I thought, and really did thought!
“I thought I was really crushed but I found out that that was the deepest lie of the enemy!…” Mercy’s voice ran through the mic and spread on top of my eardrums like rich chocolate butter on a slice of bread.
“Oluwapemisire, would you come out of the car now? We are late” I shouted at my first granddaughter who was still holding on to her bar of chocolate and biting another chunk into her mouth
I was dazed!
What sort of a girl eats chocolate so late at night!
“Mummy, you are spoiling these children already” Mercy had told me one day when at around 10am, she called to talk to them and I told her that they were still tucked in their blankets, sleeping peacefully while I did the house chores
Well, what was I supposed to do?
It is the joy of every grandmother to see her grandchildren, hale and hearty and enjoying God’s grace right?
That was why when Mercy and their father decided to have a six month retreat in the United States, I gladly accepted to take care of the wonderful three children they had- Oluwapemisire, Oluwandabira and Iranlowooluwa
The 6 months summer retreat was over but they had been invited as the couple of the year to a National Christian Youth Fellowship Summit for the Cross Over night at the Eagles’ Square, Abuja.
Seyi had paused the Mount Zion’s ‘Fiwajomi’ movie that we were watching the night before and I looked into his face
“What?” I asked, because the look on his face could be very scary sometimes
“My baby, I beg you because of Christ that we are serving. Should I kneel down?” he kept on dramatizing- or that was how I saw it.
I was just so confused as to what he was talking about
“See, the children just called that they are already in Sheraton Hotel”
“And you know the programme is slated for 10pm right?”
“I am leaving the house by 7pm” he said and I opened my mouth wide
“7pm because of what? Are you the gate keeper there or something? Why would you want to leave so early?” I asked and he shook his head, smiling so happily
“You don’t understand the glee and the joy. But by 7pm, if you are not ready with your grandchildren, it means you would have to come in your car. The traffic jam at Nyanyan could be very maddening this festive season” he said and played the movie again, looking as though it wasn’t him that just spoke
And true to his word, he left us behind and I had to struggle with two wonderful boys and a lovely girl because as usual, I felt it was too early to wake them by 6pm when they were having their nap and I had to bath and feed and also pack some food for them.
But it was already some minutes past 11pm and Mercy had started her speech.
The three children held unto me even as I struggled with the food packs and my handbag in my hands.
I was just a proud grandma.
“My baby” That was Seyi’s voice
He must have been looking out for me because the look on his face was that of anxiety and worry
“They have started since, ehn!” He said as he helped collect the bags and we tried to make it to the front seat
“Sir, you can’t go to the front again. Its occupied” an usher tried to stop us.
My husband turned to meet him and patted his shoulder
“We are the parents of the guest speaker. We have reservations in front” he said proudly and I exposed my teeth as my smile was so pure with no kind of pretense whatsoever
“Oh! God bless your womb ma. Wow” the usher said she led us gallantly to the front seats.
“My keyboardist, you would have to be at alert with me today even as I deliver my speech. You get me?” Mercy faced the instrumentalist who nodded
I smiled softly
“See mummy” The children said almost together and I tried to shush them quietly
“I said that I thought that I was really crushed but oh no my people! I was not!” she said again, looking lovely in her long, turquoise turtle necked gown and beautiful glassy shoes
She picked something from the pulpit and raised it- her diary!
“This diary contains everything about my life and everything that I have ever gone through in life but guess what? The title is boldly written down in here-Crushed!”
