It was a moment of emotional reflection with profound gratitude to God for his survivals, when Rev. Tony Akinyemi, the Senior Pastor of The Shepherd’s Flock International Church (TSF) shared his string of life-saving testimonies at his recent 60th birthday thanksgiving service held at TSF church headquarters, Ikeja, Lagos.
Rev. Tony, as fondly called, at the service arouse the emotions of the guests who sat attentively glued on their seats as he shared through the multimedia his many testimonies of survival from several life-threatening incidents in his six decades on earth. Sewing together various accounts of his many survivals from several deadly incidents that include fire burns, machete cut, drowning, attempted arson, motor accidents, armed robbery, life-threatening sickness, false obituary rumours, etc the deeply grateful birthday boy aptly captioned his many testimonies: My Gratitude!
“I want to relate some of my personal storms so that you can have a better understanding of threats and how God always provide ways of escape for us. In my infancy, there was a domestic incident that I was involved in. I can’t recall when it happened! I was too young to remember the incident. It is the scar that I still carry till today that made me ask for what brought about the scar. I asked my mother about the scar on my abdomen, and she told me the incident that led to it. In those days, my mother cooked in a coal pot. She would normally put some charcoal into the round coal pot and make fire for cooking. It’s similar to what some use for Barbecue today, only it’s a very small version of it. According to my mother, an older child had pushed me and I fell on top of her coal pot filled with red-hot coals. The round edge of the hot coal pot burnt and curved a round shape on my belly.
“The scar is there till today to remind me of God’s faithfulness in delivering me from death as an infant. To imagine that this incident happened in the early 1960s in a small village in Ghana where there was no electricity, pipe-borne water, hospital, clinic, dispensary, doctor, nurse or a ready vehicle to convey me to the nearest city with a clinic or hospital is horrifying. I didn’t ask my mother how I was treated and got well. To this day, after six decades of my life, I still develop goose pimples occasionally when I think of that incident. God is indeed awesome!
“God kept me from been burnt to death. His hand sustains me when I couldn’t defend myself. Many children have been exposed to dangers of that sort and they didn’t make it. I give thanks to God for sparing my life. The threat to my life did not stop at conception or point of birth. It continued, and through the grace of God, I was able to survive another threat to my life. Alleluia!
“In 1997, I began to feel unwell. I was 36 years old then. For the next three years or so, I battled with that illness and I never knew I was going to live long enough to witness my 40th birthday. Through the mercy of God, I was miraculously healed. I survived. I battled the sickness for over 5 years. I had over 30 different symptoms in this one body of mine. Every specialist doctor that I saw gave me a different diagnosis and a different set of medications. I thank God that he led me to the path of recovery. I will reserve the full story till another day.
“Around late 2006 to early 2007, I was in the studio at our church at 18 Shogunle Street, Abule Onigbagbo in Ikeja, and recording episodes for our TV programme. We had just relocated our church from Etiebet’s place to Shogunle Street in 2006. I had schedule to record many episodes, so I left my phone in the car. After recording a couple of episodes, I decided to go outside to stretch my limbs before coming back into the studio to record the remaining episodes. A media crew had come to set up the recording studio for that day. They were going to dismantle it after. So, I needed to record as many episodes as possible on that day.
“When I got out in-between my recordings, I picked up my phone from my car and went through my call log, and I saw that one of my friends, Bro. Tokunbo Olujo, had called me several times within a few minutes. I was wondering why he called me that many times! I was hoping that he was not in any distress. So, I returned his call immediately. The moment he picked my call, the first thing he said was, “Rev. Tony. Is that you?” I responded, ‘yes, this is me! He began to scream Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! When he calmed down, he went ahead to tell me that somebody had just called him few hours ago to inform him that I was dead! That was why he began to call my phone frantically. He got very afraid when I didn’t pick my call. He thought that was a confirmation that I may have been actually dead. He was pleasantly surprised when I called him back.
