Beloved children and dear brethren, it is me again, Malia! First, I desire to give God all the glory, in all I say or do. Secondly, I desire to honor the memory of my beloved husband, Pastor Richmond Sisan Leigh, who is also your father in the Lord. Thirdly, I want to encourage all of you with the same encouragement I receive daily from the Holy Spirit. As you know, I gave my life to Christ in March 1986. It was a crisis conversion. I did not plan to become a Christian. In fact, as many people still remember ‘the old me’, I was not a religious person. I came to Nigeria in 1980 as an original unbeliever. I met the Lord Jesus here, in Warri, Nigeria. (God bless Nigeria!) I became saved and Spirit filled at home. It was a miracle. A self-righteous proud sinner became a lamb of God! Halleluiah to the Savior!
This is our love story… I met my husband in 1973. We were classmates in the School of Medicine, Timisoara, Romania. Anatomy was our first class. Professor Dimulescu, assigned us randomly, two by two, to ‘share’ a cadaver. We were supposed to dissect the dead body, to learn practically the theory of anatomy. We were about twenty in that class. I remember that I was not comfortable in the cold room, with about ten corpses lying down, all covered by white sheets. I wanted to be a doctor but now, all my confidence was almost gone. Suddenly, I heard The Professor saying: ‘you and you, go to that body’. He was pointing at me and at Richmond Leigh, a student from Nigeria. I remember thinking about my new colleague: ‘Who is he? Does he speak Romanian?’ This was the first time in my life that I saw ‘a black’ man, except in the pictures or on the TV. We both went to the slab. I looked at him with a curiosity that I could not hide. He looked back at me feeling happy with himself. He spoke first. He smiled and said (in a broken Romanian): “My name is Richmond Leigh. I am from Nigeria. I am happy to work with you. What is your name?’ I told him. This is how our teamwork started. But there was more to come…
Looking back at this story, I see it as the beginning of our destiny together. Who could have known that the delicate seed of true love can be planted and grow during the cold hours of dissecting a dead man? Who could have known that romance can spring up from rotten flesh, in a room that smells chemicals, and that life can rise from the dead? At that time, I did not know but now, I know the answer: It is Jesus, with His Glory, with His power of Resurrection, who, at the Cross, totally defeated sin and death. For every good gift among men, the source is always Jesus! But at that time, I did not believe in spiritual things. All I knew was that I started falling in love with a man called Richmond Leigh, from Nigeria. To me, this love was totally new. I loved my parents and my sister. But I never loved a man… I kept my feelings secret for they scared even me. Anyway, I did not know if Richmond loves me too. I was too shy to ask… This was my background: I did not have a brother. I did not know how boys think. I never had ‘a boyfriend’. I was what people call ‘a bookworm’. My parents were teachers and they expected academic excellence from me and my sister. They were disciplinarians but loving at the same time. The only way I knew how to prove my love to them was to study hard, much above the requirements in school. Doing so, from primary one to twelve grade, I was always first in the class. Reading and passing exams, that was my life and happiness. I was not too social. I was shy in public. I was not fashionable. I could dress with anything our parents provided. I did not know how to dance. I never attended ‘a night club’. I was not adventurous. My strength and confidence were always in the classroom. I stayed in my comfort zone most of the time. I did not like surprises. (Later, my husband told me that his African friends called me ‘The Nun’. Can you imagine that? Me, who did not believe in God, looked like a nun!!! This is still a mystery to me). Falling in love was strange and dangerous to me…
Anyway, every day we met over that cadaver to dissect it. The anatomy class was not easy. Each of us had to carry the (bleached in acid) bones of a human being in a bag. We literally ate and slept with these bones. We needed to study them until even with our eyes closed, once we touch a bone with our fingers, we were supposed to recognize it. I observed that student Richmond Leigh was so skillful with his hands. I admired his long fingers. I also admired his confident look and walk. He was ‘a man of the people’, as they say. Unlike me, he was never shy in public. Even when he could not express his feelings in Romanian language, he will boldly speak English expecting the listeners to understand. I could not speak English, so I could not understand what he was saying at those times. Also, he was very fashionable. He was a student on scholarship. He did not have a lot of money to buy clothes. But the few items he had, clothes and shoes, were all good quality and nice. He walked like a prince. He was popular in the campus. He started playing guitar at the student club. Many girls admired him. I heard them calling his name. Though I was his ‘partner’ in the anatomy class, nobody gave me ‘a chance’. Me too, I disqualified myself from even trying to dream about a possible romance. This love was completely new territory and I had no map or compass to guide me in it. Therefore, I kept all things hidden in my heart. I never knew what (this still unknown) God was doing…