There was a thick silence even as she spoke and I nodded accordingly
“You know, I felt I was really crushed when I thought I had a kind of mystery surrounding my birth and that I was abandoned and forsaken. I felt I was really crushed when my foster mother maltreated me and did all sort to me but I was still consoled by my foster father’s kind of love” she went on and I listened with rapt attention, shaking my head as those times reverberated back in my memory
“I felt irreparably crushed however when my trusted, foster father started to molest me sexually and there was nobody to talk to…hmmm” she sighed deeply and it had effect on the sand of people seated
“I felt I was so crushed when friends in school called me Messy Mercy and wee-wee girl because I was still bedwetting at my old age and I could do the shameful thing anywhere, anytime!” she looked over the crowd and smiled
“I also felt that I was so so much crushed when my foster father so instigated some speculations about me in order to cover his dirty acts that I was demonic and possessed and everyone around me believed. I felt so crushed because no one could see the good in me” I looked at Seyi’s side and he shook his head as he hissed regrettably, wiping the beads of sweat on his forehead
“I felt so crushed when I realized that I had missed my period and I feared that the worst might have happened to me- I could tell nobody, nobody how I felt” she continued and she smiled again
“I felt really crushed when in my state of nausea, my crush, whose name is Jean came up with a ‘friendship-proposal’ and I had to refuse because I felt some kind of betrayal and unworthiness to be friends with him. I felt too crushed when he said some hurtful words to me after my decline. It felt like that was the worst thing that could have been said to me” she said and I picked Iranlowooluwa’s hands and squeezed them tightly as tears gathered in my eyes
“Then, from losing the pregnancy in a life-threatening way, to having to be taught how to walk again…and also to be…” Her voice had become shaky and the tears in my eyes strolled down as I tried to swallow my feelings
Then, I looked up and saw her husband walking up the stage to meet her.
She dropped the mic and ran into his embrace and I was really touched
It was the most touching thing that I had ever seen before that I didn’t even know when I stood up to start clapping and shouting
Almost everyone present joined me as we celebrated the duo
“He is my hero! My husband!” she was both laughing and crying into the mic
I knew that feeling right!
“You are my love, my everything!” he said in the mic too and many people oohed and wowed as they displayed public their undying affection for each other
“The one who made me believe that I was never really crushed” she said again
“Because you never really were” he said sweetly, looking deep into her eyes
I had goose bumps at that point as my husband came close to me and pulled me near lovingly. He was shaking excitedly!
I smiled at him and patted his shoulders
“Thank you for loving me…..sir!” she said as she saluted him like a soldier would. There was a cry of excitement from the crowd as they clapped and whistled at intervals
Jean stood behind her as she continued her speech while we took our seats
“The feeling of being crushed was heightened when I was ushered into a counseling session that I never asked for and the news of being HIV positive was disclosed to me!” she broke it out and I just held my breath
What the Holy Spirit can do!
“I cried! I felt it was all over! What good could ever possibly happen to me? Exactly what?” she paused again and I sulked in my tears as the silence congealed
“But, while I felt that it was all over, there was a ray of light again! God started his work from the very beginning of my life- he made it clear to me that there was no way I could run away from the precious name of Jesus which I had grown to really hate!”
I nodded continuously as I wiped the tears which had decided not to stop falling down my face.
“2Corinthians 4:8-9 says and I quote ‘we are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed! Those verses became my confession daily as Christ started the reconstruction process of my life”
She walked to her husband, whispered something to him and he walked to the keyboardist
A tune started playing
I am pressed but not crushed
Persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse
For his promise will endure
That His joy’s gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for a night; His joy comes in the morning
The whole house joined in the ‘I’m trading my sorrow’ chorus and it was a real revival in the square as I looked around and found different kinds of expressions
Some were on their feet, singing happily; some were on their feet with their hands stretched high to the sky, with tears on their faces; some were on their knees, praising God; some were looking around and surveying all as I was too
I quickly called myself to order as I lifted my hands up to God.
God, please don’t make me an onlooker even when others are being blessed because of overfamiliarity and overexcitement
I quickly prayed
“Halleluyah!” she called us back to order and we all started to sit down again
“Listen up, keyboardist…God kept me!”
I almost let go
I felt like I just couldn’t take life anymore
My problems held me bound
Depression weighed me down
But God kept me close,
So I wouldn’t let go
God’s mercy kept me,
So I wouldn’t let go
She sang again and the song started making sense to me anew.
