BARGAINED WITH GOD AND LOST—OR SO I THOUGHT
In a bargain with God, if you win over Him, you shall have infinitely lost. If on the other hand God wins over you, you shall have infinitely won.
An Innocent Relationship—a Miracle!
I have showed above what a long road it was for me to get to the university. The distance was not in terms of time but in terms of the scarcity of resources, especially money for fees.
Although I never preoccupied my mind with the fact that I owed it to God to have taken me that far, I knew that the hand of God was at work in my life. I never allowed this to come to the foreground to influence the way I carried myself around.
All my life—this far—I hate smoking and alcohol-drinking. When I was preparing to go to the university, some of my friends and former schoolmates told me that at the university I will meet beautiful ladies some of whom smoke and drink. They predicted that the ladies would lure me into smoking and drinking. I disagreed. I hated the duo so much that if a lady was smoking and/or drinking, it wouldn’t matter how beautiful she was, I wouldn’t consider a relationship with her. If there was someone who could lead me astray, it could be a lady, but my stand that I wouldn’t allow anyone lead me into drinking or smoking, made me recognise that God had given me a strong will. This would soon turn out to be significant characteristic to help me stand firm against what is not right regardless of who perpetrates it.
At the university it was true, as expected, there were very beautiful ladies. The only problem for some of us who would have wanted to have multiple relationships was that the student population was packed in one big community. It would be tricky indeed with multiple dealings. There may have been some few ladies who smoke and or drink but I never came into contact with any. If they were doing it, it must not have been in public. To be sincere, I never saw a lady smoke.
God indeed had plans for me at the university. Considering the way I got saved and the things that preceded it, I can only say that I was saved almost like Paul’s case. It was a miracle that I had been at the university for over a year without hooking up with any lady there. I believe that if this happened, it could have complicated things in the way of my salvation. I had been eyeing some ladies but all of them had been slippery.
Something strange happened. Towards the end of the first academic year I got myself drawn to Cate, classmate. My nature all along was that when I am drawn to a lady, it would be for relationship purposes. This, however, was not the case with Cate. She became a good friend. For the first time in my life, I realised that it was possible to befriend a lady without any strings attached.
Cate was saved. I knew and respected that. I had never thought of compromising a saved lady. When I was drawn to her, I completely didn’t have any hidden agenda, I just liked her. We became so close with her that when I finally got saved many people were certain that I got saved because I wanted to get her.
Cate felt comfortable with me because she realised that I wasn’t making any suspicious moves on her.
After getting saved, we became even closer. Later on, I don’t know whether it was because of proximity playing its magic on me, or if it was something else. Apart from Cate’s voice, I noticed her legs. I had never been fuzzy about ladies’ legs, but this was until I noticed Cate’s. In fact, not even their hair. But even with the case of hair, I realised how a lady’s hair can grab a man’s attention when Laura’s hair caught my attention one afternoon (I will come back to this because there is something special about Laura).
A Foretaste of Death in Sin
The day looked like any other day. The daily routine comprised attending lectures; writing essays; a bit of reading here and there; eating and finally sleeping. Little did I know that I would be dead in some hours’ time.
Nothing had prepared me for it. I wasn’t sick. I had never died before, so I didn’t know how it feels to be dead. Death is something that we know is inevitable and can occur at any time, the problem, however, is that we always know that it happens to others and not to us, ours is always later in the remote future. Because of this, we are wont to be caught unawares whenever it strikes. This is the irony of death: it is something we know for sure is coming but we never prepare for.
So when I died that night, I was unprepared. What amazed me was that people around me were such in a hurry to bury me. As soon as I died, the coffin was ordered. In no minute, there was a big truck driving towards our home—it was carrying the coffin.
Because my people had indicated that I had to be buried immediately, I knew time was up when I saw the truck coming. But how was I to just give myself away to be buried?
I frantically pleaded that they don’t make haste in burying me. My cousin, Okomo, was especially decided. He told me, “Dead people don’t talk back. You are dead and you have to be buried—immediately!”
Someone reached out to grab me. “Nooo!” I protested, “Give me only five minutes. I will resurrect within that time. If I don’t, you can go ahead and bury me”, I pleaded.
I was shaking and sweating profusely in fear. I would accept anything except being buried. How do I free myself from the fangs of death?
My pleas fell on deaf ears. They asked, “Just how do you think you are going to resurrect?” They were reaching out to capture me one more time in order to be put in the casket. At this I bolted. I told them that they should allow me go for a along call in the bush. I ran away and squatted behind a small shrub. I didn’t know how I would resurrect; I only needed my five minutes.
It is a terrible thing to die in sin. I wish I could describe the terror and hysteria that accompany the feeling that one is about to be buried—dead in sin.
When I woke up, I was sweating and my heart was beating like a drum. It took me time to figure out that what I had just experienced was a dream. When I finally figured out that I was dreaming, I deeply thanked God that it was just a dream—but was it just a dream?
I had a chance to live one more time. That I will finally face “real death” some day was not a question of “if” but “when”.
Nothing had prepared me for it. I wasn’t sick. I had never died before, so I didn’t know how it feels to be dead.
Oh, how I wanted to brush it aside as “just a dream”—a meaningless dream at that. Just how could somebody dream that he is dead? The more I wanted to forget about it, the more I remembered that I asked for five minutes. The impression I got from that dream couldn’t just leave me alone. With time, however, I “forgot” about the dream.
