Biography of Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola; Life, Ministry of God’s general and revivalist
Joseph Ayo Babalola lived from 1904 to 1959.
He was the first prophet God used to lead a great revival in Nigeria after the raising of a 10 years old boy in 1930.
He was the first General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church, a church that metamorphosed from a prayer group popularly called Egbe Aladura in Nigeria.
The Aladura Movement nucleated at Ijebu-Ode in 1918. Babalola was endowed with healing powers.
Joseph Ayodele Babalola was born of Yoruba parents, David Rotimi and Madam Marta Talabi on April 25, 1904 who belonged to the Anglican Church.
The family lived at Odo-Owa in Ilofa, a small town about ninety kilometres from Ilorin in Kwara State, Nigeria.
His father was the Baba Ijo (“church father”) of the C.M.S. Church at Odo-Owa. Pastor Medayese wrote in his book Itan Igbe dide Woli Ayo Babalola that mysterious circumstances surrounded the birth of Babalola. On that day, it was believed that a strange and mighty object exploded and shook the clouds
On January 18, 1914, young Babalola was taken by his brother M. 0. Rotimi, a Sunday school teacher in the C.M.S. Church at Ilofa, who later took him to Osogbo. 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.
Again, he did not continue long in this vocation before joining the Public Works Department (PWD).
He was among the road workers who constructed the road from Igbara-Oke to Ilesa, working as a steam roller driver.
Babalola’s was a specific and personal call.
Babalola’s 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 he had no inkling of the causes of such a strange experience.
The climax came one day when he was, as usual, working on the Ilesa-Igbara-Oke road.
Suddenly the steam roller’s engine stopped to his utter amazement.
There was no visible mechanical problem, and Joseph became confused and perplexed.
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 and it told him that he would die if he refused to heed the divine call to go into the world and preach.
Babalola did not want to listen to this voice and he responded like many of the Biblical prophets, who, when they were called out by Yahweh as prophets, did not normally yield to the first call. So, Babalola gave in only after he had received the assurance of divine guidance.
To answer the call, 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 the young man was bent on going on the Lord’s mission. The same voice came to Joseph a second time asking him to fast for seven days.
The experience led him to a personal retreat in the home of Joseph Fapounda a Christian leader in Christ Missionary Society in Ipetu Ijesa in Ogun State Nigeria.
In a vision he had, Jesus appeared to him in a white robe along with a very tall man who revealed that it was this Jesus who asked me to speak with you. The man in a dazzling robe spoke at length about the mission he was to embark upon.
The man also told him of the persecutions he would face and at the same time assured him of God’s protection and victory.
A hand prayer bell was given to 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” to heal all manners of sickness. Consequently, wherever and whenever he prayed into water for therapeutic purposes, effective healing was procured for those who drank the water.
Thus, 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.
It was remarked by Elder Abraham Owoyemi of Odo-Owa 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.
After a successful first crusade at Yagba, he later joined Faith Tabernacle in Lagos, which was affiliated to an American Divine Healing Church.
Acts of Prophet Babalola:
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.
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 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, Babalola’s father, had been instrumental in the establishment of a C.M.S. Church in Odo-Owa. Babalola organized regular prayer meetings in this church  which many people attended because of the miracles God performed through him. Among the regulars was Isaiah O1uyemi who later saw the wrath of Bishop Smith of Ilorin diocese.
Information had reached the bishop that almost all members of the C.M.S. Church in Ilofa were seeing visions, speaking in tongues and praying vigorously. Babalola and the visionaries were allegedly ordered by Bishop Smith to leave the church. But Babalola did not leave the town until June 1930.
On an invitation from Daniel Ajibola, Babalola went to Lagos. Elder Daniel Ajibola at that time was working in Ibadan where he was a member of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation. He introduced Prophet Babalola to Pastor D. O. Odubanjo, one of the leaders of the Faith Tabemacle in Lagos.
Senior Pastor Esinsinade who was then the president of the Faith Tabernacle was invited to see Babalola.
After listening to the details of his call and his ministry, the Faith Tabernacle leaders warmly received the young prophet into their midst. Babalola had not yet been baptized by immersion and Senior Pastor Esinsinade emphasized that he needed 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.
Babalola returned to Odo-Owa a few days after that and Elder (later Pastor) J. A. Medayese, paid him a visit.
The news of the conversion of the new prophet reached Pastor K. P. Titus at Araromi in Yagba, present Kwara State. Pastor Titus was a teacher and preacher at the Sudan Interior Mission which was then thriving at Yagba.
He invited Prophet Babalola for a revival service. Joseph Ayodele Babalola while in Yagba, performed mighty works of healing. Many Muslims and Christians from other denominations and some traditional religionists were converted to the new faith during the revival.
The fact that Babalola did not use the opportunity to establish a separate Christian organization despite his marvelous evangelical success, must be puzzling to historians, but his intention was not to start a new church.
He declared to his followers that he had registered his membership with the Faith Tabernacle, the society which had him baptized in Lagos.
