Archive | November 2014

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 7)

As we entered my office I made a point of letting him know I only had a few minutes to spare as I was on my way home to rest and prepare for a vigil meeting when he drove in from Lagos. Fortunately, he understood and was as brief as possible. He had a series of crusades planned over a six month period in various parts of the country, with the first scheduled to hold in Akure in less than two months. The purpose was to plant churches in all the locations where the meetings would hold. He said he had already invited all the ministers who would be in attendance at the various meetings, but after he met me at pastor Preye’s church the Saturday before, he felt the Lord was urging him to invite me to participate in all the meetings. He had prayed about this and the Lord had confirmed that I was to minister and share a stage with him in all the meetings.

He concluded by saying, “I understand you are currently in high demand by a lot of ministries and that you probably already have other appointments scheduled for the period I am referring to but I know when the Lord speaks to me. He said you are to minister in all the meetings and whatever meeting clashes with this should be cancelled as it is your arrangement and not His.” He grinned as he finished, looking very pleased indeed.

If he didn’t look like the cat that got the cream, I would not have been so upset. The man was even more arrogant than I had thought he was.  He was also very annoying and my dislike for him seemed to be on the increase with each time we met.

“Thank you, reverend.” I said, trying to remain calm although I did not smile, as far as I was concerned, there was nothing to smile about. “I will pray about this and get back to you.”

He shrugged his shoulders and rose to his feet. “By all means, do.” He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card which he stretched towards me. “I am certain of what I have told you. I hear when God speaks to me.”

“So do I.” I snapped and snatched the card from him.

He was not perturbed by my bad manners; as a matter of fact he totally ignored it and maintained his cool and of course, his smile. “In that case, I look forward to ministering with you.” He opened the door and turned back to look at me one more time before walking out. “I shall take my leave now.”

“About time.” I muttered under my breath as he shut the door behind him. I threw the card in my top drawer and left my office fuming.

I did not like the man; he had embarrassed me and sent me out of the house of God over seven years ago. If aunty Bose had not come after me I do not know what would have become of me that night and where I would be today. If, like him, aunty Bose failed to extend the love of God to me, where would I be today? I probably would have left the church and stayed out for ever, and then he wouldn’t know me, let alone invite me to minister with him at his crusade. How dare he come to my office and tell me he hears from God? If he did, he would not have sent me out of the church. Was it God who asked him to send me out of the church? No, it wasn’t; it was not an act of love and so I was certain it was not an act of God because God is love. He was used by the devil that night and it was high time he went on his knees and repented. Until he had done that, he had no business coming to my office to talk to me about God. As I drove home, I banged my hands on the steering wheel several times in anger and hot tears streamed down my cheeks. “Lord, this is not fair! I will work with anyone you want me to work with for the advancement of your kingdom, but not him. Send him far away from me, I never want to set eyes on him again.” I cried but the Lord did not answer me that day, He was silent.

My ministration that night was a complete failure, no one noticed anything but I knew the spirit of God did not work through me like before and I knew why. I looked peaceful on the outside but I was not peaceful on the inside. I was in turmoil, emotionally and mentally. I was angry with the reverend, angry with myself and yes, I was angry with God. Why did He want me to work with the reverend? He had blessed him spiritually and financially in spite of how badly he had treated me, was that not enough? Why did I have to work with him? I did not want to work with him or have anything to do with him. I did not like him and I was angry he was making progress.

I did not pray about reverend’s church planting meetings; I did not have to because I already knew that God wanted me to minister with him and that made me angrier because I did not want to do anything with the man. His attitude irritated me and the less I saw of him the better for me and my peace and sanity. Over the next five weeks, I carried on with my daily tasks and tried to put reverend Femi out of my mind, but one week to the event I finally got myself to pick the phone and call him. I had to minister in his meetings so I might as well let him know; and the earlier the meetings started, the earlier they would come to an end and I could put a wide gap between us and get on with my life. Hopefully, I wouldn’t see him in the future. He sounded very happy to hear from me and probably would have spent some time exchanging pleasantries except that I cut him short.

“I will minister at your church planting crusades over the next six months.” I went straight to the point.

I half expected him to make some sarcastic statement like, I told you so, but I was surprised. He simply said, “I will ask my PA to call you now and arrange logistics for you and your team. See you in Akure next week.” That was it, he hung up. I didn’t know if his attitude was better than I expected or worse but I did know that I still disliked the man.

Over the next six months, we shared the same stage at crusades held in different parts of the country, and when the meetings were over, we slept in the same hotels; however, we saw little of each other. His PA was responsible for everything I required so I didn’t have to have any contact with him. I should have been thrilled but I wasn’t. I thought it was very rude of him not to honour me with his presence, especially during dinner. In spite of my dislike of him, in the six months that followed, I grew to respect him and I also understood why he was greatly admired by all who knew him. He was not only highly anointed, he was also highly organised and disciplined. These traits were reflected in everything around him. His meetings started and finished on time and every programme was properly scheduled and timed from start of the service to finish. He did not spend time with other ministers in the hotel between each service but stayed locked up in his hotel room where he communed with the Lord and when he emerged after hours, the result was evident for all to see. I saw thousands come forward to give their lives to Christ because of the working of miracles and healings that they experienced. I certainly learnt a lot just by observing him and how he worked. Finally, it was time to return to Ibadan where I had invitations to minister already lined up by reason of what God had done through me during the six month church planting meetings with Reverend Femi. Before I left Ijebode where the final crusade was held, he sent for me so he could speak into my life. As I entered his hotel room where he was waiting for me in the company of his PA and the vice president of his ministry, the Lord said to me very clearly, “kneel before my servant.” So I did; I wasn’t ecstatic but the Lord had spoken.

He placed his hand on my head and before he opened his mouth, I was instantly slain in the Spirit and fell at his feet. He reached out and picked me up. As I knelt again at his feet, he said to me. “You have served God faithfully in this ministry the last six months. If I be a man of God, a miracle is coming your way within 48 hours.” I did not doubt him, I knew by now that although I did not like him, God worked through him and spoke through him.

I had no idea what the miracle was but I knew if Reverend Femi said it, then a miracle was certainly on the way. The miracle did come within 48 hours and it was a miracle I desperately needed. I travelled that day to Ibadan and the following day which was Sunday, I was ministering in a church in a special evening healing service. I had spent time in reverend Femi’s presence for six months and I could tell from the way I ministered that evening that the anointing on his life had rubbed off on me. I did not know why, after all I did not like the man. Anyway, it didn’t matter why, what mattered was that the anointing upon my life had increased. A lot of things happened in that meeting that had never happened anywhere I had ministered before. I felt God’s hand on my life like never before and I knew the only reason I did not raise the dead in that meeting was because there was none present.

Just as the service was coming to a close, a young woman dying of cancer was brought in on a stretcher. Her family members heard about the healing service and decided to bring her to Ibadan for God’s healing touch, since the doctor’s had sent her home from the hospital to die. I had finished ministering and was escorted out of the church auditorium to the church office when the host pastor informed me that I was required to pray for the dying woman. I went with him to the reception area where the woman and her family members were waiting for me. As I entered the room, I suddenly gasped in shock and stopped in my tracks. It was eight years since I left home and sickness had ravaged her body but I could recognise Nike instantly. As I looked in dismay at my sister’s almost lifeless body which lay on the stretcher on the ground, I heard a male voice exclaim, “Omolara! Is it really you?” I knew that voice as I knew my own but could it really be the person I thought it was? Very slowly, I tore my eyes away from Nike who appeared to be in a lot of pain, and raised my head to look in the direction the voice had come from and just as I had suspected, there was my father, whom I had not seen in about ten years and standing beside him was my immediate elder sister, Tola.

