INTERVIEW: UNCLE BAYO FAMONURE

Upright: Can we meet you Sir?

Uncle Bayo: My name is Bayo Famonure. People call me Uncle Bayo. I am a Missionary by calling. Many years ago, God led me into Missions. That’s what I have been doing all these years.

Upright: When one hears the name, Uncle Bayo, what comes to mind is Missions. So many other people are involved in missions, what are the keys that are responsible for your outstanding performance in Missions?

Uncle Bayo: I don’t know about any outstanding performance to be honest with you. I am just a sinner saved by grace and God in His mercies, chose to use me to do somethings for Him. It hasn’t been outstanding the way I understand outstanding because I read about people like Samuel Ajayi Crowder; that’s an outstanding Missionary. Then I was influenced and mentored by people like T.T Stroth and James Houston Dendron; they did fantastically well and were very skillful, but, God has kept me in this thing for more than 40 years. So if you say, what God has helped me to do in my involvement with Mission Agencies all over Africa; I think it is just the grace of God that has helped me. Then I think I could trace it also to those who taught me the Christian faith. They gave me a good foundation; people like Bro. Mike Oye, people like Uncle Kola Ejiwunmi. People like Uncle Folusho Owo. Those days in the institution in the south west, these were our teachers who took time to teach us basic principles of Christianity.

Mike Oye in particular, followed me up till University, till NYSC, just following me everywhere I went, to make sure that what he taught me was formed in me. So that foundation was very good for me and it helped me know that I am nothing except what God gives me. I can’t boast of anything really; it is just God’s Grace.

Off course my father too played his own role when I was growing up. But as a Christian, it was Mike Oye and other Christians like Bukola Ojeoye who really helped.

In later years, I had a friend and a boss, Dr. Tokumbo Adeyemo. He was my boss, my friend, he was like my elder brother. He influenced me very powerfully. His prayer life, his passion for God, his love for God, his love for the brethren, his quest for the unity of the body of Christ, it is unequal.  These are things that helped me. As people around me taught me things and I followed after them. I was just following what they taught me to do and that’s the secret actually.

Upright: From your statement; we can pick two main things, the right foundation and the right influences. Can we say that these are largely lacking in the body of Christ today?

Uncle Bayo: Well, from that angle, it appears to me that people are not even willing to learn again under leaders. They want to be leaders in a hurry. Everybody wants to start his own ministry. Before they could walk, they want to start running. I won’t be able to zero it on a particular thing, maybe it is the spirit of the age. Satan is fidgeting, his time is short, so he is working overtime, and many of the young ones are playing into his hands. We have people who are young who are teaching others; who should still be in school themselves. They are now lecturers. Young boys and girls say they are papas, they are daddies. They have not learnt enough to mentor anyone else. And the influence they subscribe to are not very healthy influences. They read books from some foreign countries, “How to make it, how to claim it and name it and claim it.” And those things are not healthy influence.

Those days, as I was growing up, I was privileged to read books by A.W Tozer, Watchman Nee, Charles Finney, these are the books that shaped our thinking and helped us in our followership of Jesus Christ. But, this days, you don’t see such books, so the influences and the foundations are very important. Many people say they are born again, but the Bible says, by their fruits you will know them. If you are born again, you should show it forth to the world by the way you live. Not that you will not do some bad things, but when you do bad things, you feel convicted, you get so broken down. “How can this happen to me”; you are sober, so sad. But now people just do bad things, “and so what?”  They go ahead, it doesn’t border them at all. So you can see a Christian, and people say, “he is a very nice brother, it is just that he steals”. What has Jesus saved him from if he is still stealing?

Upright: Sir, everyone knows that missions can be very demanding. How were you and Mummy able to balance ministry and family life?

