Saturday, 19 March 2016

This Christian Race: A Memoir - Episode Seven


Greetings again my kith and kin, friends and fans. Welcome to Episode 7 of the weekly serialised memoir, ‘This Christian Race'. 

For a whole quarter I will be running thirteen episodes of it. Feel free to read, share, like and comment as the interesting novella reads on. Thank you and I love you.

Episode Seven – Me, Exco?

...permit me to roughly pinpoint some spiritual highpoints in my first “missionary journey” to Ojere.

“The General Secretary is Brother Abiodun Soretire.”

That was probably the most shocking announcement I ever had in my life. Of course, with respect to putting someone in the position of spiritual responsibility.

Who am I? How come? Did this people really know me? And many other questions stormed my mind.

Honestly, I felt like a spiritual runt to occupy such position. Actually, a Bible version used the same word “runt” when Jesse was telling Samuel that his lastborn was in the field. 

Thank God it was that Davidic runt that was anointed as king. Similarly, this Abiodunnic runt is being selected as General Secretary.

Those were days God used such to humble us. Ah! One needs to go back and learn from those days.

Nowadays, we do permutation and combination, sizing up the position that will befit or befall us before the eventual announcement is made.

God chose me not because I was perfect but because he saw in me that I was malleable. He was bringing me into a potter's house.

I love the maxim: God calls the unqualified and qualifies them. At a point in my life I gave a pet name to God: Jehovah Akamiye. Wait, don’t grab an Hebrew dictionary. That name is a hybrid of two languages – transliterated Hebrew and conjoint Yoruba. 

You are familiar with Jehovah, right? Akamiye in a fuller Yoruba sentence would mean “Eni ti o ka mi ye” (He that qualifies me).

I thank God he added the EXCOship to the spiritual training grounds concurrently running in my life at the time. It actually brought the number of the grounds to three.

The number one, you are already familiar with. That is Eweje. My Eweje visitation continued every Saturday and Sunday. Incidentally, RCF was not holding a Sunday service or any regular weekend programme then.

At times, I ran short on supply of my half of the transport fare to Eweje. And Mama Sho might not be in a good mood to assist. Remember, I have drawn the battle line by abandoning her much praised glorious white garment church for this Pentecostal one. So, on such occasions, I had to resort to using “heady” faith.

I would trek from our home in Ijaye-Oja-Ale to Adatan park. And at the park I would repeatedly speak the drivers to carry me on “the engine” of their C-20 to Eweje for free till I would find one that would be sympathetic to my course.

If eventually it is a ride on the open heaven corner, nay, popular side of a pick-up van I find to hitch, like my people will say, every form of death is convenient for the chicken. Even if you like, pack me like frozen sardines in a slate, once it will get me to Eweje, I’m okay.

The second training ground is the Abeokuta branch of DCBC which the Eweje branch linked me with for continuous and progressive monitoring. I attended their weekday programmes. There I had contact with two very important personalities that picked interest in me.

The first person was Rev (Dr.) S.O. Ilo, the General Overseer of DCBC, who picked interest in me to spiritually groom me up. 

At a point, he actually stood me up in a service and said, “You are ‘promoted’ to prayer warriors.” An unorthodox but sagacious way of motivating me to plunge myself into what he has seen in me. It was a real blessing to my prayer life which I most needed at that time.

The second person was Brother Seye Owolabi. That one picked interest in me for a lifetime friendship. We did a lot of things together in those days. We were a special breed and people knew us for that.

We never joined choir but we were the favourite praise worship leaders in the church. I could remember vividly how we often forced life into the no-instrument, congregation-seated praises of those times through our body parts accompaniments.

You must shake and move on your seat when our rhythmic and loud hand claps entered you like a snare drum and our rhyming and matching feet taps treated you to the soothing sound of a natural bass drum hit by its pedal. 

At some point of the praise, we would dare the protocol and order the congregation to stand. I told you we were special breeds. No consequences followed. Somehow, Daddy G.O. had some soft spot for us. 

Bro Seye and I became so close a confidant that if you described us as David and Jonathan you wouldn’t be wrong. Only that he was bearing Jonathan but my own Christian name is John. So, precisely, we are John and Jonathan, J and J if you like. Sorry I’m dragging this Seye matter far and wide, we are lifetime friends, you know. 

Our friendship helped our spiritual lives. Imagine, if I felt I’m not right with God, maybe I’ve missed some personal daily devotions or my prayer has gone down, I would tell my friend, “Bro. Seye, maybe you should lead the praises, I'm feeling spiritually down, I won’t be able to.” My friend would always give an honest answer. For example, “Bro. Abbey, I too am not feeling spiritually vibrant these days, I’m not worthy to lead the praises as well”. That helped us to keep a check on each other’s spiritual life. 

But we’ve had funny moments together as well. The two examples I would cite bordered around our involvement with the prayer warrior. 

The prayer warriors meet every Monday night for prayer vigil. We were to sleep immediately we came so that we could wake by midnight and pray till around 3am.

On few occasions, we had all overslept and woken up by around 5am. What was left? Everybody would head home straight. No need for interpretation, we have missed it for that Monday night. Warriors off-duty!

What actually went wrong on such rare occasions? Let’s do the troubleshooting here together!

When we arrived in the evening, Bro. Seye and I had spearheaded discussions, activities and gist which had kept almost everybody (we were mainly youth) awake till after 11pm or some minutes to 12 midnight. That was the time we now felt we should have a quick nap before the vigil starting by 12 midnight! It turned out a deep sleep that swallowed up the entire night. 

