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Okesiji, Moses Afolabi Majaro
c. 1897 to 1991
Baptist
Nigeria

In describing the life of Moses Afolabi Majaro Okesiji one could say "God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called." A lay leader who became a mentor to many ordained ministers, Moses Okesiji contributed to the advancement of Christianity in the Oke Ogun area of Nigeria and worked tirelessly as a powerful witness to God's glory.

Moses Afolabi Majaro Okesiji was born sometime around 1897 to Pa Odunewu Mafolayomi Ayisa and Ojuolape Okediran Asabi--the only surviving child of thirteen siblings. Moses' parents held traditional religious beliefs, and worshipped the mountain. His father was from Alasia Egbeji's compound in Isia and his mother was from Baale Gbonje's compound, both in Okeho Ahoro (Ahoro means "the former but deserted place"). Moses was living with his parents in the old Okeho in 1916 when the city was devastated by government soldiers as a result of a serious civil disturbance that claimed the life of the onjo (chief) of Okeho, Oba Olukitibi. Moses and his parents fled to Ipapo, and Moses did not return to Okeho until 1933.

In 1919, when he was twenty-two years old, Okesiji married a woman named Otitoola from Okeho. After this marriage dissolved, he married again, to Mumani from Ipapo. His third wife was Comfort Atoke from Okeho, and they had a son together. However this marriage failed as well. Okesiji married his fourth wife, Elizabeth Anike, from Ipapo, and this marriage was blessed with four children.

Okesiji was father to six children in all, one of whom has passed away (as of 2008). Among his surviving children are Rev. John A. Okesiji, his eldest son, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church Okelerin Ogbomoso from 1978 until 1998 when he retired, and Deaconess Victoria Olukemi Olayemi.

Conversion Experience and Call to Ministry

Jesus revealed himself to Okesiji at Ipapo in 1921, and Okesiji gave his life to Christ. Taking his new religious life seriously, he enrolled in the Ipapo Baptist Church's enquirer's classes and was baptized in 1925. Okesiji did not attend school or receive any formal education but because he loved education, he learned how to read and write through hard work and self discipline.

Okesiji was very active in church services and programs. Within a short time, he showed so much growth and diligence that he was appointed the church's Sunday school superintendent and Baptist Young People's Union (B.Y.P.U) director. As a result of his earnest work for Christ, he was even made the church leader when there was no trained pastor. He acted as pastor of the church from 1927 to 1928.

When Okesiji's father passed away in Ipapo in 1933, Okesiji returned to Okeho. After joining the First Baptist Church Isia, Okeho, Okesiji became enthusiastically involved in church activities and his gifts became as obvious as a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. When the pastor of the church, Rev. J. O. Adesina, discovered Okesiji's gifts, he appointed him Sunday school superintendent. Okesiji fulfilled that role, as well as that of lay preacher, from 1934 to 1938.

When there was a need for pastors in the Oyo/Okeho Baptist Association, Rev. Adesina recommended that the missionary adviser, Rev. J. C. Powell, send Okesiji to the churches in need. Rev. Powell gave Okesiji home training in Orientation to Ministry (OM), which is similar to the present Theological Education by Extension (T.E.E.). He was then posted to Igbojaye as the pastor of Igbojaye Baptist Church. This was the beginning of Okesiji's pastoral ministry-- other places he worked as a pastor include: Ofiki, Isia Okeho, Idiko-Ile, Ijio, and Okeho. [1]

Church Service

However, the road of Okesiji's pastoral ministry was not all smooth--there were hitches along the way. When he arrived in Ofiki in 1941, he combined the task of preaching with teaching as a result of his desire to educate illiterate people. In 1942 he founded a primary school with one assistant teacher. During the school holiday, Okesiji took his annual leave and went to Okeho. During the holiday a supervising teacher, Mr. Laosebikan of Oyo, brought in a third grade teacher to further develop the school. The church accepted the trained teacher but could not pay the salaries of three employees. Since the assistant teacher was a son of that land, they decided to keep him and the trained teacher, but ask the pastor to go. Thus Okesiji, who founded the school, was sent away.

Another difficult event took place during a political crisis in Okeho in 1967. The political unrest was so tense that even blood brothers couldn't sit together in church if they didn't belong to the same political party. Okesiji was pastor of Araromi Baptist Church, which had members of both parties. Since neither party could claim Osekiji's loyalty, they ordered him to leave. So he returned to the First Baptist Church Isia, Okeho.

However, because of his calling as a minister, he was not satisfied to simply worship as a lay member. So in 1968 he founded Emmanuel Baptist Church in Okeho and served as pastor until 1977, when he retired from active service.

Achievements

Moses Afolabi Majaro Okesiji was a committed community leader. He was an active member of Egbe Omo Ibile Okeho (the Society of Okeho Indigenes); he belonged to a committee set up to write a history of Okeho. He founded and maintained a school for disabled children in Kojola local government council. Okesiji was the founding father of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Okeho chapter, and was chairman of the chapter from 1985 to September 1991. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Baptist Boys High School (BBHS), now Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo.

Okesiji also mentored many pastors and deacons. He served as a missionary pastor in several places in the Oyo/ Okeho Baptist Association and was known to deliver powerful sermons. He was even nicknamed "Pastor Alawiye," which means "eloquent pastor." In spite of his lack of formal education, Moses Okesiji ranks among the great preachers of his time. Moses Okesiji died on Monday, September 30, 1991.

Amos Adelere Adeola


Notes:

1. Okesiji served in the following churches:
Igbojaye Baptist Church, Igboye 1938-1941
First Baptist Church Ofiki 1941-1943
First Baptist Church Isia Okeho 1943-1945
Baptist Church, Idiko-Ile 1946-1949
Baptist Church, Ijio 1950-1953
Olugbade Baptist Church, Okeho 1954-1957
Araromi Baptist Church Okeho 1958-1966
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Okeho 1968-1977



Sources:

Burial service program of Rev. M. A. Okesiji, Immanuel Baptist Church Isia Okeho, 1991.
The History of the First Baptist Church Isia, Okeho, 2000.
Interview with Rev. John A. Okesiji (retired pastor of Oke' lerin Baptist Church Ogbomoso), at Okesiji's residence, Owode Oyo, February 2007.


This story, received in 2008, was researched and written by Amos Adelere Adeola, a D.Min. candidate at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, P.M.B 4008, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.