It didn’t need an oneirocritic (an interpreter of dreams) to make sense of this dream. I decided not to tell this dream to anybody. I had two reasons for this: It was such a weird dream—I had never heard of anybody talk about dreaming that he died. The second reason was that I was not ready for the “obvious” interpretation that someone may come up with. If anybody came to the meaning that I believed was behind this dream, it would be a witness and a confirmation of what I needed to do.
Although I had initially vowed not to tell this dream to anybody, I found myself telling it to my roommate, Dan. He offered to give me the interpretation but I declined. I knew what he was going to tell me and I didn’t want to hear it. Dan was saved and I knew he was going to interpret the dream and come to just about the same meaning I would arrive at.
There was no doubt in my mind what the dream meant. The only problem was that I wasn’t ready to get saved and forget about women. One thing that was very clear to me was that the day I’d accept Christ in my life, I would have to stop chasing the ladies around. For me it was socially disorienting; psychologically torturing; biologically dehumanising, and naturally impractical to let go the girls. It was not in my power to do so, more so when I was not yet married. How was I going to live without sex for I don’t know how long?
Once in a while the experience of the dream popped up in my mind. The fact that I had asked for five minutes would also get my attention. Meanwhile, I wondered how much time in the spiritual realm the five minutes I asked for was.
Unknowingly Travelling the Road to Salvation
When I look back at my life and the experiences along the way, I realise that many things had been chain-events that were leading me to a point where it would be extremely difficult to turn my back on God. I never noticed it until it climaxed in my salvation. When I was going to the university, little did I know that the most important thing that was due to happen to me was not the degree I would get at the end of the course but a divine encounter that would change my destiny forever.
The following things were decisive in wrapping up my case for salvation: failing to hook up with any lady for a relationship; being drawn to Cate; the Bible study at Cate’s room; Gospel music played by my roommate An’giella; being chased from a friend’s room; ending up in a Sunday Service meeting.
Let me say more about the four last major events leading to my salvation:
Bible study in Cate’s Room:
One evening, I went to Cate’s room to borrow an iron box. I didn’t have one of my own at the time. As long as Cate had one, there was no pressure to buy one. I didn’t know they were having a Bible study. I knocked at the door, she opened. Sitting around the room were her Bible study group members. It was obvious that I didn’t belong in that setting—or so I thought. For a moment or two I was lost on what to say. I had apparently interrupted a discussion. I looked past Cate to get a clear view of who were there. Every one of them had an open Bible and a Bible study booklet in the hand.
Cate didn’t know I would be going to her room and under the circumstances I could tell that she didn’t know how to receive me. Was she to finish with me at the door so that they could continue with the Bible study, or ask me to join them? I looked again at the people sitting in the room. They were all staring at me. I presumed that they must have been agitated by my intrusion. Were they telling me to excuse myself and leave so that they could continue? I settled for the latter conclusion. It would be judicious to state my business and make it fast so that I could get out of the way.
Cate was still standing in front of me at the door. She had said nothing. I announced to her that I had wanted to borrow the iron box. If she could let me have it, I’d be out of the way in a moment. Before Cate could answer, there was what sounded like a choreographed plea from a number of group members: “Please, join us! You don’t have to go”.
Again, I had not rehearsed for a response to this invitation. What do I tell them? I told them that I wasn’t saved and that I didn’t belong there. They told me that it was alright with them. Tearing away became difficult, especially when it also looked like Cate wasn’t in a hurry to get me the iron box. She had been such a nice lady, I wouldn’t do anything that would hurt her.
She went and sat down. I concluded that she was also of the idea that I join them. I reluctantly followed behind her as they made room for me. Immediately I sat down, a Bible and a Bible study booklet were placed into my hands. Normally students would have only one Bible. Where did they readily get a Bible for me? It was like they knew I was coming and had made a provision!
I blankly looked at the Bible and the booklet. My being religious notwithstanding, this was the first time for me to be in a Bible study meeting. It was also the first time to handle a Bible Sttudy booklet in a setting that wasn’t theoretical but practical.
Soon the discussion was back on track. I was quiet for a while. Then a still voice spoke to me from within: Be good to your friend Cate! If you keep quiet like this, she may think that you were forced to sit here, that would make her uncomfortable.
That was a sensible way of looking at it. I started reading the questions in the booklet and the corresponding Bible references. From my religious background and the fact that I studied CRE (Christian Religious Education) all the way to A-Level, I was not green as far as biblical matters were concerned. I’d use my biblical knowledge to actively participate in the discussion.
I soon realised that this was not an academic discussion. The Bible study questions were formulated in a way that was soliciting practical personal reflection vis-à-vis the Scripture and prodding practical personal application in our daily life. The presence of the Spirit of God wouldn’t allow me to overtly play hypocrisy. So, in my contributions I stuck to “we” and “should”. Even when the question asked for personal and practical application, I didn’t talk about what I was doing—how I was living my life—but what we should be doing—how we should live our life in reference to the Word of God. I knew I was hiding behind “we” but never thought at the moment that it was a big deal.
Later that evening as I was lying down for the night, I heard what I believed was the Holy Spirit’s follow-up. A still voice had but ONE question for me: When you were in that Bible study, you waxed eloquent talking about what “WE” should be doing. The questions wanted YOUR personal application—the question is: what are YOU doing—how are YOU living your life in relation to the Word of God?
That was not a simple question. It was equally not rhetorical. I didn’t want to answer it, yet the question won’t go away. I stayed awake for a good deal of the night and when I finally slept, I wouldn’t say I had a good sleep that night.