I never realized the song could be so blessing that way.
The song was just the definition of Mercy my child!
It was just the perfect expression of what was going on at the very moment
A force took me off my seat and down on my knees and I started crying heavily
I didn’t know if it was in regret of the pain she and gone through in life or because I was just being grateful to God for the sudden turnaround
“Are you planning on giving up already friend?” she asked as the square had become fierily surged wit spiritual current of worship and reflection
“Oh yes, by this time tomorrow, we would have been ushered into a new year. We would have screamed and danced ‘Happy new year’ but are you really happy?”
There was silence
“When we were contacted to be the couple of the year that would be delivering this speech to Great Nigeria on this New Year eve, the Lord spoke to me explicitly that it should be about my life because just as my name depicts, my life is an expression of His mercy!” she paused again, went on her knees and raised her hands up high
“My fellow Nigerians, you are not alone! I can imagine how you feel. I know the feeling you have that it seems you have so large a burden on my head that has made you bent underneath! The weight is so much that your tongue is lashed out of your mouth as your throat seems clogged up with thick phlegm. It seems the end is near you. Well, I have been there…”
I almost gave up
I was right at the edge of a breakthrough but I couldn’t see it
The devil really held me
But Jesus came and grabbed me,
And he held me close
So I wouldn’t let go
God’s mercy kept me,
So I wouldn’t let go.
“We have just thirty minutes left to the New Year and is it the same way you are clogged up and choked up and frustrated that you would be ushered into the new year?”
“No!” There was a thunderous answer
“Please let’s sit down and quickly listen as I finish up within the limited time I have left” she said and the whole congregation sat down obediently.
“Granny, I want to wee-wee” Iranlowooluwa said and I opened my eyes in shock
What sort of a thing is this?
“Me too” Oluwandabira told me too, clutching at my cloth
“Me too” Oluwapemisire said, licking her chocolatey hands
“Wait please dearies. Let us finish listening to what mummy is saying” I told them pacifyingly and they nodded sheepishly like they were being controlled.
“My family was restored to me fully as loneliness and feeling or abandonment disappeared after having waited for about seventeen years. I pray that concerning everything you have lost and you have bent down to search, looked up to look for, checked inside to reach out to but have been difficult, there would be a restoration. There would be a cause for celebration and jubilation in the mighty name of Jesus!”
“Amen!” People thundered with joy and affirmation
“Every form of maltreatment and wounds that I had gotten from my foster mother were forgotten as sudden care was shed upon me. It was like a dream. I command concerning you that the scripture which says that ‘When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream’ would be fulfilled in your life in the name of Jesus!”
“Amen” We all chorused again with outstretched arms
“By the time I was exposed to the word of God which the Lord Himself described in Jeremiah 23:29 as such that ‘burns like fire’ and ‘like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces’, I tell you that all my bedwetting and those reproaching nicknames stopped!”
“Halleluyah” they chorused, accompanying the shout with claps and all
“I tell you all that the word of God is the key! Jesus is the Word of God. Once Jesus is missing in your life, you are an impending sorrow!”
There was silence again
“Hmmmm…” I nodded
“For us, immediately we heard that our foster parents were in such an unpalatable situation, we had to be sent abroad. Jean, to Australia with Daddy and I to Europe with Mummy. We went to start a new life together though separately.” She swallowed before going on
“The atmosphere you are exposed to would determine how well your life would be shaped” she said and we watched on to explain what she meant
“If you use a circular cup for moin-moin, you should expect a circularly shaped moin-moin. If you use a flat surface for the moin-moin anyways, you would have a flat moin-moin”
I nodded so well as it sunk into my skull.
“What I am saying in essence is that you can’t expose your children to cartoon and Nickelodeon, Disney Junior, terrible computer games, Keeping up with the Kardashians, domestic violence between husband and wife, insults and abusive words and all those at their tender ages and expect children whose thoughts are heaven-bound! I tell you the truth!”
