Disgusting, sickening, revolting – whatever name you may give to a refuse dump, sadly for some, it has become the only means of survival.
Such was the case for Mrs. Philomena Sunday and her nine children from Warri, Delta State, whose situation following the tragic death of her husband and breadwinner deteriorated to such extent that her source of livelihood depended solely upon the waste of others. Looking at the circumstances surrounding this family, one can easily deduce that theirs was an extreme case of poverty, and as TB Joshua put it, ‘their poverty had become a curse’. His words: “Such poverty is not just poverty but has become a curse and only Jesus can remove that curse”.
Narrating her horrific tale recently, during her very first visit to The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations, she explained that no sooner had her husband died than she was thrown into the waiting hands of poverty. With no means of livelihood, coupled with abandonment by her in-laws, living became a nightmare for her and her nine children as they were gradually forced to beg for their daily bread. The crushing effects of hunger soon set in. And when they could no longer cope with the starvation, the young family resorted to scavenging through dustbins in search of food remnants. “We go to dustbins to get food. Even the clothes we wear, we pick them all from the dustbin and wash them,” said Philomena, “sometimes, if we don’t make it early to the dust bin, we don’t have anything to eat at all. We pick bread, groundnuts, yam, everything we can find to eat.”
It was on one of her many trips to the refuse site that she met a woman who proved to be the catalyst of change in her fortunes. Apparently, the woman had observed Philomena’s frequent patronage of the refuse dump and decided to put this on record without her knowledge. “She asked what I was doing at the dustbin every day, with these children, picking food, and I answered: ‘My sister, things have been very difficult, and even when I go to people to beg, they usually disappoint me.’ ”
During one of their visits to the rubbish dump, the woman approached Philomena and asked if she knew about The SCOAN to which she answered, ‘no’. She then encouraged her not to worry and handed her the recorded tape of her and the children feeding from the dustbin. She urged her to go with the tape to The SCOAN, believing that she would be assisted.
Acting upon the advice of the woman, Philomena, and her children went to The SCOAN on October 11th 2009, where she gave an account in the Sunday service of the kind of living conditions she and her children had had to contend with since the death of her husband. The tape was then played to the public, confirming the truth of her unbelievable tale. It was a pitiful sight as Philomena and her children were seen on scavenging trips to the refuse dump as she and her children rummaged through mountains of refuse, searching for food, disused clothes, shoes and all, as well as empty cans, which they sold for N50 apiece, to buy food.
In confirmation of what Philomena had said, her eldest daughter Abumare Faith told her own version of the story. She explained how she had rushed to live with a man who promised to marry and take care of her. Unbeknown to Faith, however, the man she found was himself an unemployed person. She became a teenage mother, bore him two children and thus the cycle of poverty increased. “Even the clothes I am putting on now are from the dustbin,” she said tearfully. “But suddenly, my mother came one day to tell us that one woman told her about Synagogue… I know that as we are here now, our story would turn around.”
The story of Anthonia Abumere, the second daughter of the family was no different. She too got lured into a relationship she believed would blossom into marriage and help save the family from their wretched plight. Unfortunately, her union turned out to be one with a man who suffered with bouts of mental illness manifesting in aggressive behaviour. She too became a teenager mother and the family’s problem went progressively from bad to worse.
“I did not know that the man had a mental problem which, whenever it occurred, made him misbehave and caused people to run from him,” narrated Anthonia. “Last June, his condition deteriorated,” she went on, “ he beat me and my baby and sometimes he would kick us out,” cried Antonia, with a huge scar from a stitch that marked her pretty face, holding her equally lovely infant baby.
Turning to the family as he preached to his congregation, Prophet Joshua noticed little Esther, her delicate face smudged by hot tears: “Wow! What a beautiful girl,” he exclaimed. “If you don’t help this one now, she would turn out to be like her sister who married a mad man,” said the prophet, shaking his head, solemnly.
“All over the world, people like this are everywhere. Find them, restore them, help them,” TB Joshua admonished. “We must do whatever we can to restore this family and make them part of our families and counsel them; we must not allow these children to be destroyed.”
Thereafter, he made a cash donation of N500,000 to the family in addition to 10 bags of rice and his trademark gift of the Holy Bible, promising further assistance to help sponsor the children’s education and secure adequate accommodation for them. Other cash gifts and donations started pouring in from the congregation, as well as from viewers of Emmanuel TV, worldwide, who had been following the live telecast of the Synagogue Sunday service.
Expressing her gratitude for the goodness of God in her life, Philomena said: “Pastor, I have something to tell you. I thank you for removing me from poverty today. I thank you for the good thing that you have done for me. You will live long; you will live long; you will live long”. Smiling, TB Joshua responded: “Look opposite is the case now. I am to thank you for receiving the gift. Thank you for receiving this gift. You will live long; you will live long; you will live long”.
In fulfilment of the promise to provide Philomena and her children with accommodation, TB Joshua sent an Emmanuel TV Team to her hometown in Delta State to rent and furnish a suitable apartment for the family.
Sometime later, a reinvigorated Philomena and family came back to The SCOAN to share their testimony with the world. “I thank God today that my past is over. We no longer pick from the dustbin. We can now eat from the dining table.”
Out of the monetary gift, Philomena has set up a successful tailoring business to comfortably provide for her whole family’s needs. Dignity restored, stigma removed, survival secured… a new day has dawned.