Life went on … At the end of the semester, as we were preparing for our first exams, Richmond met me and asked for help. That I should coach him. He told me that his Romanian language was not good enough to pass the exams. Also, he told me that he observed I am good in class and all the professors respect my zeal and knowledge. He told me that though he was playing guitar and having a social life, I should not be deceived by these. He said that he came to Romania to study, to be a doctor. He told me that he did not forget his humble roots and Nigeria and the reason why he is here. He did not want to fail the exams. Not only that, he wants to be the best doctor he can be. He does not want just a medical certificate on the wall. He said that he hates fake people. He wants to be a good doctor when he goes back to Nigeria. He also told me that he went to ask for help from some other girls who admired him. They looked nice but he could not understand their handwriting; he could not read their anatomy notes. He said that I am the only person that he easily ‘flows with’; that he understands, both my speech and my writing. He asked for help. He was so humble and sincere. I was surprised. I agreed. I borrowed him my notes. From that time on, every day, we used to seat outside, on the stairs, to rehearse all the possible questions that can come at the exams. He impressed me with his strong desire to learn, his memory, his humility, and good manners. (In my heart I blessed his parents in Nigeria who thought his so well). At last, the exams came. He had the highest mark among all foreign students. He was so happy! In fact, I never saw him so happy. We went to a cafeteria to eat cake, drink juice, and celebrate his success. Coming back, walking on a lonely road, he surprised me. Suddenly, he said that he loves me and that he wants to marry me. Just like that! There was not much romance as I imagined it. Picture us… Nobody asked me in marriage before then. I was only nineteen. For a moment, I did not know what to say. I was not a Christian to pray about it. ‘For better and for worse’, my decision was mine alone. Shaking, holding tight my umbrella in the rain, I said ‘yes’. He became so happy again! He lifted me up and ran with me like I am a trophy. Happy in the rain… We did not know what the future will bring. Before then, I have never traveled abroad. I did not know where Nigeria is on the map. Our parents were not aware of this love story. There were so many odds against our proposed marriage. But for me, that rainy evening, on a street in Timisoara, deep in my heart, I felt that it was a destiny changing moment. I said ‘yes’ to a man who asked me in marriage, who promised to love me to the end. Forty years and half later, I have seen ‘the end’ of that story, at least what can be seen on earth. To his last breath, Richmond Leigh kept his promise! God is right: “Love never fails!” (1Cor 13:8)
As I write these words, I am not sad. I have peace and even joy. I am indeed grateful to God for bringing us together, in a marriage that only God could have designed. This is our love story. We did not buy it with money. It is not for sale. We started life like two children not knowing what life or death may bring. Later, when both of us became saved, God sealed this simple natural love with His own Holy Spirit. Our marriage became ministry, a source of inspiration and encouragement for many couples. As you know, Richmond Leigh, my beloved husband and best friend on earth, is now in heaven. But to me, he is not dead. He is more alive now than ever. That is why I want to honor his life and memory. That is why I am writing our story. Let me say this: His first love was always Jesus, His Savior and Lord. I was his ‘second’ love. Oh, how I loved that second place! I want to say it again: Richmond Sisan Leigh has kept his promise of faithfulness and love to Jesus and to me, his wife, to his last breath. During marriage ceremonies, we tell the groom and his bride to say: ‘Till death do us part’. This is a good pledge. But in my case, even death cannot separate me from the love of my life, who is now rejoicing in heaven, worshipping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! One day, when my race is finished, I will join him over there. But for now, I have work to do for God. I want to give God all the glory for my husband’s life, salvation, ministry and even his peaceful sudden transition to glory. I give glory to God for our children and grandchildren! I give God all the glory for the many spiritual children in Christ that my husband and pastor has mentored and discipled over the years. I am blessed beyond words!
Finally, I want to encourage you, dear children, to trust God for His love poured out for you! Listen to the voice of His grace and follow the steps of the Lover of your souls. Jesus died to give you life and life abundantly. May your lives and marriages be living testimonies of His Resurrection power! May the fragrance of Christ surround you and your families. Have faith in God! Have hope in His glory! I want you to dream again! Love Jesus with a new passion, none can destroy. May revival come! May the fire of holy love keep burning!
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life … neither the present nor the future … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom 8:38, 39).
To God be all the glory! Love in Christ alone,
Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh/ 25-08-2020, Warri/ Effurun, Nigeria