My Roommate’s Gospel Music
Let me say something briefly about my roommate at the university. At the time we went to the university, Moi government had decided that before one takes his/her place at the university one had to serve in the NYS (National Youth Service), a military service.
One day at the NYS, as a commander read out names from the mails that had arrived, I heard my name being called out: “Daniel Owino!”
Because we were many students gathered at the spot, it took me time to elbow my way to the front where the commander was. When I reached, the letter was not there. I thought a friend who might have been closer to the commander had taken it and would soon hand it over to me. This was not to be. It “disappeared” with no trace at all. Letters, whether from relatives or friends, especially girlfriends, were extremely precious at the NYS camp. It was a hardship and cruel place. Letters were sources of consolation and inspiration regardless of the content.
Losing a letter even before reading it was not only a major loss but also haunting. I felt bad especially thinking that it might have been from a girlfriend. I bemoaned ‘my’ lost letter until three months later one afternoon when we finally reported at the university. I was given a key for one of the rooms at the students’ hostels at the campus. I would be sharing a room with another student.
I was in the room for hardly ten minutes when a short happy-looking young man, about my age, came in. He had his belongings with him. It needed no second thought to figure out that he would be my roommate.
We shook hands as he beat me at introduction: “Daniel Owino!” he said.
“How did you know my name?” I asked, mesmerized.
He was introducing himself yet I thought he was calling me. He repeated: “My names are Daniel Owino!”
“Oh I see!” I exclaimed and followed it up with a question, “Were you in the NYS?” I asked this because some people got exemption for medical reasons. He was indeed in the NYS.
“So you are the one who took my letter at the NYS!” I teased as we roared in laughter realising that we were not only going to be roommates but also namesakes. We had started on a very light note.
We agreed that we would inform our relatives, friends and acquaintances to include our fathers’ names so that we don’t have room fights over letters. He would be An’giella; I would be Ogweno. By the way, it happened that the letter at the NYS was incidentally his.
An’giella was saved, I wasn’t. Whenever he was playing music, it was always gospel. He had been playing his gospel music for almost one academic year. But one day, a Swahili Gospel singer, Foustin Munishi, caught my attention. Munishi was singing about the Gospel that had been preached which some have received and others rejected. He melancholically bemoaned the fate of those who have rejected salvation. I was under strong conviction. I became fully aware that I am one of those counted to have rejected salvation. I was not the crying type, but I found myself overcome by something that I don’t know what to call. I hid my face from An’giella and had very intense one minute shedding of tears. That music touched something in me that I wouldn’t forget. But like other momentary convictions that had fallen over me, I soon ‘forgot’ about it and lived my life the way I deemed gratifying.
A Friend Asked Me to Leave His Room
A friend and classmate, Julius Jwan, had bought a music system. Like iron box, I was yet to buy one. I used to go to his room, play his music and dance. One Sunday morning after breakfast I had gone to his room to play the music. I had played two songs when he politely asked me to let him have his peace so that he could read. Exams were pending.
Although what he was saying was reasonable, I felt like I had been chased by a friend. I went to my room and for the first time, felt so out of place. I looked for something to read for the exams my friend was also preparing for. I didn’t have any notes. I am pathetically slow writer. The pace of the lecturers had been too much for me a result of which I didn’t have notes from the lectures. It was Sunday, the library was closed.
Ended Up in a Sunday Service Meeting
Early that morning, around 9 O’clock as I was coming from breakfast in the dining hall, I saw a lady carrying a Bible wrapped in a clean white crochet. When I felt out of place in my room, a thought came to me. I could go to the CU (Christian Union) meeting and see what they were doing there. It would be my first time. I started off, walked along the hostel’s corridor. I had reached the stairs, when a thought came to me: You can’t go to the meeting without a Bible! With that, I made about turn; went back to my room and started looking for my dust-infested, time-forsaken old Bible. It was the one I used in my A-Levels. It didn’t take me long to locate it. I picked it and made for the meeting one more time.
I was walking down the stairs again when a thought crept in my mind one more time: Consider the Bible you are carrying—it doesn’t look good! I looked at the Bible and realised that times had taken toll on it—it was old, the covers had fallen off; some of the pages were loose. Certainly, this is an embarrassing Bible to show up with in a congregation, I concluded.
I walked back to my room. I started debating within me whether to go without a Bible or not. My religious tradition was that when one is going to a meeting, one must take a Bible with him. Another voice came up to put a stop at my attempt to go to the meeting: Remember when you saw that lady going to the meeting. It was about an hour ago. With that I concluded, “It is too late to go to that meeting.” That was when An’giella my roommate came in. After breakfast he had tarried conversing with friends in the dining hall. I was surprised to see him. I thought he had gone to the meeting.
“You didn’t go to the meeting today?” I asked.
“I am soon on my way”, he answered.
“I saw a lady going to the meeting about an hour ago”, I reminded him to suggest that he was extremely late for the meeting. He explained that she must have been an usher. They usually go one hour earlier to pray and prepare the place for the meeting. As a matter of fact the meeting was yet to begin.
“Do you want to come with me?”
He took advantage of the conversation to invite me. It was the first time he was asking me to accompany him. Interestingly, I had already made two abortive attempts to go to that meeting. It didn’t therefore need a lot of pushing to get me to accompany him. I picked my old Bible and we stepped out of the room. Walking down the stairs, the whisper came back again: That Bible is pathetic! I abruptly stopped. An’giella asked me if I forgot something. I was staring at the Bible in my hand.