“A similar incident occurred on Saturday, April 25, 2020. A number of my secondary school alumni members thought I was dead. I personally know of about three other people bearing my exact name, Tony Akinyemi. One of them was my senior in secondary school. He was in form five when I was in form one. There is another Anthony Akinyemi in Europe who is a film maker. We have not seen each other face to face, but we have communicated with each other via e-mails. We got to know that we both shared the same name and lived in the same town when we were young. There is a third one who is also a pastor in the USA. He was alleged to have been involved in a scandal at a time and people thought it was me! I saw on social media that another Anthony Akinyemi just passed on in the USA.
“So, on April 25, 2020, I was in my house in Lagos when the younger brother of one of my bosom friends called my line from the UK. Incidentally, he also attended the same Secondary school that I attended. So, he belongs to the Alumni association of my school, UK chapter. When he called me and I picked up his call, he was cautious and careful as he spoke. He wanted to be sure that it was me at the other end. Some of his classmates had been calling him to commiserate with him that I was dead.
“Apart being my junior in secondary school and his elder brother being my bosom friend, we also lived in the same house in Ondo State for more than a decade before we all scattered all over the world. So, we actually relate like siblings. So, you can imagine how relieved and happy he was when he had my voice on the phone. I’m not dead. I’m still alive and well, by Gods grace. Of course, I’m not afraid to die. I know where I’m going if I die before the Second Coming of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, I won’t die before my time, for, sure. God is too faithful to let anyone or anything kills me before my time is up,” Akinyemi shared among several testimonies of life he captured in a book he titled, “I’m a Survivor” that he specially published in commemoration of his jubilee celebration.
Rev. Akinyemi did not fail to include in his testimonies of survivals the aspect of his over 40 years walk with the Lord, particularly his accomplished ministry as the set man of The Shepherd’s Flock International Church. He recalled how he left the certainties of heading a famous and successful parish of an already established and global church as the Senior Pastor to raising a “flock of holy, healthy and highly successful people as a new church from the scratch floor of uncertainties, albeit with absolute trust, confidence and assurance in the Lord to survive yet again the risks and the uncertainties in starting a church when he was 42 years old. “In fact someone told me I was too old to start a church at 42. And here we are today at 60. I’m grateful to God for his faithfulness. I’m a survivor,” he excitedly remarked.
Rev. Michael Adebiyi, the guest speaker, eulogized the celebrant, Akinyemi, for his audacity, tenacity and steadfastness in breaking new horizons. Rev. Adebiyi, who flew in from Atlanta, USA where he resides with his family, to speak at the event called Akinyemi a trail blazer in his short exhortation he titled: “The lessons from the Life of Rev. Tony Akinyemi. The guest speaker, who described Akinyemi as an offshoot and a disciple of Jesus in giving life abundantly to people, according John 10:10 pointed that the celebrant has impacted many lives and ministries.
Rev. Adebiyi enjoined people to discover their purpose and let that purpose drive their life as one of the lessons from the life of Rev. Akinyemi. “It is important that you discover your purpose and let it drive your life. When your purpose in life shows up, it may not look like it. Some of the challenges you might be facing now could as well be the bridge to your purpose or destiny,” he said. Adebiyi cited the terrible sickness that Rev. Akinyemi suffered for five years and survived as part of God’s design for the now 60-year- old celebrant to manifest his purpose in life.
“Rev. Tony is a trail blazer in his purpose of promoting healthy living and lifestyle. Trail blazers don’t care about opening new horizons. Just make sure it is God that is leading you. Anything new is always a challenge. A life of purpose that God is using will not get intimated by people. Be diligent in staying in the cause of your purpose. Rev. Tony is diligent in the cause of his purpose in life. He is diligent in his teaching on healthy living. He loves God and people genuinely. He is always willing to serve. He is a man that loves his family,” Rev. Adebiyi concluded.