And to add insult to injury, our last hope, Brother Gbenga, our coordinator, who though did not participate in the pre-midnight irrelevances with us, did not wake up at any time earlier than the 5am to wake us up, probably because he too had overworked himself in his OGADEP field assignment before coming for the vigil. So, in the end, we all woke up by 5am.

Up J and J! We knew we had played a key role in the misadventure of the night. Lord, have mercy, and deliver youths from youthful exuberances. 

At some other times, though, we might be the one that would save the day.

Okay, there was this occasion that our coordinator was the one in front leading us in prayer. We were all kneeling down including the coordinator himself. At a juncture, he led a prayer point. We prayed and prayed. Minutes and minutes ticked away on it. No “In Jesus' name we prayed” Ah! Ah! Which kind lengthy prayer be this.

We were beginning to run out of lexical elements to pray it any further. Words like: “Baba, Baba o”, “Oluwa, se, se, se”, “Ah, Emi-Mimo, Emi-Mimo” and non-stop tongue-blasting eventually took the centre stage in our prosecution of the prayer.

My friend began to suspect a foul play. He stood up while still uttering his own fill-in-the-gap prayer cliché. He stylishly moved close to where our coordinator was and clapped his hands suddenly and loudly as if moved in the prayer to do so. Almost immediately, what we had been waiting for came from the waking voice of our coordinator: in Jesus' name we prayed. We looked at each other in a knowing way. We understand. Don’t you.

Now to this emerging third training ground: RCF Executive Committee (EXCO). The fellowship meet on campus on Wednesday and some other two weekdays off campus for Bible study and prayer meeting. We go once a year to Redemption Camp for a national student meeting involving RCF in all campuses across the federation. It was on one of such national trips that I had my legitimate after-salvation water baptism at the Redemption Camp. 

Thank God for the brother that emerged as our president. He was way ahead of many of us spiritually.

The first time I would see him minister was when we had an outside invitation to minister in drama. We were both flour members then. He was just to preach a short message in the play. I remembered vividly, he talked about Nimrod being a mighty hunter before the Lord and he swept me off my feet. That was Bro. Muyiwa Olusanwo.

Now that we were EXCO members, he tried all he could to bring us up spiritually. There was this episode when we were meeting in a night prayer. We were holding hands in a circle. Bro. Muyiwa wanted to encourage our spiritual sensitivity, so at a point, he told us to be quiet for some minutes and listen for the voice of the Spirit. He followed it up by asking us one by one,

“What did you hear?”

When it came to my turn, guess what I answered: 

“I didn’t hear anything, only the humming of mosquitoes around Sir!” 

Spiritual naivety at its peak.

Honestly, time will fail me if I am to dabble into all the values RCF added to my Christianity.

Do I start with the mention of my first contact with Pentecostal prophesyings that usually came through our beloved EXCO member, Brother Taiwo Sogbesan.

His prophesying form started in the way of a sudden and spontaneous heavy breathing, followed by a body vibration, then the loud subconscious divine declaration, and after the divine complimentary close like “peace be unto you”, he would fall flat on the floor as if when the Spirit took His immediate leave of him, he had no more strength remaining in him for standing. Thank God for those accurate prophecies. But those his falls often terrified me. What if he hurt himself? I’m sure he too would have been bothered. 

God do answer prayers! After some time, he began to deliver those same powerful messages in a calmer mien. I suspected he had received grace in the place of personal prayers and petitions to freely yield himself to the Spirit when He comes and no longer struggle with Him that would warrant such forceful demonstrations as the Spirit took it by force.

Time, Oh Time, thou art no friend but foe.

Please, permit me to mention this one more of how an SS brother's testimony of a drug-free year challenged me to divine health. 

That SS brother was Bro. Ibrahim Bamidele, the fellowship president that just handed over to us. Yes, SS. Senior Secondary ke! I mean, he was a sickle-celled individual: a sickler in Nigerian parlance. If I could remember, it was in a vigil he shared the testimony that not even a “chalk” of paracetamol touched his mouth throughout the year. I was seriously challenged.

“Biodun, what are you doing. That’s an SS o. You, you are an AS. Yet your malaria must reach hospital sha?”

That night I prayed for and received the grace to live on divine health. And glory be to God my testimony exceeded one year. It got to a decade. It could have been more but I started tempting God with my health...

As these three training grounds intensified efforts on me, my spiritual life improved by the day.

One evidence of my spiritual improvement was how God personally led me into a three-day marathon prayer for the first time in my life! It was the first and yet the easiest though done in a very challenging situation.

Need I remind you of the stress, load and tension of being an Ojere SLT student? Then you need to consult episode 6 for some background. 

The fasting was during the week and when the school was in session.

With the empty stomach I would rush to get to school early enough in the morning. On the empty stomach I would do all the tedious class activities and laboratory practical. And when we were released around 5pm, it was on that same water-and-food famished stomach I would trek from Ojere to near Iyana Oloke, Onikolobo before getting a taxi home. I tell you it was God. 

He intentionally put a special strength in me to do that. (Sorry, I'm sounding like those "Kids, dont try this at home" TV flashes during wrestling show.)

I've afterwards attempted other three-day marathon fasts under less challenging conditions, some with even water, none was as easier as this fasting of unusual grace. Glory be to God. At least, for one thing, it broke the inertia of engaging in marathon fasting and destroyed that old-time fear: “three days without food, and one will not die?” (Remember Episode 4?)

God was really grooming me and turning every place I incidentally or accidentally find myself a ground for growth. My IT place inclusive.

See you next week for episode 8 – Ewekoro, Another Milestone

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