A Woman of Peace
Joan Adeku greets everyone she meets in Hebrew “Shalom!” which means peace. A native
Nigerian, she stands 5 feet 8 inches tall; but when draped in long bright pink and purple African lace with alternating imprints of lilies, butterflies and sunflowers, with an overarching purple head tie, she appears a foot taller. Joan looks imposing, but her calm confident demeanor and a welcoming smile radiate peace and make any stranger comfortable around her.
Joan co-pastors Victory Royal Church (VRC) in Grand Prairie, Texas, with her husband, Bayo Adeku. VRC is a non-denominational international Christian congregation. The members come not only from various African countries, but also from Europe, Asia and Latin America. The congregation considers Joan much more than a typical pastor’s wife; for them, she’s “a mother in Israel.” They used this phrase on a birthday card made for Pastor Joan to express gratitude for the love and care
everyone receives from her. Church members also address Joan as reverend to show their respect. A VRC deaconess, Amadyn Nwabuisi, for example, declared at one of the women’s meetings that worship and the “reverend,” referring to Joan, were the main reasons she had been attending the church. Still, Pastor Joan prefers being addressed by her first name.
Pastor Joan agreed to a phone interview recently despite her busy schedule; even on a Saturday when most ministers rest to prepare for Sunday service, she was at the church helping with the choir. The drive from the church to her house takes one hour. Pastor Joan commutes that distance almost every
day for ministry. She said she spends so much time in ministry at the church and elsewhere because she feels compelled to give all of herself to God. “My motto is: ‘To whom much is forgiven, loveth much. To whom much is given, much is expected from.’”
Pastor Joan was born in Ibadan city, Oyo state, Nigeria, to a Muslim family, but spent majority of her childhood in Ijebu village with her grandparents. When asked what it was like growing up in an Islamic household, Pastor Joan said, “My childhood was a terrible experience!” She was born the third daughter, which is considered almost taboo in a Muslim family. A woman is not deemed a mother until she bears a son. That is why her mother was really
depressed with the birth of another girl, and her father refused to see Joan until her first birthday. “It is really oppressive and discriminating to be a girl in an Islamic home. You have to do most of the work, but you do not enjoy any rewards,” said Pastor Joan. She explained that women are educated only enough to spell their names and are taught from childhood that they are subservient to men. “You always wish you were a boy,” she said.
Pastor Joan met Christ in her late teens when a Christian group, Apostolic Faith, came to her town for an evangelistic crusade. “I was fascinated by the movie they were showing,” Joan said, “and I gave my life to Christ.” That decision cost Joan dearly. First, she lost relationship with her family; then, she almost lost her life. As soon as her parents found out that their daughter had gotten involved with Christianity, they threw her out of the house. Joan joined the Apostolic Faith and travelled with them, finally ending up in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city.
In Lagos, Joan suffered an appendicitis attack and sought medical help at a local hospital. The Apostolic Faith community disapproved of her decision to go to doctors for treatment. They considered Joan a backslider and abandoned her in the hospital. Here, Joan met
Pastor Harford Iloputaife whom she considers her spiritual father. His church, Victory Christian Center (VCC), took her in and cared for her. Just when her troubles seemed over, Joan was lured home by her parents for the burial of her grandfather. She went not knowing that this was a trap; her parents decided to exercise sharia law against her. They wanted to make her a spectacle to teach the other children never to abandon Islam. When at a village meeting in honor of her grandfather Joan suddenly heard her name blasting from the loud speakers, she knew something was wrong. A crowd surrounded Joan while her parents demanded that she renounce Christ if she wanted to live. Her father was hiding a knife under his robe; he was planning to use it to kill Joan if she refused to obey their demand. Joan remembered her thoughts at that moment. “I am born again. I am filled with the Holy Ghost. I will not give up Christ!” All of a sudden, she felt the power of the Holy Spirit lifting her body, and she started to run. Joan kept running for hours. She ran into the woods. She didn’t know how the crowd was unable to catch her, but she knew she could not go back. She was pronounced a “haram,” which means “forbidden” in Arabic. To her fellow villagers, she was an infidel who had to be killed the moment they should ever see her again. To kill her was to be rewarded in Islamic heaven. Joan knew that there was no going back to her family.
Joan said that the only place to go was back to VCC in Lagos. Pastor Iloputaife became a father to her. “He took responsibility for me,” she said.
Also, Pastor Joan said, “God had become father and mother to me. When I had nobody, he brought people into my life. When I needed shelter, the Lord provided; when I needed food, he gave it.”
Despite such a traumatic family experience, Joan is not bitter toward her parents. She feels that her father taught her the value of hard work, and her mother taught her the importance of unity and giving. “My mom’s motto was ‘Do good to people,’” she said. She explained that benevolence is also part of Islamic practices. Pastor Joan’s generosity explains why many call her a mother. The media pastor at the church, Emmanuel Ogiozee, said that when his family suffered a car crash a week after his wedding, VRC came to help. The accident put the newly-wed bride and her mother in wheelchairs for several months. In response, Pastor Joan and the congregation gave sacrificially. They donated financially to the family, brought them groceries, paid the electrical bill the month that electricity got cut off and did much more. Pastor Joan herself bought toiletries for the family during the months that they were bed-ridden. Emmanuel Ogiozee says, “I feel that reverend takes me as a son.”
Pastors Joan and Bayo have two daughters: Victoria, 24, and Joy, 21. Joy Adeku says
this about her mother, “I think the most important thing that she’s taught me is to put God before everything else and have Him be the most important thing in my life.” Pastor Joan puts God first daily, and her life is filled with biblical “shalom” that she defines as “nothing missing and nothing broken.” In Christ, Joan Adeku is a woman of peace.