the beginning of the year, April and towards the end of the year, October but now we only hold it in October because it proved more conducive. My team and I wanted to get involved because not only is it a way of bringing fellow brethren together but its another way of tapping into the anointing of God. Says 54-year-old Pastor Wale Gibson-White.—Pastor Wale Gibson-White
The festival further spreads the message and vision of Daddy G.O. – the Gospel.
Having experienced the euphoric indoor interdenominational festival, it is safe to say that not only is it a night of Christian music, drama, singing, dancing but also an all-night vigil of prophecy and preaching that Jesus Christ is the Lord and personal Saviour of the world.
It is a spiritual revival that welcomes all walks of life and all ages, the testimonies shared incline that God is listening to peoples prayers. No matter what burden or struggle you come with or whatever life may throw at you you end up leaving feeling at least hopeful that God is the ultimate intercessor.