“It is this Bible”, I told him, “it is embarrassingly dilapidated—how can I show up with something like this?”
“That shouldn’t be a problem!” He assured me, “I can get you a Bible.” We went back into the room and he pulled out a Bible and gave it over to me.
A Man Gave Away His Son to Be Crushed by a Train
At the meeting, we sat in the middle of the lecture theatre. About 500 students had gathered for the service. The choir sang some songs before the preacher took the stage.
Rose Mutabaruka was not supposed to preach on this day. She explained that an external preacher who was invited to preach could not make it. She had to step-in last minute but equally believed that it was the will of God for her to do so because she had a special assignment. God had shown her that there would be someone in the meeting that she must speak some specific message to. As she said this, it didn’t for a moment occur to me that I could be the ‘someone’—someone could be anyone.
I can’t remember how much she read from the Scripture but I remember that the emphasis of her reading was John 3:14:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.
She illustrated her message with a story of a boy who asked his father to allow him stand in the way of a train that would otherwise plunge hundreds of people into death.
The boy and his father were walking one afternoon when they realised that the flood had broken a bridge. A train was due in a couple of hours. In a rural community where telephone services were not readily available, there was no way to communicate to the authorities to have the train stopped before it could be too late. There was little that could be done; there was no doubt that the train would come and plunge into the waters. Hundreds of lives would soon be lost.
They thought for a while before the boy announced that he felt a call to save the many lives that were in danger. He told his father that he would stand on the railway line so that he could be hit by the train. He would die—one person—but hundreds of lives would be saved.
His father asked him why he would want to lose his life for people he didn’t even know. He reminded his father about the story his father had been telling him about Jesus dying in order to save mankind who, up to that time, were the enemies of God. The people in the train were strangers yes, but they were not enemies.
With the father’s blessings the boy was ready to save the people. They walked for one hour in the direction where the train was due to come from. The boy would stand in an open place along the railway line. The train would hit him a result of which the train driver would start breaking. Their walking away from the bridge was meant to give the train enough breaking distance.
The train came and the boy was history. Furious the train driver and the passengers came out cursing and raging at the man. How could he stand there watching the train come while a boy stands on its way? He told them: “His death is in exchange for your lives; one life lost, many lives saved—isn’t that a fair bargain?” They were stunned.
There is life for me because someone died.
That engaged me; that was something beautiful; something that was compatible with the desire of my heart. Though I was not saved yet, it was natural for me to seek the general good for others. That was my soft spot. I fought a lot when I was a young boy. Many of the fights were on behalf of others. I hated to see an innocent person being molested.
I want to dramatise and embellish the story above. Don’t take it as an exaggeration but as a point of emphasising a point or two to get the reader realise how we can easily ridicule something that we owe our life to.
Let us put it this way: You are a little baby travelling with your parents in a train that would soon plunge everybody on board into a tragic death. The boy above gives away his life for the hundreds of people in the train, including you. When the train stops, you are too young to understand what is going on.
As you grow up, your parents never remember or care to tell you about the near tragedy that would have taken your life at that tender age among others. You have grown to be very successful person. You marry and get your own children. Somebody comes and is preaching to one of your sons, saying: “Did you know that you owe your life to someone—someone died in order that you may live today!”
She illustrated her message with a story of a boy who asked his father to allow him stand in the way of a train that would otherwise plunge hundreds of people into death.
While this is true—literally—he neither knows nor understands what the preacher is talking about. And who can blame him? He is a second generation benefactor of a boy’s benevolence. You were a baby when it happened. But the fact is, if you didn’t survive, your child wouldn’t even have been born. This is not only true for the second generation but all the descendants in the tree of your genealogy.
The little boy whose story Mutabaruka told above had heard the father talk about sacrifice and loving others unto death—laying down one’s life for the sake of others. This made it ‘easy’ to reconcile the prompting to save lives with the will of God. But there are many parents who don’t tell such stories.
How many of us are alive today because someone died and we don’t even know it either because were not told about it; or because of ignorance or indifference in our distant past?
Whether the story was fictional illustration or literally true, the message was potent. I like the picture of selflessness and sacrificing on behalf of others it portends. I also like the story for it re-enacts the story of God the Father giving away His Son to save mankind. The story of the boy was a realistic way of looking at it.
Convicted to Get Saved at the ‘Wrong Time’
The story of the boy moved me but it wasn’t what got me transfixed—the drama was yet to unfold. Towards the end of her preaching, as she was making the altar call, she got the word of knowledge and started pointing out some very specific things in my life, including the very latest. This lady and her husband lived on the other side of the campus and was not in any way in our hostels that morning to see how I walked back and forth; on the stairs, etc. There was no way she could know that I had felt out of place in my own room that morning. She talked about these very specifically.
She stopped preaching to the crowd and started speaking to ‘one person’—a specific person. She said. “It is YOU God is calling”. After talking about specific things about me that I hadn’t told anybody at the campus, she had convinced me she was talking to me. But how could I just get saved at that “wrong” time. And the time was wrong because of Alice.
At one time I was visiting Recadus, a former schoolmate and a close friend. That was when our paths crossed with Alice. What a breath-taking beauty! The first impressions that struck me when I saw her were: This lady is too beautiful to be available; and too beautiful to accept me. What on earth would I do to win this lady for myself?
Alice was everything right for me. Both her complexion and physique perfectly combined with her mien to bring out a balance that was truly my type. I loved her with an instant love—or was it an infatuation? If this instant love could be constant affection, it would be heaven on earth marrying such a lady.
