|Born||19 May 1909
Cause of death
|Imeko, Ogun State, Nigeria
|Known for||Founder of the Celestial Church of Christ|
|Spouse(s)||Felicia Yaman and 33|
Samuel Bilehou Joseph Oshoffa (sometimes Oschoffa) (1909–1985) was the founder of the Celestial Church of Christ after reportedly resurrecting people from the dead. He founded the church in 1947 after being lost for three months near Porto-Novo in Benin. The church now has its main offices in Nigeria. Five percent, or 400,000, of the 8,000,000 people of Benin are Celestial Christians. Oshoffa was reported to have had 34 wives and 150 children when he died in 1985 although some say these figures are high.
Samuel Bilehou Joseph Oshoffa was born into a Yoruba family of mixed religion. His father was a Muslim but had become a Methodist, whilst his mother followed traditional religions and objected to Christianity. His father was a carpenter (a fact which was later thought important to a person who later reported receiving visits from Jesus Christ). He was born May 19, 1909 in Porto-Novo, which is now the capital of Benin but was then the new capital of the French colony of Dahomey. His family was also involved with the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Felicia Yaman was Oshoffa's first wife, and she was involved with the launch of the new church. She was said to be able to prophesy conflict and was invited to many of Oshoffa's meetings.
Oshoffa was working in the ebony trade in 1947 when he was instructed to found the new church. He reported that he had been searching in the forests to find the correct type of tree. He said he lost his way and had to live off the land for three months. When he emerged he was empowered with the gifts of healing and prophesy.
His first act of healing was reportedly the resurrection of his nephew. As a result his elder sister, Elizabeth, was the first convert. The nephew was to become recognised as the first prophet of the new church. Over the next few years, several other people were reportedly brought back from the dead by Oshoffa. Between 1947 and 1951, the church grew in the country of Benin. In 1976, it was relocated to Nigeria because Oshoffa was in a minor conflict with the government of Benin. This was timely as he was just about to be arrested. Very soon after arriving in Nigeria, Oshoffa cured a mad woman, although many people doubted this account. Oshoffa held a public meeting in Yaba, Lagos, where those gathered reported his ability to prophecy. In the same year he again claimed a resurrection.
The new church grew rapidly, and it gained followers across West Africa and the world. The church was estimated to have several million followers in 1998. In Nigeria, Oshoffa was sold a large piece of land after the owner was assisted by a "holy man's" intervention in a dream with a legal dispute. The new church continued to receive resistance from the Nigerian authorities, but it was officially recognised in 1958. He took on two partners for the church, namely Reverends Alexander Abiodun Bada and Samuel Ajanlekoko.
Oshoffa died on 10 September 1985 following a car crash. He was buried at Celestial City, Imeko. Oshoffa was the sole source of authority for the church and because of this, his death caused some problems of succession. After some confusion, Alexander Abiodun Adebayo Bada was appointed his successor by the church trustees. The church had no way of educating new clergy until a seminary was established for male clergy a year after Oshoffa's death.
The church celebrated the 100-year anniversary of its founder's birth with a music festival and had awarded prizes in memory of him in Benin. Five percent of the 8,000,000 population of Oshoffa's home country of Benin were Celestial Christians in 2009.
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