Though born and bred in the Brazilian city of Bahia, Senior Pastor of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) in Nigeria, Pastor Luciano A. Muyiwa Reis is very much at home in Nigeria.
Muyiwa, as he is fondly called in Nigeria only arrived the country a year ago to take charge of the affairs of the church which has branches in 150 countries across the globe.
In an exclusive chat, heÂ disclosed that he is very much at home in Africaâ€™s most populous nation.
â€œNigeria has so much in common with Brazil. There is nothing strange to me here. From the names of the food and even names like Olu and Osun are names that are popular in Bahia, Brazil, where I come from. Plantain is one of my favourite foods and it abounds in Brazil. When I came here I found out it is the same way you make it here. We also have cassava. We eat plenty of it and make into garri. Here you have soup but in Brazil we eat it with vegetables. What you call soup we call feijoada. It comes with beans and meat and ingredients. We call our processed cassava garri as well. We put in water add some sugar and eat it.â€
Recounting how he got his calling, Muyiwa, who enjoys being addressed by his Yoruba name and who has worked in The Lordâ€™s vineyard for the last 15 years as a pastor said: â€œI was very young. I went to church with my mum. She used to call me to join her and I used to refuse but finally I decided to go. She would say, â€˜come my son, lets go to church,â€ and Iâ€™d refuse. Finally God used the prayers she used to do on my behalf to touch my heart. From the age of 14, I started to listen to preaching and I started praying. Finally I gave my life personally to serving God when I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and saviour.â€
According to Muyiwa, growing up in Bahia, the most populous black city in Brazil had its challenges: â€œAs a 13 year-old I was curious and wanted to try out new things like every other youngster. At that age youâ€™re very impressionable trying out this and that and experimenting. A lot of my friends mocked me when I gave my life to Christ. I grew up with them on the streets and I played soccer with them going to school and having fun. When I decided to give my life to Jesus, some of them started mocking me because of my age. They were like, â€˜why are you going to church so young? Come and lets enjoy life but I said â€˜no,â€™ I prefer to go this way. And they kept up. Some of them started selling drugs and from there they never stopped. Others went into robbery but unfortunately, many of them could not retrieve themselves and they died violently. I thank God that I made that decision early and it completely changed my life. I remember one Wednesday service where I had my encounter with Christ. Since then everything changed; my thoughts, my behaviour, and the way I perceived the world.â€
Brazil is known as the greatest football nation in the world. Muyiwa disclosed that as a youngster in Bahia, he once dreamed of being a star in the game of the round leather.
â€œItâ€™s like when youâ€™re young, many things come to your mind,â€ he recounted. â€œAt a time I wanted to be a policeman by joining the Special Forces. At another time I started playing soccer on the streets and I began dreaming of being a footballer. Then in Brazil we had Pele as the number one footballer in the world. He was and is still the greatest footballer ever in the world. All the footballers that came after him took him as a role model in Brazil and I was not an exception.
â€œI was a good defender because of my size. At the age of 13, a club noticed my skills and I wasÂ invited for a test in a professional club and I passed but I did not carry on with it because I had to start going to work to support my family,â€ he remininced.
UCKG, Muyiwa went down memory lane recounting how the church was founded by Bishop Edir Marcelo in 1977.
â€œItâ€™s a story of humble beginnings,â€ he said. â€œThe church was founded in 1977 by Bishop Edir Marcelo at a funeral palour. He had less than 15 people at the first service. From there he started making his sevice on Saturdays. He read the Bible and gathered around 12 or 15 people every Saturday and then he prayed and gave them the message. But he had a dream to spread the Gospel all over Brazil. That was how it started 34 years ago.
Today, the church has over 5,000 churches in Brazil and has presence in over 150 countries.
Commenting on the astronomical growth of the church in the last 34 years he said: â€œWe believe that when God is with you everything is possible. In the beginning Bishop Marceloâ€™s vision was for Brazil but the Holy Spirit started to guideÂ him and miracles started to happen in the lives of members. He rented a small place, a funeral palour. From there, the church started to grow. From there we started taking it abroad. We had our first temple in Africa in 1992. From there we started to grow and we are in 150 countries today. In Brazil we have over 5000 churches with the cathedral, The Temple of Solomon. The last time we had a gathering of faith, we put in the street more than 10 million people. Not long ago in South Africa in 2006 we had an event that attracted over 120, 000 people so you can imagine?
Pastor Muyiwa disclosed that the mission of UCKG is based on fulfilling the commandments of God as directed in Mark 16:15 : â€œOur mission is based on whatÂ our Lord Jesus said, go all over the world and preaching the Gospel of peace and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Cast out the demons and spread the good news. So, based on theseÂ we can say we are moving up with the people. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and we believe in baptism in the book of Acts 1:8 which says when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you shall receive power. We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. We believe that our Lord Jesus, the second person of the Trinity came to this world to die and came back to life and today he is on the right hand side of the god. And soon we will come to take his church and we believe that the BibleÂ is the Holy Book and our guideÂ and based on that we are embarking on our mission to the world.â€
For Muyiwa, his greatest challenge ever since he became a pastor was when he was deployed to Nigeria from South Africa as the Senior Pastor of the church in Nigeria.
â€œWhen I was selected to come down here, I was not expecting it because I was neck deep in work in South Africa in the church. I did not have any picture of how Nigeria would be. So when I came I saw with spiritual eyes and I saw a place where the word ofÂ God could be spread and help people. We have many challenges to face even as NigeriaÂ is facing many challenges but we can also seeÂ that they are taking steps to move ahead so I see a blessed future. Once we get the right track, Nigeria shall be a great country.