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I’m grateful that you trusted me with your secret.
Sitting across from me at the kitchen table this afternoon, you poured out your heart. When you married your high school sweetheart at 19, you never once suspected you would be in this place. Now, at 39, after twenty years of marriage, you call yourself gay.
I sit confused on the pew and my ears can’t believe the words coming out of the large speakers. I turn my head just in time to catch the ludicrous smile that forms on the face on the man sitting next to me. I want to ask why he is smiling, but I figure out that I might be seen as rude. It is my first time in church and I don’t know how things work here. I try my best to act normal, but I can’t. The lady sitting at my other side notices my discomfort. She puts her hand on my arm and asks gently, “Is everything okay, brother?” I look into her lovely eyes and, with the escape of a tear, say, “I was told to run towards the Light. The Book said to flee from the wrath to come.” Her incredulous look makes me feel like I had said something strange, as though I had spoken in a strange tongue.
I remember standing that day at the crossroads,
I held her hand while we stood at the point
Where our world as we knew it had been shattered
By a blow so strong that we were left confused
In my opinion, Joseph is one of the unsung heroes in the Bible. He is a man of great qualities and virtue. I have read about Mary. In fact, some folks even built a doctrinal gate around ‘Hail Mary’. I feel we are being unjust and unfair to this wonderful man. So, I have decided […]
via Great Joseph, I hail thee! — therantoftherockdweller
Nathanael answered him, [Nazareth!] Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip replied, Come and see!
John 1:47 [AMP]
I recently had an encounter with someone that made the first meeting between Jesus and Nathanael really come alive to me. I’ve come to see that what believers do a lot of times, especially after reading stories in the Scriptures, is to assume a position that makes us feel as if those stories can do so little in today’s world. Many times, we think that some stories are too old to be relevant in the 21st century.
I had left my little room off-campus last Saturday in school with a friend, Edwin, to visit another mutual friend. The funny thing about our journey was that we never asked for directions before starting off. We knew the general direction of our friend’s place and we just moved in that direction. Now, my campus is located in a village and moving about a village is really tasking, except, of course, if you’re familiar with the terrain. Getting around wasn’t difficult until we reached a point that we were both unfamiliar with. We saw someone and asked him for directions. The young man simply pointed forward and told us to move on. And we continued walking.
After agreeing that we were both lost, we decided to call our mutual friend. And as God may have it, his number wasn’t going through. Funny how God uses the seemingly bad situations to teach us. We decided to try another path, hoping to see someone knowledgeable enough to point us in the right direction. After walking for less than a minute, we met a young boy. And judging from his height, I adjudged him to be between 11-13. At this point, I withdrew and allowed Edwin talk.
The village is a predominantly Muslim one. You rarely see Christian locals where I stay. In fact, no single local church is close to where I reside. I would need to walk a considerably long distance to get to a local church. We do have fellowships, but these fellowships have their services in English and are student fellowships, not churches. Imagine my brief shock then when this young boy told us that his name was Samuel. I had to ask again for his name to be sure that I had heard correctly.
Coincidentally, Edwin had some flyers for Let’s-Go-A-Fishing which he was supposed to share. Let’s-Go-A-Fishing is a program organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). It is meant to plant new churches (parishes, in RCCG parlance). We were supposed to share the flyers to these locals. However, we were faced with one challenge: language barrier. It was impossible to share flyers with people who did not understand English. Samuel was sent from God, I had said to myself.
Samuel happened to know the exact place that we were going to. He became our guide. Edwin quickly seized the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with Samuel (that man can evangelize to anybody). I simply watched and listened attentively. Edwin switched to pidgin and initiated an interesting conversation. He had asked Samuel to read the flyer. Honestly, I had not expected him to be able to read the flyer, not as well as he read it. With a little help from Edwin, he read the flyer. I was honestly ashamed of myself. I had used the fact that the villagers were largely uneducated to assume that Samuel would not have been able to read. And he punched me in the face that Saturday with his reading ability.