But there were more fears. There was a chance I might not even meet her again.
I made it clear to Recadus that the lady had captured my imagination for a masterpiece of a dame. How was I going to get her? Everything was odd ranging from the brief meeting to the distance from where I lived and where I met her.
To cut the long story short, after a year of hassling to convince this lady through letter writing that I loved her, I was about to give up. Just when I was about to accept the reality that winning Alice was too good a dream to come to pass, Recadus wrote and informed me about good news. Both he and Alice had been coincidentally admitted into the same college. That brought Alice within range—not geographically though but proximally. Recadus would help me keep track. He had given me the address and advised me to write to Alice one more time. I did.
It was a Friday when I received a reply from her. She told me that she had kept me in the cold because she wanted to be sure if I really loved her. In the letter, she told me that she was ready to travel across the country to come and visit me at the university. I was only to set the date and she would be on her way.
Normally I would respond to such letters the same day. But on this case, my excitement notwithstanding, I postponed that I would write on Saturday. Saturday came and went. I thought I would write on Sunday and post it on Monday.
Sunday came and there I was, sitting in the Lecture Theatre 3, a place which that far had been for attending lectures but which, for the committed Christians, was also the venue for Sunday Services.
“You are getting saved today!” Mutabaruka persisted and kept on repeating it.
That Mutabaruka was talking to me was no longer in any doubt. There couldn’t have been anybody in the theatre with identical particulars that she pointed out about me. When she insisted that “You are getting saved today!” I responded in my heart, “If someone was getting saved today, then it is not me—it’s completely the wrong time to get saved, not when Alice has just asked to come and visit me.”
“You know that I am talking with YOU, and you know that God is calling YOU”, she was not giving up.
“It is not me!” I protested—in my heart.
Something strange began to happen. Mutabaruka started replying promptly to my protests as if she heard what I said in my heart.
“It is you!”
This exchange went on for a while before I changed to another way of escape.
“Ok, if it’s me, then it doesn’t have to be today, I’ll get saved some day!”
Immediately I said this in my heart, she was prompt again: “It is you and it is today!” This exchange also went on for a while.
It was now her and me. “Remember the occasions you were dying and you called upon God and He heard you!” This was going too far—further than was realistic. She got me one more time in that one. But how could I just get saved; what about Alice? If the unthinkable was to happen so that I ended up getting saved, what would I tell Alice? No! Getting saved that morning was not an option.
Face-to-Face With Death
Yes, I had come face-to-face with death on many occasions. While fishing in Lake Victoria, I, among others, escaped a number of capsizing moments. There was also this time when we encountered a crocodile as we were swimming in the lake. (1) There was also this time I ignorantly stood in the way of omoro—a large animal that would have horned me to death (I don’t know what it is called in English).
Although I had had many face-to-face experiences with death, when Mutabaruka reminded me about the day I was dying but called upon God and He answered, I remembered one afternoon when I knew I was losing my life.
Fast backtrack: I was repeating Form 4 in Mbita High School. When thieves stole the school’s water pump, little did I know that a chain of events had begun that would 5 years later facilitate my meeting Christ.
It was a day just like any other day. Nothing warned me of what would happen later in the afternoon. The announcement that the school’s water pump had been stolen was not something that invoked serious concerns among the students. The immediate consequence was that we would have to go and bathe at and fetch water (for washing our utensils) from the adjacent Lake Victoria—Africa’s largest fresh water lake. We had to acquire 5-litre jerrycans (locally called kube) with which to fetch water.
Although we felt sorry for the administration’s frustration to organise for alternative ways of getting water, especially for cooking for the over 500 boarding students, going to the lake was a welcome idea. We would, on a daily basis, not only leave the school compound where we felt like prisoners, but also get the opportunity to swim.
Most of the students were coming from the interior parts of the country where no lakes, big rivers or swimming pools existed for them to learn how to swim. Those of us from the lake region were considered as “experts”. We were the lifeguards for them that were not so familiar with the lake.
A young boy had just lost grip of his jerrycan. The offshore wind picked it and was blowing it away. Fearing that he might drown, he turned to me for help. By the time I caught up with the jerrycan, it was way off into the deeper parts of the lake.
No sooner had I come back ashore than another young boy came to me crying that a jerrycan he had borrowed was being blown away. When I looked, it was already some distance into the water. Unaware that I had spent just about all the energy I had chasing after the first jerrycan, I made for the water one more time. I managed to catch up with it but when I stretched my hand to grasp it, I accidentally knocked and consequently pushed it further away. I had to swim again for another about five metres to catch up with it one more time. When I tried again, the same thing happened—that was the second time. When the same thing happened again for the third time, I knew something was wrong. When I pushed the jerrycan away instead of grasping it for the third time, it coincided with a telepathic panic which hit me like lightning.
“Was that a crocodile?!” I responded to the panic that had beaten me so hard all my strength was gone.
I thought my sixth sense had just warned me of a crocodile. I abandoned attempting to continue going after the jerrycan. I looked round, no crocodile. I looked at the shore and what I show shocked me, adding to more fretfulness. The jerrycan had lured me far away from the shore. There was completely no strength remaining by which to swim back to the shore. Frantic struggle to hold on to life had begun in earnest.
My frenetic calls for help couldn’t be heard. The shore was too far away. But even if they could hear, there was no lifeguard. No one among the students at the shore at the time could swim well enough to reach where I was and help me out of the water. If anything, even if someone was to come by the time one reached where I was, I would have sunk.
