---Chapter 21 (Continued)---
First I Cried, Then Laughed—A Season for Everything
May I not play an angel. I have already noted that we exhibited ambivalent reactions concerning our case. At the beginning, when we were still struggling to find our bearing, trying to reconcile our medical reality with our spiritual heritage, there were moments we acted just like any human being would.
It was only because the Lord moved close and fast enough to point out the hope we have in Him that we never wallowed in and swallowed by hopelessness. A dear sister in the Lord whom we happened to tell our plight told us that immediately she learnt of our condition, she remembered Jeremiah 29:11 and believed that it was God’s word for us:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (NIV).
I had read this portion of the Bible and heard it quoted several times for several reasons but on this particular day, it was so real and new. I could feel the effect of the said hope enlivening my bones. This hope made us cope. It is this hope that made it possible to laugh in front of a doctor who had just given me not more than two years to live. But before I tell about this verdict let me say something about a time that I had to cry over the issue.
Before we got our bearing, and as we were waiting for the result of my test, my wife once made a comment that caught up with me at my place of work. As we were waiting for the result of my test, she said: “I pray that your test will turn negative so that you will remain with the kids while I am gone”. We had hoped and prayed that our second born wouldn’t be affected by the virus. I rebuked her and told her that nobody was going anywhere. I was leaving for work when she made this comment.
On my way to work, I started thinking about what she said. The more I thought about it, the more I got overtaken by emotion. I struggled with two opposing voices. One voice was saying that it would be a miracle if I pass the test. Expecting that another miracle would also follow, meaning my wife would be healed, is expecting too much. The voice also maintained that if both of us would be positive, then expecting that we be healed is being naively overambitious, not to mention the plight of the forthcoming baby. The other voice simply maintained: “Nothing is impossible with God!” It turned out that, as the Bible says, God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20). God still had one more sweet surprise for us—He gave us our third born. First her conception was miraculous, second, she passed the test, and third she is a sweet praise-singing little girl, a real blessing. That was a short detour.
Could God bring me that far; dangle a bright future on my face and then allow me to be snipped at the bud when I was beginning to blossom?
I was working in Chinese Palace Restaurant where I was basically washing and cleaning cutleries in the kitchen. I reached my place of work when the emotion was getting the best of me. What really did my wife imply? She had implied that her case was sealed; that soon she wouldn’t be there. I found that too difficult to cope with especially because of the voice that nagged me saying that it is unrealistic to think that all of us would be that lucky.
In China Palace Restaurant I had started washing the cutleries when my boss came and gave me a new assignment. She came just at the right time. I was just about to start crying, having found what my wife said too hard to deal with. The good lady—my boss—gave me a sack full of onions to peel. What a perfect solution for the need of the moment! I needed to “hide” behind something to let loose my emotions. As I have indicated, my job was not to peel onions—I had never peeled onions since I started working there and I never peeled onions again after this day. This meant that it was purposeful—God had purposed to give me a good environment to be human. Thank God for small favours! With onions, I would cry and shed the tears of pain without anyone “interrupting” me. I cried freely. The kitchen crew, the stewardesses and even my boss thought that it was the onions that made me shed tears. The fact, however, was that I wasn’t just shedding tears, I was crying. And the onions were a lot to help me cry through. I felt relieved after I cried my pains away. Ironically, the onions didn’t irritate my eyes for a moment on this occasion. All the tears were a result of the emotional pain that had caught up with me. If I started crying while I was washing the dishes, it could have attracted so many questions that I wouldn’t have been able to answer without perhaps, lying that I had lost a loved one or a friend. God had provided the onions to stop me from lying. Praise God!
That was a time for crying, then came a time for laughing.
When we were diagnosed with the problem, we were sent to the main hospital and a doctor was assigned to us. Doctor Schreiner was a doctor with a human face and heart. He never treated us as pathological statistics. He would first talk generally about life and then specifically about how one was coping before he turned to the medical matters.
He prescribed cocktail antiviral drugs for us—three different types to be taken three times a day. A number of drugs were tried on us some of which were extremely catastrophic on our body. He tried different drugs for my wife and I. My wife seemed not to have reacted to the drugs the way I did. This is not to mean that she didn’t have side effects as well.
After a number of trials, he settled on Videx plus two more. When I was given the Videx, it looked so familiar I wondered where I had seen it. It took me some time, then I remembered the dream. I had seen the drug “in heaven” (in the dream). One thing, though, still puzzles me up to today—the “Videx” I saw “in heaven” was supposed to cure AIDS but the Videx that they give people here doesn’t. Like the other drugs they use on HIV/AIDS, it is just to try to prolong life but they don’t cure.