“While those things are not essentially bad because my kids too do watch some of them, exposure to the things of God really does matter first! Train up your child in the way they should go and when they are old, they would not depart from it.”
There was a round of applause
“You buy your child a whole galaxy tab while she doesn’t even have a small pocket bible in the least? You do not well parents because the best legacy you can give your child is Christ alone!”
I remembered those times while in Paris where I had to make her go through rehab.
She was so depressed that she was always moody!
She was so touchy to the name of Jesus that I had to start rebuking such spirit that had convinced her that Jesus wasn’t fair to her.
Gradually, I started from the scratch- I got her the Children’s bible stories and she started reading again while I talked to her in the spirit
I knew it was not an ordinary issue but a spiritual warfare!
Then, she grew to independently read the Bible and all and then and there, she was right in front of me, preaching to the whole wide world
I had won a soul for Christ!
Not just the soul of anybody at all but that of my daughter!
Oh what Joy!
Oh what Joy!
“Then, still dependent on my retroviral drugs, I started to pick up the pieces of my life again and finished studying Petrochemical Engineering from The American University of Paris before having some other degrees and post graduate studies. It was the Lord’s doing…”
“And it is marvelous in our eyes” we replied in a chorus
“Then, one day, the best thing that had happened to me, really did happen! Something that I had never experienced in my life; an experience that no other experience can beat in my life again except the salvation of my soul- my husband proposed to me!” she said emotionally and there was a whew sound in the square.
That was really a great day!
Immediately she moved to Miami, Florida for a job opportunity, I moved to Australia to meet with my husband.
I was tending to my periwinkles one day when Seyi came out through the yard into the garden to give me my beeping phone
“Who is it?” I asked
“Your baby o…Mercy” he said and I straighten up with determination
She had not called for like three days and Jean had been in touch.
I was going to lambast her
“Hello, you are not serious o baby mie. You just left us alone like that and didn’t check back. Is that how a child should treat her parents? Huh?” I started as if the words had been clogged down the pipes of my throat and there is a sudden flush down the latrine.
“Mummy ….mum…mummy….” Mercy gasped for air as she called me on and on and I wondered what it was that was the problem
“Mercy love, what is the matter with you? Talk to me please” I was agitated
My husband looked into my eyes too, sensing trouble
“Mum, Jean…it’s Jean” she cried into the phone again
My eyes widened in shock
“What happened to him? Exactly what?” I asked, resting against the pole holding my pumpkin, my heart beating really hard
“Jean?” my husband whispered, his back arched as his bent to see my face like a real gossip
I nodded and he held my hands in expectation as if he could hear what it was
“Jean says he wants to marry me mum. Like, he practically came over to my office so shockingly and popped the question.” She said over the phone, panting heavily
“Really!” my heart started racing- I was excited!
“Why would he do such? Has he come to really embarrass me and disgrace me and remind me of my reproach and past? Is that it?” she had started crying and I realized what the matter must have been
“Because of your health?” I asked and she sobbed
“I had to leave him and run up this terrace to talk to you mum. I had always been crushed all my life and I have accepted my fate like that. I must confess that this is like a bad opening of a fresh wound. It’s so bleeding!”
I really didn’t know what to say again!
How was I supposed to come into the situation?
“Mummy, aren’t you going to say something? Aren’t you going to call him to order and discipline him for such a prank?” she blurted out again
We were silent from our own side again
“Are you…” she was asking when we heard a male voice over the phone
“Would you leave our dear parents alone and let’s focus on ourselves? Would you?” he asked and Mercy broke down into tears the more
“But you know I can’t marry Jean. You know it. There is nothing about me that you don’t know. So why? Like why would this kind of a thing happen? Why? Why would you come to ridicule me like this?” she asked in tears and I placed the phone on loudspeaker, placed on the veranda stool as tears ran down my face
“Why can’t you marry? Exactly why can’t you?” he asked and I looked at my husband in shock
Had he forgotten that she was diagnosed of the deadly virus?