I looked at the sky hoping against reality that something would hang over me—something I could hold on to. If only imaginations could create, I had imagined hard enough going up rather than down. Just before, I sank, I thought, “Is it true that I am dying—just like that!”
The water at the bottom was extremely cold—much colder than water at the surface. I held my breath and kicked my way back to the surface. It happened twice. An inner voice spoke to me, “Your third sinking will be the last—you aren’t coming back to the surface!”
I looked at the sky one more time. The birds were flying, crisscrossing the space as if they meant to taunt me. “How lucky they are!” I thought. I looked at the shore, the students that were there had realised that something was wrong. They had lined up along the shore as if to witness my drowning. I called on God, “Please help me! I don’t want to die”.
He did! He sent a lifeguard. No—not a human being. One of the students threw another jerrycan towards me. Because of the distance between me and the shore, the jerrycan couldn’t reach me simply by throwing. Thanks to the offshore breeze. It would blow it to reach me, meanwhile, where would I get strength to stay afloat as I waited for it to reach me so that I could clutch onto it?
As it approached, I realised that it wasn’t coming directly to where I was. It would pass-by by about 5 metres—a distance that is like hundred of kilometres for a drowning person. If I couldn’t get enough strength to stay afloat, how would I swim 5 metres to intercept the jerrycan which was now threatening to pass-by? It was my last hope and watching it go past me was a confirmation that my case was sealed and my time was up.
What happened next was a miracle, fresh from heaven. Even though I was only religious and not saved, I knew that I had had another divine visitation. As I gave what could have been the last dying kicks, I felt like someone was blowing into my nose, a warm air—unmistakeably distinct from the air around me. I found myself deeply inhaling it, like when you are inhaling sweet-smelling aroma. Immediately a surge of energy invaded my being, reviving my muscles. I swam violently and caught up with the jerrycan. It was like the energy I was given was only to reach the jerrycan. It was gone as soon as I clutched onto the jerrycan.
I secured the jerrycan under my belly, guarding it with my arms, making sure that it didn’t slip. As long as I could hold on to it so as to stay afloat, I didn’t care how much the off-shore wind would blow me away from the shore. After resting for a while I started stroking with my feet, using the energy I had accumulated from the rest very economically.
Back to the Sunday Service: Mutabaruka repeated: “Remember when you were dying and you called upon God and He heard you!” In a flash of a thought I remembered the many cases where I had cheated death by a whisker but my mind settled especially on the above case. It didn’t matter if there were others in the meeting who had come so close to dying. I knew that I could have died but the Lord rescued me.
The Spirit and the Flesh in a Tug of War
At this point, the kind of feeling I had was like I was a rope in a tug of war. The spirit was holding one end of me and the flesh the other. Being pulled to opposite directions by powerful forces at the same time with almost equal strength is one of the most painful things.
The conviction was overwhelming, but I had no power to let go of my new found love—not before I even had a taste of what Alice’s love was like. Surely, it was a wrong time indeed. When I thought I settled it by postponing getting saved in order to provide a room for Alice in my life, my familiarity with the Bible kicked in. The Spirit of God reminded me of what I had once read in the Bible and paraphrased it to suit my position: Cursed is a man who chooses a woman instead of God (See Jeremiah 17:5-7).
The heat of the fight was immense. It was hardly 11 o’clock in the morning and the room temperature was not high enough to make anybody sweat yet I was sweating profusely. Joining almost immediately were tears—I was crying. And as if that was not enough, my nose was also oozing its stuff. My face was therefore playing host of a messy mixture of sweat, tears and mucous. I was in a bad shape, deplorably humbling.
My face was increasingly becoming runny with floods of tears, mucous and sweat. I would have reached out to my pocket for a handkerchief to wipe it but something else had blocked that course of action—my heart was beating so hard I thought the drum-like sound it was generating was disturbing people around me. If they had not been already distracted by the pounding of my heartbeat, any movement of my hands or any other part of my body might draw their attention to me. I wouldn’t allow anybody see me in that kind of disgrace. I was therefore transfixed.
There was also something strange that had joined the fray. I realised that the heartbeat and the sweating was so familiar—something I was reliving. This was supposed to be the first time to be in this kind of situation, but why was it so familiar? Things were happening so fast. I promptly remembered that this was exactly the same experience I had when I dreamt that I was dead. I would do anything not to relieve that experience.
I decided to flee from the place. I stood up hastily only to realise that because I sat in the middle, turning towards the doors would mean that people sitting behind would see my messy face. I wouldn’t allow anyone, especially the ladies to see my face. There was a small door down near the stage. If I made for that door, people behind me would not see my face, and people in front of me may not turn to look at me. That was the best option in the circumstances.
There was, however, another technicality I didn’t think about when I shot up. There was no way I would get to “the door of escape” without passing extremely close to the preacher.
Immediately I stood up and made for her direction, she thought I was going over to her to get saved. She was shouting in victory, sounding like she had just identified the most wanted in an identification parade: “Here he is; he is the one!” She had positioned herself ready to receive me. This even made me want to run more. If only I could turn into an insect and just dodge my way out of the place! I didn’t run though. Reason: her repeated shouts of “he is the one” drew everybody’s attention to me. There was no better way to ‘hide’ than close my eyes. I also realised that whenever my eyes were opened a flood of tears would pour generously. As I made it down the theatre terraces, I was alternately opening and closing my eyes. The opening of my eyes was to help me see the next few steps; closing them was to help me hide and also control the outpouring of tears. Mutabaruka intercepted me at a time when my eyes were closed.
