Orisawitan, John Bodunrin
John Bodunrin Orisawitan was born on June 15, 1938 to the family of Pa and Mrs. Alaherin Orisawitan. His father and mother experienced a delay in conceiving children, and in accordance with common practice at that time, his father was advised to marry another woman. In spite of many persuasive efforts, he refused to do so, believing that God would provide in His own time. About ten years later, John was born. He was named John in relation to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who experienced a delay before God eventually gave them John the Baptist. One unfortunate thing about John was that he was their only child.
His father came from Odokoro Gbedde, a village in the present Kogi State of Nigeria, and he was one of the prominent members of Odokoro Baptist Church from the early 1930s until his death. His father was the bell-ringer for the church, so he was well known in the church and in the community, as it was a small village.
Education was not greatly valued at that time and in that area, and his father was a basket weaver. However, the white missionaries were educating the indigenous people so that they could be involved in the spread of Christianity. His father’s constant presence in the church brought him into contact with these missionaries, and he asked them if his son John could receive some training. His friends and neighbors discouraged him from doing that, as they saw nothing worthwhile in western education, but he was undaunted and John was sent to the Baptist Primary School, Odokoro Gbedde. After his primary education, he proceeded to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, where he obtained his Certificate in theology during the 1963/64 academic session. Upon his graduation, John assumed the pastorate of First Baptist Church Ayetoro Gbede, thus becoming the first indigenous pastor of a local Baptist Church in the local government area.
John married Comfort Omosola (née Metibogun) in 1968, and the marriage was blessed with six children, of which one is now a minister of the gospel. The children are: Adeyemi, Ajibola, Tomola, Omotayo, Rachael, and Remilekun. John’s wife was pregnant with Remilekun when John died in December of 1981. God, in His infinite mercy, has been gracious to these children in the sense that all of them are happily married and are doing well in their various professions today.
When John was in the seminary, he served as a long vacation pastor at First Baptist Church, Otun Irele, in Ekiti State, for two consecutive years. He was in his second year of service in this church when the news of his father’s demise reached him. The death of his father, however, did not stop him from making an impact in the ministry. One of his mentors at that time was Rev. Dr. P. H. Miller.
After graduating from the seminary, Orisawitan attended the Baptist Secondary School, Ekinrin-Ade, in Kogi State, which qualified him to teach. He took up a teaching appointment at the First Baptist Day School, Ayetoro Gbede, along with his pastoral assignment. In December of 1978, he felt that God still had some assignment for him at Irele Ekiti, where he had served as student pastor. He received a call to the pastorate of that church and served there until God decided to call him home in December of 1981.
Contributions to Christianity
John contributed greatly to the cause of Christ both in his hometown and in Irele Ekiti. His contributions are as follows: being the first indigenous Baptist preacher, he paved the way for others who eventually followed; his impact at the First Baptist Church in Ayetoro Gbede erased the prevailing misconception of that time, according to which there was nothing to gain from western education; he was instrumental in the establishment of the Baptist Secondary School, Iya-Gbede, in Kogi State; he was a strong decision maker in his community; and he was instrumental to the abolishment of Salaake worship in Irele Ekiti. Salaake was a deity of the land that demanded a yearly human sacrifice, but God used John to enlighten the people with the light of Christianity, and its worship was abolished.
Comfort Omosola Bodunrin (wife), interview by author, October 2009.
Elizabeth Keseunni (aunt), interview by author, October 2009.
This article, received in 2010, was written by Sunday Jolupinyan, PhD candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu, and the rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.
Orisawitan, John Bodunrin, Nigeria, Nigerian Baptist Convention