“See, as long as a man would see a lady that has epilepsy and decide to marry her because of deep love; as long as someone could decide to marry another who has severe ulcer, asthma, sickle cell anemia and all, I don’t see why that same deep love wouldn’t cover me when I marry an HIV positive individual who has so suppressed the effects of the virus through the drugs usage and is looking healthier than someone who really doesn’t have it” he explained and my husband and I held close to each other so tightly that as the goose bumps appeared on my hands and I shivered!
“What?” She asked, obviously shocked
“It is you I have always loved and it is you the Lord is pointing at. I love you and I want you to marry me”
“Leave all buts Mercy. Let’s forget everything about HIV and let’s talk about me. Do you still love me? Do you have a space in my heart to accept my proposal please” he pleaded, coolly
“Jean, I ….ah…oh my God!” she cried again
I stamped my feet on the ground as I was so confused myself!
“Mercy, you are a pure, beautiful virgin, unstained, untouched for the glory of God. If God has wiped your past away, who am I to bring it up again? I love you from my heart and it’s difficult to let you out of my Spirit!” he said again and closed my heart as if soothing oil had been poured on a wound on my heart!
“Jean! Why Jean?” she cried on and on and the remaining had become history now!
“He made me understand that he saw me as a brand new lady, whole untouched and unstained. I was so touched that day that I could not sleep throughout although I didn’t give him his answer at the spot!”
“Wow” almost everyone said that or related exclamations
“I pray concerning everyone under the influence of my voice today that something glorious, something flabbergasting that would throw you off your feet and give you happy, sleepless night, God would cause it to happen in the name of Jesus Christ!”
“Amen” we all chorused as the instrumentalists accompanied our shout with their rhythmical ensemble
“Few weeks to our wedding, we were to do some premarital tests in the church prescribed hospital and I was so sad and scared that now, the whole church would know about what my life entailed” she said, shook her head and thereafter looked up
I remembered so well!
“Miss Mercy” the nurse called us and we were ushered into the doctor’s office
He was smiling at us as we entered- such consoling smile!
We were not smiling though!
“Why are your faces this gloomy? Why?” he asked lovingly and I looked into Mercy’s face- so hopeless and frustrated
“Aren’t you happy about getting married?” he asked and Mercy stood up
“Sir, there is no need for any counseling session. I have had enough counseling sessions and I take my drugs daily. I only wanted to do this because the church demanded for it- just for formality” she blurted out and the smile on the doctor’s face melted
“I don’t get. What drugs? What counseling sessions? What I have here is HIV negative. What are you talking about lady?”
I sounded like a joke that I had to sit straight and Mercy fell right back into her seat
“Negative as how, sir? Like, could you kindly have a re-run? Please check again” I said, panting heavily
“We tried over seven different hospitals and the test result was the same thing.” She continued from where my imagination stopped and the whole square was in a joyful and prayerful disarray
“I command concerning you that all the complete and incomplete works of the enemy in your life would disappear like the early morning dew!”
“Amen!” we screamed
“I command that you mountain of sickness, addiction, terminal diseases and all kind of problems before Zerubabel, become plain in the name of Jesus!”
“Amen!” we shouted loud and clear
“I want you to repeat after me my people.”
I looked down at my grandchildren and they had fallen asleep peacefully on top of one another.
“I am pressed on all sides” she started and we repeated so loudly
“But I am not crushed”
“And I won’t be crushed…I can’t just be crushed!” she said firmly again and we repeated in like manners
“I am perplexed” she said again and we repeated loudly
“But I am not in despair”
“I am persecuted” that came again and we said likewise
“But I am not forsaken”
“I am struck down”
“But I am not destroyed…and cannot be destroyed!” we repeated after her as we put our hands together in a joyful applause.
