“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1Cor 15:10)
Recently I remembered a 20 years old story about our youngest daughter, Jemine. She is the only one of our children who was born in Nigeria. She grew up in Warri, Nigeria. She loves Nigerian food, Nigerian jokes and Nigerian Pidging English. She now lives with her husband and two sons in Houston, Tx. She was 15 when, as a family, we went to the U.S. We stayed there for a year and a half, not knowing at that time what the future will bring. During that time the Holy Spirit commanded us to go back to Warri and start a church called Father’s House. We obeyed. But God’s call was not easy. We left our daughters (Alina and Jemine) behind and alone… My husband and I wept as we went back to Nigeria. Our church was born with tears but now we rejoice at the great harvest of joy…
Jemine did her last year of high school in Houston, Tx. She had to adjust to a new culture, new class-mates, new teachers and a new English accent. Knowing that her father and I will soon go back to Nigeria, and my time with Jemine was so short (you know, mother feelings…), I cherished every day as her mother… so much more than in the past. Each day as I prepared lunch, I thank God for the privilege to cook for my child… I wanted to go to Nigeria with a free heart… I knew that ministry over there will demand all my energy… So for now, I could be just a wife and a mother…Because my feelings were so sensitive and alert, that is why I remember so clearly these things, little details from that period…
One day Jemine came from school looking sad. She said: ‘Malia, I want to change my name…’ I asked her ‘why?’… She said ‘Malia, in teh whole school, I am the only one with this name, Jemine… I don’t like it…I feel lonely…’ Some girls laughed at me today… many others cannot pronounce it… many forget my name… some others call me ‘Jem’ and they add ‘bread and jam’… She looked so sad… With pain in my heart I asked her: ‘What name do you want to have?’ she said: ‘Maybe Heather or Jessica…’ Why, I asked… she said ‘because there are three Heathers and two Jessicas in my class…’ (If you are reading this letter and your name is Heather or Jessica, I am sorry. These are nice names too…) Jemine said to me that if she has the same name like them, she will not be lonely, she will not be so different… She will feel that she belongs to America…
I quickly prayed in my spirit for the right words to say. Slowly, lovingly and patiently (Oh, mother’s work is not easy…) I tried to explain to my 15 years daughter the beauty and the power of being herself. I told her that God created her unique and special. She does not have to be like anybody. She does not have to join the choir when she can be the soloist… I told her that together we shall pray for her to discover her true identity, not as an American, or as a Nigerian, or as a Romanian, but as a child of God!!! I told her that the grace of God is upon her. The unmerited favor of the Almighty God will reveal to her who she truly is. The Holy Spirit will open her eyes to see how God, her Creator, sees her. She does not have to change anything about her looks, the type of hair she has, the color of her skin or the size of her hips…She does not have to be ‘white, black, mixed or anything…She just have to be herself! I said: ‘Jemine, I love you! Me, your mother for life I say that you are very beautiful, kind, intelligent and wonderful and that I love you!!!! Hide these words in your heart! Never throw them away. I love you, daughter…’
I told her: a new, fancy, more American acceptable name, will not help her find peace with herself and others. Only God is able to give her true confidence and security. I told her that this identity is found in Christ alone. Money cannot buy it, men cannot give it and thieves cannot steal it. I said: ‘Now say: ‘My name is Jemine. I am a child of God!’ Say it daily! Say it often! Say it loudly! Say it when I am in Nigeria and you are here alone! Say it until you believe it!’
To the glory of God, she listened well. She relaxed and accepted the word. The grace of God upon her produced spiritual fruits! She is now a woman of God, a worship leader, a happy wife to Matthew and a wonderful mother to Oliver Sisan Oakes (yes, Sisan is a Nigerian name, my husband’s middle name) and baby Emory David Oakes. She has a good job and she is a blessing to many! Glory to God!!!
Dear Reader, take Jemine’s struggles with identity as a point of contact for yourself. Pray and ask God to reveal to you, who are you? Why are you born in this world? Why are you still alive? What is your identity and destiny as decreed by God? It does not matter what people say, especially if they say negative words! What is important is God’s opinion about you! That is the truth! God created you and knows you the best! God never makes mistakes! God loves you! Accept that! May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you!
(in the picture, Jemine and me on her wedding day)
Emory David Oakes, our youngest grandson, is 10 days old. Is he not cute? God’s grace radiates on him!
Nepotelul nostru are 10 zile (Romanian)