The Biography of Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola
In the annals of Nigerian religious history, few figures have left as profound an impact as Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola. Born into humble beginnings, Babalola's life took a remarkable turn when he experienced a spiritual awakening that would shape his destiny. From his divine call to his missionary travels, his miraculous deeds to his lasting legacy, this article explores the extraordinary life of Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola, a true spiritual giant.
From Humble Beginnings to Spiritual Awakening
Joseph Ayo Babalola was born on April 25, 1904, in Odo-Owa to David Rotimi and Madam Marta Talabi who were members of the Anglican Church. a small village in what is now Kwara State, Nigeria. Growing up in poverty, Babalola faced numerous challenges, but his unwavering faith would become a guiding light in his life. It was during a period of intense prayer and fasting that Babalola experienced a powerful encounter with the divine, marking the beginning of his spiritual journey.
His father was the Baba Ijo (literally meaning, father of the church) of the C.M.S. Church at Odo-Owa. According to Pastor Medayese in his book, “Itan Igbe dide Woli Ayo Babalola”, mysterious circumstances surrounded the birth of Apostle Ayo Babalola. On that day, it was believed that a strange and mighty object exploded and shook the clouds.
On January 18, 1914, Apostle Ayo Babalola was taken by his brother M.O. Rotimi, a Sunday school teacher in the C.M.S. Church at Ilofa, to Osogbo. Ayo Babalola started school at Ilofa and got as far as standard five at All Saints’ School, Osogbo.
However, he quit school when he decided to learn a trade and became a motor mechanic apprentice. He did not continue long in this vocation before joining the Public Works Department (PWD) and he was among the road workers who constructed the road from Igbara-Oke to Ilesa, working as a steam roller driver.
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The Divine Call: Joseph Ayo Babalola's Journey Begins
Following his spiritual awakening, Babalola received a divine call to become a minister of God. He dedicated himself to studying the Bible and honing his spiritual gifts. Word of his powerful sermons and ability to heal the sick began to spread, drawing people from far and wide to witness the transformative power of his ministry. Babalola's charisma and deep connection with the divine made him a natural leader, and he soon became one of the most prominent figures in the Nigerian Christian community.
Apostle Ayo Babalola was called by God into the prophetic office to stand before men. His strange experience started on the night of September 25th, 1928 when he suddenly became restless and could not sleep.
This went on for a week and did not know the cause of such experience. One day when he was working on the Ilesa-Igbara-Oke road, the steam roller’s engine suddenly stopped to his utter amazement. There was no visible mechanical problem, and he became shocked.
He was in this state of confusion when a great voice “like the sound of many waters” called him three times. The voice was loud and clear, telling him that he would die if he refused to heed the divine call to go into the world and preach.
Ayo Babalola did not want to listen to this voice and he responded like many of the Biblical prophets, who, when they were called by God, did not normally yield to the first call. Apostle Ayo Babalola gave in only after he had received the assurance of divine guidance.
To go on the mission, he had to resign his appointment with the Public Works Department. Mr. Fergusson, the head of his unit, tried to dissuade him from resigning but Apostle Ayo Babalola was bent on going on the Lord’s mission.
The same voice came to Apostle Ayo Babalola again, asking him to fast for seven days. He obeyed and at the end of the period he saw a great figure of a man who, according to Pastor Alokan, resembled Jesus.
The man in a dazzling robe spoke at length about the mission he was to embark upon. The man also told him of the persecution he would face and at the same time assured him of God’s protection and victory.
A hand prayer bell was given to Apostle Ayo Babalola as a symbol. He was told that the sound of the bell would always drive away evil spirits. He was also given a bottle of “life-giving water” popularly called “Omi-iye” to heal all kinds of sicknesses.
Consequently, wherever and whenever he prayed into water, miracles of effective and total healing were recorded for those who drank the water.
Thus, Ayo Babalola became a prophet and a man with extraordinary powers. Enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, he could spend several weeks in prayer.
Elder Abraham Owoyemi of Odo-Owa, said that the prophet regularly saw angels who delivered divine messages to him. An angel appeared in one of his prayers and forbade him to wear caps.
During one of his prayer sessions an angel appeared to him and gave him a big yam which he ordered him to eat.
The angel told him that the yam was the tuber with which God fed the whole world. He further revealed that God had granted unto him the power to deliver those who were possessed of evil spirits in the world.
He was directed to go first to Odo-Owa and start preaching. He was to arrive in the town on a market day, cover his body with palm fronds and disfigure himself with charcoal paints.
In October 1928, he entered the town in the manner described and was taken for a mad man. Ayo Babalola immediately started preaching and prophesying. He told the inhabitants of Odo-Owa about an impending danger if they did not repent.
He was arrested and taken to the district officer at Ilorin for allegedly disturbing the town’s peace. The district officer later released him when the allegations could not be proven. However, it was said that a few days later, there was an outbreak of smallpox in the town.
The man whose prophecies and messages were once rejected was quickly sought for. He went around praying for the victims and they were all healed.
Pa David Rotimi, Ayo Babalola’s father, was instrumental in the establishment of a C.M.S. Church in Odo-Owa. Ayo Babalola organized regular prayer meetings in this church and many attended because of the miracles God performed through him.
Soon, information reached the bishop that almost all members of the C.M.S. Church in Ilofa were seeing visions, speaking in tongues and praying vigorously. Ayo Babalola and the visionaries were allegedly ordered by Bishop Smith to leave the church. But Ayo Babalola did not leave the town until June 1930
Not long after, Apostle Ayo Babalola was invited to Lagos by Elder Daniel Ajibola, At that time Elder Daniel was working in Ibadan and was a member of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation. He introduced Prophet Ayo Babalola to Pastor D. 0. Odubanjo, one of the leaders of the Faith Tabermacle in Lagos.
Senior Pastor Esinsinade who was then the president of the Faith Tabernacle was invited to see APostle Ayo Babalola and after listening to the details of his call and his ministry, the Faith Tabernacle leaders warmly received him into their midst.
Apostle Ayo Babalola had not yet been baptized by immersion and Senior Pastor Esinsinade emphasized the need to go through that rite. Pastor Esinsinade then baptized him in the lagoon at the back of the Faith Tabernacle Church building at 51, Moloney Bridge Street, Lagos. Ayo Babalola returned to Odo-Owa a few days after that and Elder (later Pastor) J. A. Medayese, paid him a visit.
Miracles and Healing: The Extraordinary Gifts of Babalola
One of the most remarkable aspects of Apostle Babalola's ministry was his ability to perform miracles and heal the sick. Numerous accounts testify to his extraordinary gifts, as people afflicted with various ailments experienced miraculous recoveries in his presence. From the blind receiving sight to the lame walking again, Babalola's touch was believed to bring forth divine intervention. These miracles served as a powerful testament to his unwavering faith and the presence of God working through him.
Remembering a Spiritual Giant: Celebrating Babalola's Life===
Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola's life was characterized by a deep commitment to his faith and an unwavering desire to share the love of God with others. His impact and influence continue to be felt today, decades after his passing. The churches he founded, the lives he touched, and the revival he sparked all stand as a testament to his enduring legacy. As we celebrate the life of this spiritual giant, let us be inspired by his unwavering devotion and strive to carry on his mission of spreading the love and compassion of God to all.