Many of us are alive today because someone died but we don’t even know it.
There was also a lady who had come from the left side of the theatre. Although the purpose of my standing up was to get out of the place, I became completely powerless and extremely obedient doing whatever Mutabaruka asked me to do the moment she laid hands on me. My escape plan had been foiled all the same and all I had wanted to escape from finally caught up with me. People, including ladies would see me crying; not only that, they would also see my messy face and I was getting saved all the same.
“Turn and face the crowd!” she, actually, ordered. I thank God she did.
It was awkward facing the crowd with closed eyes, so I opened them. It was like opening flood gates—I had never had a downpour of tears like that day. At this time, I didn’t care who was looking. I had played all my tricks to hide and had run short of more ideas. It was time to let nature take its own course—or was it the spirit taking its own course? Mutabaruka led me into saying repentance prayer and calling Christ into my life. By speaking the words as she had asked me to repeat, I realised that I liked the ‘taste’ of words that were putting me right with God. My crying had quickly changed from the pain of tearing from the gratification of the sensual man to the joy of regenerating the spiritual man. The government of sensuality had been overturned and the government of spirituality had been installed.
I finally had my “resurrection” on the 22nd January 1989. Thank God! I was not going to be buried after all. Boy, that was close!—I was lucky, or wasn’t I? It was almost a year after asking for the five minutes. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour and life has never been the same again. I realised immediately that it was all I had been looking for. The ladies couldn’t fill the vacuum that was gaping inside of me.
I Take No Credit, Humbled by Grace and Mercy
The following are factors that helped me get the life that I now so cherish:
If you have followed my story well this far you may have realised that I was a beneficiary of grace and mercy. I could have gone the wrong way even after God brought me to a point where it ought to have been obvious what to go for.
My case reminds me of the story in the Bible where after Moses had made it clear that before them the children of Israel had to make a choice and the best choice ought to have been obvious, He still ‘helped’ them by telling them what to choose. Let us look at the story:
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; …
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
I was “forced” to choose God even though I knew that this was far much better than choosing his creation ahead of Him. As you saw from the earlier experiences, I had enough of God’s favour amid difficulties. These could have been enough to make me guard my relationship with Him with zeal but I pushed the experiences into my subconscious, and lived my life the way youthful desires dictated. Superficial religion was all that defined my relationship with God.
Characteristics of Child-bearing
A woman understands the idea of “pushing” in the process of child-bearing. The baby has to be pushed out of the comfort of the womb into the new life. For me, most of the characteristics that accompany physical birth were in place during my spiritual birth: A woman; pushing; crying and the helplessness of the new baby.
Was it scriptural for her to have “pushed” a bit too much? The answer is, Yes! Being born-again and the physical birth share some basic characteristics: newness of life; being pushed out of a former comfort and familiar territory; the discomfort that one realises as one breaks away from the former life.
Some people may interpret “pushing” as being forced into salvation thereby making it sound negative. For me this “pushing” is positive because it is the picture with physical birth. If we know that failure to push a baby out of the womb means that the baby will die, how much more need we to push people to be born-again, knowing that failure to do this means that they would die eternal death? Is it biblical? The Bible tells us in Jude 23: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (italics, my emphasis).
I Never Chose Christ, He Chose Me
I had been extremely religious yet when the time came for me to choose Christ I attempted to run away. I didn’t take the initiative to choose Christ. He took the initiative to choose me. The Bible says that we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), in the same way, we choose Him because He first chose us. Yes, it is true that I have chosen Christ but I was only able to do this after He chose me first.
Like the apostle Paul, I consider to have been “abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15:8 NIV). But being abnormally born has its disadvantages—humanly speaking. I believe that the challenges I have faced in life may be partly or wholly because of this “abnormal birth”. I have been tested in some of the most cruellest ways imaginable.
The Bible tells us about the sons of Sceva who tried casting out demons in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches. The demons responded that Paul they knew and that they knew Jesus as well, but they never knew the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16). This is not exclusive to those abnormally born but being abnormally born will always bring one into a direct collision course with the collusion by the powers of darkness—and this is not good news for the human side of us.
It Is Not the Stature but the Status
After getting saved, I found myself beginning to desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Before I got saved I had been critical of speaking in tongues. But after giving my life to Christ, without a struggle or anyone trying to make me understand what the Bible says about speaking in tongues, tongue-speaking mysteriously ceased to be offensive to me. I developed a longing and craving to be filled.
I can’t tell whether it was because of the longing I had or something else, but it looked to me like it took ages before I got filled. It reached a point where I started speculating the reasons why I wasn’t getting filled. One of the speculations was that I was being “punished” for having been critical about things I had no knowledge about.
Finally the day came when I was filled. It was brother Kibuchi who was ministering. I knew Kibuchi even before I got saved. He was one of these people that you’d almost think wore an inscription on their face, reading: “I am saved.” What I mean here is that one couldn’t come into contact with Kibuchi and miss the fact that he was saved. But he was small in stature.
One day, Kibuchi was called upon to preach during a Sunday Service. When he stood from the chair to take the platform, I felt so sorry for him. I naively despised his stature: “This small man against a multitude of about 500 students, staring at him! He is going to wobble and faint!” the thought ran through my mind.
How I was wrong! Kibuchi preached a rare sermon. I was blessed and amazed at the same time.
