Sunmonu, David Olawoore
The late Rev. David Olawoore Sunmonu was born in Ayelabowo compound, Ashipa house, Oke Ago, Igbeti, in Olorunsogo Local Government area of Oyo State. His birth is dated 26 July 1920. His parents were pagan and his father’s name was popularly known as Pa Sunmonu, alias “Irawo osan ti nba agba lera” which means “the star in the afternoon that terrified the elders.” This nickname was given to his father because he was so stubborn and strong. The people of Ashipa compound worshipped Ogun as their god. They were also great hunters. His father was such a strong man that he was the leader of the hunters and during his time no thief ever succeeded in breaking into the town.
David Sunmonu became a Christian in his early youth through the Christians and some missionaries who used to come to Igbeti for preaching. They showed the people a lot of pictures and told the Bible stories that the pictures were about. They also beat drums, sang choruses and danced. The young Sunmonu became interested in their message and decided to join the Christians. Like his father, he was a serious, determined and hardworking man even at the age of 15. When he was 20 years old, he was one of those who would gather in the evening after the day’s work to listen to a sermon from the missionaries who lived in Igbeti at that time. Some of those who had accepted Christ at this time were Pa Samuel Ogunbode (father of Rev. G. A. Ogunbode), Rev. P. A. Taiwo, Jacob Omotoso and others.
There was only one church in Igbeti, established by the missionaries who came during that time. Its name was the UMS, known as the UMCA today. David Sunmonu and his group of friends attended this church in 1936 (Jerusalem church). There was no primary school then, but he knew how to write and read through a process called “Adobale Ko,” i.e. “lie down to write.” Others of his grown up friends who learned in the same way were (now Inspector) Ajibowu, (Rev.) P. A. Taiwo, Omotoso Jacob, Ezekiel Ogundare. They learned from some of the first literate men in the town, like Pa Ayinla.
Since the major occupation of Igbeti town is farming, David Sunmonu’s father would not allow him to go to church on Sunday but expected him to work on the farm instead. Like many of the young believers in this period he had to sneak out to church and preferred his work to be doubled on the following day. It was not easy for the young converts to do two days’ work in one day and finish it, but they struggled to continue since they did not want to miss the church services.
Next, D. O. Sunmonu worked for the late Pa Ajibowu who was the chairman for Igbeti progressive Union from 1938 to 1940. He sold clothes all around in the Ilorin villages, which were about 120 villages then, and are about 145 villages now that Igbeti has her own council.
All his travel from village to village was done by trekking. He and one of his friends (the son of Inspector Ajibowu) did this work and whenever a debtor insisted on not paying them they warned each other not to use a strong method like police action but to act like gentleman, which they laughed over jokingly.
In the early 1940s, Sunmonu started his evangelistic work with a pastor called Durojaye. Their missionary journeys took them to around Babaloma, Apado and Share. Many a time they walked from there down to Igbeti. They could be on the road trekking for three weeks or over a month just for evangelism. When the missionaries saw Sunmonu’s activities and great zeal, they posted him to Alera town as pastor.
In 1947 D. O. Sunmonu was married to (now Deaconess) C. A. Sunmonu. They were blessed with six children, four girls and two boys. The firstborn is a lady named Ayodele who is married to the family of Awolade.
Wanting to know more about the Word of God, Pastor Sunmonu went to Bible School at Igbeti in 1951-52 then to the English Bible School Share in 1953-54 under the great lecturer Rev. D. O. Taylor.
After this education he was sent to his home town, UMCA Jerusalem, as pastor from 1955 to 57. However, his plan was to get more training, so he left for UMS Theological College in Ilorin where he spent another two years (1950-61). From 1962-65 he was at Jerusalem Church Igbeti again as pastor. He was an industrious man of vision and foresight who knew how to plan ahead.
In 1966 he was posted to Ilorin as pastor, where he worked until 1970. Because of his faith and the evidence of his ability which UMCA saw, he was appointed as Church District Superintendent (CDS) for the Yoruba District. He later returned to UMCA Pake in Ilorin as the pastor from 1971 to 1976. Then he was posted to UMCA Ilesa during the years 1976-79. Finally, after pastoring in so many places, he was asked to go back home and pastor another church in his town of Igbeti, so he was at UMCA Bethlehem from 1980 to 1994 where he ended up his work as a pastor and retired.
During the year 1980-81 when he had newly arrived at Bethlehem church, he had an unforgettable and interesting experience which he often shared as a testimony to the congregation. The story is a long one but in summary, one day one of their she-goats gave birth in a hidden place or in a cave at the back of the church. The church building sits at the foot of the vastness of Iyamopo hill, which has expanses of bare black rock dotted with areas of tall grass, bushes and larger trees. When Baba could hear the newborn goats crying, he went out to search for them. For over an hour he was walking all about the hillside and did not realize that he had gone quite far from home. All of a sudden, he found himself in a cave where masquerades gathered, both young and old ones, breathing heavily and murmuring, though there were no human beings inside the costumes. They seemed annoyed, even angry, and wanted to harm him. He looked around for a way of escape and ran for his life, but he could not see any way leading out of the place. He was not conscious of anything any more but only remembered to call out, “JESUS, save me!”
Immediately a light shone on him, and as if he had been blind before, he suddenly clearly saw the light shining on the way that he followed out back to his house in the church compound. He gave God the glory for his sovereign power and the efficacy of the name of JESUS, who did not allow him to be consumed by the powers of darkness.
Some elders and hunters to whom the story was narrated asked him to describe the place so they could go to check it. Baba could not precisely describe or locate the place any longer. Some hunters tried to locate the place but all their efforts were in vain. But the fact of the experience remained valid for a testimony that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are saved.”
Rev. D. O. Sunmonu worked as a pastor/missionary for 50 years and he was retired in 1994 without being held for a fault by any church. No group or church where he had worked had any complaint against him.
Shortly after his retirement, he fell sick, aggravated by old age. Rev. P. A. Taiwo, Chief S. A. Ajibowu and his daughter, Lydia Ogundepo, ran here and there taking care of him. He was carried to Ogbomoso Baptist hospital where he later rested in the Lord on October 10, 1996. He spent 77 years on earth before being translated to eternity. His work and fruits are still alive.
Story by E. Onipede, December 1997, from interviews with the Sunmonu family.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Faith of Our Fathers: Life Stories of Some UMCA Elders, copyright © 1999, edited by Lois Fuller, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. All rights reserved..