Nigerians Find an Indiana Home
Paul and Lola Adeymo want African immigrants to recapture spiritual fervor.Although he had pastored and planted Pentecostal churches in Nigeria for a quarter century, Paul Adeymo fled his native land in 2018, narrowly escaping death en route to a prayer meeting when attacked by Fulani herdsman.
“The situation in our country presently involves a lot of security issues,” says the soft-spoken Adeymo, now 55. “There is persecution and pastors have become targets for death. Many have been kidnapped and killed.”
Adeymo, who lived in Ondo in southwestern Nigeria and oversaw congregations of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission in Ondo and Ekiti states, traveled to a prayer retreat in 2016 with a group of other pastors. A gang of bandits stopped their vehicle, stole belongings and money from the ministers, and beat them. In 2017, a pastor Adeymo supervised lost an eye in an attack.
“Things are getting so bad you can’t drive freely, you can’t move freely,” says Adeymo, who also served as the state secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.
Adeymo, his wife, Lola, and their three children — Joseph, Blossom, and Timothy — applied for asylum in the U.S. In part, Paul and Lola sought to move because Joseph, the oldest child at 24, has cognitive challenges. Medical facilities didn’t exist near his Nigerian home to effectively help him.
Despite not knowing anyone in the Hoosier State, the entire family immigrated to Indianapolis in 2018.
“I did research and found this is the best place to live,” Adeymo says. “We didn’t have to break the bank to survive. But I didn’t know how cold it would be. Yet the cold has not killed us.”
The Adeymos initially lived in low-income apartments near Lakeview Church, an Assemblies of God multiethnic congregation of 1,100 weekly attendees in the Indiana capital. Dozens of other Nigerians who live in the complex attend Lakeview Church, and the Adeymos began worshipping there as well.
“We looked at the doctrine, preaching, and music and knew this was the right place,” Adeymo says. Lola is part of the worship team; Paul is on the baptismal team.
Adeymo connected with Lakeview lead pastor Ronald J. Bontrager, who helped expedite the seasoned Nigerian church leader securing AG ministerial credentials in May through the Indiana District. In the meantime, Adeymo has been working in the inventory department of GXO Logistics in Lebanon, Indiana.
Bontrager, who is white, retired in August after 28 years of leading Lakeview, but not before it became a church filled mostly by ethnic minorities.
“One of our core values is to be a church that looks like heaven,” says R. Drew Bontrager, who succeeded his father as lead pastor. “It’s been a slow process, but in the last decade Lakeview has shifted to a predominantly nonwhite church community with Black, African, Hispanic, and Asian populations.” The church also has a diverse staff and elder board.
Adeymo now is in the early stages of pioneering a church in Indianapolis for Africans. He and Lola recently attended a Launch Training event of the AG’s Church Multiplication Network. The Indiana District assisted financially in sending the couple for training.
Bontrager, who has been part of Lakeview for eight years, is confident Paul and Lola will fulfill the call God has for them in Indianapolis.
“Paul has overcome obstacles a lot of pastors in America never had to deal with,” says Bontrager, 35. “He has grit and determination.” Lakeview plans to assist the church plant with resources and finances, Bontrager says.
During his time in America, Adeymo says he’s discovered a lot of immigrants no longer are as spiritually fervent as when they arrived.
“African immigrants tend to wander away from the faith,” Adeymo says. “The level of involvement in the things of God has gone down, the fire they brought from Africa has dwindled.”
Services at Flair of Hope Church will be conducted in English. A language barrier — with African immigrants more comfortable speaking only their native tribal dialects —often hampers full assimilation in U.S. culture, according to Adeymo. Flair of Hope will feature African music and much dancing in worship, he says.