Though God was not generous packing his body with muscles and form, He was in giving him a voice. Kibuchi had a commanding voice able to meet any demanding audience. His voice absolutely compensated for his size. Nevertheless, a deep voice of that nature coming out of that small body was some kind of imbalance, almost humorous.
God was teaching me some important lesson—that He doesn’t position us according to our stature, but according to our status in Him. The commanding spiritual position that Kibuchi enjoyed was way above what stature would have given him if it was a man positioning people.
It was my last hope and watching it go past me was a confirmation that my case was sealed and my time was up.
God used Kibuchi, the small-bodied man, to preside over my being filled with the Holy Spirit.
My infilling was cast in a recognisable trend. We were in a room—a lecture theatre; there was no wind blowing in the room. A warm prevailing and intervening air surged on my face. I drew in a deep breath; I opened my mouth as well and used both the mouth and the nose to draw in long and deep from this warm air. I opened my eyes to see who was blowing on my face, there was nobody standing in front of me. Kibuchi who was praying for us to receive the Holy Spirit was at a distance. Before I knew it, I was speaking in tongues.
Later I thought about the warm breath. It had been so familiar. Then I remembered that it was unmistakeably the same breath that revived my strength when I was at the verge of drowning.
Since then, the surge of warm breath on my face has become a “trade mark” that God occasionally uses to confirm to me the presence and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in a meeting or a place.
Forced Pizza into My Son’s Mouth
Was I kind of “forced” into salvation? Yes I was—in the sense of a baby being forced out of the birth canal. In retrospect, I have no problem at all by the way Mutabaruka snatched me from a sure road to eternal damnation. The experience was extremely painful for my flesh but eternally rewarding for my spirit.
In some way, the kind of experience I had with salvation is like what my elder son, Victor, had with pizza. No pizza would ever get past his lips. He never liked pizza at all. The interesting thing was that it was not because he had tasted and disliked the taste. He just had an attitude that disfavoured pizza. Too young to reason, we didn’t know why the boy didn’t want to eat pizza. All our attempt to persuade him to eat pizza fell on deaf ears. Notwithstanding though, I knew that it would only take a taste to make the boy know how good pizza was. We finally lost patience when he was about seven. We had done enough trying to beg him to have but a bite.
I only did it once, and that was enough—I forced pizza into his mouth, and today, he is glad I did! One day, I literally forced a piece of pizza into his mouth and warned him of dire consequence if he spitted it out. He reluctantly started chewing it, increasing the tempo with the subsequent munchings. I was watching his face and it didn’t show like the pizza was gawky in his mouth. When he finally swallowed it, we could tell that he had “needed” the pizza all along. I couldn’t believe it when he pulled the other piece that was still in my hand. The long awaited feasting had begun in earnest. Since then, pizza ranks amongst the top of his favourites. He is now 12, he has had 6 wonderful years of pizza. When he “pesters” us for pizza we tease him that it is the same pizza he never wanted to get anywhere near his mouth.
The Bible says: “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8).
When we are thirsty, it is easy to seek water and drink. Nobody would need to plead with us to get water to quench our thirst. But even if we are not thirsty, we’ll still need water in our body. In the absence of thirst we may need a knowledgeable person in the matter to convince us that we need a certain amount of water daily to keep our system working at optimal.
Many people erroneously think that salvation is for people who are undergoing problems; people who are desperate, poor, troubled, etc. In some sense it is, but not in the sense that many people take it to mean. Many people generally misunderstand Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The fact is that anybody who has not reconciled with God through Christ is bearing a heavy burden. Ironically, some of the most serious burdens we bear are those that masquerade as sources of pleasure. The things that are going for us; things that ensure our comfort and pleasure are the worst burdens that we need to take to Jesus: the pursuit of relationships; power; wealth; knowledge, etc.
At the time I was confronted with the need to accept Christ, I had everything generally going for me. The struggles characteristic of my early life were over—or so I thought. I was doing very well academically; a job was guaranteed upon finishing my studies; Alice had said yes; even at the university there were beautiful ladies and it was just a question of time before I hooked up with one—at least. It never occurred to me that all these things could be real burdens unless of course I turned to God for instructions on how to manage my life according to the Book. I needed Christ more than I needed the pleasures of the world.
God doesn’t position us according to our stature, but according to our status in Him.
In life, we may not know what we need, sometimes until somebody “forces” it down our throat. It may not be possible to force salvation in someone’s life the way I pushed pizza in my son’s mouth. However, the Spirit of God can lead you to perceive that one is at the verge of being born. Such a person can be helped by some manner of “pushing” to get him out of the womb that would soon become a tomb into a new life. If we don’t leave the womb in a prescribed time, it would soon become a tomb.
Salvation, and the subsequent relationship with Christ, is like water, something we need whether we feel thirsty or not. It is also like a pizza that a boy rejects but when he tastes of it, puts it at the top of his list of the favourite foods.
I was not looking for Christ when He met me. I was extremely reluctant to be saved, but when the woman of God made me taste it, I had a moment of Aha, what a discovery!! This was what I had needed all my life and I will need for the rest of my life!
It was after I had tasted of the mercy, love and grace unto salvation that I started craving for more and more of His virtues. We cannot crave for salvation until we have tasted it. This is what the apostle Peter says:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good
—1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV.
Note that babies cannot crave the mother’s milk before they are born. This explains why people who are not born again don’t crave for the Word of God.
If only Christ would be “forced” into people’s lives, they would, at the end of the day be glad they were forced. Too bad it can’t be done that way.
Procceed to Chapters 13-14