Bethel: House Of God As Tourist Centre
ALL over the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their house-to-house preaching and teaching activities. But the organisation’s Bethel home, which coordinates and provides essential support for its global preaching work, is gradually becoming a significant tourist centre in Nigeria.
The bethel is a Hebrew name, which means “ House of God.” Most countries in the world have their Bethel Homes. But 850 volunteers, who are part of 20,000 volunteers of global bethel families, manage Nigeria’s Bethel Home. Volunteers have the prefix, brother or sister attached to their name depending on their sexes.
Located at Igieduma in Edo State, the Nigeria Bethel Home, receives many visitors, as tourists are called in Bethel Homes. Tour of the centre is free of charge. All kinds of tourists, regardless of their religion affiliations and backgrounds, often feel the need to visit the facility during holidays. According to one of the tourist guides, Mr. Chukwudi Okorie, an average of 3,000 tourists visited the home on May 1, which was a public holiday for Workers’ Day.
However, tourists are only allowed to tour the facility on weekdays: Mondays to Fridays, from 8:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, The Guardian was told.
Many prominent Nigerians, including a former head of state, have toured the Bethel Home facility one time or the other. The Guardian learnt that some tourists travel all the way from Lagos, Port Harcourt and other distant parts of Nigeria to tour the facility.
Those who have toured the facility described the experience as amazing while those who have only heard of the place are eager to visit.
The Nigeria Bethel Home occupies a space of about 138 acre, which takes about 50 minutes to tour round from one end to the other. Well-trimmed lawns and flowers give the facility the ambience of a nature garden. Some of the trees, however, produces edible fruits like coconut, which The Guardian was told, is not expected to be plucked arbitrarily either by the volunteers or tourists. “ There are brothers whose assignment it is to pluck these fruits. The fruits are stored, prepared and served to all bethelites during general meals. “ No other bethelite is expected to pluck these fruits at will. We can only pick the ones that have fallen off on their own. If everyone were to pick these fruits at will, there are some bethelites that will never taste these fruits, especially the elderly and female volunteers,” Okorie said.
Animals walk freely around the premises of the home. This may be another feature that may amaze a first time visitor to the facility. Deer, monkeys, grass cutter among other animals are easy sight to behold in this fenced facility. The most amazing thing about the animals is that the animals are not afraid of any harm, even when they see human beings.
Okorie explained that the animals were fenced into the centre about three decades ago when the centre was which was then a forest was being built.
As a group, those who serve at these facilities are known as the Bethel family. Like a family, the volunteers live and work together, enjoy meals together, and study the Bible together.
A number of necessary services are performed in the Bethel Home. For example, while some members of the family work in the kitchen, others prepare nutritious meals; do cleaning, housekeeping, laundry, or maintenance for other volunteers. These assignments contribute to the family’s high standard of cleanliness and global preaching work. The home prints 41 million copies of The Watchtower and Awake! Yearly in nine languages, and ships Bible literature to Nigeria and five other countries in West Africa.
Not one of the volunteers receives a wage or salary. But everyone, The Guardian learnt, is entitled to a room, board and an allowance to assist with personal expenses.
Aside several offices, which house various departments, the centre also has at least six dormitories where the various volunteers stay, either as couples or single bethelites. While some of the bethelites are old people, others are young.
The home depends on two big boreholes for its water needs. After the water from the bore is treated, they are stored in big tanks tank, Okorie said hardily could be filled by two trailer trucks.
Various fuel dispensers at the centre meet the fuel needs of the several cars and buses in the home. Many of the volunteers “walk” the centres with their personal bicycles or the ones belonging to the facility. Cars are basically meant to travel to far distant parts of Nigeria.
There are also car wash centres and vehicle maintenance units that take care of the needs of the various cars in Bethel. The neatness of these units is a beautiful sight to behold for any tourists.
Like every Nigerian home, the bethel facility does not depend on public generated electricity 100 per cent, but on four generators for its electricity power needs. The Guardian learnt that each of the generators, which calculate the power needs of the facility and switch on accordingly, is about 250 KVA. One interesting thing about these generators is that they are devoid of noise that often accompanies generators in most homes and firms.
Underground drainage system ensures that the facility is never flooded and it is well drained even when it rains heavily.
The Guardian learnt that the home has standard football field, basketball court, and other sporting facilities for the residents. These facilities help the residents keep fit and healthy.