Daddy Bayo: I am not sure if we did that successfully. I am not sure if we balanced it. I can remember that sometimes she will go to the office when she was the CAPRO Training Secretary at about 7:15am with a flask of tea. She may not come back home till 9.00 or 10.00pm. But after those initial times, children began to come. We did not have children immediately, we choose not to, we waited. When they began to come, we began to adjust a little bit. We involved them in our lives. I have always been travelling. Sometimes, I go with my wife, at other times, I go with my wife and children. But when I don’t go with them and my wife is with the children, she takes a map of Nigeria or of the world and tells them, “Daddy is in Canada, he is in so and so place”; so they travel with me. They appreciate what I am doing. A number of times we did travel together. I’ll pack them in the car and we will just go, so we tried to create a balance. As we were raising our children, we learnt to do things together. For example, she is making the food which they are to take to school, I’ll be bathing them. As she is serving them or dressing them up, I was washing the plates. So we learnt to do a lot of things together as husband and wife. But, I don’t even know if we balanced this well.

One thing God helped us to do well, was the family altar; that helped us a lot. It used to be in the morning before they go to school, sometimes we did it in the night. As they were growing up, we changed it to night. When we go around and come back around 8.00 or 9.00pm, we sat down together and spent two hours. If I led on Monday, Mummy will lead on Tuesday, our eldest child, the girl, on Wednesday; we shared it. When we did our bible study, we argued, we defended. Sometimes I will take the wrong path deliberately to know how they will react. It was very exciting. When our children left home, they said what they miss most is the family altar. That was the balancing God helped us to do.

Upright: What can Missionary families do to have the work more fulfilling?

Uncle Bayo: Yes, they should involve their children more than we even did. Because, I have seen some missionary families where, the children join their parents as missionaries on completing their university studies. They just flow into it. When you see such families, the parents involve the children a lot. I know a family, they travel a lot to West Africa by road, very dangerous routes. They go through the desert sometimes. Many times, their children are with them. One of them is a graduate who has finished NYSC; another one is in the university. They are not ashamed of missions. Their parents took them along; they share with them. So one thing that makes the work more fulfilling is when the children are involved in it, there should be a partnership.

Many times, missionaries go for conferences and leave their wives behind. So they are learning and growing, their wives are not learning and growing along with them. To get it more fulfilling, you go together when it is possible. Go together and grow together. It is very important. If that is not possible due to ticket cost, the one you can learn together, learn together. This will make it more fulfilling.

Upright: We heard you were not paid in your missionary involvements. How did you cope with personal and family needs? How do you raise cash for yourself?

Uncle Bayo: Well, it will not be right to say I was not paid. No man can pay; if that is right to say; but God pays me. When God called me, He told me that He will pay me, He will be my reward, I heard that clearly. So I knew that God will take care of me. Well, me and my wife used to make a joke, “loan 419”! Phil 4:19 says my God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. So that’s our level.

But in terms of physical provision and needs, we learnt to cast all our cares on Him. Sometimes, what we wanted did not come, but many times, the needs did come and sometimes even the wants. So we just prayed and God did it. The children will be telling us sometimes that we have no food in the house, we just pray and God will just send us some food.

Apart from praying, we didn’t have enough time to do any extra job. God didn’t allow us to do any extra job. And we didn’t have enough humility to be begging people for funds. I didn’t know how to beg. I am not humble enough to beg people. But my wife has a lot of gifts as a person. And then friends who knew what we were doing supported us. We don’t have anybody till now who gives us support every month. Some give in January, then in June. So God knew how to supply our needs at different points in time.

Then, I write books. Many times when the books are selling, the money goes to the Mission but once in a while, I get some money. Then my wife also began to keep chickens, it was like a hubby. I won’t say the chickens were feeding us, but when we wanted to eat eggs, we did not need to go and buy. At Christmas, we just take one or two birds and kill. So, there are some things we can do with our hands, we do some of those things. They do not disturb the work we are called to. This poultry thing, people helped her to care of them. It doesn’t have enough money to sustain us but to be honest, the truth is that God took care of us. He feeds us, up till now.

