About Me

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Antioch, California, United States
John is the under-shepherd of Agape International Church & Ministries Inc, Antioch, California and the President of Agape International Ministries Foundation, Inc (www.agapebfm.net) John has been a Preacher, Bible Teacher, Counselor and a mission-minded servant of God from 1984 till the present time. Married to Alice since 1987, he enjoys being a father to 2 sons and 1 daughter. He is available to preach, participate in evangelistic crusades and revivals, lead or participate in a Marriage Enrichment program internationally. John preaches on a weekly radio broadcast called "KNOW THE TRUTH" (Based on John 8:32)and the broadcast is aired every Sunday at Radio KDIA 1640AM. The broadcast is also accessible through the website of the radio station: www.kdia.com. You can follow him on twitter @agapebfm

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If Not God—Reflections on My 50th Birthday

If Not God—Reflections on My 50th Birthday
Written on October 21, 2010

(Psa 90:12 NIV)Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

What can I say unto the Lord,
All I want to say is Thank you Lord.
Thank you Lord,
Thank you Lord
All I have to say is thank You Lord

It is just like yesterday. It is so amazing how fast time flies. The story of my life is extensive and it is filled with all that life offers. But because I do not want to bore anyone out, I will try to summarize my life story. There are certain markers of my life that I cannot ignore. After sharing my brief story, I will endeavor to share some biblical principles that I live by today.

