Prophet Samuel was born on May 19, 1909 in Porto-Novo, then capital of the French colony of Dahomey, presently in Benin Republic. His father was a Muslim and an Egba man who later became a Methodist and his mother was a traditionalist who later became a Christian. In 1922, at age 13, his father sent him to the mission house to receive basic Christian training. He was there with many other boys of his age group. It was at this point that he adopted the name ‘Joseph’ and also anglicized the spelling of his surname from Osofa to Oschoffa. He was thereafter called Samuel Bilewu Joseph Oschoffa.
The white missionary father Rev. Garner once asked him to join other young boys in the construction of a seminary, he defied the order and did not participate, Rev Garner sent him away and refused to accept him back even after his father Osofa pleaded for him. As such the old man took his son in as an apprentice carpenter in his own workshop. The rejection offended Pa Osofa so much that he pulled out from the Methodist church with his family and joined the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. Samuel Bilewu Joseph soon became the talk of the town carpenter in his community, with specialty in roofing, kiosk construction and wood planning. On June 15, 1939, Pa Osofa died peacefully at Porto Novo. The death of his father marked a turning point in Samuel’s life. He soon began to take an active part in church activities. He was a member of the singing band and tried the trumpet and other musical instruments. He also served on many committees in the Methodist Church at Porto Novo. Samuel however, still continued to work as a carpenter after his father’s death, keeping the family profession alive.
In December 1946, seven years after his father’s death. Samuel left carpentry and moved on to supplying of timber logs to fellow carpenters in and around Porto Novo and for exports. They were few of them in timber log business, and it was generating more income than carpentry. He goes into the forest and after 2-5 days and sometimes a week, he will return back to town, when he was not in the forest, he was at home studying his Bible, his basic achievement while at the Missionary school, was the fact that he learnt how to read the Bible.
On May 3, 1947, Samuel bought his canoe to explore the swampy areas of the forest of Port Norve, he tried to take lessons on how to paddle it, and discovered there was need tasking his brain to know all things, so he opted out to employ a paddler. On May 23, 1947, he left home for Toffin forest and swampy area in the Ganvie area to carry out his usual business. He went his newly engaged paddler. They set off in the morning for the forest specifically to look for mahogany and ebony trees, to be chopped down for export. He had with him, food, drinking water and other personal effects for the trip. At the shore, before he walked into the forest, he instructed the canoe paddler to keep an eye on the canoe and the items inside it while he goes in make a search in the forest.
He took his time moving from one tree to another with utmost care to be able to identify and differentiate a tree from the other. As he progressed in the search little did he realized that he was moving away from areas of known to the unknown all in his effort in tree identification. After sometime he noticed a sudden change in the weather, the sky darkened, immediately he reached for his Bible and went straight to the book of Psalms as he tried to read the environment became ‘black’. All he could do as at the then was to kneel and pray in the midst of the forest, while he was wandering what was going on he was also worried about the younger man he left with the canoe.
It was while he was praying that he claimed to have heard a strange voice shouting, “Luli, Luli, Luli.”. He went on to narate the incident of that day thus: To his greatest surprise he saw a white monkey with wings, on a branch of tree above, with its mouth wide open. Beside the monkey was a multi-coloured bird which resembled a peacock. While he was busy contemplating the interpretations of the strange appearances, he noticed a short snake, about thirty centimetres long, right in front of him, making little or no efforts to run away. At that point the thought of killing the snake came, but he remembered that it was a taboo, an abomination to kill snake among the people of Dahomey (Republic of Benin). Snakes were considered sacred creatures, and was worshiped among the Dahomeans. In fact the Dangbe god of Porto Novo was a python god.
When the sky cleared, Samuel returned to where the canoe was and behold canoe paddler was writhing in pain. He walked round him, prayed for him and his pain was gone. He roamed about in the forest for three months and found himself in ‘Fagbe’ located near the village of Zinvie. Here, he met a man, Michel. Michel led Samuel to the nearest village called Hungon. When he emerged from the forest, family members concluded that he has resurrected from the dead. It was while he was in the forest that he received the call to serve his God and was empowered with the gifts of healing and prophecy, on September 2, 1947. On September 29, 1947, while meditating with some well-wishers in his house, Oschoffa claimed to have witnessed a mysterious and divine appearance where a winged angel bathed in an intense light stood before him. The angel of the Lord allegedly delivered the following message to Oschoffa in the Egun language which reads in English:
“Peace be with you. It is the wish of God to send you on an errand of preaching to the world. Many nominal Christians when confronted by difficulties and problems of this world, run after fetish priests and other powers of darkness for all kinds of assistance. Consequently, at their death they cannot see Christ because, by their action, Satan has left his spiritual mark on them. To assist you in your work so that men may listen to and follow your miraculous works of healing: divine healing will be carried out by you in the name of Jesus Christ. These works of divine healing and God’s spiritual mark on you will testify to the fact that God sent you.”
Oschoffa’s name became synonymous with miraculous healings and people in Porto Novo and beyond anxiously waited for the day he would visit them. The Celestial Church of Christ grew by leaps and bounds. Oschoffa was soon proclaimed a prophet by the ever increasing followers. Apart from being called a prophet of God, Oschoffa was also allowed to use the title of “pastor” though he did not attended any seminary nor been ordained as such. Through divine orders, the use of the name Epastoral, which was believed to have been uttered by an angel was conferred on him. The term was allegedly translated to him as pastor. Thus, the founder of the Celestial Church of Christ became known as Pastor, Founder, Prophet S. B. J. Oschoffa. He died years later after a motor accident.