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SUNDAY TONIC: RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE & THE WAYS OF GOD Archbishop Lawrence Ayo Ladigbolu – THE ‘REBEL’ WITH A CAUSE

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Then my mother suddenly burst into tears. A lot of them began wailing. I later learned that they thought I had been possessed by an evil spirit or that I was showing signs of a mental problem. In the midst of their wailing, I was able to say to them, “A young man told me about Jesus Christ, and I found what he told me to be true. I needed to escape from the anger of God, and Jesus had rescued me. When I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I felt him come! Jesus is real to me. He is a living Saviour. I will follow him the rest of my life.” — Archbishop Lawrence Ayo Ladigbolu

Religious intolerance, or acts that threaten peace is minimal in the South western part of Nigeria. The high level of sophistication of the people and the communal style of living chiefly account for this development. You hardly find an extended family without an admixture of Christians, Muslims and traditional religious practitioners. This thought came to mind again recently at the 80th birthday anniversary of one of the foremost royal fathers in Yorubaland, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, the Alaafin of Oyo.

Among those who graced the ceremonies was a cousin of the traditional ruler, retired Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu who shares a filial relationship with the royal father. They are age-mates and deeply close; both having been brought up as princes in the palace. Difference in religious beliefs has not been able to set them apart, as Oba Adeyemi is a Muslim, while Archbishop Ladigbolu practiced Islam, before meeting with Christ. Ayo Ladigbole has a very tall order: ‘’My uncle, the present king of Oyo, is very friendly with me. ‘’He has not stood in the way of Christians witnessing in all of his present domain.’’I am praying that he, too, and all within his kingdom may come to know my Lord Jesus Christ whom to know is eternal life”

Whoever has come under the ministration of Most Revd Lawrence Sanda Ayo-Ladigbolu, retired Archbishop of the Methodist Church, Nigeria will testify to a unique style of evangelism and preaching the message of hope and salvation. Ayo Ladigbolu is an enigma of sorts; whose peculiar style of preaching the word of God has been a kind of brainteaser to his audience. He laces his eloquent delivery with good Queens English, which he intersperses with rich Yoruba idioms and poetry in an equally captivating and dexterous manner. His erudition and deep use of both the Queens English and Yoruba, are aided by his baritone voice that enables Baba Ladigbolu arrest the spirit of his audience; an endowment of God. Like several other notable priests, Ayo Ladigbolu met with Jesus Christ in very curious circumstances.

TESTIMONY
When the retired archbishop decided to give his testimony of turning from Islam to Christianity, he did so during his active service years at the “Convocation on World Mission and Evangelism” that held in the United States. Young Ladigbolu, had the best education available in Islamic education. As the first male child from his father’s side of the family, he had the very best Islamic teachers to teach him the Quran. Ayo-Ladigbolu became well-versed in the Quran and the tenets of the religion of Islam and very quickly rose to become an assistant to one of the most prominent Muslim scholars and evangelists in Yorubaland. At the age of 14 years, he was proficient in the Quran and the Hadith.

CONVERSION EXPERIENCE
After his Secondary Modern School education, he went in search of livelihood. One day, one of his friends preached Christ to him and inquired if Ladigbolu knew Christ: “Ayo, I know you are religious, and you are seeking for God, but you need one thing.” I said, “What do I need? I need nothing that you can offer.” He replied, “What you need is the way to God.” I retorted quickly, “I believe in the One God and in Mohammed his prophet. I need nothing more.” He replied that “Ayo, you need the peace and joy which faith in Jesus alone can give you.” Before I could say a word, he continued, “Do you know that Jesus is the mediator between man and God, and all the sins that we have committed, God has laid upon Jesus? If we are willing to confess our sins and put them upon Jesus, God will overlook them.”

He continues: I continued to ponder these things in my mind and kept on reading the Gospel as my friend advised. One thing that emerged later was that my friend and many other Christians were praying for me as I struggled with the truth of the Word of God and the claims of Jesus as the Savior of all mankind. Would he agree to take away my sin and all guilt feelings? Can Jesus work it out with God so that I will not have to pay the penalty for all my sins? Will I have to stop depending upon my good works to please or bribe God”? The beauty of my friend’s Christian life, and the certainty and assurance evident in his witnessing, convinced me that I too needed this Jesus if he could set me free from the burden of my sin and my fear of death and judgment, and further enhance my prestige by making me a prince in the royal courts of heaven.

‘’But as I contemplated this dangerous venture, I also considered the respect and honour I had established among my people. What would my friends think? How would I face my thousands of admirers? The prospect of my ascending the exalted throne of my fathers was very bright, given my education and popularity. All my people were Muslims. The kingmakers were all Muslims. Most of the young people in Oyo were Muslims and they looked up to me for leadership. No, I could not give all this up to become a follower of Jesus. No, I just could not”! Ladigbolu asked his friend: “If I want to believe in Jesus, how do I do it?” He replied, “It is very simple. You don’t have to pay any money and all you do is tell Jesus how you feel now. “Is that all?” I asked. He said, “Confess those sins you can remember to him, and just leave those you can’t remember to him. He knows all about them anyway. He’ll take care of them.”

MEETING WITH JESUS CHRIST
Right there in his room I asked Jesus to come into my heart, to cleanse it of all sin and to make me a child of God”. Right there and then, I felt as if drops of ice-cold water were dripping from heaven through my head and into the rest of my body. It was a most pleasant and refreshing feeling. That first day of October, 1962 was an unforgettable day Finally, the urge to go to church got stronger and irresistible, so I went on the first Sunday in January 1963. Some people saw me go into the church (Apara Methodist Church, Oyo, which has remained my home church until today), and in their surprise, confusion and anger, went to my father to report that they’d seen me go into a church. By the time the service was over and I returned to my apartment in the palace, my family was waiting. The first thing my father said was, “Welcome back from CHURCH. What in the whole world took you into a church?”