My Story
My humble life started on a Friday in October 50 years ago in a small village called Obidiran, near Ibadan, in the Akinyele local Government of Oyo State of Nigeria. My parents, Late Rev. Joseph AKinlabi Ojewole and Late Mrs. Alice Mosunmola Ojewole were living at a small village called Olooke, near Ikire, at that time. At the time that I was born, my father was a school teacher at Ikire under the Baptist Mission. When I was named on the eighth day according to Yoruba custom, (as I was informed by my parents) several names were given to me by my parents, grand parents and the community at large. In my culture, a child belongs to the community out of which he or she was birthed. It was the belief of my people that “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” What an incredible principle.  I think Mrs. Hillary Clinton borrowed the title of his old book from an African Adage.
According to the story shared with me by my parents, the news of my birth was a welcome one in the village and it’s environ. This accounted for why I was given numerous names on the day of my naming. The names given to me include Abisoye, Ilemobayo, Omobayonle, Olukayode, Aiki, just to mention a few. I was informed that the naming ceremony was extensive and exuberant.
          During the first 5 years of my life, I stayed with my parents at Olooke near Ikire and with my grand parents (Late Pa. Jacob Ojewole and Late Mother Victoria Efunlade Ojewole) intermittently. It was fun growing up in the suburb. I love the village life. Often times I still remember the good old Days.
          When my father gained admission to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary Ogbomosho in 1965, the entire family moved to Ogbomosho. As one Yoruba adage says, “Bi igbin ba fa, ikarahun a te le” meaning that the shell of a snail follows it wherever it goes. Why? Because their life is interdependent and they both need each other. The same way, the entire family moved to Ogbomosho. Our family was not economically stable at that time. When people look at my present social status, they might assume that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. No. My family struggled financially for some time until when God gave us a breakthrough. We give Him all the glory. Back to the story that I was sharing. As soon as my parents moved to Ogbomosho, I stayed with my parents permanently. I thank God that I did as I would have missed a lot if I had continued to stay with my grand father in the village. While at Ogbomosho, I attended the preschool (PREC) which was a  part of the seminary establishment. It was an eye-opener for me as the knowledge gained during those childhood days remains indelible in my memory up till today. I started my primary (elementary) school education at Ijeru Baptist Day school in Ogbomosho. As it was common place for most pastors’ kids, I had to change school in 1968 when my father completed his certificate in theology at the Nigerian Baptist Seminary, Ogbomosho.
          My family relocated to Pamo in Igbomina area of Kwara state. This was because my father answered a call to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in that town. I continued my elementary school education at L.E.A. School at Pamo. Our stay in that city was very short. It must be noted that those frequent moves are not the best for a pastor’s kid. You frequently lost contact with friendships that you have developed and the school that you loved. But who am I to complain? We have to follow the way that the Lord was leading our parents.
          The family moved to Ilero in the then Okeho-Iganna (now Kajola) local government of Oyo State of Nigeria, in December of 1969. It was a very difficult years as my paternal grand father whom I loved so much had died earlier in the same year. While at Ilero, I attended D.C. School, Kajola and Baptist Secondary School, Okeho. I recalled walking a distance of about five miles to and fro the school for the three years that I was studying there. At that time, I thought that we were suffering, but looking back to those good old days, I could notice that we were all physically fit due to those unconventional exercises that we had.
In those days, those who completed the secondary school successfully were allowed to teach in an elementary school level. I tried to seek employment in the teaching field all to no avail. This made me to put pressure on my father about being gainfully employed. In my father’s quest for a job opportunity, he found out that the daughter and son-in-law of Rev. A.O. Aiki, the retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Ilero, needed a house boy. It was going to be at Bacita in the Kwara State of Nigeria. Since I was very anxious to be employed, the news of this job was a welcome idea. I saw it as an opportunity to get out of my parent’s home for the first time.  So, I lived with and worked for the family of Mr. Biyi & Mrs. Titi Idowu for a period of three months. Mr. Biyi Idowu, who was the chief Accountant of the Nigerian Sugar Company in Bacita at that time, liked me and he wanted to award me a scholarship to attend his Alma Mata: Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo. But when I went to Ilero for the Christmas holiday, I refused to return. That was my first job in life. It was a bitter-sweet experience. But I am glad that I tasted how life away from home looked like.
          I attended St. Andrews College Oyo for 3 years and became an Elementary School teacher in Ibadan area. My teaching career took me to places like Anglican school, Ajibode, St. Johns School, Oluwo1, and D.C. School Awotan. Throughout this period it never occurred to me that I will become a minister of the gospel. In fact, I was against pastoring for a very long time given the awareness that I had about how some churches treated my parents. But if God wants to use you, you cannot but comply. God called me into ministry while I was a school teacher at Awotan and I gained admission to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho for a three years course leading to a Diploma in Theology. Something remarkable happened during my first year at the seminary. My father was in the final year of his Bachelors in theology course at the Nigerian Baptist seminary Ogbomosho as of the time that I was in my first year of my Diploma in Theology course. We both attended the same seminary for one year.  This incident caught the attention of some missionary professors at the seminary. It was because of this that Dr. Burks who was an acting Principal of the seminary requested for the picture of my dad and me to be taken. He used the picture for a news article that was published in the Nigerian Baptist official magazine that year under the caption: “Father and Son in the Seminary”.
          I have been privileged to serve in several ministry positions. They include Labode Baptist Church, Ogbomosho (Pastor), First Baptist Church, Kano (Associate Pastor), Village Baptist Church, Marin City, USA(African Outreach Minister), and Agape Bible Fellowship and Agape International Ministries Foundation, Antioch, USA (Senior Pastor/ President).
          Educationally, God has blessed me tremendously. I attended Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary (Diploma in Theology), Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Missouri (Bachelor of Arts in Theology. I attended this school with full scholarship by the grace of God), Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, California (Master of Divinity and Doctorate Degree), California State University, Hayward, California  (Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology).
          Presently, I am a bi-vocational minister. I served at a local County Public Health as a Mental Health Specialist and I Pastor Agape Bible Fellowship and presided over Agape International Ministries foundation in Antioch. My ordination to the full gospel ministry took place in 1990 at Mount Olive Baptist Church, Bolivar, Missouri. Rev. Norman Howell was the pastor of the church at that time.
          I have been married to Alice Ade Ojewole (nee Bamigbade) since 1987. God has blessed us with three sons(Olusoji, Victor, & Julius) and one daughter(Grace). Unfortunately our first son, Olusoji, passed away ten days after he and my wife joined me in the United States in September 1989. That was a part of my story that gets my eyes so wet, each time I remember the incident. But I can recall how God was so faithful to us at that time and how the people of Bolivar were so supportive. I can never forget their kind gestures.
My marriage has been a great blessing. I often joked that this was one of the good things that came from my parent’s eleven years pastorate at Calvary Baptist Church, Ilero. But I must admit that we’ve had our own ups and downs, just like every sincere Christian marriage does. Like we used to say in my psychotherapy class at the university: "It is Normal." But we have prevailed by the grace of God. It must be noted that all marriages, no matter how noble and successful, have times when they face challenges. Challenges are unavoidable. But the way we wither the storm is what portrays our belief to the world around us.  
          In my life, I can say that I have tasted both sides of the world. I have known what it is to be poor and what it means to prosper. I have gone through times of adversity as well as times of advancement. I have faced trials and travails of life and I have triumphed in most of them. I have known about being betrayed and being bonded with people. I can say just like Apostle Paul when he shared the following with the Christians at Philippi. (Phil 4:12 NIV)  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Through it all, I have found a lot of reasons to thank the Lord. That I am alive and standing tall today is a miracle. I give God all the glory for everything in my life. I rededicate the rest of my life to the service of God.

