Paul A. Taiwo was born into a pagan family in Igbeti. He does not know the date of his birth, but it may have been shortly before the first missionaries came to Igbeti in 1919. When he was a young man close to 20 years old, the Christians used to come out in groups to places around the town for preaching. They would sing, beat drums, and preach using large pictures of Bible stories in picture rolls. He found this so interesting that he wanted to join these Christians, so in 1937, he started attending church.
It was on April 15, 1940 that Paul attended revival services in the church where Rev. D. O. Taylor made the way of salvation plain, and Paul accepted Jesus Christ that day as his personal Saviour and confessed his sins. He did restitution and experienced assurance of salvation.
There was no school for the youths in Igbeti then, but there were some young men who had lived for a time in other towns where they had become Christians and learned to read. Among these were Jacob Omotoso, Ezekiel Ogundare and Paul Boy, the brother of Rev. Ogunbode. Some of them had learned to read in places like Ijebu. Paul Taiwo and others like him wanted to learn to read, so they sought out such people and asked to be taught to read and write. This is how Paul and others first learned to read.
Paul was still farming with his father then. On one occasion, he and other men went to work on someone’s farm as labourers to earn some cash. As Paul was working, he heard a voice say “I have work for you which is different from what you are doing now.” He looked around but nobody was there. He asked the other men if they had said anything to him, but they all denied it. He began to wonder who it was who had said such a thing to him. Could it be God? The voice seemed to continue ringing in his heart.
Besides this, he was getting some practice in speaking before the congregation in the church because he could read. When letters addressed to the church needed to be read aloud, they would call on Paul to come forward and read them. Some of the elders commented to Paul that it seemed God wanted to use him in the work of the church.
In 1942, Rev. and Mrs O. L. Traub, who were Canadian UMS missionaries stationed at Igbeti, asked Paul if he would come to work for them. When he told his father about it, his father was not happy. “You go to church every Sunday already, now do you want to be there all the time? Who will be around to help me?” he asked. But Paul’s brother intervened for him and persuaded his father to allow Paul to go.
In the Traub household, Paul learned many things. They taught him various types of housework, including baking, even how to make bread. He became expert in caring for the small Traub children, and sometimes the parents went out and left the children totally in his care. This gave Mrs. Traub more time to devote to the preaching and teaching of the gospel.
At the same time, the Traubs started a part-time Bible school and Paul was enrolled as one of the students. This Bible school training opened his eyes more to the things of God, and the voice in his heart calling him to God’s work became stronger.
In 1944 the Traubs went on leave, and Paul was transferred to work as a steward for Iya-Egbe (Mrs. Finlay) at Share. Just before this, Paul started to think about finding a wife. There was a girl who came to church with her parents, called Charlotte Akeke Faderin from Sheriki compound. Paul admired her, so he talked to her to find out if she would be interested in becoming his wife some day. She was interested, so he asked her to talk to her parents. Before he left for Share, he told his people to meet her and arrange the match. They did this and while Paul was still at Share, all the negotiations were completed. It was the late Pastor Ogundele who wrote to Paul and informed him that the marriage had been approved and arranged by the two families. During his holiday periods, Paul always came to Igbeti to visit his fiancee.
In Share, Paul attended the UMS church. One Sunday, the challenge was given in the church for those whom God was calling to give themselves to the work of the gospel. When the invitation was given for people to offer themselves, Paul put up his hand. He had been struggling with the call he knew God had put on his life for some time and tried to disobey, but now he had to yield. When the committee of pastors and missionaries in charge of stationing pastors heard his story, they came to his house to ask if he was ready to be sent out as a pastor. When he said that by God’s grace he was willing, they sent him to Apado. The committee was made up of Rev. D. O. Taylor, Pastor Kayode and some of the missionaries.
Paule started his pastoral duties at Apado on January 1, 1945. He noticed that during the day the villagers went to their farms, so he could not visit them at home until they returned in the evening. But the children spent the day playing around in the village because there was no school. Paul too had little to do during the day. Why not gather the children and start teaching them? He asked the congregation about this and they agreed to send their children to him for teaching. A lot of children came and he taught them to read and write. Later the government heard about his school and sent inspectors. They saw that there were really a lot of children there interested in education, so the government agreed to take over the primary school at Apado. Some of Rev. Taiwo’s former pupils at Apado are: Deacon S. B. Alao, Mrs. Adebisi Aibu, Pastor Peter Iyanda, Mrs. Suberu Ajibola, Rev. Abraham Akangbe, Mrs. Omotayo Buraimo (deceased), Mrs. Folorunso Alao (deceased), Mr. Ayodele Alabi (deceased), Mr. Peter Adebola Atanda, Mrs. Asinawu Sanu, Mr. Suberu Asanlu, Mrs. Ibitokun Bale and others.
Finally the time came for Paul and Charlotte to set the date for their wedding and their parents were happy about the plan. Paul came home from Apado before the time to make all the arrangements. They were married on April 27, 1950 at Igbeti by Rev. Wayne Brenneman..
