On May 23, 1947, Oschoffa left home for Toffin, a village in the Ganvie area to carry out his usual business. He had already purchased a canoe for himself but since he did not know how to paddle, he engaged the services of a paid paddler. He set off in the morning for the forest specifically to look for mahogany and ebony trees. Oschoffa, as usual, equipped himself with food, drinking water and other personal effects for the trip. At the shore, Oschoffa instructed the paddler to keep an eye on the canoe and the items inside it while he entered the forest.
It must be mentioned that the identification of specific species of trees entails careful observation and scrutiny particularly where the trees are very close and have formed canopies. Surveying the land is important in tree identification. Oschoffa combed the forest searching for the correct species of mahogany and ebony. Oschoffa himself said he noticed a sudden change in the weather when the sky darkened. This spectacle terrified him and, as a result, he opened his Bible, which he always carried with him, and read some Psalms to strengthen his faith. It soon dawned on him that the abnormality in the weather was an eclipse of the sun. The eclipse, though short, was noticeable in many villages around Porto Novo. The phenomenon of an eclipse is usually given various interpretations in Africa. It could be interpreted as indicating the imminent death of a great man. It could also foretell the occurrence of a disaster or another great event. At any rate, the disappearance of the light of the sun caused Oschoffa much anxiety. While he knelt down to pray for God’s guidance, Oschoffa claimed to have heard a strange voice shouting, “Luli, Luli, Luli.”
He looked up and to his great surprise he saw a white monkey with wings, its mouth wide open, sitting on the branch of a tree. Next to the strange monkey was a multi-coloured bird which resembled a peacock. It must be mentioned that these two creatures are abnormal because in Africa, there are no white monkeys and no monkey has wings. Furthermore, the multi-coloured bird had features which shone with light.
The monkey could not be described as an angel of God because the biblical description of angels of God portrays them as having human features and with two wings with which they fly. Neither could it be described as a bat since bats are not so large and have no tails. The multi-coloured bird could not be associated with any divinity because the dove is the only bird said to be the bearer of good tidings. Viewed from an African perspective, strange birds which are so lovely and sing beautifully are associated with witchcraft.
While Oschoffa was still contemplating the meaning of all this and the power behind such an event his attention was drawn to a noise from the ground. He looked down and saw a short snake, about thirty centimetres long. The people of Dahomey (Republic of Benin) at that time considered snakes sacred creatures and it was an abomination or taboo for a Beninese (Dahomean) to kill a snake either intentionally or without any justifiable cause. Snake worship among the Dahomeans was widely accepted and the Dangbe god of Porto Novo was a python god. The wonderful scene compelled Oschoffa to retreat to the shore. On his return, he found the paddler writhing in pain. He immediately prayed to God for quick healing and laid his hands on the paddler.
The paddler was immediately healed and later confessed to stealing some of Oschoffa’s food kept in his custody. Oschoffa rebuked him for being greedy because he had been adequately cared for and he had just stolen out of greed. Oschoffa decided to relax under a nearby tree to reflect on the events he had experienced that day. When he woke up, he found that the paddler had disappeared, leaving the canoe behind.
Oschoffa was left alone and was stranded as he could not paddle on his own. In his attempt to find a way back home, Oschoffa said he lost his way in the forest. He was believed to have stayed in the bush for three months during which he claimed to have eaten only honey. He continued roaming about in the forest in his attempt to find a way back home. During those three months, he was believed to have seen many revelations about the Kingdom of God. It was during these months that Oschoffa observed changes in his body and received spiritual gifts. He ascribed his power to heal the sick to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in his life in the forest. There is no doubt that Oschoffa’s faith in God was greatly affirmed at this time. In the forest, he claimed to have seen fearful creatures like boas, pythons and other strange creatures yet he was not afraid. The belief that God was manifesting Himself in his life steeled his heart.
He continued roaming in the forest, he came to an inselberg which the local people called Fagbe located near the village of Zinvie. At this place he met a man called Michell for the first time in three months. Incidentally, this man reportedly became a prominent member of the church later founded by Oschoffa. Michell, being very familiar with the terrain, led Oschoffa to the nearest village called Hungon.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Oschoffa prayed for the inhabitants of the village. He also got a new paddler who voluntered to help him paddle his canoe back to Porto Novo. After a long search, they found the abandoned canoe at Agange, a few kilometres from Toffin. They had hardly settled down in the canoe when Oschoffa heard some mourners crying at Agange. Oschoffa immediately ordered the paddler to head for the village, wanting to establish the cause of the wailing among the people.
He was told that a young man called Kudiho who was a staunch member of the local Methodist Church was in a coma. Kudiho had been ill for a long time and all efforts to cure him had proved futile. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Oschoffa asked all the people to leave the house of the sick man. He then placed his hands on the sick man and prayed in the name of Jesus Christ for healing and immediately Kudiho was said to have been healed. It must be noted that this was Oschoffa’s second healing of the sick after the vision in the wilderness.
The news of Kudiho’s miraculous healing spread like wild fire and Oschoffa’s name soon became a household word. At Agange, Yusuf, a Muslim, offered to be Oschoffa’s host after the miracle. It was this man who told the people in the vicinity about Oschoffa’s newfound powers.
At home, Oschoffa’s family had concluded that he was dead and so the news of his being alive was received with astonishment and great relief. Yusuf was believed to have described Oschoffa as a wonder-working man who healed the sick in the name of Jesus Christ just by touching them. Oschoffa was however described as being somewhat unkempt and wearing wretched clothes. This portrait of Oschoffa was the result of his having being lost for months in the forest.
People could not believe the story about Oschoffa and those who knew him were anxious to follow Yusuf to Agange to find out the truth. Meanwhile, Oschoffa had left Agange for Dasatre, his hometown, after hiring a new paddler called Zinsou. Barely three days after his return to Dasatre, the news reached him that a nephew of his called Guton  was dead. Oschoffa was inspired to go to the house of the deceased. When he arrived, he first dismissed the native doctors, fetish priests, herbalists and others who had been making abortive efforts to revive Guton and then opened his Bible and read some Psalms. Oschoffa was quoted as saying: “Really, God is unveiling his powers.” He prayed to God to prove his power over death. In the name of Jesus he commanded the dead body to wake up and praise God. Immediately, Guton arose and the Holy Spirit descended on him and he started prophesying.
This miracle was a clear testimony of God’s power in Oschoffa. The news of this miraculous raising of a dead man spread in and around Porto Novo. People were very surprised and could not understand the source of Oschoffa’s power. They knew him as a carpenter and nothing more. Others ascribed Oschoffa’s powers to Satan and called him the devil’s disciple. Muslims, Christians and especially western missionaries were very sceptical. Some of them said Oschoffa’s miraculous healings were unorthodox and not inspired by God.
The Cherubim and Seraphim Movement (C&S) which had been established around 1925 at Porto Novo was also cold in its reception of Oschoffa and his new powers, despite the fact that they practiced faith and spiritual healings too.
This article was researched and written by Rt. Rev. Dr. Albert Aduloju Agbaje, bishop of Sabongidda-Ora Diocese.
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