Lawrence Jayesemi, otherwise referred to as Rev. LOC Jayesimi, was a teacher, pastor, evangelist, counselor, administrator, businessman, musician, husband and father. He was confronted by many challenges both in his life and ministry, yet he lived an exemplary and inspiring life.
Jayesimi was born on February 28, 1932, to the family of Pa Joseph Adebayo and Mrs. Regina Adeyemi Jayesimi. He was born with defective eyesight due to a difficulty encountered by his mother during delivery, and this posed a great challenge to him, but he faced life with determination and excelled where people with good eyesight failed.
He attended Ogbere United Primary School in Ijebu Igbo from 1946 to 1951. Due to financial constraints, he could not proceed to secondary school. Consequently, he became a patent medicine dealer and his business was popularly known as “Irede Fine Medicine.” This business took him to every nook and cranny of Ijebu Igbo and its environs for many years. In 1956, he founded a school, Atake Baptist Primary School, which he managed until he received a divine calling into the service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He was doing well as the owner of a conventional school and as a medicine vendor, but he felt called by God to full-time ministry. He took the entrance examination to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso three times and passed, but was denied admission due to his poor eyesight. On the fourth attempt, with a strong conviction of his call, he approached the school authorities and asked them to give him a chance. The school principal, Dr. J. C. Pool, obliged, and he was given admission to the seminary. He was there from August of 1963 to May of 1986, and he obtained the certificate in theology.
His pastoral ministry started from the time of his training at the seminary. As a student pastor, he served at Ile-Abu Baptist Church near Odo Oba, Ogbomoso, and performed honorably.
After his training, he took up the pastoral leadership of Eleruwa Baptist Church, at Ikoyi-Igbeti Road in Oyo State, and served from February of 1967 to December of 1982. Simultaneously, he was the chaplain for the Western Nigeria Training Center for the Blind (now known as Nigerian Training Center for the Blind, Ogbomoso), from 1967 to 1973. At this time he saw the need to further his education because there were so few people trained to handle the education of the physically challenged, especially the blind. As their pastor, he felt for them and offered to seek training in special education. Since he had barely completed his secondary education, he enrolled as a correspondence student in Rapid Result College, where he obtained the General Certificate of Education with flying colors.
In 1973, he was admitted to the University of Ibadan for a diploma course in religious education, which he completed in record time, in 1975. He thereby became a pastor as well as a qualified religious educator. In 1977, he taught at what was then St. Joseph Secondary Modern School, Awe, in Oyo State.
Despite his poor eyesight, he returned to the University of Ibadan for further studies, obtaining a B.S. in special education in the second class upper division in 1980. He also obtained a Masters degree in education from the same university in 1983. This was a courageous thing to do, for someone who was visually impaired from birth. However, he was able to achieve it with the assistance of one of his children, Segun Jayesimi, who acted as his “reader’ throughout the duration of the course. His son would usually read his notes and books to him, enabling him to acquire the necessary information and knowledge for successful study. He did so well in his studies at the University of Ibadan that he was advised to proceed straight to the doctorate level, and he was retained by his department to teach special education in the university. However, due to the rigors attached to the work and to the educational needs of his children, his family members advised him to withdraw from both the study and the work, which he did.
On November 22, 1980, he was ordained into full time gospel ministry by the Nigerian Baptist Church at Eleruwa Baptist Church, Ogbomoso. In 1983, he moved from Eleruwa Baptist Church to Emmanuel Baptist Church, now known as First Baptist Church Alade Moniya, Ibadan, where he stayed until 1986. He dedicated himself to encouraging men and women to making something great out of their lives. Many who knew him and took his advice are grateful today.
Meanwhile, there was a schism in Emmanuel Baptist Church because some members wanted a new church to be planted at Moniya Town in Ibadan, since there had never been a Baptist Church there. Members of what later became Ife Oluwa Baptist Church supported the move, but there was disapproval from certain quarters, which led to a serious conflict within the church. Those in support of the move threatened to pull out of the Baptist Church if their wish were not granted. When Jayesimi heard of this, he decided to support the planting of the new church and also offered to be the pastor. This helped to calm the tension and the new church remained within the Baptist fold. It is today known as Ife Oluwa Baptist Church. Jayesimi worked in this church tirelessly until 1989.
He taught in various schools from 1980 to 1993, including Ogbomoso High School (1980 to 1981); the Community High School, Tewure, Ogbomoso (1982); Baptist High School, Ede (1984); and the Community School, Otun Agbaakin via Ibadan (1984 to 1990). From 1990 to1993, he was also at the United Missionary College, Ibadan, from where he retired in December of 1993. He was like a father to his students who were physically challenged. One of them, named Idowu Aworinde, was a singing evangelist who was very well known in Christian homes in Nigeria. Also, one of the members of his church in Moniya is now the resident pastor of Eleruwa Baptist Church, where he had been pastor.
His major contribution was in the field of education for the blind. He made a case for it in the former Oyo State, drawing the attention of the state government to the needs of the physically challenged. He pioneered education for the blind in Ijebu Igbo. Along with Mr. Okubanjo, he used his expertise there and they liaised with a foreign non-governmental organization to fund a school for the physically challenged. This was in line with the vision he had even before he answered the call into the ministry.
He retired from active service in 1993. After his retirement he returned to Ijebu Igbo and devoted his time to spreading the gospel and developing Baptist Churches. Some of the churches developed at that time were the First Baptist Church, and the Oore Ofe Baptist Church, both in Ijebu-Igbo. Others are the Baptist Church, Arije, and the Baptist Church, Aba Lemonu.
He was married to Felicia Aderonke Jayesimi (née George) and the marriage was blessed with children and grandchildren. One of them is Rev. Segun Jayesimi, the conference secretary of the Ogun Baptist Conference, with headquarters in Abeokuta.
Lawrence Olanrewaju Cole Jayesimi died on March 16, 2005.
Rev. Segun Jayesimi (son), interview by author, October 25, 2009, Ogun Baptist Conference Residence, Abeokuta.
Funeral service program for Rev. Lawrence Olanrewaju Jayesimi, April, 25, 2005.
This article, received in 2009, was written by Femi Olajide, a student at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria, and submitted by Dr. Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.