Three Key Words That I Uphold Today

(Deu 8:18 NIV)  But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
I must always remember the Lord and what he has done for me in the past 600 months that I have lived on this planet, earth. If God had done it before, He will do it again. He has delivered me from several dangers and problems. Let me share a few of those experiences. Way back in 1982, a fellow school teacher at Awotan D.C. School poisoned me through food. I was very close to death. But by God’s grace, someone was used of God to effect my deliverance. I gave God the glory for that. Also, years before, when my father moved to a new pastorate somewhere in the country. My Uncle, Tunde, my brother Dele and me went to the wilderness to get some palm tree leaves which we were required to bring to the school. While we busied ourselves with cutting down those palm tree leaves, one notorious man was coming quietly from behind us. We all left our tools and ran for our lives. We sustained several injuries but God saved us and healed our wounds. Only God knew the demonic intention of that man.
Another story that is worth remembering occurred in 1982. I was living at our family house at Moniya, near Ibadan at that time. Suddenly, I fell sick. I thought that it was something simple. But at one point when the sickness became so unbearable, I travelled to Ogbomosho where my parents sojourned at that time. When my father saw me, he knew that something was wrong. My father immediately took me to the nearby Baptist Hospital Ogbomosho where I was hospitalized for about 3 or 4 days. One of the doctors who spoke to my parents before I left the hospital indicated that I would have become history if I had waited a few more hours before coming to the hospital. But to the glory of God, I am alive today. This reminds me of what the psalmist says in Psalm 124:
(Psa 124 NIV)If the LORD had not been on our side-- let Israel say-- {2} if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, {3} when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; {4} the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, {5} the raging waters would have swept us away. {6} Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. {7} We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. {8} Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
I remember the Lord for what he has done and what he is still doing in my life today.

