By Gbenga Osinaike
That morning when this reporter encountered Prof. Olayinka Ajala at the dining hall of Vining Theological Seminary in Akure Ondo State he did not betray any air of importance. He was on the queue like other students to collect his ration for that morning, a meal of bread, stew and a cup of tea. As he collected his ration he navigated his way through the large hall amidst several other students to find a suitable place to do justice to the meal and also attend to this reporter.
His demeanor was that of a typical African student. As he begins to descend on the bread he beckons on this reporter to begin the interview. “But sir, it think it will just be proper for you to eat and then we have the interview” I suggested, “No” he countered. “We have exams by 9.00am and I have to be in the exams hall in time. So it’s better we have the interview now. Never mind. I can talk while eating”
“Okay” I began. But I was told you are a professor of Geography at the Obafemi Awolowo University. “Yes” he responded adding, “My specialization is urban and regional planning.” That was how the exchange began. He gave a background to what led him to the seminary. “I was born an Anglican. But my love for God and decision to work in his vineyard came much more later in life. It was my Advanced Level programme that I embraced the Lord fully what some will call being born again. That was when I made a conscious decision to follow after God and do his will.”
Since that time, Ajala has been looking for the opportunity to serve God within the Anglican Church as a priest. But then he kept on pursuing his secular concern. Alongside his academic pursuit he obeyed the Lord’s call and was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church. That was in 2010. He has been a deacon since 2010 in Ife East Diocese of the Anglican Church. He was preferred a canon recently by the Bishop of the diocese.
But being an academic, he would not want to stop midway. He needed to upgrade his theological knowledge. He explains, “Well the calling of the ministry is different from the administration of the ministry. Once you have a call to serve God in a special capacity the Bishop can ordain you and you will be good to go. But then in the administration of the ministry you need the certification. There are discriminations between trained and untrained clergy. That is why it’s good to have theological training moreso it does not sound right to operate in a field and be completely ignorant of that field.”
On how it is possible to be a deacon in the church without going through formal training he said, “It is the discretion of the Bishop that makes you a deacon. Having seen your commitment in church you’re qualified after some in-house training and you will attached to a priest for practical experience. But then it is expected that one would do the proper training with time.”
Now in his third year of a four year programme at the Vining College Ajala says, being a professor does not make him special adding that, “since I came to know the Lord on a personal basis in 1986 I have always felt this need to love him more and more. So my being a Professor in the department of Geography at the Obafemi Awolowo University has only afforded me the opportunity to serve God more. I see the platform as an opportunity to serve.
He explain further that his course of study has enabled him to appreciate God the more. “The environment reveals God to you. Sometimes we wonder that we plant a seed and the seed germinates. The atmosphere tells of the wonders of God. It reveals that there is somebody behind all these things.” He said stressing that “Every individual is being called to perform a role in human life. We are required to serve humanity better than we met it.”
Quoting the Bible he says only a fool would say there is no God. “The knowledge with which we think is a mystery. Our brain is enough miracle. Some scientists want to prove but you can’t run away from the reality that there is God. What we see is being controlled by what we don’t see. There is an ultimate being that controls all other beings and things in the world.”
Ajala who is a priest at Joshua Olanrewaju Anglican Memorial Church in Ife East Diocese of the Anglican Communion said his knowledge of Science has made him see God revealing himself more and more. When I was still evolving as an academic there were temptations to believe what lecturers were saying. But the more I’m exposed to learning the more I see the mystery behind creation that leaves you speechless. It’s a mystery no man can unravel”