He went on to tell us how that he had been stopped from going to church by his brothers. His parents resided in another village and his brothers in our village had stopped him from attending church services. Apparently, they weren’t believers. In that one moment, I saw the futility of some of my fellowship programs (not just mine, but other fellowships also). Beside me was a boy who wanted to go to church and couldn’t. I imagined other youngsters scattered through out the village, wanting to go to church, but unable to. And I had done nothing about it. I had never for one day even prayed for the salvation of a local.
You might have some folks around you who don’t look like they’ll ever amount to anything in life. Their lifestyle might look so dirty and corrupt. But that doesn’t mean that nothing good will ever result from their existence. We seize to be like Christ when we see people as they really are. When we constantly focus on their flaws and weaknesses, we become judges. Because people sin differently from us makes us no better than them. We need to see people as God sees them. That way we can love them the way He wants us to; we can live how He wants us to; we become His hands, His legs and His voice on Earth.
Guess what?! Edwin asked our friend to keep an eye on Samuel. We think we should get him a Bible and have him studying on his own (the thought is still a thought, we wouldn’t want to have him clash with his brothers). I’m excited about seeing him grow into a fine Christian man. I still have some time here. Maybe this time, I’ll be more like Jesus and less like Nathanael. Indeed, so many good things could come out of Nazareth. Unbeknownst to Nathanael, the best thing had come out of Nazareth. He simply had to open his eyes to see.
Open your eyes and see the best in people. God sees the best in them. You should, too.
God bless you.
© Eleazar Maduka, 2016
“Happy birthday, Mama!” I shouted as I stepped into the large compound. It was an early Saturday morning and many people in the community had been resting from the previous five days of work. Mama’s compound was surprisingly silent and I felt like a fool for shouting so loud and disturbing the peace. I quickly made a mental note not to ever step into any place with a shout.
I quickly looked around to have an overview of the whole compound. The dry leaves at the entrance of the large compound told me that someone hadn’t swept it for a while. The wind brushed my face, reminding me of why I loved visiting with Mama. The weather around here was one to die for, especially in October.
I moved into the compound and spotted Mama sitting outside of the main building. I couldn’t help but gasp at the state of Mama. She looked so forlorn, sitting there on an armless stool. Her hair looked unkempt and spoke of poverty. But Mama wasn’t poor. Everyone in this community and others knew of Mama’s wealth. Mama’s wealth was an open secret. Her children boasted of her wealth world over.
But something was different about Mama today. Something was wrong with Mama today. She might be sick, I thought. But someone should be taking care of her if she was sick. Among all the mothers in our community, Mama’s fertility was legendary. Everyone knew how many illustrious sons she had. A mother so blessed shouldn’t look like this.
“Happy birthday, Mama,” I said with a sweet boyish voice as I reached her. No answer. Mama seemed to be lost in thought. She didn’t seem to hear me. I sighed. For one so old, I could understand how many things that she had seen. Mama was over a hundred years old, but since she got her freedom from her masters on this day, many chose to celebrate this day as her birthday.
“Happy birthday, Mama,” I said once more, this time more coolly. And this time, Mama stirred at the sound of my voice. A weak smile appeared on her face, but she still didn’t raise her eyes to meet mine. I bent down directly in front of her and asked, “How are you doing, Mama? Is everything okay?” She slowly raised her head and looked at me straight in the eye.
I looked at those weak eyes and I saw years of suffering and pain in them. Coups, looting, massacres, all that her children had done to themselves and to her. Tears threatened to burst out of my eyes. It hurt me to see one who was a beauty not so long ago reduced to this by the very ones who had sworn to protect her honor and her glory. I held back the tears and smiled. I took her feeble hands in mine and said, “I love you, Mama. And I’m here for you. Things will get better and you’ll smile again.” Somehow, I knew that she needed to hear that.
But Mama looked at me as though I had said nothing at all. I repeated myself. And this time, Mama smiled and replied, “I know, son. Now let’s go inside and get something for you to eat.” She rose up with amazing agility and went into the house. I stood behind her and smiled. I knew that she believed me, that better days were ahead, and that her glory will return.