(Josh 14:10-12 NIV)  "Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! {11} I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. {12} Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."
Just Like Caleb testified when he requested for his inheritance, I thank the Lord for the energy and stamina he bestows on me even at the age of fifty. God’s blessings continue to overflow in my life. I recalled the miracles that occurred in every phase of my life. In each case, God has proven to be faithful. First, when I was coming to the United States for further studies, I was short of funds. A member of my father’s church, Union Baptist Church, Agege, Chief Femi Ogunleye (He was the Public Relations Officer for Nigeria Airways at that time) donated a flight ticket to me.
Another incident confirms divine provision for me. This incident reminded me of Psalm 37:25 that says, I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Here is what happened. On arrival here in the United States, I recalled how one Mrs. Louise Herget came to me after speaking at Parkview Baptist church in Desoto, Missouri. She asked me if I have any family in the United States. My answer was negative. Then she told me that throughout my stay in the United States, I should I adopt her and her husband, Andy, as my American parents. They were related to me as true parents for us. (Not a legal adoption). They were there with us when we lost our first son, they were there when we have our second son, they were there at my graduation from Southwest Baptist University, and they brought us to Golden Gate Seminary in California in their van. Parkview Baptist Church in Desoto where they were members also supported us tremendously, both in cash and in kind. Their Pastor, James Plymale and his wife Jill, hosted us during most holidays and the Herget's hosted us several times also. The Herget's, Pastor Plymale’s family and Parkview Baptist church family were godsend. With their supports, we never felt that we were away from home. They made us fill like at home. We were given a sense of belonging. Only on the other side of glory will these aforementioned people know how much their friendship, their relationship, comfort and supports have meant to me and my family. I will be eternally grateful to them.
          Another remarkable incident that I wanted to reflect upon has to do with my studies at the Golden Gate Baptist seminary. Several challenges faced my family during my seminary days at the Golden Gate Baptist Seminary. This included financial hardships and frequent hospitalization of one of our children.  I recalled that I wrote most of my term papers by the hospital bed side of my child who was sick then. Something happened that is still funny to me each time I remember it. This is what happened. Because my frequent trips to the hospital to care for my child was well known at the seminary campus, an Old Testament professor who taught me in one my classes called me one day out of curiosity. He indicated that he was curious about how I could write an outstanding term paper given the circumstance that I was in. As such, he asked me to bring the rough draft of a term paper that I had submitted to him. he needed that rough draft before he could grade my paper. Lo and behold, I have not trashed the paper. I gave it to him and I got an “A” in that class. My question is: Did he think that my paper was not original? Did he think that I must have cut corners since I was so busy taking care of my sick child? His assumption is still not justifiable. But I was at his mercy. And I thank my God who has never failed me all along. 
          When I completed my Master’s degree from the Golden Gate Seminary, I applied to the Divinity school of University of Sheffield in England. The admission letter came a few weeks later. I was so overjoyed because I will be pursuing a PhD in the Old Testament which I like a lot. But as I discussed this with my immediate family, I did not get what I was hoping for. My family expressed to me that relocating to England at that time was not the best idea. As such, I abandoned the idea.
Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

At this stage of my life, I need to refocus myself on things that will sustain a lasting legacy. I still have some incomplete mission. I have some tasks that must be done. Even though I have been blessed, I want to refuse to brag about anything. I can only boast in the Lord who has given me the opportunity to be used by Him the way that I have been used so far. The scripture says: 1 Corinthians 1:31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
Therefore, I have not arrived. I have more work to do in the kingdom of God and for humanity. My focus at this time is to live my life for God and take good care of my family and provide service to those who are in need in our world. I have been blessed by God beyond measure. I cannot complain at all. I give God all the glory for everything. As I celebrate this 50th birthday, I want to always keep in mind that the clock is ticking. I want to do my best within the little time that I have. I cannot waste any more time. Life is short.  Life may never be the same again; but it will continue to get better. On the whole, I am grateful to God for the opportunity He has given me to live and to be an instrument in His hands. After all said and done, I believe very strongly that what matters in the end is how I live the rest of my life for the Lord. 
The lyrics of one of the songs that I love to sing says:


Through It All Lyrics

Verse 1:
i've Had Many Tears And Sorrows,
i've Had Questions For Tomorrow,
there's Been Times I Didn't Know Right From Wrong.
but In Every Situation,
god Gave Me Blessed Consulation,
that My Trials Come To Only Make Me Strong.

through It All,
through It All,
i've Learned To Trust In Jesus,
i've Learned To Trust In God.

through It All,
through It All,
i've Learned To Depend Upon His Word.

verse 2:
i've Been To Lots Of Places,
i've Seen A Lot Of Faces,
there's Been Times I Felt So All Alone.
but In My Lonely Hours,
yes, Those Precious Lonely Hours,
jesus Lets Me Know That I Was His Own


verse 3:
i Thank God For The Mountains,
and I Thank Him For The Valleys,
i Thank Him For The Storms He Brought Me Through.
for If I'd Never Had A Problem,
i Wouldn't Know God Could Solve Them,
i'd Never Know What Faith In God Could Do
I just want to say, Baba o E se e e e
I just want to say Baba o e se.