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Seminarian prepares to take fire back home

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–As red-hot youth ministry programs rage across the United States, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student Josiah Adegoke Adeleke is preparing to take the fire back to his homeland.

Adeleke is from Ogbomoso, Nigeria. He came to Southwestern to pursue a degree in youth ministry. He prefers to be called “Goke.” The name is not only much simpler for Westerners, but it is also more meaningful than “Josiah,” he said.

“Many people who have a Christian background pick biblical names such as Ruth, Josiah, John, and Gideon, but our middle name says something about us,” Adeleke said. “Goke means ‘the crown has come up.'”

Adeleke was the first boy in his immediate family and the first grandson. His grandfather cherished him and gave him his name. “In my culture parents don’t give the name. It is the grandparents who give the name,” Adeleke said. Now most in the family hope for his success in lifting up the crown of the family.

As a child, Southern Baptist missionaries educated Adeleke in a primitive school. He remembered first hearing about Jesus in kindergarten, but he didn’t remain in the school long. The family moved often but always to areas in Nigeria “where Baptists are predominant,” he said.

When he was 12 years old, missionaries came to his father’s village. They established a church there and, because his father could read and write, he was asked to serve as the church secretary. The family then went to church regularly. Adeleke, however, was far from being a Christian.

That changed during a crusade.

“I came to know Jesus Christ through a public crusade in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1983,” Adeleke said. It wasn’t long before God was tugging on his heartstrings. He knew that he had been called to the ministry.

“I accepted a call to full-time ministry in 1988 when I was attending school at the University of Ilorin through the effort of Betty Ann McQueen,” Adeleke said. “Betty was my campus minister, and I accepted this call through the ministry of the Baptist Student Fellowship.”

After college, Adeleke attended a seminary extension in Ogbomoso and obtained a bachelor’s degree in theology. He was even awarded the William Jester Award in Christian Leadership and Denominational Ministry. He graduated from the seminary in 1993.

Adeleke began working at the Southern Baptist headquarters in Ibadan after graduation. He served as a campus minister for three years and was national youth director from 1996 until August 2001.

“That is my area of service to the Lord,” Adeleke said. While serving as the national youth director he developed Bible study, missions education and discussion materials for use in Nigeria as well as in Cameroon, Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. He was also involved in a youth mission project that targeted the Kyengawa, an unreached people group in northern Nigeria.

Adeleke came to Southwestern in 2001 to pursue a degree in youth ministry. His journey here was remarkable considering that he didn’t even know Southwestern existed.

“While studying in Ogbomoso, I didn’t know anything about this school. All that I knew about was the current extension that I was attending,” said Adeleke.

“Two people influenced my choice of this place. The first was the IMB missionary that discipled me. He was also my boss when I was working as a campus minister. He said that the faculty here was the best.”

“While I was considering that, one of the graduates of this school, Daniel Scott, an IMB missionary in Nigeria, was able to let me know the names of some of the faculty. I was able to link some of the names with what I had been reading about — names like Richard Ross and Tommy Bridges. With all of these people here that I had heard about and read about, I finally decided to come here to do my studies in youth ministry,” Adeleke said. “I’m very grateful to the Lord that I’m here.”

Adeleke doesn’t know when he will complete his seminary studies, but he hopes to finish next year. “I’m working hard to be through with this, and I have set many goals,” he said. As uncertain as he is about when he will finish, he knows what is in store for the future.

“There are two things I hope to do when I am finished. First I want to provide denominational leadership for the youth of Nigeria. Then after I have done this for a while, I want to go to the seminary and disciple the youth pastors who are working with me and teach there.” The youth pastors there are strategic, according to Adeleke.

“We have about 7,000 Baptist churches all over Nigeria and no single one has a full-time youth minister,” he said. Thus, he wants to train as many “youth specialists” as possible.

“This is my prayer. This is my goal. And this is what I am seeking for the Lord to help me to do someday,” he said.

Today youth ministry classes consume a great deal of his time, but Adeleke still works on materials for the youth in Nigeria. He still spends much time in prayer for them and for his family who still live in Nigeria. Adeleke is married and has three children.

Separation from his family has been difficult but has taught Adeleke two lessons. “It makes me appreciate more those missionaries who were in Nigeria away from their families. It also gives me an opportunity to love my wife even more and not to take her or the time we have together for granted,” he said.

Just as Adeleke was given a special name, each of his children has a name with meaning. The oldest, Jil, has a name which means “Jesus is Lord.” The second child is named Jim, which means “Jesus is mine.” The youngest child is named Jik, which means “Jesus is King.”

“I love to name children in such a way that when people call on them, it will be an opportunity for them to talk about Jesus Christ,” Adeleke said. “None of them has a biblical name. I gave them names that reflect my own understanding of the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: EXTENDING THE HAND OF FRIENDSHIP.

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  • Tammi Mallory