Saturday, 11 October 2014

How Pastor lost entire family in one fell swoop

Pastor John Kayoda with his family
   September 25, 2014 was a very dark day in the life of Pastor John Kayoda, a Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) preacher in Warri, Delta State. It was the day he lost his entire family: wife and four children, to a midnight fire. In this piece, BOLAJI OGUNDELE captures the last moments of the deceased persons, as narrated by some of those who tried to rescue them, and the show of faith by the chief mourner (the Pastor).



WHEN I got there, I saw the last daughter of the pastor, standing very close to the louvres, banging on them. There was no way I could help; I saw one rubber bucket out there with which I started scooping water to quell the fire. Later on, I saw the woman (pastor’s wife), struggling with the door, like a middle wooden door; she was shouting for help while she was trying to open it.
‘’The three other children could not be seen struggling at all, it was like they had been choked with the smoke in the house because where they slept was where we found them”. This was the gruesome description of the last moments of the wife and four children of Pastor John Kayoda, the minister in charge of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Otumara area of Warri, Delta State, as relayed by an eyewitness, who could do nothing to prevent their painful end.
It was in the early hours of Thursday, September 25, 2014 and the entire family, with the exception of their father, Pastor Kayoda, who had the previous day travelled to Ikeji-Arakeji in Osun State, attending a pastors’ conference, were supposed to be sleeping, resting from the previous day’s stress, but alas, the night was corrupted by death; a gory, harrowing sort.
A fire, which was suspected to have been sparked by an electrical fault or power surge, as power supply was said to have been problematic on the night, consumedthe entire family – mother and four children – left behind by Pastor Kayoda. The fire started at about midnight, according to the first set of eyewitnesses who could give an idea of what went wrong. One of them said they got to the scene at about midnight to 12:30am.
Describing the last moments of the deceased family members, one of the earliest rescuers at the scene of the midnight fire incident, Bright December, said the situation was quite helpless. The five members of the family: the 45-yearmother, Mrs Grace Emuoboghwo Kayoda; the four children: 13-year-old first son, Igbunuoghene Enoch Kayoda; 11- year-old Oghenemaro Jesu-Ovieme Kayoda, a girl; 10-year-old Oghenewona Nehemaih Kayoda and seven-year-old baby girl of the house, Oghenekpe Kenbe Kayoda, were all trapped in the house. They were barred with iron bars, wooden doors and louvred windows, which prevented help from reaching them from the frantic rescuers outside.
According to December, a visitor to one of the houses sharing fences with the church, he was one of the first few people to arrive the disaster scene. He said that the fire had already taken over the Mission House and was about leaping unto the church’s main building. He got there at about midnight and at that time, he still met two of the five persons alive: the mother and the last girl, fighting to escape from the scary fire monster.
He saw Mrs Kayoda and Kenbe, who were on the door and the window sides respectively, calling out for help, shouting and grappling at every other thing within reach to escape the horrifying fire. While the mother and the last-born were fighting for their lives, at least the part of it opened to the other three children were not in sight; according to him, they were believed to have by now lost their own fight because “their bodies were found where they slept for the night”.
“It took about one hour before fire fighters could be alerted because it was midnight and we were all shouting and trying to see how to rescue them. It took another one hour before the fire fighters came. By this time, the woman and the little girl had lost the battle. The little girl was found dead close to the window; she was just there banging, but there was no way we could help. The windows and the doors were all guarded with protectors. It was difficult to go through, if not, we would have broken through to rescue them”, December narrated.
By the time the fire was put out, only charred bodies and burnt house effects were left. The fire service men had tried their best to put the fire out, but their best was, not enough to save even one of the lives in the house. The disaster was documented with the police and the corpses were deposited at the morgue of the Warri Central Hospital.
Wailing neighbours, church members and friends of the family, who had gathered in the church premises before day break, were waiting for the return of the bereaved father of the house, the pastor of the church, who had been informed of the Job-like horror that had visited him.
The Secretary of the church, Elder Emmanuel Ogoigbe, who spoke to journalists of the arrangements so far made in the absence of Pastor Kayoda, said members and other leaders of the church had reached out to Ikeji-Arakeji to inform the pastor of the development. Almost dumbfounded, Elder Ogoigbe, could only describe the incident as a tragedy, he could not even muster the strength to recall the names of the children and woman he had known for a while; he was just crying.
“We have not been able to ascertain the cause of the fire; the only people who could have accurately told us are no more; that’s, the wife and the four children, two boys and two girls. The pastor had gone for the pastors’ conference of CAC in Ikeji-Arakeji in Osun State; so they quickly alerted our zonal chairman, Pastor Orode. Then early this morning (the day of the incident), at about 5am, they started coming.
‘’This is a tragedy, the kind we have never seen before. Our pain is that if the wife and the children had remained alive, we wouldn’t have bothered even if the building is burnt; at least the whole church would still have been able to raise money to rebuild. They were severely burnt and had been deposited at the Warri Central Hospital’s mortuary. The ages of the children were between eight and 18 years; the youngest, a girl was around eight years, while the eldest, a boy, was about 18”, Elder Ogoigbe said.
The bereaved clergy returned as announced on the morning of the incident and as would be expected, not many people had access to him, at least not journalists, but on the following Sunday, he used the pulpit, as usual, to admonish and exhort. Like Job in the Bible, Pastor John Kayoda, having lost an entire family and probably a large part of the physical assets he had acquired as a man, to a fire incident in just one night, was still able to muster the courage and faith to ‘give it all up to God’.
He assured of two things; he would not kill himself because of the disaster, but rather live the rest of his life to praise God. Two, the disaster that took his family away had preserved them for God’s Kingdom because, according to him, living longer than they did might have seen them straying off God’s track to miss heaven.
“The race we are running today is for salvation and my joy is that if God takes them in this manner, He is obviously preparing them for His kingdom. It is possible they might have ended up in hell fire if they were alive and seriously wounded. The Lord made it clear that this is the time they should go and meet Him. Having absolved the initial shock, I decided to console myself because I always believe that before one can enter the Kingdom of God, something must happen.
‘’Well, to God be the glory. Everything is to Him and nobody can take God’s glory from Him. Hence, I decided to come here today to worship with my fellow members. The Bible says that everything that happens to a man, we should not blame God”, Kayoda said, betraying an uncommon faith. One would have expected to see a beaten and broken man, but Pastor Kayoda was rather maturely comported; he was still able to form a rather hearty smile as he spoke during the service and while seeing journalists. According to Elder Ogoigbe, who organised his meeting with journalists, the pastor is an unusual man, even as a man of God.
“He has preached to the world with his life; this is a sort of calamity that not many men, even men of God, will be able to bear with so much grace as he has demonstrated. This is not because he has overcome the pain or that he’s immune to the feeling of pain but he has decided to live what he knows about God as life, the pain notwithstanding; just like the Bible says, we just must give thanks to God in all things, no matter how difficult it may be. Pastor Kayoda is an exemplary man of God and all Christians must learn to trust God, just as he has done in the darkest hours of his life”.

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