“Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22; TLB)
I come from Romania, a former Communist country. In school we were thought that God does not exist. The teachers told us that religion is a man’s invention to keep the poor people in bondage. They told us that there is no life after death. The best we can do is to work hard in this life and give some inheritance to our children. I believed that after death man disappears in a cosmic silence and nothingness. I did not believe in God or in the devil, in heaven or hell. From time to time I dared to think that life is more than work, salary, marriage and children. I was a dreamer, a romantic at heart. I loved to read, anything like poetry, the biographies of famous men and true stories. I read many books. I loved country music. I played classical pieces on the piano. In school I was a perfectionist. I thought it was my duty to take first place in any exam or test that comes my way. I had no pity for losers. I felt very bad each time I failed any test. My parents were both teachers and of course, they were very proud of me.
The first time I had ‘an encounter’ with the word ‘God’ was in the first year of university. We were a group of friends and one day, we discussed what qualities each one desires in a life partner. Each one said something. I think I said that “my future husband has to be intelligent and kind”. Then Richmond Leigh, our Nigerian colleague, said something so stupid that we all laughed with tears and made fun of him. He said: “I cannot marry a girl who does not believe in God…” God? What is God? I found myself looking at this young handsome man… he sounded so foolish… I pitied him and his parents in Africa. I made up my mind to help him be more ‘civilized’. For me, faith in God was ‘old fashion’ and ‘religion was the opium of the masses’. This is how we were thought in school. Richmond Leigh never repeated that sentence again. Few months later he proposed to me. After many trials and temptations, and against all odds, we got married. I did not want to remind him of his past foolishness. I was a little surprised that he proposed to a girl who clearly did not believe in God. I tried to forget his words about God. They made no sense anyway… But I could not uproot them from my heart. Like seeds, coming from a strange tropical aromatic plant from far away, they stayed in my heart for many years. I could not explain them. They just stayed there… until the year of God’s favor on me…
We were happy as two nice unbelievers can be. We finished Medical School and came to Nigeria as a young couple with two little children in 1980. In 1986 I had a crisis conversion and became born again. Not long after that I became filled with the Holy Spirit. My life changed so much that my parents did not recognize me when I visited them. I was a new creation in Christ Jesus. I lost all my fears and my doubts. I did not look like a Romanian or like a Nigerian… I look like ‘a peculiar’ person whose citizenship is in heaven. I became ‘foolish’ too, trusting God and praying to Him always! But this so called ‘foolishness’ became my protection and my strength. God humbled me and gave me more grace! Later, my beloved husband had his own crisis conversion. Our marriage was re-dedicated to God and became a ministry of its own. Richmond and I, we are married now for more than 45 years. We are both pastors in full time ministry in Warri, Nigeria. God had mercy on me for I acted in ignorance! Once the light shone, no one could stop it! I laughed at the words of God but I could not defeat them. Yes, God finally answered my husband’s wish to marry a woman who believes in God! This is our testimony… God’s ways are mysterious and they pass all human understanding! To God alone be all the glory!
“I never knew You will favor us this way…Thank You Jesus, Thank You my Lord” (Nigerian chorus)Give your life to Christ! Become born again! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!
In Christ I declare: I give all the glory to God for the salvation of my soul, for the salvation of my husband, for the salvation of our children and grandchildren, for our marriage and ministry together! In Jesus’ name, Amen!
(In the picture, my husband, Richmond Leigh and I, dressed in beautiful Nigerian attire; 02-07-2019)