The founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Temitope Joshua, has pledged to visit South Africa once every month to honour scores of South Africans who died in his church’s building collapse.
The South African High Commission had said 84 of the 90 people who died when the church’s guest house collapsed on September 12 were South Africans.
During Sunday’s worship service, Mr. Joshua said his decision to visit South Africa often was a revelation from God and a blessing to the people of the country.
“Those who are affected in one way or another and those who passed onto glory, their greatest desire is to see that the work of salvation they died and suffered for continues and reaches unreachable places,” the cleric, also called T.B. Joshua, said.
“For that, what they are coming here for should be taken to meet them in their country,” he stated to an applause from foreigners but what appeared a muted response from the Nigerian congregants.
“Once in a month, I will be travelling to South Africa to meet people from South Africa and other nations who find South Africa easier to visit, in memory of martyrs of faith,” the cleric stated in the sermon which was also transmitted live on Emmanuel TV, the church’s television station.
He added that his “ministration in South Africa will not be on Sunday so that people wills have the opportunity to attend their respective churches.
“This kind of faith expressed by South Africans deserves this kind of blessing from God.”
Mr. Joshua thanked the worshippers for the messages of condolence and encouragement his church had received from supporters around the world.
“I have been your pastor, preaching to you. Now, it is your turn that you are preaching to me. It is your turn that you are giving back what you have received in terms of preaching, teaching and counselling,” he said. “There is a time to give and a time to receive. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Thank you for understanding the time that I am in.”
The pastor said the decision to go to South Africa would have some adverse effects on Nigeria but insisted it was a “revelation from God” that he must obey.
He called on the South African government to be involved in organising the monthly meetings, as “mammoth crowds” would attend.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, had said that apart from the 84 South Africans that died from the building collapse, 265 others survived while 17 were unaccounted for.
He said the number of South Africans who were in the church could be higher, as some organized the trip themselves without using travel agents and were thus difficult to account for.
Mr. Mnguni said there were about 349 South Africans visiting the popular church at the time of the collapse.
The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, put the death toll at the building collapse at 90 people while131 others were rescued from the rubble.
The building collapsed while the church was trying to increase the number of floors from 2 to 5, a move the Lagos State Government said appears not to have been approved.
Mr. Joshua has blamed external forces for the collapse and said a plane which flew over the building before the collapse caused it.