One of my children was in school, I didn’t have money to pay his school fees that time. So I was wondering how I will pay. One of my former students; my friend in a foreign country, said I should come and preach in a conference. He also requested that Mummy join me if she was free. So two of us went to preach for about four days. When we were to return, he said, “God has used you so much to bless us, we don’t even know how to thank you”. He gave me 2400 dollars. What I had was like 1500 dollars. We combined the money and paid the fees of that boy for that semester. So God does it, in different ways by just trusting Him. Sometimes, we wait, it doesn’t happen immediately but eventually it happens.

Upright: What will you call the major challenges to missions and how can they be overcome?

Uncle Bayo: It is not money, but men who are available. If men are there, other things will flow. When you get a man called by God and called into Missions, you will see things moving. The money will follow him, if he has a passion, loves God and has a lifestyle of praying. But men and women are not available these days, they are not. Even those who appear to be coming up in our churches are deliberately engaged by Pastors. They are too busy, they are the Sunday school teachers, they are the pillars in the church, they are not available. Some others have not even been taught properly. They are being taught different things, feeding their flesh, not their spirit, and that’s the problem. So men are not available and even if they are, there are challenges.

Upright: There is CAPRO and AGAPE. Many people still want to know what happened between these two Missions Agencies.

Uncle Bayo: There is a book that was published few years ago. It is titled, “Uncle Bayo Famonure: The Missionary”; this issue is discussed fully in the book. Get a copy and go through it, it solves a lot of problems. AGAPE came, much after CAPRO. After we moved out of CAPRO or CAPRO moved out of us, AGAPE started. While I began CAPRO alone, no body helped me. God gave me a vision, and told me the name through a dream. For Agape, me and my wife started it together. When I began CAPRO, I was not married. The day I first told her, she burst into strong emotions. She was the first lady in CAPRO. We had a field in Katsina state, and she was going there every weekend. It was a Hausa village, she preached to them, slept in their hut. So the fully story of what happened and what went right is in the book.

Upright: Sir, how did God open you up to International Missions?

Uncle Bayo: Well, when I became a missionary, the vision God gave me was very specific, Muslim North of Nigeria and Francophone, West Africa countries. Step by step we were working; we were in Katsina state mainly, and Kaduna state, then we went to Goza, Barma, Sokoto for outreaches. Then one of our staff had a burden to go to Gambia. We argued that it was an Anglophone country. He said, “but I have a burden to go there”. We argued, argued, argued, then allowed him to go. That was how he went to WEC missions. But before that time, I had worked with NIFES as a Travelling Secretary. I joined NIFES in 1975, after NYSC, and served for 3 years as Travelling Secretary. In 1976, they sent me out for a Training in UK. So that was my first exposure to International Missions in. CAPRO started in April 1975, and I was doing it alongside NIFES.

So I went out to UK, I saw other people from different parts of Europe, Asia and other staff of IFAS. I was able to know more about what they are doing. Then later in 1976 or so another conference took me to Nairobi, Kenya; Pan African Christian National Assembly invited me. I wasn’t even 30 years old then. I saw Billy Graham, I saw people, I was overwhelmed. The man was looking old at that time so I said, “God how do we replace this man now, just use me”, that was how I got exposed gradually to International Missions.

We met WEC Missions (World Evangelization for Christ) and we got to be friendly with them. We gave them another staff to go and learn from them; then their Leader for Africa came to Nigeria to see us. So we were just getting to know them better.

I was having some challenges in CAPRO. I was the “Thinking Machine”, because I was the leader. So I said, “Well, we have met WEC in Gambia, so let’s go to their headquarters and learn how to do things better”. So I told Amos, one of our early staff, “let’s go to UK”. We had money, we bought a one-way ticket; that time, I think it was 35 Naira or so for each of us.