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 6)

The entire congregation remained standing for the next ten minutes and listened with rapt attention as he not only brought a word of greeting our way but brought the service to a close by releasing a prophetic blessing on all present. I had to admit as I watched him that he was heavily anointed by God. He spoke only for a few minutes and a woman suddenly got out of the wheel chair and walked and there was an eruption all over the auditorium which seemed to go on forever until he called for silence with one raised hand. As I saw the ease with which the miracle was performed in those few minutes, when he wasn’t even ministering, I longed for the same level of anointing. What I had was nowhere close to what this man carried. He exuded the very presence of God; I knew this because when he walked past me only moments ago I felt the presence of God pass by with him. It was really awesome and as he spoke and brought the service to a close, I tried to pay attention, but I could not as I was filled with anger. The man was pompous and arrogant, and he cared for no one. He did not know what it was to show the love of God to others, he did not even have the love of God, so how could God possibly use him to such degree?

As soon as the service came to an end, all ministers present walked out in a single line through the back door into the reception area of the church office where we were expected to pray together and give thanks to God for the successful completion of the conference. He stopped to let me go before him and as he did, our eyes met, and he smiled, but I didn’t return it with one of my own, as a matter of fact, his smile infuriated me even more. Then as if that was not enough, when we entered the church office to pray, he reached out and took my hand in his, holding it in a firm grasp all through the prayer. Oh, it was really too much. It took all of my will power not to pull my hand out of his. As you can probably imagine, my heart was not in the prayer as I wanted it to be over quickly so I could get my hand back from the pompous reverend. As the prayer ended, my “Amen” must have been the loudest as I was relieved to have my hand back and I pulled it away quickly and put some distance between us to avoid conversation of any sort.

A light refreshment had been served but I did not want anything; for some reason I wanted to get away quickly, but no such luck. My host pastor grabbed me by the arm and steered me towards Reverend Dr Femi in a bid to introduce him to me. She obviously had a lot of respect for him; she went on and on about the mighty things God was doing through him, as though I had not already witnessed some of it earlier, to my displeasure. From what she said, I gathered he had raised a few more dead people since the last time I saw him in Abeokuta. I was not surprised, if the presence of God I felt when he walked past me earlier was anything to go by, raising the dead would be a piece of cake.

“Lara, I want to formally introduce, my mentor, Reverend Dr Femi Oloruntobi. Reverend Femi, this is Evangelist Lara. She has only recently been ordained an Evangelist to the nations but God has been using her mightily for years, ever since she was at the University of Ibadan.”

Our eyes met and held for a few seconds as he stretched his hand to shake mine, I noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding band on his other hand. I thought it was a bit odd, he was certainly in his early thirties, as the first time I saw him in Abeokuta seven years before this time he had been in his mid-twenties. I felt at his age he should be married, at least to reduce sexual temptation from women within and outside the body of Christ. I shrugged the thought off as it was none of my business, perhaps he was too busy healing the sick and raising the dead to find a wife. He smiled at me and this time I smiled back because pastor Preye was watching and I didn’t want her to suspect that I was not a fan of the famous reverend. He seemed very glad that I smiled on this occasion and his smile deepened. He was quite good looking; I noticed this for the first time and had to admit to myself.

“Hello Lara, how are you and how is the ministry? It is always a pleasure to meet a woman on fire for the Lord.”

I was going to say, “Really, what about a woman who is stinking in the house of the Lord?” However I refrained from doing that as it would have been so out of place.

Instead I said, “I am fine, and so is the ministry. Thank you for asking and it is a pleasure to meet you too.”

I realised as the words left my mouth that I had told a lie; it was not a pleasure to meet him at all. Oh, I felt really awful and wanted to get away from the man as quickly as I could but I had to get my hand back first and he was still holding on to it and did not look like he would release it anytime soon so I deliberately lowered my head, looked down at our hands and then raised my head to lock eyes with his. He got the message and finally released my hand, although very slowly. None of this was lost on pastor Preye who was grinning ear to ear as I turned to look at her.

“Pastor Preye, I really need to be on my way. I am ministering in a church in Warri, first thing tomorrow Sunday morning. I need to leave now so I can arrive early and get some rest.”

“You are right. Let’s talk in my office briefly before you leave.” She said.

As we turned to go to her office, she turned to look at Reverend Femi, “Please excuse me sir.” She said. “I will be back soon.”

“I will be waiting, ma.” He spoke to pastor Preye but his eyes were on me. I was very uncomfortable as I felt he could tell everything that was going on inside my heart. His presence made me uneasy and the earlier I got away from him the better for me. “It was nice to meet you, Lara, I have no doubt we will meet again in the future.”

“Not If I have anything to do with it, we won’t.” I wanted to say but instead I smiled and said, “Good bye, reverend.” And I walked away.

My meeting with pastor Preye was a very brief one, lasting about fifteen minutes and I was in my minivan, which was driven by a member of my team who served me in the capacity of a driver. I had started driving but he drove me when I travelled out of Ibadan as I did not feel confident driving outside Ibadan. As we made our way out of Port Harcourt and towards Warri, I tried to put all thoughts of Reverend Femi out of my mind. I did not like him very much, this I knew and I was slightly angered and possibly jealous that he was used by God. I was not only angry that he was still used by God, I was also angry that he had increased and not decreased since I had seen him in Abeokuta. He had increased spiritually, the anointing had definitely increased, he certainly exuded the presence of God, even I could testify to this although I did not like him. I felt God’s presence around him so I knew God was with him and that bothered me. How could God be with a man who had no compassion? I just didn’t get it. And as if that was not enough, he had certainly increased financially too, I could tell from his clothes, and shoes, the perfume and the wristwatch. It was a far cry from how he’d dressed when I had seen him that first time in Abeokuta. It wasn’t right, I grumbled. A man like him who did not have the love of God in his heart should not prosper, but I could not deny that he had. When I arrived in Warri, I forced thoughts of him out of mind, as I got settled in my hotel and prepared for my ministration the following morning.

If I thought I had seen the last of Reverend Femi, I was greatly mistaken. The following week, surprise, surprise, he was in my office in Ibadan to see me. It was a Friday afternoon and I was preparing to leave the office to go home and rest as I had an invitation to minister at a vigil service later that night.  When he arrived, without any forewarning, I was already out of the office building and putting my things in the back seat of the minivan. Suddenly, a black Mercedes E class pulled up next to my van and he got out of the driver’s seat. I could not believe my eyes. I would have thought that a man at his level would make an appointment before driving all the way from Lagos where he was based, but clearly I was wrong. He had no appointment to see me, as a matter of fact, until he showed up, I had no idea he knew where to find me, although I was not surprised that he had found me. He could have got information about me from pastor Preye as she held him in very high esteem. However, what amazed me was that he did not call to say he would be visiting, he just showed up. And he had driven all the way from Lagos.

“Hello, Lara.” He looked happy to see me but the feeling wasn’t mutual. “It is great to see you again.” He walked over to the where I stood by the minivan and shook hands with me.

“Good afternoon reverend. What brings you to my office?” I got straight to the point as I did not have time to waste.

“I came to see you.” He appeared unperturbed by my apparent lack of interest in his visit.

I raised a brow. “Really? Regarding what?” I could hardly wait to hear it? If he had driven all the way from Lagos to see me and without any notice he was coming, it must be really important.

