Nigerian student takes Gospel to 'every nook and cranny'
Nigerian student Paul Oluleye desires to spread the joyous news of Christ “to every nook and cranny of the world.”
Paul remembers vividly his own baptism, when he identified with the death and resurrection of Christ and joined the church after being saved at age 11. The congregation sang, “Oh happy day, Oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!”—expressing the message of Paul’s name in the Yoruba language: Olukayode, “God brings joy.”
When he went to college, Paul felt God’s call as he talked to a friend over the phone about the need to share this good news of salvation. It was 3 a.m. when Paul got off the phone, and he couldn’t sleep. He heard God calling him, “I want you to take the Gospel and meet people in their most natural environments”—whether they are in church worshipping, or at home watching TV or reading a book.
In response to this call, Paul joined the leadership team in the Baptist Student Fellowship at his college in Nigeria. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English he pursued a master’s degree in communications and language arts, desiring to learn how to develop communications and media within a local church setting.
After working for some time in an advertising agency, Paul served as a communications officer within a church. Around this time, he also published a devotional book of poetry he had written, as well as a book of children’s stories that taught biblical truths in an African context. He had noticed that, following Western practices, many educated Nigerians were beginning to read their children bedtime stories.
“Rather than have bedtime stories from the Western world,” he thought, “why don’t I do something that would serve as a bedtime story in the African context, but something that would also be an eye-opener to the Scriptures, even for children too? They are not just listening to stories, but they are also learning something that would prepare their minds for the kingdom of God.
“Everybody loves to read. … If we read stories to our children, then we should also be able to tell them about Christ, about the Gospel, or about the kingdom of God, even while they are listening to stories.”
Realizing his need for further ministerial training, Paul then pursued a Master of Divinity at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary. After his graduation, seminary officials asked him to develop the school’s communications and resource center, and a few years later the seminary’s president recruited him as a personal assistant.
During this time, Paul also ministered to teenagers in his local church, developing a program that would reach them not only in the church pew but also through recreation. Although the use of recreation is not as common in Nigeria as it is in the United States, Paul has found it to be an important part of his ministry.
“I discovered working with teenagers in church, that they love playing football,” Paul said. “If the church is not making provision for that, where else do they play their football? With people outside the church. And, as they mix with people outside the church, they take up their foul language, … their negative dispositions for sportsmanship, and all that surrounds them.”
On the other hand, Paul would invite his youth to play football, taking the opportunity to share the Gospel and encourage spiritual growth.
In time, Paul felt led to continue his education by enrolling in Southwestern Seminary’s Master of Arts in Christian Education degree. This January, he moved to Fort Worth with his wife and three daughters.
“If you have been to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, I guess that is the biggest name we get to hear there: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Paul said, noting that several faculty members at the seminary have degrees from Southwestern. “You get to hear that name more than any other seminaries in the United States.”
Paul reported that, although he has only taken classes at Southwestern for a few months, he has learned much that will improve his ministry in Nigeria.
“It has been very helpful,” Paul said. He said his “Human Growth and Development” class has been especially helpful for his ministry to youth.
“It is like I should just fly home now and put in some of these new things that I have learned here and minister better to my teens,” Paul said. “So in a nutshell, I am enjoying every bit of it.”
Southwestern, Paul said, “is going to add positively” to his ministry of reaching people for the Gospel in “every nook and cranny” and making every activity an opportunity for evangelism—whether it be reading bedtime stories to children or playing football with a group of teens.