We got to UK, and our money finished there. We were at the airport, so we called the office, telling them we had arrived. They sent a driver to pick us, gave us a room and also fed us. We spent 1 month there. They exposed us to all they were doing, even their finances; how they were training their students, how they were interviewing them. We met with leaders of missions in the world like Robert Mackay, the Head of WEC worldwide. They asked us, “what brought you here?” I said, “we are doing something called CAPRO. One of your members have come to see us there and we just started about five years ago, so we have come to learn about the mistakes you have made, so we can avoid those mistakes”. He began to laugh! When we were having a session with Patrick Johnston, their Research Secretary, he said, “You say you work in Benin Republic? I said, ‘Yes’. He said, “How many people are in Benin Republic? Do you know? I said, “No idea”.  “Are Christians there?” “Yes, there are true Christians there.” “How many churches work in Benin Republic?” I said “we didn’t know”. “Which towns have more churches?” I said “we didn’t know”. “Who is the President of Benin Republic?” We are not sure! He said, “you see; you need a Research Department, that will research these things, so you will know how to plan”. I said, “Is that so?” We told him, “we are leaving very soon, we will send Bro. Niyi to come to UK and stay here for 6 months”. When we left UK, we went to US to YWAP. We had read about Green Revolution by Reva Cunningham, many years ago. We have been writing them. One of our staff even went there to study for one year. We said, “Let’s go to one of their schools and see how they are doing their own things there”.

When we were leaving UK, they asked us, “what do you want? You have been here for one month now”. We said, “Nothing”. “What can we do for you?” “Ah, you have done enough for us, you showed us everything you are doing, how you interview your people, we have learnt enough, thank you very much”. “So where are you going from here?” “We are going to the US”. “Do you have your flight ticket already?” We said, “No!” “You have the money?” “No”. “Okay, in that case, we will give you the money, yours is to go and buy it”. I said, “Thank you”. They prayed for us.

When I moved out of CAPRO, God led me to Mr. Adeyemo who was the Vice President of AEAN at that time, Association of Evangelicals in African; it became AEA eventually. He came to speak at a programme in Jos in 1985. He had heard about NEMA; Nigeria Missions Agency and I was one of the founders. He said I should come and work with them and take care of African Missions. I said, “No, I am not coming”. He said, “why?”. I said, “The Lord gave me CAPRO, I have a vision! It is a big thing. Nothing is like it in the world now. When I get to heaven today, God will ask me about CAPRO”. He said, “It is a lie. Africa needs you, you are talking of Nigeria, one small thing”. “Small thing?  You don’t know CAPRO, that is what is happening in the world now”. He laughed!

Five years from 1990, I had to move out of CAPRO. I had to go and speak in a Revival Conference in Zambia, so I went through Nairobi. So I went to see Mr. Adeyemo to greet him. On seeing him, he said, “I asked you to come and work with us, five years now; you say, ‘CAPRO’, one small vision in Nigeria”. I said, “actually, even that CAPRO, I have lost it, they took it from me”. He said, “Come!” I said, “No, let me go to Zambia first, when I come back from Zambia, I will give you an answer”.

I went to Zambia and I took 3 days fast. On the 2nd night, I was praying on the field, then God spoke to me very clearly that, there are demons that are oppressing Africa. I had to face them. I should work in that group. I wept. I said, “God, you know me, how can I face any demon?” I cried, “Just kill me here, you know me very well.” I cried and cried. When I travelled back, I told him, “well, I will come join you” “Ah, we will pay you so much” I said, “I don’t want salary. God told me not to receive salary from anybody, that He will pay me”. The money was 10,000 dollars. “You will drive a car; we will give you a house in Nairobi”. I said, “God said, I should stay in the North of Nigeria”. He said, “okay, you can stay there and do your work from there”. So, the AEA Leadership I took was a big exposure for me! There is a world missions body called WEC Missions Commission. It covers Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, everywhere in the world. It’s a kind of brotherhood. Now I was heading African Nations of AEA, so automatically I became an Executive Member of World Missions Commission. I went for meetings in Brazil, Korea, Jamiaca; that was how I got exposed. I have travelled to over 50 to 60 countries now, maybe I would have travelled only West Africa up till now and then America also. I served in AEA for over fourteen years.

Upright: Tell us about Messiah College and how the school is funded. We learnt that you were teaching in Messiah College at a point.