“I have a proposal for you.” He said. “Can we talk inside?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Sure.” Whatever had brought him all the way from Lagos must be important so I wanted to hear it.

I locked my car and led him back inside my office so we could talk. My staff members were surprised to see me back inside and even more so when they saw who I was with. I noticed they exchanged looks but none said a word as I walked past them into my office with my visitor on my tail.

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 5)

That night I slept like a baby for the first time since my mother died. I had peace, inside and outside and I was happy. The following morning, I was up early to tidy the house and make breakfast; I wanted to show aunty Bose that she had not made a mistake in hiring me and giving me a roof over my head. I was determined to be an obedient maid, except aunty Bose didn’t see me as a maid or treat me as one. As the days went on and as we got to know each other better, I was treated like a younger sister. She told me that she was an only daughter and the last child of her parents and had always wanted a younger sister. As far as she was concerned, I was that sister. She treated me with a great deal of love and kindness and she was appreciative of the efforts I made to keep her home clean and cook her meals. Unlike my biological elder sister who rewarded me with physical and verbal abuse, aunty Bose was different; she showered me with praises and patiently corrected me when I erred.
My stay in aunty Bose’s house was actually planned by God; I didn’t know it at the time but I see it very clearly now. It was during my stay in her house and while attending church services with her regularly that I gave my life to Christ, was baptised in water and the Holy Ghost. That was not all, I also desired a deeper knowledge of God and so every day while she was at work, I spent hours reading mum’s Bible, as I had little else to do. The housework was minimal and didn’t take a lot of time and I was not interested in watching television, so I buried my nose in my Bible for hours on end. This went on for about three months until she decided it was time I enrolled for my GCE and JAMB exams. As I began to attend lectures in preparation for my exams, my study and prayer time reduced greatly, but I had already built myself up spiritually so I remained on fire.
My prayers during this period were mainly for aunty Bose; although I mentioned my biological sisters and my father, aunty Bose was my main focus. She had been a blessing to me, she had wiped my tears and made me happy and I wanted her to be happy in return. I knew her lack of a life partner was a major concern for her although she tried to act as though it wasn’t, therefore I set aside quality time daily to intercede on her behalf and it wasn’t long before God answered my prayers and she met and married a very wealthy business man who was based in Abuja. They did meet under strange circumstances, though.
Uncle Dapo, as I now fondly call him, had come to her branch one day to complain about a transaction that had gone wrong due to the bank’s negligence. According to aunty Bose, he was livid and threatened to close down his account and ensure everyone responsible was fired. Aunty Bose was naturally worried because as Branch Manager, she was responsible and knew without being told that her head would be the first to roll. She went to his country home in Abeokuta later that evening to apologise for the bank’s lapses and to assure him that such an occurrence would not repeat itself in the future, but that failed woefully as he was still very upset and made some unpleasant remarks which made aunty Bose leave his house in tears. I remember she came home later than usual that night and was really upset and not just because of the way he had spoken to her but because she had lost control of her emotions. She berated herself for weeping, according to her it was the most unprofessional thing to do. She feared she would lose her job unless God intervened. I was spending a lot of time in God’s presence, and was already accustomed to hearing Him speak, and so as she lamented, I heard the Lord say that the matter would not lead to the loss of her job but rather to her getting married. I told her without mincing words and she thought I was crazy and did not refrain from telling me so. The following day, to her utmost surprise, uncle Dapo showed up at her office to beg her forgiveness for the way he had behaved the day before and asked to take her out to lunch. Lunch was supposed to be business but it became a tiny little bit personal and aunty Bose was really thrilled when she came home that night. Her mood was a drastic change from the previous night. She talked my ear off, saying “Dapo said this, and Dapo said that.” I was amazed at how quickly she had switched from addressing him by his last name.
“So you now call him by his first name?” I asked, teasing her.
“Yes, but that is only because he insisted.” She said defensively.
I laughed. “Aunty Bose, when I gave you an original prophecy last night, you said I was crazy. Now that it looks like I am not crazy, don’t you think you should give me a prophet offering?”
She eyed me playfully. “Just because he took me out to lunch, you now think you’re a prophetess worthy of an offering. Look at you, yeye.” She gibed and we both laughed.
One year later, they were married and with uncle Dapo’s connections, aunty Bose was transferred to her bank’s branch in Abuja. She did not leave immediately but by the time she was ready to move, I had gained admission into the University of Ibadan to study law. We left Abeokuta about the same time; she moved to Abuja to join her husband and I relocated to Ibadan to begin school. We were parting ways physically but we knew we would remain connected emotionally and spiritually forever. She would always be my big sister and I would always be her little sister. Uncle Dapo was very kind and gave me a scholarship to cover my accommodation, tuition and books. It was initially for one year but renewable as long as I was in school and getting good grades. I had saved up a good sum of money from my monthly salaries which I never had to use anyway and aunty Bose took me shopping to change my wardrobe, thus I arrived in Ibadan very well provided for.
During my five year stay at the University of Ibadan, I remained in touch with aunty Bose and uncle Dapo, visiting them occasionally in Abuja. They continued to support me as they had promised to and I went through school without lacking anything. Spiritually, I continued to grow and God began to use me. I preached God’s word in the classrooms and in the hostels at every opportunity I could find. I went to hospitals and prison houses with the everlasting gospel, pulling men out of darkness and into light. I laid hands on the sick and they recovered instantly, I preached and people got out of wheel chairs and walked. I soon became a very active member and later on, an executive of the Scripture Union on campus. During holidays, if I wasn’t visiting aunty Bose and uncle Dapo, I was camping in some village with Christian brethren, preaching the word and winning souls to the kingdom of God. I had a new life, one that excited me so much that I hardly thought of the family I had left in Lagos. I had forgiven my sisters and I prayed for them daily but I had no desire to go looking for them; I did not miss them or long for their presence as we were never close. I missed my father though, and I prayed daily to be reunited with him if he was still alive. God had assured me, on one occasion that my father was alive, and when the time was right, He would bring my entire family together again. I had no idea when and how He would do it but I trusted Him. I knew in His time He would make all things beautiful.
After I finished my law degree, I went to Abuja to live with aunty Bose and her family for one year while I attended law school. By this time aunty Bose had become a director in her bank and she’d had three beautiful children, two boys and a girl. She had two house maids so I lived in her house as a younger sister and guest. I did not need to serve her, rather, I was served. She was very proud of me and did not hesitate to introduce me to all who came to the house. She would say, “Have you met my younger sister, Lara? She is a lawyer and is attending law school here in Abuja.” Although she was proud of my academic accomplishments she was even more so of my spiritual progress. She sometimes referred to me as pastor and when I corrected her she simply said, “It is time you saw yourself as God sees you.” She was right and as soon as I was called to the bar, the Lord revealed His plan and purpose for my life. He wanted me to work as an evangelist, taking His word across the world, although I was to begin in Nigeria. I was also to return to Ibadan from where I would operate. I decided not to go through with my National Youths Service but return to Ibadan and throw myself into what I really loved to do. Aunty Bose and uncle Dapo sent me forth stylishly by giving me a fairly used Toyota Sienna 7 passenger Minivan. They thought I would need it to transport myself and my team as I travelled around the country. I still had not learnt how to drive, but they made arrangements for a driver to drive me in the van to Ibadan. They also paid in a good amount of money into my account to enable me rent my own flat and furnish it and of course, aunty Bose took me shopping to equip my wardrobe for the Lord’s work.
I returned to Ibadan and with help from my brethren in the Scripture Union, some who were still in school, I began to hold crusades in different parts of Nigeria. During this period, I became fully aware of the gifts God had given me to help my ministry. I had a unique combination of the gifts of healing, prophesy and the working of miracles. It wasn’t long before my fame spread all around the country so that whenever and wherever I called for a meeting, the place would be jam packed with hundreds of people waiting for the touch of God.
During that first year, I was also in high demand by other ministries as they invited me to minister in their services. I will never forget one of those services I attended in Port Harcourt. It was an annual women’s conference organised by one of the major ministries in the country. I was the main guest minister for the three day conference and on the last day, just as I rounded up my ministration and went to take my seat, the host pastor came up to announce that she had a surprise for the congregation. She went on to read the brief profile of this special guest who she said she had invited, last minute, to bring a word of greeting to the congregation because he happened to be in town, although for another meeting. Then she asked everyone to join her in welcoming to the pulpit, Reverend Dr Femi Oloruntobi. As soon as she mentioned his name, the congregation began to scream and shout for joy. Apparently, they all knew him and were excited to have him in their midst. For some reason, I thought the name rang a bell but I wasn’t sure where I had heard it and I didn’t have time to think. Everyone was rising to their feet and clapping their hands. As I stood to my feet and put my hands together, I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of five men come through the door behind me that led to the altar. Four of them stood back while one man, who I felt must be the Reverend Dr, climbed the altar and approached the host pastor to shake hands and collect the microphone from her. I could not see his face clearly because he had his back to me and several others who were seated on the altar, and was facing the congregation.
The screaming and shouting in the audience continued for another minute or so and as the noise subsided, he said; “Thank you Jesus, Lord, we are grateful.”
I gasped, wide eyed, and almost passed out as it dawned on me who it was and why the name had sounded familiar. I knew that voice anywhere; I would never forget that voice, because, seven years ago, that same voice had said, “Will an usher please take that young lady outside?”

