View other stories by Femi Branch
My story is similar to that of the prodigal son as described by Jesus in Luke 15. I was not only a born-again christian but an ordained minister of the gospel.
I was a music minister and I had served as Associate Pastor & Choir Director in three different churches in Lagos and Abeokuta from 1997 - 2003. I however had a horrible experience with many "funny" men of God who believed in using the gospel for private gains.
This made me very disenchanted with ministry work. In 1999, I published a christian magazine called "The Christorium" but I never went beyond the second issue thanks to a betrayal from my born-again christian friend of many years whom I brought into the business due to promptings from his brother but who later decided that since his brother was now the one financing the magazine, then he might as well withdraw his brother's support and start a magazine of his own.
Which was exactly what he tried doing but sadly, he never went beyond the first issue. When the opportunity arose and after deciding I had had enough of all the "church drama", the last of which I experienced in the hands of my pastor then who literarily match-made me with a lady in church he wanted me to marry, and with his own hands, he destroyed the marriage just because the family decided not to do the wedding in his church but in the bride's family church, which is a common thing all over the world.
He went as far as banning all members from attending the wedding. The lady would later pack out of my house barely a month after our wedding and would file for divorce shortly after.
After recovering from the trauma of the divorce, decided to pursue my long-time passion for acting by joining the Nigerian movie industry. In no time I had miraculously secured a lead role in an MTN phone company commercial, my face was everywhere! People were calling me from around the globe saying they had just seen me on TV, you could hardly drive for five minutes on any major Nigerian road without seeing me smiling on a large Billboard.
The height was when I was at Shoprite in Victoria Island in Lagos and during a commercial break on CNN, my advert came up, I felt like I had grown six foot taller! People started staring at me not believing they were actually looking at the same person they were seeing on CNN here in the flesh! I was ecstatic! Little did I know that it was just the beginning of the great set-up that the devil was arranging for me. Shortly after that, I got a lead role in what would come to be my signature role on Nigerian television, in the popular DOMINO television Soap as the controversial Oscar Lord-Williams.
What the MTN commercial had started, the Domino soap put a seal on. If it was ever in doubt that Femi Branch was a good actor, such doubts were laid to rest every time Oscar came on the screen! I could hardly travel anywhere in Nigeria without people calling 'Oscar'.
The rich and the poor, the big and the small, they all knew my name. It was settled, Femi Branch was officially a certified member of Nollywood's A-List!The language movies came after that, if you saw five yoruba movie posters, it was certain that I was on three or four.
I was on top of the world or so I thought. By now, I had married a wonderful lady and had a beautiful baby girl.
The sad part was that my family was the one paying dearly for my fame. I would go off for Weeks on end, only just managing to call every now and then.
My christian identity was in my distant past, in fact, when anyone that knew me beofre called me 'pastor', I got very offended and embarrassed, I was ashamed to be called a believer not because I was ashamed of Christ or hated God but because I was ashamed of myself! I had sunken so deep into sin that I did not want anyone knowing that I had ever been a true christian! The devil's strategy was working, the grand set-up was succeeding, he had won, or so he thought at the time. Then Things started to take a downward slide.
I started having problems with people I worked with. At a time, I was banned from acting by the association because there were complaints that I would collect money and not show up for the job, some of these accusations were true.
Though it was the same producers that were responsible by not keeping to their own ends of contracts but nobody cared about that. The envy that had trailed me over the years was finally getting an opportunity to get back at me.
So the jobs started fading. Even after the ban was lifted, the reputation had been smeared and our people were only too happy to make sure I stayed down.
I fought this for almost two years and then decided to produce my second movie. Once again I was fortunate to get sponsors miraculously.
I asked for three million and was given four but instead of going ahead and working with what I got, I decided to expand the story and increase the budget and there the devil got me. I lost all the money and never got beyond the pre-production level.
The time came to deliver to my investors but there was nothing I could do. It got so bad that they had to resort to the media when they thought I did not intend to pay back but by now, I had begun to realise my folly and trace my steps back to God.
In December 2011, I started the production of what would be my best movie yet. I was able to get another sponsor to invest a million naira.
Everything seemed to be going well and I was already planning a world-wide tour of the film when disaster struck! A night before we would wrap, I was to do a jump in a scene which ordinarily did not seem a big deal but lo and behold, I ended up being near-crippled for about six months due to that one jump!The job had to be called off, I was now in debt for almost seven million naira and I didn't even know if I would ever walk again! I know somewhere within me that this was not the plan of the devil. Am sure he had something more devious up his sleeves but God had somehow turned it around for my good.
The journey that I had started back to God now took a different momentum. Though many would want to believe that it was the accident that brought me back to God, I would have them know that it had started long before then and even in the midst of the crisis which lasted the first half of 2012, I was still struggling with shame as to how I would return to God after squandering the grace and gifting that he had so abundantly blessed me with.
But thanks to my wife's unrelenting prayers and her love, thanks to the prayers and love of @Pastor Ore & Sylvester Esedebe of Christ Embassy Abeokuta, the unfathomable love of my Lord Jesus whom I had shamed and dissapointed on so many ocassions, the unrelenting devotion and nudging of God's sweet Holy Spirit who just refused to give up on me and the love of a Father who would not lose a precious son whom he had paid so dearly for to a filthy loser like the devil, I am here today. God refused to give up on me.
Even when my wife packed her bags and said she's had enough, God melted her resolve thru the love shown her by my brother and my parents. God used everyone usable to reach out to me.
Even tho I had not been shining for Him as He had purposed but for the enemy, He refused to give up on me. So here I am today.
I have finally come to convince myself that I am deserving of His love for He Himself declared me worthy! I discovered Christ Embassy and found out that not all Pastors are frauds or self-serving! I had decided that I was no longer acting since I felt it represented my fall but the Spirit of God has made me understand that I still have a mission there! God has made me realise that the stardom I felt I had while shining for the enemy is nothing compared to what He has prepared for me. Now I know I cannot fail! I am indestructible! I now walk on my two legs again serving God with my gifts in His house halleluia!!! And I have come to know that whatever talents or gifts God has given any of us, He intends for us to use it for the saving of souls! Be it acting, singing, writing, sewing, telling jokes, making shoes, cooking, you name it, just ask Him how and He will show you it is a tool to expand the kingdom! Now I reach out to others like me in the entertainment industry to shine for Jesus thru the Art4Christ Movement.
My name is Femi Branch, a Nigerian Film Maker and Writer and this is my story. Whatever your situation, don't give up on God, because he sure wont give up on YOU!!!.