At that moment, I was sweating profusely all over my body. I felt as if my tongue were tied with a rope at first. I did not know what to say in reply. All of a sudden, I found myself speaking, but the words I spoke were not coming from me. I just lost all consciousness of where I was, and I was speaking. After what seemed like a long time, my eyes opened and I saw that everyone sat or stood quietly gazing at me. No one was talking. All the elders of the family were there. My mother too was present. They all just stared at me. Then my mother suddenly burst into tears. A lot of them began wailing. I later learned that they thought I had been possessed by an evil spirit or that I was showing signs of a mental problem. In the midst of their wailing, I was able to say to them, “A young man told me about Jesus Christ, and I found what he told me to be true. I needed to escape from the anger of God, and Jesus had rescued me. When I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I felt him come! Jesus is real to me. He is a living Saviour. I will follow him the rest of my life.”

My mother came forward, laid prostrate in front of me and pleaded, “Ayo, you are throwing away everything I have lived for. You are putting my life in danger. You are putting your youthful life at risk.” She continued, “Don’t you see the future ahead of you, and all possibilities? Don’t you consider what will happen to me?” She just went on and on, and I could not control my tears because she was sobbing as she pleaded with me to reconsider my decision. But the die had been cast and there was no going back. I had tasted the Lord Jesus Christ and found him sweeter than honey. In her efforts to free me from what she thought was a bewitchment, my mother consulted and paid many Muslim scholars, Mallams and occultists to charm me so that if I had been bewitched, the spell could be removed. But I knew I was neither drunk nor bewitched. Within the same week another family meeting was held. This time I was told bluntly that I must reconsider my decision in order to maintain my high regard in the community and avoid being hated by the people. I was also to think of what shame my conversion could bring on the family name”.

But the Lord made my heart very strong and I was able to say to them that I had found great joy, peace of mind and assurance in belonging to God and believing in Jesus. I knew that my sins were forgiven and that was where I would stay. My dad said, “If that is your decision, then naked fire and gunpowder cannot share the same room. This family has disowned you. We consider you as dead, and you may as well be dead.” Tension was great in the town on account of this event. The news had spread everywhere and everyone was talking about me. First, I tried to hide with members of my mother’s family because of their soft spot for me, but they were afraid to harbour a condemned person. I met the pastor of the Methodist Church, told him of the danger I was in and sought his advice on what to do”

THE GREAT RE-UNION WITH FAMILY
I was on the run for four years. Missionaries became my parents and family and, through their kindness, I lacked nothing that I needed in those four years of exile. During my sojourn far away from home, I felt the call to be a preacher. I enrolled as a student at the United Missionary Theological College Ilorin. Towards the end of my training, I received a message that my father wanted to see me. On getting to Oyo, there was another family meeting at which my father spoke that he had heard many good things about me. He said, “I believe this faith you have embraced is good for you. If you would like to return to this family, you are welcome anytime.” It was a tearful and joyful reunion. I brought my wife and baby home, and they were both warmly received, but it took the birth of our second daughter and the putting of the family tribal marks on her cheeks before we were officially accepted back into the family”.

Many in my homeland never forgave me for embracing Christianity, and these included the kingmakers. When it came time to elect a new king, my uncle was chosen. I have no regrets today because I have gained a more glorious crown, the crown of life. The Lord Jesus has been my sufficiency in spite of my losing all the power, prestige, money and land associated with my earthly royal birthright. ‘’Certainly, it has been a fairly long road from my being a Muslim preacher to becoming a Methodist bishop, but the Lord has travelled with me every inch of the road. Each time I look back on my life, my upbringing and what is happening today, I ask myself, “How come?” The answer I get each time is, “This is the Lord’s doing.” And as I marvel at what the Lord Jesus has done in my life, I take delight in heeding the call of the Psalmist, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” The joyful part is that some members of my family are now Christians.

For full details, purchase a copy of the book titled: NIGERIA’S LEADING LIGHTS OF THE GOSPEL: REVOLUTIONARIES IN WORLDWIDE CHRISTIANITY AUTHORED BY: FEMI ADELEGAN

IT IS A MUST READ – Like the story of Peter the fisherman in the book of Luke chapter 5 verses 1-11, many of today’s leading lights of the gospel met Jesus in their state of frustration: ‘’Although you have been forsaken and hated with no one travelling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generation’’. Read how many of today’s leading lights of the gospel met Jesus in their state of frustration: ‘’Although you have been forsaken and hated with no one travelling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generation’’’ You will be specially into the private lives of elects of God, particularly the aspects that touch on conversion of each of these servants of God.

Purchase your copies today at the following stores:
•The Bookstores, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Redemption Camp, Mowe, Ogun State
•The Bookstores, Mountain of Fire & Miracles Ministries, Utako Region, Abuja
•The Bookstores, Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Area One, Near Old Federal Secretariat, Abuja
•Chrisnolly Pharmaceutical Stores, Ground Floor, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja
•Readers Are Leaders Bookstores, Local Departure Terminal, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja
•Dele Bookstores, Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos
•CITYMART Supermarket, Suncity Estate, Lokogoma Area, Abuja

JESUS IS LORD!

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