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 4)

As I walked towards the church gate feeling dejected and not sure what to do next, or where to spend the night, I heard footsteps behind me and a female voice followed.
“Sister, wait! Please wait!”
I stopped in my tracks and turned around slowly, only lifting my head slightly enough to see who it was. I realised it was the same usher who had been standing at my side only moments ago. She was a young woman; I guessed she must be in her mid-thirties. From her nice dress, jewellery, and well groomed hair, I could tell that she was well off financially. I did not speak but lowered my head again, as I waited to hear what she had to say.
“My sister, please I would like to have a word with you, but unfortunately, I cannot do that right now as the church service is still on. Please, come with me, let me get you a chair so you can sit outside and wait for me until service is over, and then we can talk.”
I started to shake my head and decline the offer as I was embarrassed and just wanted to disappear from the church premises and go somewhere else where no one knew anything about the humiliation I had suffered. However, a voice on my inside advised me against it. The voice reminded me that I had come to the church seeking help. This lady who was now seeking audience with me may want to offer that help but I would not know it unless I waited to hear her out after. What did it matter who God used to help me, whether pastor or member, as long as I received help? What did it also matter what humiliation I received or what the people who had humiliated me thought of me as long as I received the help I so desperately wanted.
I nodded my head in agreement; but, I said to her, “Please let me wait for you by the gate instead.” I hoped she would understand. There was a security house at the gate where the security man had his office and I preferred to go there and wait. If I was not allowed to wait inside then I would sit on the stairs in the front of the building and wait for service to be over. Fortunately, she understood and said she would come there to meet me as soon as the service concluded. Then she did something which surprised me beyond words. She reached out and embraced me. I was dirty, had not had a bath for days or brushed my teeth and I smelled really bad. She, on the other hand smelled good, and she was also wearing a nice perfume but she seemed to have no qualms about embracing me. It was more than I could handle and so I started to cry. As I did, she rocked me in her arms and assured me that whatever the matter was, all would be well. Then, she withdrew and placed her handkerchief in my hand.
“Go on and wait for me, I will come to meet you once the service ends.” She turned to go back into the church building, while I turned in the direction of the security house at the gate. When I got there, surprisingly, the man I met allowed me to sit inside and not once did he give any indication that he was uncomfortable having a smelly person close to him.
As soon as the service ended, she came to me as she had promised and thanked the gate man for letting me stay in his office. I went with her and she led me to a quiet area in the church premises where we could talk. For the next thirty minutes we talked, she told me her name was Bose and that she felt an urge to help me but did not know what my circumstances were and what I wanted to do. I told her without delay as I was excited that finally I was going to get some help. However, when I explained how I had left home, she tried to persuade me to go back but I had made up my mind that it wasn’t an option so she soon realised she was wasting her time and instead she asked how she could help me. I explained that I had come to the church that day to see the pastor because I needed to take a bath and change my filthy clothes so I would stand a better chance of getting employment. I told her that once I got a job I would be able to look for accommodation and save up money to go to school.
She listened to me speak and after I finished she was quiet and didn’t speak for about ten minutes, or so it seemed. I could tell she was in deep thought, and then finally she sighed deeply and said, “I live alone, I am not yet married but my work is very demanding and I usually don’t have time to do my house chores. It would be nice to have someone who would cook and clean for me so I can come home and put my feet up. If you can work for me in that capacity I will provide you with accommodation, clothing and feeding and in addition pay you a small salary which you could save towards your education. How does that sound?”
How did that sound? It sounded good, better than good; it was for me, a dream that had come through. Overnight, I had gone from someone looking for a job, a place to sleep and food to eat, to someone with a job, a place to sleep and food to eat, plus a salary. It was all too good to be true. I was really excited. Initially, when that visiting pastor had asked that I be taken out of the church, I had thought I was mistaken in coming to the church for help but God came through for me in another way. I still got help from the church, only it didn’t come the way I had planned and expected. She could tell from my reaction that I was pleased with the offer and so without waiting for an answer from me, she rose to her feet.
“Come on, let’s go home. It is late now and I have to go to work tomorrow.”
I followed her to the almost deserted car park where her Toyota Rav4 was parked. We got in and she drove to her house. On the way, she told me a little more about herself. She was a branch manager in one of the new generational banks and had been transferred from Lagos to Abeokuta less than a year ago. As I already guessed, she was in her mid-thirties and was still unmarried although she said she believed that God would send her the right man for her in His own time.
After driving through the town, which had gone to sleep, for about fifteen minutes, she finally arrived at her house which was in the GRA. It was a three bedroom semi-detached house and only a barbed wired fence separated her house from her neighbour’s. The house was tastefully furnished but a bit untidy. As we entered she apologised for the mess and added that she didn’t always have the time to clean and that was why she required my services. I didn’t mind, I was glad to serve, I had served my sister Nike, but all I got in return was verbal and physical abuse. I would use that same energy to serve aunty Bose as I had already started to call her. I felt sure that if I served faithfully, I would never have to look for another church to spend the night.
Aunty Bose showed me to one of the spare rooms which she said was now my bedroom. To my amazement it had an ensuite bathroom. As a matter of fact, all three bedrooms had ensuite bathrooms. My room in my dad’s house didn’t have an ensuite bathroom, only mum and dad’s room did, so I was really excited. The room had a double bed, a beautiful rug which matched the curtains and an air conditioning unit. It was really more than I expected. I was grateful and I vowed I would serve so much that aunty Bose would never want me to leave this beautiful house. She provided me a towel, new toothbrush, some toothpaste and soap so I could take a bath. By the time I came out of the bathroom, there was a heap of clothes on my bed, I had noticed that she and I were the same size and same height so I knew her clothes would fit me. I had thought she would provide me with one dress to change my filthy one but what was on my bed really astonished me and as I went through them I realised they were designer labels and a lot of them looked like they had not been worn at all or if they had only a few times. I was really amazed, she had thought of everything from night wear to casual and formal clothes. As I looked through them, I remembered how my sister Nike had insisted that I leave behind the clothes she had given me. These clothes I had now were a lot better than anything Nike wore. I was truly grateful. I did not hear her come into the room, but suddenly there she was holding a bundle of money towards me.
“I don’t have underwear and shoes to give you so tomorrow I will send the driver to come and take you to the market; he knows where I buy my things and he will take you there. Get some underwear and shoes and a nice handbag. When you are done, he will take you some where you can braid you hair.”
As she spoke my hand went up to my hair which I always held with a ruffle since I left secondary school, as Nike never gave me money to style it. I could hardly believe I was going to make my hair. I knelt down to show I was grateful but she reached out immediately to pull me up to my feet.
“Please stand up. I am acting as instructed by the Lord, so give Him all the thanks.” As she turned to go, she looked over her shoulder. “Dress up and come and eat some food.”
It was all like a dream to me a good dream so I certainly didn’t want to wake up. Dinner was rice and stew with some fried plantain. It was the first decent meal I had eaten in days and once again, I was grateful. God had been good to me since I left home and for the first time since mum passed I began to think deeply about everything she had told me about God’s love. It made more sense to me now that it was practically manifested in my life and I decided that day that I wanted to serve God even more than mum had. So as I retired to bed that night, taking mum’s Bible with me, I didn’t use it as a pillow or place it under my pillow, I actually opened it and began to read.