After the wedding, the Taiwos were posted to Olokoto to start the UMS church there. The Olokoto indigenes were Muslims, but there were some Christians living among them who were traders from Ijesha. They were the first church members. There was no church building yet, so they met for a time in someone’s house. Then Paul asked them to construct a shelter for the services. The people went to the bush to cut poles and grass, and built a place of worship.
The first Olokoto person to show an interest in the gospel was a boy named Babatunde who wanted to learn to read. He came to Paul and asked to be taught. Each time they taught him, they also prayed with him. His parents were angry with him for associating with the Christians, so he had to come for his lessons secretly when his parents were not at home. As the lessons continued, he began to understand the gospel. He became the first Olokoto Christian. When Pastor Omoleye replaced Paul as pastor at Olokoto, he continued to instruct Babatunde, and encouraged him to go to Bible School. He did go to Share for Bible School where he became strong in the faith. When he got back to Olokoto, the people said no one would give him a wife unless he returned to Islam. He said he would trust God for a wife. When God gave him one, the people said they would not celebrate a wedding for him. But the day of his wedding, many people came from Igbeti and there was a large celebration. This gave other young men in Olokoto the courage to also declare their faith in Christ. Now there are quite a few Olokoto natives who are Christians. Some of their children stay with Rev. Taiwo in Igbeti while they attend the UMCA Secondary Grammar School. Babatunde was later ordained a deacon in the UMCA church Olokoto.
Olokoto had no school, so Paul used the same method he had begun in Apado to start one for the children. Some of his pupils there were (the now) Sr. Apostle Olu of Ijesa, Mr. Kayode of Ijesa, Jacob Ayuba Bale, Tayibatu Aafaa, Ayiba Gote (deceased), Awero Alaako and Ayuba Alaako.
This school also was later taken up by the Government. Then Paul and his wife returned to Igbeti as full time students in the first UMS vernacular Bible School. There the family was blessed with their first child, Dorcas Olurin Olabimpe in 1951.
In 1953 and 1954, Paul studied at the UMS Bible School at Share. His son Mobolaji was born there. Paul obtained the certificate which was considered equivalent to Standard VI. Rev. D. O. Taylor was their teacher, and at the end of the course, Rev. Taylor was so impressed with Paul’s teaching abilities that he asked for him to be kept at the school as a teacher. He did this for only one year, and although Rev. Taylor wanted to keep him longer, the conference insisted that he was needed to start a new church in Ilorin.
Paul and his family moved to Ilorin in 1956. Their first church members were some young men from UMS churches, such as Okedare, Babatunde (now at Zion church) and students and teachers from the newly established UMS Theological College. There was also a man from Igbeti living in Ilorin who had a lorry doing trading called Pa Johnson, and a nurse from Mokwa, Usman, whose son is now in the air force. The church started in Usman’s parlour and later moved to the Taiwo’s parlour when they got a house that could accommodate the church. As the church became too big for this, they rented a shop near Opo Malu, and started looking for land to build on. The land they got is where the UMCA Pake church is today. The first church was erected there in 1958. The Taiwo’s daughter Olayemi Ajoke was born while they pastored in Ilorin.
Mr. Allan Doner (Jagun) was the missionary who helped the most to build the first church at Pake and helped get some overseas donations to assist. He even transported church members to and from services at times in his vehicle.
In 1960, it was Paul’s turn to become a student at the UMS Theological College in Ilorin. Although the family had no sponsor except the Lord Jesus Christ, He saw them through. That year, Paul was ordained as the second reverend of the UMCA in Nigeria (the first being Rev. D. O. Taylor). It was also the year that the Taiwo’s son Oladeji was born.
The Taiwos were at UMSTC for three years (1960-62) and after graduation, he was posted to Ilesha to start the UMCA in that town. The contact people they had to start with were two male nurses who had been trained at the UMS hospital in Tungan Magajiya and were working at the Wesley Guild Hospital in Ilesha. Rev. Taiwo also got names of students of the Light of Life Bible Correspondence courses, operated by the UMS, and contacted them. Some were ready to join the church that sent out the courses. The church grew and in 1965 the church building was erected. The Taiwo family also continued to grow with the birth of their daughter Ayodele in 1963.
From January 1st, 1967, Rev. Taiwo and his family were transferred back to Igbeti (Jerusalem church was still the only UMCA church there). That year at the UMCA Yoruba annual conference at Share, Rev. Taiwo raised the question of ordaining some of the strong church members as deacons and deaconesses, because it seems such positions existed in the Bible. One of the congregation joked, “Pastor Paul, do you want to become a deacon?” Some people laughed. Then Rev. Taiwo said, “No, but it would be good for some of our Christian brothers and sisters.” The conference decided that pastors could henceforth ordain good Christians from the UMCA churches as deacons and deaconesses. When Rev. Taiwo got back to Igbeti, he mentioned the matter and the church committee decided to ordain Deacon Gabriel Ayinla (now deceased) and Deacon Ezekiel Idowu. They were the first UMCA deacons in Nigeria. Reverends O. L. Traub and D. O. Taylor were invited to conduct the ordination. When other churches heard about it, UMCA Share and Jebba ordained some too, and shortly the custom spread to the UMCA churches in other districts as well.
