“How beautiful you are! How lovely, O LOVE, with your delights!” (SS 7:6)
Life is so wonderful to me… These days I pray to remember good and useful memories from my sin-to-grace past. At the time when these events happened, I did not see much value in them. But now, from the perspective of mature victory, I see them as pearls of great price picked from the ocean of God’s love. I am talking about things I had experienced as a woman of God, wife, mother and recently, grandmother. Some of these memories were painful. At that time I prayed that I will forget them. But God has healed my heart. Now, because I had removed the sting of the bee and I am enjoying the honey left behind. I am now praying to remember them… How time changes our desires and perspectives…
About 1998-1999, my husband and I were living in Houston, Tx. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit called us to duty. He said that we should leave the children behind and go back under a missionary anointing. We were to start a church called Father’s House, in Warri-Effurun, Nigeria. That was a hard word for both of us. It was especially difficult for me, because it meant leaving our children behind, alone, in a difficult place called America. The hardest was the leave our youngest daughter Jemine who was just 16 at the time. She already got admission and scholarship in the University of Houston and she wanted to stay there. Before going to the US we worked as medical doctors and my husband was also a successful national politician. Both of us, we did not go to Bible School. By faith alone, we obeyed God’s Word and we started this church. We were surprised at the success of the ministry. To God alone be all the glory!
Thank God for the people who invented the phone and the internet. God bless them! Our elder daughter Alina was shuttling between America and Nigeria. But Jemine was there alone. Thank God that she kept in touch all these years. Even up till today, we still talk on the phone about things, daily events, big or small. We pray. We dream. I rebuke. We encourage each other. All these things thru the phone!!!
One serious problem I had in particular was that Jemine was changing into an ‘American girl’. Trying to belong to a foreign system, she started doing like they do. I was worried that what she considered ‘normal’ over there, for me was called ‘backsliding’. For example, the idea of dating a boy, to me it was worldly. Of course, ‘living together’, better called fornication, was not acceptable. Almost nothing she would say to me was right in this area of ‘American romance’. For me, the worst of all was the Valentine day and Halloween day. I used to tell Jemine to run away from boys; to be careful with boys; to remember that she is there alone and boys will deceive her… I spent a lot of money on phone cards telling Jemine to run away from ‘fake love’. Thank God that even when she was angry at me, she could not keep the anger for too long. She will eventually see the wisdom of a mother’s words and come back ‘to her senses’. Her father and I prayed daily for our children. I was personally worried that she will be trapped in a ‘self-pity poisonous circle’ of terrible loneliness. Especially on Valentine Day, she will cry on the phone: “Malia… I am so lonely… Nobody wants to invite me out… Nobody sent me even half a rose… Nobody loves me here… If I will continue like this, I will never marry…. Malia…pray for me…” It is not easy to hear your child cry. I will pray in the Spirit and try to find words of wisdom and love, to help her go on. She will say: “Malia, you have taught me to drive men away. You said I should say No No No to all men who are not serious. Ok! I am very good at that. Now, they have all left me alone. Nobody greets me anymore. When will I marry? I am getting old… When will I say Yes?” Me too I did not know when… She was a born again Christian, a worship leader, well educated, having a good job, beautiful and all… But no husband … GOD!!!!!!… Many times I told her: “Jemine, your dad and I, we are in this with you, together. Your pain is our pain. Your prayer is our prayer. Just trust God!”
Then about 5 years ago her dad and I we went to visit her in the US. We were relaxing in the sitting room when Jemine said that a young man who plays the keyboard in her church wants to ‘take her out’. This was scary for me… ‘Take out????” This ‘outing’ was a first after so many years of staying home alone. It just coincided with our annual visit. I did not know if it was God or the devil… But trust God to perfect the good things He started! My husband and I felt like we are on the threshold of a miracle. I was in the kitchen, cooking Nigerian stew (Jemine’s favorite) when the young man came in. He shyly said: ‘Good evening Sir! Good evening Mam! My name is Matthew. Can I take Jemine out, to see a movie? We shall come back in time…” Tali said: ‘Of course…’ but I saw that he was ‘eyeing’ the young man from head to toe. Tali and Matthew and another Nigerian visitor sat down waiting for Jemine to get ready. They were discussing recent events. I observed that Matthew (a white boy) was behaving like a good ‘Nigerian Yoruba boy’. He was the youngest among the three men there. He did not speak too much. He waited for his ‘turn’. He addressed both Tali and the other man with ‘Sir’. When Tali stood up to take something, he stood up too. He did not insist on his opinions (like the young Americans do). He did not raise his voice. Wow… Turning the stew on the stove, I was thinking: ‘This boy has good ‘home training’. Thank God for his parents…I was impressed… But, can this be Jemine’s prince we have been praying for? Is this the special man who will kill Jemine’s loneliness? She said so many: ‘No No No’ to other men. Can this be the ‘Yes’ man?” Will this young man change her Valentine? This is how the mind of a mother works…. I hope you understand…
They went to a movie and came back that evening. I could not rest. I was waiting for the ‘report’. Jemine knew that I will still be in the kitchen, waiting…. I decided to cook Nigerian beans too. Just to waste the time… When Jemine came she was overwhelmed. She told me that they went to the movies and when another man was talking ‘nonsense’ to her he stood up to protect her. Then they went to eat dinner and he insisted that he will pay for both of them. She was impressed because at that time, he was still a student in the university but she was already working. He said that his mother ‘will kill him’ if she hears that he invited a girl out and waited for the girl to pay the bill (even if she has more money). Jemine said that Matthew opened the door of the car for her to enter. She said that since she has been living in America, no young man has even done that. It was only the old men who do that ‘nice thing’- she said. It has never happened to her. She was totally impressed. The look on her face reminded me of the time when I met her dad, many years ago… Because I experienced true falling in love, I could smell the perfume of it… After so many ‘No No No’, we are finally entering the blessed ‘yes’ hour! God has answered our prayer. Six months later, Matthew and his beautiful family came to Warri and Jemine became his wife. And they live happily ever after… This is a true story! My family’s story!
Jemine may remember this event in a more romantic way. She may have forgotten the beans and stew she ate that night. She may add some sweet details I have forgotten. But one thing is clear! It is a story of true love! Be encouraged! God loves His children and He answers their prayers, more than they will ever imagine! Dear young people, both boys and girls, please take this mother’s advice: there are many No-s in life abut only one Yes! Wait for the yes! The journey may be long and lonely. But trust God to the end! Serve God before you can serve men! You too will one day be grateful for the pain becoming a fruitful testimony. Glory to God!
(In the pictures, Matthew and Jemine Oakes at their Nigerian traditional (Itsekri) and church wedding day, in Warri, Nigeria, 2012)