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 3)

As I walked towards the gate, I could hear Tola screaming and crying from the veranda.

“Lara, come back. Please come back.” She pleaded with me.

Nike was also doing some screaming of her own. “Leave her alone, let her go. She is an evil child and all she has brought this family is one calamity after the other. We are better off without her!” She declared.

“Nike, this is wickedness. This is evil. She is our sister! This is not right!” Tola cried helplessly, but as usual, she was too weak to stand up to her immediate elder sister.

I didn’t stop to hear what Nike had to say in response; I hurriedly unlocked the gate and stepped outside, shutting it behind me and walking away as quickly as my legs could carry me. I wanted to get away before they tried to stop me. I wanted to be free from my sisters and all the heartache they had caused me. I wanted nothing more to do with either of them or with any member of our family, for that matter. I decided I was fed up; I wanted nothing to do with the past. I wanted to bury the past and move into the future, into a new life. I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was going to do but I knew I wanted to go far away where no one from my past would ever find me.

I kept walking and it helped to clear my mind. I thought of mum’s death, dad’s disappearance and my sisters’ attitude towards me, and not for the first time did I come to the conclusion that I was alone in the world. The only person who had really cared about me was mum and mum was gone, as a result of my selfishness and inconsiderate behaviour. I had to take my life in my hands from this time onward. If I looked up to Nike and Tola, I felt sure that my life would be destroyed. Mum had been dead for almost five years and they still couldn’t bring themselves to forgive me. When would the hatred and bitterness end? Suppose dad never returned for us and I remained with Nike, what hope did I have of a good future? If dad did not send money would she willingly go to work to pay my fees when the money dad sent she found difficult to share with me? I thought very carefully about the matter and concluded that I was better off taking my life in my own hands. I would not go back; I would go forward and work hard to give myself the good future I desired.

I was lost in thought and did not realise how late it was until I noticed the road side shops shutting down for the night. I knew I had to come up with a plan very quickly if I didn’t want to spend the night on the streets. I was a little confused though, and unsure what line of action to take. I had never left home on my own before so I did not really know what to do to fend for myself, but what I did know was that I wasn’t returning home. I would stay on the streets until I made something out of my life. I kept walking, until I came to a large church that was holding a night vigil service. As I watched the singing, dancing and clapping of hands, I suddenly realised that I could go in and join the service, that way I would have a roof over my head for the night. That was exactly what I did. Don’t ask me what message was preached as I did not hear a word that was said; I sat quietly at the back and drifted in and out of sleep. Early the next morning when the service ended, I noticed a good number of people did not leave immediately as it was still dark. They lay on the floor and benches and tried to catch some sleep. I needed no invitation; I looked for a corner on the floor, coiled up and drifted off to sleep, using mum’s Bible as my pillow.

When I woke up, my body ached as I had not slept on the floor before this time. However, that was the least of my concerns. I was hungry and needed to eat some food, but I had no money to buy food and since I didn’t want to beg anyone in the church, I picked up my Bible and kept walking. That day, I decided that in order to put some distance between me and my past I would leave Lagos State. Staying in Lagos meant I could run into my sisters or people from my past and I didn’t want that. The closest state I could reach by foot from my present location was Ogun State, so I decided to go to Abeokuta, the state capital to settle for a little time. That Saturday at about noon, I began my long walk in the direction of Abeokuta. I knew I would not get there that same day and that was fine, I was in no hurry, I already knew where to spend the night, so, wherever I reached before nightfall, I would look for a church in the neighbourhood and sleep there and the following day, I would continue my journey. My accommodation was already taken care of but I still wasn’t sure what to do for food and I was really hungry. I knew I had to eat something or I would have no strength for my journey the following day.

That evening, when I reached Sango-Ota, I was really weak so I swallowed my pride and approached a road side food vendor. I offered to work for her until she closed that night in exchange for something to eat. At first, she appeared sceptical and began to probe me. She wanted to know who I was, where I was coming from, and where I was going to. I was not prepared for all the questions she was throwing my way and so when she asked about my parents I broke down and began to weep. It seemed to do the trick because immediately she consented to the offer, possibly because she pitied me. It didn’t matter to me why, all that mattered was that she agreed and no further question was asked. She could tell I was starving, so after I had done my chores she served me a meal that was large enough to be eaten by two people. I divided it, ate one portion, put the other in a small plastic bowl she provided and I left to find a church to spend the night. The following day was Sunday so a lot of churches were not open but I was fortunate to find one that had all night prayers going on and without any invitation, I jumped in; once again I had a roof over my head for the night.

The prayers finished during the early hours of the morning but everyone stayed back to catch some sleep until the day was bright. As they started to leave, perhaps to go and prepare for the Sunday morning service, I got up from where I lay and walked out. However, I wasn’t going to prepare to attend the service, I hit the road and continued my journey towards Abeokuta. I planned to get to Ifon that day and if I did then I was certain that within two days, I would reach Abeokuta. That day, I did not have to look for food, I ate what I had and as usual, when night came, I looked for a church to pass the night.

Finally, I arrived in Abeokuta where I hoped to settle for some time, until I decided what I wanted to do with my future. I had two options, I could work for some time and save money to go to school or secure work that would allow me time to go to school. By now, I knew how to get food to eat and a place to sleep but I realised I also needed other things. For instance, I had not had a bath or brushed my teeth for about four days and even I knew that I stank. I decided I would no longer work for food but for money so that I could buy some toiletries and clothes and pay for my own accommodation. Therefore, as soon as I entered Abeokuta, I began to go to the shops and road side food vendors who I thought would want to employ me as a sales girl. However, because I smelled really bad, they sent me away. They couldn’t bear to be close to me, let alone allow me spend time in their presence to ask for a job. I was embarrassed to say the least but I did not let it bother me. I knew all I needed was a bath and change of clothes and I would be able to stand before anyone and convince them to give me a job. I abandoned the job hunt temporarily to go in search of a church where I would spend the night, as it was starting to get late. As I looked around for a church, it occurred to me that I could go to the church pastor to seek help. This thought had never crossed my mind prior to this time. For me the church was a safe place to spend the night and when day came I jumped out and was back on the streets. Surely, the brethren would provide me with soap and water and a change of clothes? If I got rid of the stench then I could go back to look for work. As I entered the church where I desired to spend the night, I decided I would go to see the pastor in charge after the service ended and tell him of my plight. I felt very confident that I would find help in God’s house. My mum had been a committed Christian and had helped the needy around her explaining to me at the time that it was her obligation to do so as a child of God. Thus, I was very excited and filled with hope for the future as I sat in the back row of the large church auditorium. There was a healing service that evening, I had seen the banner and billboard outside the church; it seemed the church was hosting a few visiting ministers. I wasn’t sure how long the service would last but I didn’t mind, I was there for the night anyway.