He thus persuaded them to become members of the Faith Tabernacle. To facilitate this, he went to Lagos to confer with the leaders, especially as he was not yet well acquainted with the doctrines, tenets, and administration of the church.
In 1931, Faith Tabernacle of Nigeria affiliated with the British Apostolic Church to protect itself from colonial persecution.
Then following a schism in the Apostolic Church about 1940, Babalola went with a new independent church, Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), where he continued his healing and revivalistic activities until his death.
The CAC regards Babalola as an apostle and his revival ministry as the beginning of the church. A CAC retreat center was built where Babalola was first called in 1928.
Revival at Oke-Oye:
There was a controversy among the leaders of the Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria over some doctrines. In the midst of it were, in particular, the Ilesa and Oyan branches of the tabernacle. The Oyan branch was under the supervision of Pastor J. A. Babatope, a notable Anglican teacher, before his conversion and later, one of the outstanding leaders of the Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria.
Issues like the use of western and traditional drugs versus divine healing, polygamy and whether polygamous husbands should be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Super, were among those doctrines that needed to be agreed on.
These issues had caused dissension at the IIesa Tabernacle and in order to avoid a split, a delegation of peacemakers made up of all leading Faith Tabernacle pastors, was sent to Ilesa. It was headed by Pastor J. B. Esinsinade of Ijebu-Ode, president of the General Headquarters of the movement and D. O. Odubanjo of the Lagos Missionary Headquarters.
The Ilesa meeting was scheduled for the 9th and l0th of July, 1930. The Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 48 and other important church councils are precedents in seeking ecclesiastical direction on matters affecting the life and peace of the church.
His Missionary Journeys:
After the great revival of Oke-Oye, the prophet was directed by the Holy Spirit to go out on further missionary journeys, but even before this, people from other parts of the country had been spreading the glad tidings of Oke-Oye, Ilesa’s great revival, to other parts of the country.
Accompanied by some followers, Joseph Babalola went to Offa, in present Kwara State. Characteristically, people turned out to hear his preaching and see miracles.
The Muslims in Offa became jealous and for that reason incited the members of the community against him. To avoid bloodshed he was compelled to leave. He next stopped in Usi in Ekitiland for his evangelical mission and he performed many works of healing.
From Usi he and his men moved to Efon-Alaaye, also in Ekitiland, where they received a warm reception from the Oba Alaaye of Efon.
An entire building was provided for their comfort.
Babalola requested an open space for prayer from the Oba who willingly and cheerfully gave him the privilege to choose a site. Consequently, the prophet and his men chose a large area at the outskirts of town.
Traditionally the place was a forbidden forest because of the evil spirits that were believed to inhabit it.
The Oba tried to dissuade Babalola and his men from entering the forbidden forest, but Babalola insisted on establishing his prayer ground there. The missionaries entered the bush, cleared it and consecrated it as a prayer ground. When no harm came upon them, the inhabitants of Efon were inspired to accept the new faith in large numbers. Babalola’s evangelistic success in Efon-Alaaye was a remarkable one. Archdeacon H. Dallimore from Ado-Ekiti and some white pastors from Ogbomoso Baptist Seminary were believed to have come to see for themselves the “wonder-working prophet” at Efon. Both Dallimure and the Baptist pastors reportedly asked some men from St. Andrew’s College, Oyo and Baptist Seminary, Ogbomoso to assist in the work.
The success of the revival was accelerated by the conversion of both the Oba of Efon and the Oba of Aramoko. They were both baptized with the names, Solomon Aladejare Agunsoye and Hezekiah Adeoye respectively. After this event, news of the revival at Efon spread to other parts of Ekitiland .
The missionaries also visited other towns in the present Ondo State. Among them were Owo, Ikare and Oka. Babalola retreated to his home town in Odo-Owa to fortify himself spiritually. While he was at Odo-Owa, a warrant for his arrest was issued from Ilorin.
He was arrested for preaching against witches, a practice which had caused some trouble in Otuo in present Bendel State.
He was sentenced to jail for six months in Benin City in March 1932. After serving the jail term, he went back to Efon Alaaye. One Mr. Cyprian E. Ufon came from Creek Town in Calabar to entreat Babalola to “come over to Macedonia and help.” Ufon had heard about Babalola and his works and wanted him to preach in Creek Town.
After seeking God’s direction, the prophet followed Ufon to Creek Town. His campaign there was very successful. From Creek Town, Babalola visited Duke town and a plantation where a national church existed at the time. Certain members of this church received the gift of the Holy Spirit as Babalola was preaching to them and were baptized.
When the prophet returned from the Calabar area, he settled down for a while. In 1935 he married Dorcas. The following year Babalola, accompanied by Evangelist Timothy Bababusuyi, went to the Gold Coast. On arrival at Accra, he was recognized by some people who had seen him at the Great Revival in Ilesa.
After a successful campaign in the Gold Coast he returned to Nigeria. Babalola was genuinely dissatisfied with the increasing materialistic and sinful existence of his time because of the western civilization influence on society grew.
Joseph Ayo Babalola slept in the Lord in 1959.