Archbishop Margaret Benson- Idahosa’s world came crashing when she lost her better half, Archbishop Benson Idahosa to the cold hands of death in 1998. Before his death, the vibrant Pentecostal pastor was not only her husband but also her brother, friend and confidant as well.
After his demise, she clearly blurted out: “I am finished” due to the shock of his exit. She couldn’t believe that her better half had gone on a journey of no return. In that confused state, she didn’t know where to begin, neither was she clear about what the future held for her. The fact that he was never sick or complained of any pains on the day he died further heightened her shock.
Margaret Benson-Idahosa, who became the first female Chancellor in Africa in 2002, after establishing the Benson Idahosa University, told Daily Sun that her plan was to recline and withdraw into her shell after her husband’s burial. Unknown to her, God had other plans for her in the ministry where her late husband was the presiding Bishop. She spoke on how she coped with widowhood, the pressures of re-marriage among other issues. Excerpts:
How my husband died
His death was a great shock and I am still recovering from his absence after 12 years. Before he died, he preached a message on death, titled: “The benefit of death” with so much rigour as if he had a premonition about what would happen. My late husband also made it clear to all that he had finished the work God gave him in that message, but no one knew it would be soon. He died in March and left an emptiness in me that no one could fill.
The day the late Archbishop went to rest, he preached at the Bible School before he went to lunch with a team from Oral Robert University. He gave instruction to all the members of the team to thank God for what he has done and they were all glued to him. After a while, they noticed a gentle breeze blowing as they all set their gaze on him and he was saying; “Thank you, Jesus.” They thought he was praying and all closed their eyes and started saying; “Thank you, Jesus,” along with him but suddenly, they did not hear anything again. One of the team members opened his eyes and found him on the floor. Before they could do anything, he had passed on. His death came as a shock to everyone because he was never sick.
After his death
When he was alive, the best I could do was to encourage him and pray for him. I was a great supporter of his vision. So when he died, I just wanted to remain in my cocoon. I told myself after the burial that I would just recline. By then, my children were all abroad and I planned to be staying with them one after the other and then, come over to Benin to see how the ministry is being run. But God who knows the heart of man directed my path to where I am today. I was 55 when my better half was taken away from me and at that point, I was not interested in the ministry because I felt my husband’s shoes were too big for me to fit in. The acceptance I got from members of the church forced me on my knees to seek God’s guidance concerning the ministry. The Lord ordered my steps to continue from where my husband stopped and He has continued to back me in the ministry.
How our children took the news of his death
They were devastated and bust into tears. They were all abroad at that time studying and it came as a big shock to them all. My eldest child and I met at the airport when I was going to meet him in London after I informed him of his father’s death. We held hands and cried our eyes out at the airport, not minding who was looking at us. My first daughter was in Law School in Britain too. She was not allowed to leave school then, but I told her to inform her lecturer she just lost her father and had to return home. My two daughters in America had to come home also with so much pain in their hearts. They all wept uncontrollably at the sudden loss of their mentor and father. They were only strengthened by the assurance that he is resting with God. That consolation was enough to make them emotionally strong to bear his absence.
Coping with widowhood
The Holy Spirit has sustained me through the pains of widowhood and has given me the grace and wisdom to run the church in my husband’s absence. I rely on God totally and I am holding on to Him tenaciously. As long as I hold on to him, He is the one who gives me the power to live day to day. I believe His shoulders are wide enough for me to lean on and if I want to cry, I cry to Him because He has solutions to all my problems. The challenges of running the ministry are several but God has been faithful.
My late husband’s mentors
Some of his mentors when he was alive were TL Osborn, Gordon Lidson and Pa Elton. He was also very passionate about apostolic signs in Nigerian churches. He learnt a lot form these men of God and believed that the word of God should be practised especially regarding prosperity and healing.
Times I feared for my late husband’s life
I recall my fear for his life when he confronted the witches in Benin. It was never done before. I was so scared for his life and he would tell me, honey, I want you to be at the same pace with me. I can’t say yes to God and you are dragging me back because of your unbelief. I want us to be on the same terrain with God and see what He will do.