As I sat in the service I completely forgot for a while that I stank but, not for long. Soon, people around me began to move seats and those who were unable to relocate gave me dirty looks before they openly covered their nose some with their hands, others with handkerchiefs. They did not do it quietly so it caused quite a stir and other people who had no idea what was happening turned to look in my direction wondering what all the noise was about. I bowed my head in shame and stayed in that position. I am not sure for how long I was in that position but suddenly I heard a voice from the pulpit say, “Will an usher please take that young lady outside?”

I raised my head instantly and looked towards the pulpit, and there he was, the man who had spoken. I remembered seeing him on the billboard and banner outside the church building. He was the main guest minister for the healing service. And I had overheard some of the members talk about him prior to entering the church auditorium. Apparently, he was a very young minister from outside Abeokuta who had only just graduated from the university and started his own ministry which was growing at an alarming speed as he was used mightily by God in healing all types of sickness and disease and he had even raised the dead on one occasion. My head had been bowed and I was completely lost in my thoughts so I didn’t realise he had come up to minster until I heard him ask for me to be taken out. Yes, he was talking to me; I knew this because he was also pointing in my direction. The dirty, smelly, girl everyone was moving away from and noisily too. Obviously, he felt the need to have me removed from the auditorium before he could preach his anointed message. Perhaps, my filthy presence would stop the flow of the healing anointing. Although I was seated behind, I remember that our eyes locked for what seemed like an eternity but in reality it was only probably a fraction of a minute. Then I looked away, and as I did, I noticed that an usher was already standing at my side. That was not all, the entire church was now looking in my direction, and I looked like a pig. I was even more humiliated than I had been when I went in search of work. I had thought I would find help in God’s house, amongst God’s people. I thought a pastor’s duty was to care for people and show them God’s love but it seemed I was wrong.  I fought back the tears as I bowed my head again, picked my mum’s Bible and walked out of the church.

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 2)

After my mother’s funeral I watched silently and helplessly as my world, as I had known it, began to fall apart slowly but surely. My relationship with my sisters daily deteriorated and I was constantly blamed for our mother’s death. Dad appeared to be lost in his own sorrows and if he noticed the change in my sisters’ attitude towards me, he did nothing much to address it and nip it in the bud. And in keeping silent, he consented to the evil practise. Not that I blame him, he had a lot to deal with and he wasn’t a very strong person. Mum had been his backbone, everyone knew that, and now she was gone, his weakness was even more glaring. He withdrew from everyone, family and friends, and took to drinking and staying out late. He stopped going to church, he had only gone in the past to please mum and now that mum was dead, he didn’t make any effort at all. And because he didn’t go, we gradually became infrequent ourselves, preferring to lie in on Sunday mornings. The brethren in church did not exactly help matters so it was easy for us to fall by the way side. They came a few times to see us in the first year following mum’s death, as did her family members, but by the following year, their visits reduced drastically and by the third year, it was clear everyone, church and biological family, had moved on with their lives and left us to ours.
Things went from bad to worse, for us, financially. Dad’s business and finances had actually started to dwindle after mum died because he had been so wrapped in his sorrow that he made little or no effort to chase and win contracts as he had done in the past. The result was that he was soon financially bankrupt and began to sell off his possessions to make ends meet. The first possession he sold was mum’s car. Perhaps selling it also helped him come to terms with her demise but it was very difficult for my sisters and me. I will never forget how I cried the day it was driven out of the garage and through the gate by the new owner. As I watched it go, I was reminded of all the times I had taken a ride with mum and especially the last day she drove the car to my school to drop me off but never drove it away. As I wept that Saturday morning, my sister, Nike started to beat me. It did not surprise me as it was not the first time she was acting that way. She never let me grieve for my mother from day one; every time I started to cry she pounced on me and began to beat me. As far as she was concerned, I had no reason to cry since I was responsible for mum’s death. She acted this way in front of our dad and other family members, but no one called her to order. They thought her behaviour was caused by the pain of losing mum suddenly and that it would go away as time passed but it didn’t.
“Why are you crying, you witch?” She screamed at me angrily as she hit me over and over again. “Who killed her? Whose fault is it that she’s dead?”
“It’s my fault. It’s my fault.” I sobbed and nodded my head in agreement even as I bent over and covered my face with my arms. Fortunately, dad walked into the house just then, and one look from him was enough to get her off me. However, it was not enough to end the frequent attacks, verbal and physical that I suffered from Nike in the days and months ahead.
Dad’s finances showed no sign of improving and so he decided to leave the country in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece. At the time he made the decision, I don’t think he gave much thought to what problems his absence would create in the lives of his children. This was three years after mum’s death; I was fifteen at the time, with just one more year to leave the secondary school. Nike was twenty one and had become an adult so dad thought it was a good idea to leave Tola and I in her custody until such a time when he settled in the United Kingdom and was able to send for us to be with him. He had sold everything he owned, apart from the house where we lived, so that we could have a roof over our heads. His decision to leave really broke my heart but I knew his mind was made up and nothing could change it. Besides, after what happened to mum, I was afraid to talk him out of his decision. Suppose I did and he remained in Nigeria and died? Then I would be responsible for the death of both my parents. So, although I was convinced that his leaving us to go abroad was not the best thing for our family, I said nothing. On the days leading up to his trip, I cried silently in my bed each night but I was careful not to make any noise as I wept for fear that Nike would hear and start beating me again.
Finally, the day came for his departure and we went with him to the airport. He had paid some money into Nike’s bank account which would keep us for six months until he got a job and was able to send us money every month for our upkeep. I tried to be brave and to look happy. When the time came to part ways, Nike and Tola, wept on his shoulders but I stood back and watched. I couldn’t cry, after all, this was happening because of me. If mum had not died, dad would not leave the country and if I had not pushed mum to take me to school on that fateful day she would not have died. When I got a chance, I hugged him quickly and pulled back, my eyes were dry but I was weeping on the inside. I felt like I had lost my father as well and from that day I viewed myself as an orphan and lived like one.
As you can imagine, life after dad travelled became hell on earth, a real nightmare. Finally, I was in Nike’s hands without anyone to deliver me and she did everything in her power to ensure I paid dearly for the death of our mother and of course, dad’s decision to go abroad, which was clearly a consequence of our mother’s death. I did not complain, I served her obediently thinking if I paid for my sins she would let me live in peace but it was not to be. She seemed to derive pleasure in seeing me miserable and I was treated worse than a maid in my own father’s house, by my eldest sister, born by the same father and mother with me. It got so bad that although Tola had initially been angry with me, and blamed me for mum’s death, she began to pity me and occasionally she asked Nike to let me be and reminded her that I was her flesh and blood but Nike didn’t listen. Tola became just as miserable as I was, as she was torn between sympathy for me, and anger at Nike. Plus her own grief of losing first, a mother and now, a father.
Nike provided the basics, food and my fees, and that was about it. If I asked for anything extra, I did not get it, she told me to make do without it as we had to manage. I don’t know how much dad gave her but she seemed to live well, compared with Tola and I. She changed her clothes more frequently than she had done before dad travelled. Every day when she returned from school she had a new item she had just purchased. Sometimes it was a dress, other times a pair of shoes, still other times, perfume or a piece of jewellery. Tola and I made do with whatever she no longer wanted. Tola was weak like my father, Nike and I had the fiery spirit of our late mother but I could not challenge her because she was six years older than I was and because I felt guilt, guilt that I had pushed my mum to an untimely death. Had I been in Tola’s shoes, I would have called Nike to order and she knew this.
At first, dad called every week to find out how we were doing and what we were doing and to reassure us that he was doing everything in his power to settle down so he could start providing for us and take us to live with him. In the fifth month after his departure, he started to send money to us. Nike was in charge so I can’t say how much it was, all I can say is it sustained her new lifestyle. Apart from one occasion when someone was sent to us with a parcel which contained clothes and accessories, Nike never bought Tola and I any new clothes from the money dad sent. We always had to make do with what she no longer wanted.
Just when we thought dad was doing fine and would soon send for us to join him, we stopped hearing from him. This was about fifteen months after he left the country. I had finished my secondary school and was waiting to receive my SSCE and JAMB results. At first we waited for his call, assuming he was busy and would call when he had the time but, when he didn’t we tried to call him but were unable to reach him on the number he had given us. We didn’t want to panic but as the days became weeks we naturally began to worry and tried to reach family and friends who travelled frequently and would know something about his whereabouts but there was no news. Things began to get really tight financially and at first neighbours, family and friends supported us with the little they had but it didn’t take long for us to realise that we had become a nuisance so we did not go to anyone for help. We continued to seek ways to get in touch with dad even as we hoped that no evil had befallen him and one day he would call us.
It was during this waiting period that our family finally disintegrated. I left home, and never looked back, because I became totally fed up with living with Nike who obviously hated me and could not bring herself to say one kind word to me. I had taken as much as I could and that fateful day as she began to hit me again, calling me unprintable names and accusing me of being a witch and killing our mother, I decide it was time to leave. I wanted to get away from her and her hate. I was dying and I knew if I did not leave I would die. I had no idea where I would go or what would become of me but I was prepared to take my chances. If I survived, fine and if I died, so be it. My mother was dead and my father may be dead for all I knew, what was I living for? I walked to my room to pack my things having announced that I was leaving. She came behind me and started to throw my clothes out of the bag, she claimed they were hers, as she had given them to me and insisted that if I was leaving I would have to go without them. I did not want to argue, so I reached under my pillow, took my mum’s bible, which was and still is my most prized possession, and I walked out of the house. It was 7pm on Friday and it was raining cats and dogs but I didn’t care. I stepped out into the cold rain with nothing other than the dress I wore, the bathroom slippers on my feet and mum’s Bible in my hand.

