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Nigerian’s name also has become a mission: ‘Live and serve Jesus’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–When the Nigerian woman was
pregnant again, some women in the village pressured her to
make sacrifices to the gods for a safe delivery. Dorcas
Ayanrinola had already experienced much misfortune in
childbirth, and it was feared yet another infant would die.
But because she was a Christian, Ayanrinola refused to offer
appeasing sacrifices to idols.
She trusted God for her newborn baby, and God honored
her trust with a healthy son. Responding in gratitude, she
dedicated her son to God and gave him the African name,
“Durosinjesu,” meaning, “live and serve Jesus.”
Isaac Durosinjesu Ayanrinola, now grown, is fulfilling
his mother’s prayers as a doctor of missiology (D.Miss.)
student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville, Ky.
Approaching his third semester of in-depth missions
study in Southern’s new D.Miss. program, Duro (his preferred
name) is a testimony of God’s faithfulness which stretches
from Africa to America.
Although he grew up in a Christian home, Duro did not
come to know the Lord until age 18 during a week-long
revival in Masifa Baptist Church, Ogbomoso, Nigeria. Duro
recalled with clarity the preacher that day in 1972 was E.O.
Agbola and his text was John 3, the story of Nicodemus.
“Although people thought I was a good boy,” Duro said,
“deep down in my heart I knew that I was very, very bad.”
Duro described his conversion on that day as “the beginning
of many good things that happened in my life.”
Although he felt the beginnings of a calling to
ministry, Duro still planned to follow his long-held desire
to study history at a Nigerian university and become a
history professor. After teaching elementary school in a
village from 1974-77, Duro found the Lord’s call upon his
life irresistible and began training at the Nigerian Baptist
Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, in 1977.
During a foreign missions week at the Nigerian
seminary in 1978, Duro sensed the Lord leading him to be a
missionary. “The guest missionary speaker spoke very
powerfully about the needs on the mission field. I made a
commitment that after my studies, by the grace of God, I
would be a missionary anywhere he wanted me to serve him.”
The woman Duro had been dating since 1976, Comfort,
shared Duro’s call to missions and the two were married in
Around this time, Bob Hughes, now at Southern as the
M. Theron Rankin professor of cross cultural communications
and missions, began teaching at the Nigerian seminary and
asked the students to make out a 10-year plan. “I wrote down
that I wanted to go to a local church for three to four
years to acquire pastoral experience before going to the
mission field,” Duro said. “Then, after some missionary
service, I wanted to continue with my education.”
Duro began following this plan after earning the
bachelor of theology degree in 1981. He accepted a pastorate
at First Baptist Church of Aguda Surulere, Lagos. Soon Duro
was also serving in a variety of leadership positions in the
local Baptist association and state convention.
“I so much enjoyed my ministry at Aguda Surulere,”
Duro recounted. “I soon forgot my plan to serve God as a
missionary. Even though people were constantly reminding me
of my pledge, I kept giving excuse upon excuse that the time
had not come. “Between 1983-84, I was involved in three
different serious automobile accidents,” he continued. “I
asked myself, ‘Why does God keep delivering me from these
accidents?’ I couldn’t find the answer. Then, one day, I was
digging through some old cartons looking for a book, and I
found my covenant sheet Dr. Hughes had made us fill out in
1981. I was reminded that I had promised God that I would go
to the mission field after serving him in the local church.
He was preserving my life for this service. That same week,
my wife and I applied to the Foreign Mission Board of the
Nigerian Baptist Convention.”
Duro and Comfort were appointed and sent to the
neighboring African nation of Sierra Leone in 1984. From
1984-92, Duro served as director of Nigerian Baptist
missionary work there.
“We did evangelism, planted churches, organized summer
schools for pastors and youth, had nationwide traveling
revival teams and much more,” Duro recounted. Comfort was
especially active in organizing Woman’s Missionary Union and
Girls in Action groups.
During Duro’s tenure as a missionary in Sierra Leone,
the number of Baptist churches in that country grew from
nine to 22.
In 1992, a serious car accident forced the Ayanrinola
family to return to Nigeria so that Duro could receive
advanced medical care. During this time of recuperation, a
Southern Baptist missionary whom Duro refers to
affectionately as “Mama Anita Roper” generously aided Duro
in his plans to further his education, which he described as
going to America to “stay there until I had completed
doctoral-level training.”
Without his wife or five children, Duro arrived in
America in 1992 to begin his studies at American Baptist
College, Nashville, Tenn. Soon thereafter, First Baptist
Church, Nashville, aided Duro in transporting his wife and
two of his children to America.
This past September, two of the remaining children
were granted visas and have rejoined their parents in
Louisville. Duro’s fifth child, Adekunle, an adoptee,
remains in Nigeria due to inadequate adoption paperwork. He
is being cared for by trusted friends and relatives.
If any aspect of Duro’s sojourn in America is painful
to him, it is clearly this extended separation from his
Duro was awarded the bachelor of arts degree from
American Baptist College in 1992 and then came to Southern
to work on his master of divinity degree.
“It was the Lord’s doing to take me to Southern,” said
Duro, who admits he originally preferred Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, since he
had a good friend there.
“I have so enjoyed it here at Southern and learned so
much,” Duro said. He cited relationships with professors,
friendships with fellow students and involvement with the
student missions committee as some of his seminary
highlights. Equally important has been his ministry
involvement in Louisville, where he serves as a deacon of
Hurstbourne Baptist Church and preaches weekly at the
Jefferson Baptist Center, an inner-city ministry to the
homeless. Duro also works as a security guard on the
seminary campus.
After completing the master of divinity degree in 1996,
Duro said he wanted to finish his formal studies with a
doctoral degree “which would be professional, academic and
enhance my ministry.” Duro found what he was looking for in
Southern’s new doctor of missiology degree, offered through
the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church
“I’ve learned a lot about the principles and
methodologies of missions,” Duro said. “I’m thinking about
doing a study on how to improve the approach of our Nigerian
Baptist Convention.”
“We are the only Southern Baptist seminary to offer a
degree of this kind,” said J. Mark Terry, associate dean of
the Billy Graham School. “The D.Miss. program was specially
designed to benefit missionary practitioners, as opposed to
the Ph.D. in missiology which is primarily meant for persons
training to be professors of Christian missions.”
Prerequisites for the D.Miss. degree are a relevant
master’s degree and three years of prior missionary
involvement. The D.Miss. program, which accepted its first
students in the spring semester of 1997, consists of 48
hours of course work and a field research project.
With Duro and another missionary as the program’s first
two students, Terry noted that the new degree is ideal for
furloughing missionaries seeking advanced missions training.
Recalling the meaning of his name (“live and serve
Jesus”) and the context in which it was given, Duro
reminisced, “All along it was my parents’ prayer that I
would be a pastor. My studies in America continue to be a
fulfillment of what God began in me many years ago.”
Where will Duro be in another 10 years? “Anywhere the
Lord wants us to serve,” he said. “We are open to his
leadership, but I’m very, very certain it’s going to be in
Africa. America is not my home. I’m just a sojourner here.”

    About the Author

  • Rob Plummer