“We have just two more minutes to the new year. I want my husband to say one or two things to us. Please clap for my hero” she said and there was a round of applause
“Well, thank you so much my love. Please come over here. I want to give you a peck on your forehead to really show that this year is over.” He said and there was excitement in the square as people expressed themselves in different ways.
My husband looked at me and we held our hands tightly
“These children are just so wonderful!” my husband said as he wiped his tears
Chai! My so emotional husband!
“With this peck, I seal our marital bliss for the year 2015 and hope for greater bliss in the coming year.” He said as he pecked her forehead and people clapped with such thrill and delight
“To the best parents in the world- the ones I had grown up to call mum and dad, who would continue to be and who are now my in laws, it sounds weird right? Mum and Dad, you know it’s you I am talking about right? Please raise your hands for recognition” he announced in his sonorous voice into the mic and I looked into my husband’s face- my eyes wet with tears as we stood up and all eyes turn around us to see us
We felt just so proud of ourselves!
“Thanks for bringing me up in the most holy faith. Thank you for giving to me, one of the most virtuous angels on earth to wife. It’s been bliss all along” he smiled
“God bless you on and on and everyday” I screamed and I was shocked when everyone said amen!
I never knew they would hear me
“I am really speechless because Mercy has said it all. But, I would like to enjoin you to rise up quickly when you fall! Don’t stay down! Don’t stay grounded! If you fall as is likely unavoidable for human beings, quickly rise up! If you remain there and different trailers and tractors and big vehicles press you down…that is when you are really crushed!”
I nodded as it sunk!
“Mercy, through God’s grace stood up when she fell and God visited her with things she never even planned for to the extent that he healed her of a terminal disease but her foster parents especially the dad who is my own biological father fell and didn’t think it to rise up again until he met his final doom! His wife killed him and thereafter killed herself! So painful!” he said, shaking his head in regret
I sighed deeply too as I remembered how I saw the news plainly printed in one of the Nigerian Dailies when we were in Paris.
Mercy moved to the mic and held her husband by the waist
“Well, glory be to the Lord!”
“Amen!” we replied
“Let’s teach us a new song before we all go…”
The keyboardist started the lead and the duo joined as they sang beautifully
It is finished
The battle is over
It is finished
There’ll be no more war
It is finished
The end of the conflict
It is finished
And Jesus is Lord
We kept on repeating the song in a harmonious way until after about two minutes later, we heard from the podium in front of us
“It’s 12am, 1st January, 2016 and it’s definitely a new year. Happy new year” Mercy announced over the mic and there was uproar as people started exchanging pleasantries.
Fireworks flew up in the air, forming different celebrative images.
The noise of the bangers and firecrackers filled the whole house that I had to quickly sit down to pull my sleeping grandchildren to myself.
As I pulled Iranlowooluwa close to herself, I felt someone so hot and wet against my skin
“Jesus! Urine!” I exclaimed to myself and my husband gave me a knowing look
I smiled and shook my head
“It’s not what you think my dear.” I laughed and pulled my children to my chest
“I didn’t say anything. Did i?” he asked, smiling in a funny way
“My baby is not a wee-wee boy o. he told me he wanted to use the loo. I was the one that delayed him. So, don’t even think about that at all” I continued
He clapped his hands together and twitched his mouth in a funny way
“I kuku didn’t say anything still” he said and we both laughed together gladly
“The devil has had his head…” I said, looking into my husband’s face for the response
“…crushed!” he replied but as his response was landing, two other voices joined and we had to turn back to see them- the hero and heroine of the day!
“Sure! The devil has had his head crushed dear parents. Happy new year!” they said almost together.
We laughed at the harmony of their just concluded sentence and I pulled them near, held their hands as we formed a small circle as we sung happily the song we had just been taught!
It is finished
The battle is over
It is finished
There’ll be no more war
It is finished
The end of the conflict
It is finished and Jesus is Lord!
Glory be to God!