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 1)

My name is Omolara but everyone calls me Lara. I was born in Lagos State, Nigeria, thirty years ago, this day, to Mr and Mrs Owolabi. My parents had three daughters and I was the last and what you could call a bonus child as there had been no plan for my conception, it just happened. When I was born my two elder sisters, Nike and Tola were six and five years old respectively. My parents had decided after Tola’s birth that they were through with child bearing but I wasn’t paying attention when they made that decision so I forced my way into their lives. Not only, did I force my way into their lives, my arrival almost led to my mother’s exit as I was breached during labour and had to be born through caesarean section. The hospital was ill prepared for the procedure, the anaesthesia wore off and mum said she could feel the pains after a while; she slipped into a coma and remained in that state for three weeks.  It was an ordeal to say the least and it was only a miracle that she survived to tell the story.

For a child they didn’t plan to have, and one whose birth caused so much trouble, my parents welcomed me with open arms and showered me with a lot of love, perhaps too much for my own good as I soon became terribly spoilt and very selfish, thinking the world revolved around me and that everyone existed to fulfil my every desire. As you can imagine, I always got my way to the chagrin of my older sisters who thought it was unfair that I was allowed to get away with things they were never allowed to get away with at my age. However, my mum always responded by saying, “she’s the baby of the house.” She loved me dearly, it was clear for all to see. And because she was a committed child of God, she was certain that I was no accident but a gift from God and told me constantly that in due course, the reason for my birth would be revealed, and so it was.

We were not wealthy, but we were comfortable and could afford the basic things of life. We were what you would call a lower middle class family. My father was a state government contractor who worked very hard to provide for his family and my mother was a lawyer and civil servant employed by the state ministry of Justice. We were a close knit and very happy family, or so I thought, until that fateful day in May 1996 when my mother died suddenly and tragically and it was entirely my fault. I was only twelve years old and in class two in the secondary school when it happened but I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday, because with her death came the death of our family unity. With her death, the truth about the character of every member of the family was revealed. The truth is our family was never the same after mum died. She had really been the pillar who held the building together and we all looked up to her for guidance, including dad. After she died, the building collapsed.

She had taken me to school that day although she did not want to and was not supposed to. Prior to this time, she had been trying, without much success, to get me to walk to school as both my sisters had started walking to school before they were my age. School was on the estate in Gbagada where we lived and was only a twenty-minute walk away from the house but I did not like to walk to school and every morning, right from my class one when I was asked to start walking to school, I kicked up a fuss about it. Some days, my sister, Nike, would give me a nasty look and I would quietly walk out of the house, crying as I went. Some other days, mum or dad would have agreed to take me in the car so Nike would have to reserve the look for another day. She was in her first year in the university at this time, while Tola was preparing for GCE and JAMB examinations which were already at hand. They both used the public transport and had been walking to school since they were in class one, so they hated the fact that my parents gave me a preferential treatment. Tola did not really mind as much as Nike, who always complained with a lot of bitterness. Sometimes, she acted like she was in some sort of competition with me and a few times, mum had to rebuke her.

On this particular day, I decided I would not go to school if I had to walk and finally mum agreed to take me to school in the car but, she was already running late for work herself and had to drive as quickly as she could to my school, then turn around and head to her office. Once again, my sisters thought this was unfair and reminded mum of the days they walked to school and back. According to them, they had attended the same secondary school and we had lived in the same house, the distance was the same, nothing had changed, why should I be driven to school just because I didn’t want to walk, and why did I not want to walk, anyway? It was really beyond their comprehension, but as usual mum paid no attention to them and we got into the car and drove off. If I had known that mum would meet her death in my school that morning, I would have done everything in my power to keep her from my school environment not only that day but for ever. I would gladly have walked to school every day even if the distance was doubled. But I did not know and so I jumped into the car, rather excitedly, glad that once again, I had gotten my way. We arrived at my school in record time, as the traffic was favourable. I jumped out of the car almost immediately so as not to delay mum any further, but as I did I forgot to take my sewing kit which was on the back seat. I had not gone through the school gate when I heard mum scream my name. I turned back to look and she was already getting out of the car waving the sewing kit in her hand. I heaved a sigh of relief even as I imagined what would have become of me if I had attended the Clothing and Textiles class without my sewing kit. Mum was parked on the other side of the road directly opposite the school gate and the place was starting to become rowdy with some cars pulling up in front of the gate and others making a U-turn, so mum indicated with a wave of her hand that I remain where I was, and she crossed the road to meet me in front of the school gate. When she reached me, I took the kit from her with one hand and put my other arm around her waist and hugged her tight.

