Jacob Olupona (African Religions, 118-9) tells the remarkable story of Rev. Sunday Adelaja and the Word of Faith Bible Church of Kiev:
“Adelaja, a Nigerian, initially and somewhat to his dismay found himself in Belarus (then part of the Soviet Union) on a scholarship to study journalism. While in Belarus, Adelaja helped to found a number of underground churches. Deported by the KGB for his religious activities, Adelaja went to Ukraine at the invitation of Jeff Davis, a traveling evangelist who was doing television ministry and needed someone familiar with the language who could represent his interests. From this beginning in Ukraine as a television evangelist, Adelaja began the process of founding churches. In 1994, the first Word of Faith Bible Church was founded. The result is that from his small beginning as the head of a Bible study group, Adelaja now is in charge of the larges church in Ukraine, which has twenty thousand members at its central location and hosts twenty services every Sunday in various auditoriums throughout Kiev. There are hundreds of daughter churches of the Embassy of God – the current name of the church – throughout Ukraine, the former Soviet Union, Europe, the United States, and even Israel. Adelaja is one of the most powerful figures in Ukraine and is credited, among other things, with aiding in the election of the mayor of Kiev.”
Not surprisingly, “Adelaja’s missionary work has permanently altered the religious landscape of Eastern Europe, instilling African religious sensibilities in a region that had previously been a religious vacuum.”
The gold-gilded onion domes around Kiev belie the last part of that statement. Ukraine is hardly a religious “vacuum,” though Olupona is right to suggest that Adelaja has introduced something quite new into the mix.