While growing up in Nigeria, Wole Ajala enjoyed spending time with his father and grandfather as they honed their woodworking skills. Sometimes he watched; other times he helped.
Ajala’s grandfather was a carpenter and a cocoa farmer. With some wood and a few tools, Ajala’s father could make just about anything a church needed, from pews and pulpits to offering plates.
Woodworking was always part of Ajala’s life. “I never knew the Lord was providing it as a ministry for me to reach out,” he said.
Ajala moved to the United States about 10 years ago to attend seminary and eventually plant Beautiful Gate Baptist Church, a multi-ethnic church in Greensboro to reach African-Americans and French-speaking African immigrants and refugees. He still has his grandfather’s 1936 foot-pedal scroll saw.
In 2006, Ajala started the “Make and Donate Toy Clinic,” an effort to use woodworking as a way to help children and teenagers combine mathematics with art and imagination.
“It’s amazing what we’ve been blessed with, just with our hands. God gave us hands to be creative,” he said.
BSC photo by Melissa Lilley
Wole Ajala talks about an offering plate he made for Beautiful Gate Baptist Church in Greensboro, the church he pastors. The native Nigerian hosted woodworking camps at the church last summer to share skills he learned from his father and grandfather.
Ajala is a physicist by training, and recently earned his middle and high school mathematics teaching license. He is currently a substitute mathematics teacher and hopes to begin teaching full time. Ajala enjoys helping children and teenagers understand concepts such as friction and Newton’s Law of Motion, all by using their hands to create something unique.
He teaches younger children how to assemble and paint toys from recycled wood, and teaches older youth how to use some of the woodworking tools. He also teaches children how to transfer their designs for toys from a computer to the wood.
Last summer, Beautiful Gate Baptist Church in Greensboro hosted day camps for children and youth to come learn about the woodworking ministry.
Throughout the year Ajala sponsors a workshop the second Saturday of every month at the Piedmont Baptist Association office. He also hosts monthly workshops at the Greensboro cultural center. “We encourage children to do more than one toy project,” Ajala said.
“They take one home, and then donate one. We encourage the kids to give back to the community.” Every year “Make and Donate” gives about 5,000 wooden toys to children in need.
The first toys Ajala started making were small cars that he carried in his pocket when he went with members of his church for door-to-door evangelism visits. He wanted to have something to share with the children he met throughout Greensboro.
Evangelism is the real reason Ajala started the woodworking and toy ministry. He wanted to have opportunities to meet children, to meet their families, to build relationships, and to share Jesus Christ.
“Through these ministries, God has opened so many doors for us to reach out to the kids. If we can reach the kids, we can reach the parents,” he said.
“It’s a discipleship opportunity, and an opportunity to show them the love of Jesus Christ. Our goal is to use our talents and skills to serve the community. It’s not about growing our church, but growing the Kingdom.”
Ajala is praying for a school bus to be donated so he can turn the ministry into a mobile workshop.
He is also preparing to help church planters in Toronto learn how to use a toy ministry as a means of evangelism and community outreach.
Ajala recently went to Toronto on a vision trip to learn more about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) partnership in Toronto.
While in Toronto, Ajala met African refugees, as well as two French-speaking church planters. Ajala is fluent in French.
Ajala’s goal is to teach the church planters skills they can reproduce, and to help plant a church in Toronto. “I will help build up the ministry, and then hand it over to the local church. We believe in training the trainer,” he said.
Advancing the gospel
Evangelism is the reason behind everything Ajala does. When God called him to stay in the United States after seminary and to plant a church in Greensboro, he knew he must obey.
“When He says go, you have to go. There’s no excuse before God. With every excuse Moses gave, God was reassuring him that He was the one who created him. With every vision, God has given provision. There’s nothing called accident in the lives of God’s children,” Ajala said.
Ajala received church planter training from the BSC, as well as funding. Beautiful Gate Baptist Church meets at the Piedmont Association office, but Ajala is praying the church can rent a building downtown to hold worship services and be closer to where church members live. Every Sunday, Ajala drives downtown to pick up a number of people for Sunday services, many of whom are homeless and neglected.
He is trying to help these people get back on their feet by teaching them skills, such as lawn care, so they can start earning an income again. Some of the homeless people he works with have just been released from prison.
Ajala seeks to help people learn skills to improve their quality of life. He is working on a biodiesel project that he hopes will help people living overseas in poor countries.
With help from the Piedmont Association, U.S. Department of Agriculture and North Carolina A&T University, he has also started a community garden ministry to help feed the hungry in Greensboro. Church members and volunteers help plant in the garden, and then the food is freely distributed to those in need. Ajala also hopes to share special gardening and irrigation techniques with poor people living overseas. “To penetrate lostness in our community, we must do whatever it takes. There’s no limit to what we can do to advance the gospel,” he said.