“Thank you so much, mum. You saved me from getting punished today. You are the best.”

“You are welcome, my darling.” She said. “Mummy loves you.” She cupped my face in her hands, rubbed her nose against mine and dropped a kiss on my lips which left me some of her lipstick. I liked that and quickly rubbed my lips together to make the lipstick spread but mum reached out with a hand and wiped my lips clean. We both laughed as she did. It is a moment I will cherish for as long as I live for it was my final moment with mum.

As she turned to cross the road to go back to her car, the horrible unexpected happened. There was a car standing in the middle of the road, dropping off pupils in my school. It gave no indication that it was ready to move so mum must have thought it was okay to cross the road but she was wrong because suddenly and without any warning at all, the car jerked forward forcefully, I remember the back door was still open and the child who had been trying to shut the door staggered backwards and fell to the ground unhurt. Mum was not as fortunate as the car leaped at her, killing her in the process. We learnt later that the driver, a woman, was only a learner and thought she had her foot on the break pedal and as she saw the car move she panicked and her foot pressed harder on the accelerator. It all happened quite unexpectedly and very quickly too. The car moved forward at such speed that my mum froze to the spot in shock until the car reached her and picked her off the ground. As I watched the horrific sight, I opened my mouth wide and screamed as loudly as my lungs would allow and as mum was lifted off in mid-air, I swooned and hit the ground, possibly before her lifeless body did.

Later that day, my worst fear was confirmed; mum was dead. She had gone home to be with the Lord she loved dearly and served faithfully. She had bid me farewell and was gone forever, she was not coming back, and from that time onward, my life would be a nightmare as I lived with the reality that she was dead because of me.

What Are Your Options? (Part 3)

I have heard it said, “When life throws you a lemon, make lemonade.” And what I know to be true is this; whenever life throws you a lemon, it will also throw at you the option of turning that lemon into a nice glass of lemonade. Life never puts you in a pit without giving you options to get out. According to Napoleon Hill, the author of the book, “Think and Grow Rich”, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Consider your current situation? What options are available to bring you out of that unpleasant situation?
The Bible gives a detailed account of Israel’s departure from Egypt. Initially, Pharaoh was pleased to let the people go following the death of all first born in Egypt. However, as Israel departed, he had second thoughts and decided to chase after them with about six hundred chosen chariots. The Bible says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid; and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.” Now you need to know this story to appreciate what is happening here. At this point, these people were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red sea. If moved forward, they would drown in the Red sea, if they moved backwards away from the sea or remained rooted to the spot and did nothing, Pharaoh’s army would capture them and in the process some could be killed. Either way, it seemed death was inevitable. They cried to God and complained to Moses as they were afraid and not sure which option to take. God saw their confusion and stepped in to take an option on their behalf. He said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” This may not have seemed a very wise option, as it would result in the death of all, by drowning. However, they obeyed, in spite of their fears. Miraculously, as they moved forward, the Red sea parted to make way for them to go through. The enemy chased after them but the sea returned to its place and the children of Israel watched as the enemy they feared drowned in the midst of the waters. The children of Israel got more than they bargained for when they moved forward towards the Red sea. Firstly, they went through without harm and thus escaped Pharaoh’s army. Secondly, the enemy they feared would destroy them was destroyed and they never had to worry about being forced to return to slavery; finally, they were free indeed. All this happened because they were willing to take a risk and go forward in spite of the fear of drowning.
If you will follow your heart and go forward, in spite of your fears, you will discover as you take a step forward that the obstacles on your path will give way to allow you advance. God still causes seas to part.
Eturuvie Erebor.

What Are Your Options? (Part 2)

Life never throws anything at you without giving you options to get out of it. The Bible says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape.” Consider your current situation? What options are available to escape it? Do you know? Are you ready to take steps?

The Bible includes the story of a young man simply referred to as the prodigal son. He was the younger son of a wealthy man and one day he approached his father and asked for his inheritance to be given to him. His father obliged him and off he went on a journey to a far country where he squandered his money on riotous living. Afterwards, a famine arose in the land and he began to be in want. In desperation, he joined himself to a citizen of that country who sent him to the field to feed his swine. He was broke and very hungry and would gladly have eaten the pigs’ food but no one offered him any. This is how low he had sunk. He arrived in that country a man with great wealth but was reduced to a beggar of food, pig’s food. However, he came to himself and said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” He considered his options carefully and arrived at a decision, to return to his father’s house; because, in his father’s house, even though he never regained his status as a son, as a servant, he would have more than enough to eat. He put aside fear; the fear of rejection and the fear of shame and humiliation and he arose and returned to his father. Interestingly, when he got home, he discovered his father was willing to receive him, not as a servant but as a son. He discovered also that his wrong doing had been forgiven and forgotten and everything he lost was restored to him the self-same day. The young man certainly got more than he bargained for when he set out to return home. No mention was made of the inheritance he squandered; rather he was given a welcome banquet fit for a king. All this happened because he was willing to take a risk and get out of his ugly situation in spite of the fear of rejection.

If you will get up and follow your heart, in spite of your fears of rejection, your fears of shame and humiliation, you will discover, upon arrival at your destination, that what you were afraid of never existed. It was only a figment of your imagination to keep you longer in the unpleasant situation.

Eturuvie Erebor.

What Are Your Options?

Consider the situation you are currently in for a moment; what are your options to get out of it? Understand that no matter what life throws at you per time, you will never be left without options to get out. Most times, the reason people remain in unpleasant situations is not because there are no options to get out or they don’t know what the options are but, because they are afraid to take the options available to them. They ask themselves the question, “what if it doesn’t work?” But what if it does work? Life is a risk, living is a risk, and every person alive at this moment is at the risk of dying someday. Motivational speaker, Les Brown said, “You are not going to get out of life, alive.” That is so true; the only way out of life is death. Therefore, no matter what you do or do not do, your fear of death will one day come on you. This is not meant to scare you but to make you see the futility in remaining in that situation when you know what options are available for your escape. Yes, you are afraid, but do it in spite of the fear. I have said before that if you dare to jump you will discover you have been equipped with wings to fly. I have discovered this to be true in my life.
A Bible story clearly illustrates the point I am trying to make here, so I will share it. The story is about four lepers who sat at the gate of Samaria waiting to die from hunger. These men were starving as there was a famine in the land of Samaria. I am not sure for how long they had been in that condition and did nothing about it, but suddenly they came to themselves and said one to another, “Why sit we here until we die? If we say, we will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” You notice these men considered their situation and the options available to them very carefully and reached a decision, which was to go into the enemy’s camp. This decision no doubt created some fear in them, but they realised that the death they were afraid to meet by taking a step forward, would come to meet them if they remained where they were or returned to the city, as there was famine in the city. Interestingly, it was also the only decision that had two sides to it; the enemy could decide not to kill them which meant they would have food to eat and live as there was food in the enemy’s camp. Remaining where they were or going into the city, had only one side to it; that is to wait for death by hunger. They got up and moved in spite of their fear and something very strange happened. As they moved towards the Syrian camp, God caused the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and they abandoned their tents and fled. These lepers discovered on arrival at the camp that what they feared had fled and what they desired (food) was available in abundance. They also had things they did not bargain for, gold and silver and raiment. It came because they were willing to take a risk and get out of their ugly situation in spite of fear.
If you will get up and follow your heart, in spite of your fears, you will discover, upon arrival at your destination, that what you fear has fled. God still causes the enemy’s camp to hear a noise of chariots.
Eturuvie Erebor.