Before she won a surprising election to the Sayreville council, Eunice Dwumfour was a pastor for Champions Royal Assembly, delivering impassioned sermons from behind a pulpit or a desk, pointing out Bible verses, offering thanks to the church's leaders and urging the congregation to give.
Dressed impeccably, Dwumfour, known as Pastor Eunice D., told members during one 2017 sermon that giving fell into the category of reaping what you sow. She urged them not to give grudgingly; their contributions would come back to them. And she reminded them of the passage from the Book of 2 Corinthians that God loves cheerful givers.
"You're not giving to (the church leader)," she said. "You're giving to the spirit that is backing him. And what does that spirit do? Works to your advantage."
Dwumfour's life has been put under a lens since the 30-year-old Sayreville council member was found shot to death outside of her home on Feb. 1. Prosecutors haven't made arrests or discussed the case. And the state ordered flags at half-staff on Wednesday in tribute.
The case marked a violent end to a life that friends, family and colleagues said was devoted to Champions Royal Assembly. The church, observers said, has its roots in Pentecostalism and the prosperity gospel − the idea that God wants you to be wealthy.
"They are churches that focus on health, the healing of your body, and wealth, that God wants you to be rich," said David D. Daniels, a professor at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. "God's design for humanity is not poverty, God's design for humanity is wealth. So how does one access that wealth?"
Among the members of the Champions Royal Assembly, according to social media posts, was Christian Onuoha, 30, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020 against long-time Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. Onuoha told the Asbury Park Press during the campaign that he was running to try to ensure the next generation would be as financially independent from the government as possible.
The next year, Onuoha teamed up with Dwumfour to run for Sayreville council, beating incumbents Damon Enriquez and Kevin Dalina by fewer than 300 votes as part of a Republican wave nationwide.
Onuoha spoke Wednesday night at a memorial service for Dwumfour, remembering her as selfless and one-of-a-kind.
“I just believe that she was the best person to serve in our borough as a councilwoman, especially in the Republican party at the time as I was the recruiting chair,” he said.
Enriquez said he didn't know his opponents before they ran against him. When he saw them at events, they exchanged pleasantries, with Dwumfour wishing a thousand blessings on his family.
"I know she’s a religious type person," Enriquez, 47, said in an interview. "I’m, like, who can have that much hatred toward a person to do that to begin with? I can’t say I know her well, but to say what she construed to me I wouldn’t think she had many enemies."
It isn't clear how Dwumfour chose Champions Royal Assembly as her church.
The church, based in Nigeria, was founded some 16 years ago by Joshua Iginla, described on his web site as a major prophet to his generation who wants to heal the sick, deliver the oppressed and break the bands of wickedness. He leads the congregation in a sprawling 80,000-seat auditorium.
The web site includes an online store where Iginla sells his four books for $10 to $20.
The Newark church has services on the second floor of a store on Broad Street. Police on Sunday left fliers on worshippers' cars, asking for information about the case, News 12 reported.
Dwumfour's life in the church was documented on social media. She was married last fall to Eze Kings in a ceremony that included 13 photos of the couple on Kings' Facebook page. And some of her sermons were posted on YouTube.
In them, she delivers fiery oratory for an hour or longer, discussing themes such as love and giving, referring to Bible passages to back her up and giving praise both to Iginla and Osi King, whom she also described as a prophet and spiritual father.
King has been president of Fire Congress Fellowship Inc., a nonprofit based in the Parlin section of Sayreville, since 2014. Dwumfour and Onuoha joined the group as treasurers beginning in 2018. None of them received compensation, according to tax filings.
Both Champions Royal Assembly and Fire Congress Fellowship listed their principal address at 59 Pointe of Woods Drive North in Sayreville. It is an address that also has been listed by Dwumfour, Onuoha and King as their residence, according to business and voter registration records.
The building is part of an apartment complex called Camelot at La Mer, where rent for a one-bedroom unit ranges from $1,525 a month to $2,020 a month, according to its web site.
King, who describes himself on Twitter as a finance expert by training and a prophet and teacher by calling, has spoken as well. In a Facebook video last October, he took Kanye West to task for the rapper's anti-Semitic comments, comparing him to a firecracker that is loud and colorful and then fizzles out.
"Even if that was a joke, even if that remark was a joke, do you know what the Bible said? The Bible said we should avoid foolish gestures," King said. "It’s too shameful, too shameful.”
King responded Wednesday to a request for comment by sending a video of a worship that included his sermon entitled "Why do Demons Return?" It isn't clear when or where the sermon took place. And there was no reference to Dwumfour.
In it, King touches on his own childhood, raised by a mother who took him to a voodoo priest that left him with cuts on his face.
The overriding theme was the nature of demons and why they continually return, sometimes in greater numbers than before. He says members who blame pastors for getting repossessed by demons are misplaced in their anger.
"What is the thing that you do that always makes you get repossessed?" he says. "What is that thing?"
Dwumfour's sermons include references that Daniels said have familiar threads. She talks about prophets and calls Iginla "papa," using terminology that can be found in West African Pentecostalism. And she talks about the importance of giving to the church, a common theme in prosperity gospels promoted by American preachers such as Joel Osteen.
The idea that God rewards faith financially is a source of contention, Daniels said.
"If you're poor and you want to get out of poverty, the more you give, the more God can give you in return," he said of the concept. "But that can be dangerous, especially if you're giving your rent money, your children's food money."
Dwumfour gave a sermon in 2017 and asked the congregation if they truly were giving as much to the church as they could. If they didn't have cash, she said, they could give their earrings or watch or gold chain. It would be a sacrifice, but God would notice.
That's how giving works, she said. Givers can pull themselves up to the next level.
"Giving is like an exchange," she said. "You take and receive, you take and receive. But don't always be a receiver. Be a giver."
"Why? Because God," she said, pointing to the congregation..
"Loves a cheerful giver," they responded.
Staff writers Ken Serrano, Suzanne Russell and Susan Loyer contributed to this story.
Michael L. Diamond is a business reporter who has been writing about the New Jersey economy and health care industry for more than 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Sayreville councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour led Champions Royal Assembly