Two of the remarkable things that happened in the nine years that the Taiwos spent in Igbeti then were that Rev. Taiwo was appointed Justice of the Peace by the Western State government, and the UMCA Secondary School was built. The Taiwos also gave birth to two more daughters there, Funmilayo and Funmilola.
Rev. Taiwo does not know who nominated him to the position of Justice of the Peace, though he was close to the Minister of Education, Mr. Aderonmu from Kishi, who often used to pass through Igbeti and usually stopped to greet him. At first, Paul wanted to reject the appointment, being afraid that it would involve him too much in government business or politics, but Rev. Traub encouraged him to accept, since it would be a help to the Christians in the area to have a Christian as the Justice of the Peace. So he accepted the post and has been active in it ever since. This is the meaning of the “J.P.” after his name.
One night Rev. Taiwo slept and saw in a vision school boys, dressed in white shirts and khaki trousers, and a signboard saying “UMCA Secondary Grammar School.” He woke up, wondering about the meaning of the dream. He went back to sleep and had the same dream again. This convinced him that God was speaking to him. He got up and wrote down the vision.
The next Sunday, he presented the idea to the church committee. At first they laughed. How, they asked, could UMCA alone sponsor a secondary school when Igbeti and two other towns together were barely managing to sponsor one? But Rev. Taiwo insisted that this thing was from God. The congregation began to survey the congregation, and found out that people were actually very interested in the project. The main problem was how to get the money.
They decided to start a fund and begin to accumulate the money gradually. Each month, every man of the church members was to contribute one pound, and every woman was to bring 10 shillings. They did this for six years, and at the end, had amassed 14,600 pounds. When they went to the State capatal at Ibadan to apply for permission to start the school, the government replied that they could if they had 20,000 pounds. By God’s grace, a bank in Ogbomosho was willing to lend them the remain 5,400 pounds because the late Mr. Bayo Ojo was a friend of the bank manager. Within three days, the application was approved. Rev. Taiwo and Deacon Fayisipe were going up and down to Ibadan, looking for teachers and getting everything set up. The deacon was a retired teacher and used his contacts and experience to build up the staff. The uniform adopted for the school was the same as what Rev. Taiwo had seen in his vision. The school opened in 1975.
In 1976, the Taiwos were again transferred, this time to Efo Amuro in Kwara State where they spent three years. In 1977 a bigger church building was erected there. After this the family was posted back to Ilesa from January 1979 to December 1984.
In January 1985, Rev. Taiwo began work as Principal of the Bible School in Igbeti, a post he held for six years. When he started, the Bible School classes were held only in Yoruba and there were only two students. With hard work and new leadership, the school increased to 14 students within six months, and in May 1987, the school was upgraded to an English Bible School. This attracted more students (19-21 enrolled). Many of the graduates became pastors, and some went on for further studies at UMTC Ilorin. Besides Rev. Taiwo, the school had a number of part-time teachers such as Mr. Oke, Deacon Idowu and Mrs. Oketade (who was also a graduate of the school).
In 1990 the new Igbeti District of UMCA held its first district conference at Olokoto. At that conference, Rev. Taiwo was elected the first Church District Superintendent of Igbeti District to begin duties January 1, 1991. At first, Rev. Taiwo felt inadequate for this task. He had been involved in a serious motor accident on his way back to Igbeti from the UMCA General Conference in Ilorin in 1989, which left him physically weak.
That evening, there had been only two of them in the car. Deacon Oladele was driving and it was dark. Near Igbeti, they met a lorry and its lights blinded them to another lorry parked by the road. They hit the second lorry. Rev. Taiwo lost consciousness, and in a sort of a dream saw a lovely path and began to follow it. Then he heard a voice behind him, calling him back, and woke up to find himself in the hospital. He was in hospital for some months, first in Igbeti and then in Ilorin. His leg was affected in the accident and even today he limps.
Despite his weakness, the District Conference insisted that he should be their CDS. They said they wanted him to hold the office even with his bodily weakness, so he took up the task. He praises God because during his time in office, he was able to attend all the meetings in the UMCA Headquarters and the District, to visit and to perform his duties as expected. The church expanded into more towns and villages around Igbeti and the work of God went on smoothly.
Rev. P. A. Taiwo retired on 28 December 1996 after 51 years of service to the Lord in the ministry in the UMCA. He has no regrets for his life well spent. On the retirement day, there were many gifts and expressions of love and appreciation for his labours, which gave him much joy. He looks back on the Lord’s goodness to him and his wife, his seven children and 16 grandchildren, and testifies that it is good to serve the Lord.
History collected from an interview with Rev. P. Taiwo by Lois Fuller, October 1997.
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.