Uncle Bayo: I taught there till last year. I still taught the last WAEC students. Messiah College began because, after this CAPRO problem; we were travelling around West Africa seeing missionaries. Anywhere we went to, we saw missionaries and their children were not going to proper schools. Even in Nigeria, ECWA was the largest Mission Agency in Africa with many missionaries; some of them are in different bushes and their children could not go to school. So God spoke to me and my wife, that this people need to go to school, that we should create a school, like home away from home. Let them feel at home. Most of these Mission Agencies in Nigeria, like ECWA and COCCEN, brought their children here and that’s how we began. It was a school mainly for missionary children. Others now applied. We also have children of Pastors in Muslim areas. If the children go with them, they can be killed, they will even find it difficult to run. Some of them said, “My child is somewhere, my children are even with my brother in Kachalacha, I don’t know how he is doing. So we allowed it for Missionaries and Pastors. Then some people later said, “look, you are doing a very good school here, let’s come there, though we are not missionaries, we are not pastors, we are civil servants”. We said, okay! We gave about 20% admission to non-missionaries and they are paying full fees, whereas the others are paying discounts. The full fees will help us to run the school; that was how we were thinking. When we began, we were collecting 5,000 Naira for a term per missionary. The non-missionaries were paying 15,000 Naira for a term. It was helping us run the school. Even the 5,000 Naira was difficult for some of them to pay.

There was one incident. A man came with a box on his head, he was with one small boy who was to be in JSS1. We were not there so those who were interrogating him asked where he was coming from with a box on your held. He said he was in Kotangora Mission Field and his money finished; so they trekked to the school. He gave them the 5,000 Naira he brought. They gave him back and said, “take your money, go back and take care of yourself, don’t worry”. We were not there! When they told us, we said, “you did correctly, thank you”.

We began in 1995. Now we have graduates who are Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Architects, Missionaries and Pastors that finished from Messiah College. We are happy about that. My wife was the first Principal of the school. But last year, she appointed an Acting Principal. She still supervises the school but she doesn’t go there every day as she used to.

Upright: Many Ministers dread going into Missions, how will you encourage a young minister God is calling into the Mission field.

Uncle Bayo: They should know God. If they know God is calling them, they won’t be afraid. God pays good salaries. God takes care of His people. During my NYSC, Uncle Igwe told us, “God is no man’s debtor, He doesn’t owe anybody”. So you cannot out-give God. If you give Him life, He will multiply it 10 times. That’s God! So people are afraid because they don’t know God enough. They don’t have understanding; that’s the challenge. If they know God, they will be encouraged.

Then, Missionary work is a Profession. You need to be trained. People just want to go and do the work without training. The training helps you prepare for the work. When you are trained, you get some confidence. About 40 people came as Missionaries and wanted to just start. We told them after the vision sharing, there is a need to be trained. Without training it will not work. You will become discouraged. During the training you will overcome your will, and overcome you fears. So, the training is very important. The training will expose you to the field. You go to the field during the weekend and come back. You go for a month, and come back, for 3 months, and come back. By the time, you say you have finished, you can go anywhere. So that’s why it is good to be trained. When you know God has called you and that He is faithful, it makes a whole of difference.

Thank you so much!!!

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About the Author

‘Deji David Olanrewaju is a Business and Leadership Coach. He helps Executives, Business Owners, Ministers and Career Persons stay competitive by Increasing their Corporate Value, Build Winning Teams, Improve Effectiveness and Achieve their Corporate Goals. He is a well known Author, Publisher and Trainer. His passion to empower the young generation has produced many published works; including the widely acclaimed book, “Preparing to Succeed in the Higher Institution”, currently enjoying nationwide coverage with over 30,000 copies in print.

Deji David Olanrewaju is a Minister of the Gospel, with a passion for Societal Transformation. He leads a vast number of young champions across Campuses and Corporate organizations, who lead Kingdom life and impact their spheres with Kingdom culture. He is happily married to Ihechi, a Legal Practitioner and Counsellor to young people. Their union is blessed with children.

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