He will always protect his own because He is the Almighty God, So, I had to believe him. I said to myself, if he believes in God’s continuous protection, and I am his wife, I should act on his faith and that was it. It settled my heart concerning his safety all the time. During that period, a lot of things happened that shook my faith in God. There was a time witches were going to hold conference in Benin and the late Archbishop went on air and said there was no way they could hold meeting where he was, declaring the meeting would not hold. And true to his words, the meeting didn’t hold even when the chief priest had threatened that it would. After that encounter, my faith in God was further strengthened.
In another instance, the Oba of Benin died and there was an order that every man in Benin should shave his head. My late husband not only defied the order, he also instructed members of the church not to comply because there was no way the living should shave their heads for the dead, adding that we grow our hair for the living. At that point, I was so scared for his safety and life, but I trusted God to help him in those trying times because of his unwavering belief in God. The royal family was not happy with him, they did the burial ceremony of the Oba for seven days and pronounced death on those who did not comply with the directive, particularly my late husband. They gave him seven days to live, but he did not die. He only died when God said it was time for him to leave the scene and that was many years after the incident. The present Oba of Benin has become our friend; he is also my uncle because I am from the royal family with my late husband also.
The pressure of remarriage was there, but I invited God to help me and direct my paths. So far, He has given me the ability to be strong in that aspect. I told Him to take the desire for another man from me. I never wanted to think about remarriage. God gave me so much to do that after a hard day’s work, I just go to bed. I didn’t have the desire to remarry because I enjoyed my late husband so much that nobody could match him. This further strengthened my resolve to remain unmarried since then.
Moving the ministry forward
I believe I have done my best to expand and move the industry forward in my late husband’s absence. I may not be as fast as he would have done if he were still alive, but I have contributed my own quota to the best of my capacity so as to affect my generation positively. The results are encouraging and I am happy being used as God’s tool to cause change.
My special love for children
I have a special interest in children because I believe we owe them the best in terms of education and spiritual upbringing. My love for children, in addition to my strong belief that they be trained and raised properly saw to the establishment of the Word of Faith Group of Schools, which now has more than one hundred-eight (108) branches all over Nigeria. I also set up an orphanage for abandoned babies. Three of these children have been adopted into the Idahosa family.
I was born on the July 29, 1943, into the royal lineage of the Benin Kingdom and ordained into the ministry on the May 24, 1983. I have a Diploma in Home Economics from the Leads Polytechnic, United Kingdom, Bachelors Degree in Biblical Studies, Masters Degree in Divinity and Doctorate Degree in Ministry from Friends International Christian University, California, United States. I also obtained Masters of Education, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma USA. I was consecrated a Bishop on the 5th of April, 1998 in Church of God mission Int’l Inc., this position made me first female Pentecostal Bishop of a ministry of this magnitude in Africa. I am not just a woman preacher, I also double as a father and mother to many spiritual children all over the world. My vision and mission is to “ reach the un-reached” irrespective of their location whether in the desert or riverine creeks.
I am also a trained educationist and that is why I established the Word of Faith Group of Schools which currently has more than 108 schools (Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary) all over Nigeria. I also established the International Leadership Resource Institute (ILRI) to teach leadership ethics and principles to pastors and other categories of leaders and church workers. My love for the less privileged and abandoned babies saw me establish an orphanage where babies are cared for, called “My sister’s place”. I am a mother of eight children and I have four grand children to the glory of God. I was consecrated an Archbishop in 2008 and it made me sober that people believed in me.
Why I set up Christian Women Fellowship International
I felt the urgent need to teach women how to discover their true potentials, be good mothers, wives and instruments for end-time evangelism. This led to the establishing of the women arm of the ministry called Christian Women Fellowship International (CWFI). It is a non-denominational body focusing on the total well-being of Christian women. In line with this, is the building of a multipurpose facility called the Restoration Centre with a capacity to seat more than 10,000 women. This Centre will serve as conference venue, office space, a skill acquisition centre and a place to rehabilitate destitute young women. A recent addition to the Restoration Centre is a mobile medical clinic which offers free medical services to rural dwellers.
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