Even though we thought that we had gotten the medicines that were compatible with our system, things never worked so well—especially for me. One of the effects of the medicine that was catching up with me at a faster rate than it did with my wife was amnesia. For the one year that I consistently took the medicines, I was losing my memory in a way that was scaring. Sometimes I would start going down the stairs to collect something from the first floor only to forget what it was along the way. My memory had no place to store appointments. I thought I would counter this by writing down the appointments and assignments on a diary. Sadly, I realised the diary was not helping either—I would completely forget to check the diary. Once in a while when I remembered to check, I find out things that I was supposed to do or appointments I was to attend to had long expired.
There are so many things that we don’t even take note of when they are functioning well. We only know how important they are after losing them. Ask me and I would tell you how memory is important. It is a terrible thing to live and operate when the memory is low and down.
One day, as I was holding one of the drugs on my hand, a voice from inside of me spoke and said: “You don’t have to take that medicine—I have healed you”. I stood there with the medicine in my hand staring at it not knowing what to do. How could I know whether it was my imagination or it was actually the voice of God? Well, I decided to stop taking the drugs. I reasoned out with God, telling Him that through Christ He had provided for our healing—and if He so chose, He may not need medicine to do it. I told Him that if it was not Him speaking but my own imagination then that imagination is my desire. The desire was not a bad one and He promises that He would fulfil the desires of my heart if I delight myself in Him (Psalm 37:4). So I stopped taking the medicines. One thing I know is that ever since I got saved, I have delighted myself in God.
We used to go for examination after every three months. The examination was to monitor how we were responding to the medicine and the level of the virus, CD4 cells counts, etc. At one time, the blood test showed a significant remission of virus that the doctor told me that I was not a patient. According to him, he attributed it to the medicines. The truth, however, was that at this point I was yet to start taking the medication. From the very beginning, I was reluctant to begin the medication.
My boss gave me a sack full of onions to peel. A perfect solution for the need of the moment! I needed to “hide” behind something to let loose my emotions—I cried freely. The kitchen crew, the stewardesses and even my boss thought that it was the onions irritating my eyes.
But when I stopped taking the medicine, I remember how difficult it was to tell the Dr. Schreiner that I had stopped the medication. He was such a caring doctor. After telling him about the amnesia and the “dos and don’ts” related to the medication, I felt that it was circumlocutory talking about the amnesia and the “dos and don’ts”.
The latter were serious experiences but they were not the primary reason for stopping the medicines. If you gave people a choice, many would rather choose to live without memory than die with it. I told the doctor that the primary reason for stopping the medicine was because Christ spoke to me that He had healed me. That was an interesting observation for him. He must have thought: “Guess who is sitting in front of me—a fundamentalist fool!” I knew the doctor would take me for a fool to have that kind of conviction.
The good doctor leaned towards me and without mincing his words declared with a distinctly articulated expert’s conviction: “If that is the case then the same good Lord is taking you home very soon!” The way he put it and the kind of seriousness he showed over the matter, made it sound like the good Lord was tricking me to stop the medicine so that He could take me home sooner than I might have been ready for. Because of this, I found the doctor’s statement so funny I couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. I had an intensive and extensive laughter as he sat there watching me laugh myself stupid. I don’t know what was going on in his mind. Whatever it was, he clearly saw that I wasn’t acting. It was a genuine laughter. The declaration that I might be going HOME soon also sounded so positive it neutralised the fears of the process of going THERE.
When I got a breathing space—sort of a break from the lengthy hearty laughter—I borrowed his style. I leaned towards him and asked: “And how soon is that?” Once more, he leaned towards me and said, “Not more than two years!” For me the whole thing turned out to be one of the best light moments I have ever had. Again, I found his statement amusing, I went back into laughter and did it heartily and extensively.
Reading about the conversation between Dr. Schreiner and I may not give the reader the humorous setting which accompanied our conversation. The reader may even say: I don’t see any funny thing about all this. If you laughed then it must not have been a genuine one. If there was nothing funny, I must say that the Lord gave me a gift of laughter to neutralise the fear that might have come with the doctor telling me that I may not live longer than two years. I never premeditated how I would respond to the doctor. I didn’t even know what was going to transpire from our talk.
The most important thing that I have to emphasise is that I had settled my heart on God. I had also promised not to get agitated over the matter. The result was that God gave me His joy to laugh at the threat of an impending death.
The good thing about Dr. Schreiner is that he was the kind of doctor that would give you an audience. After laughing my way through, I got an opportunity to witness to him. I told him how Christ had called me to freedom but the medicines and the conditions appended to using them were robbing me of that freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).
I mentioned above the “dos and don’ts” regulating the prescribed the medication. Let me explain what that entailed and why it was a problem to me. The starting point as far as regulations were concerned was that some of the drugs were to be taken in an empty stomach while others were to be taken after eating something. The drugs were to be taken three times a day. This meant that my eating or not eating was strictly regulated to the extent that I could find no other description but a “loss of freedom”. At one time, I would have to make sure my stomach was empty in readiness for taking the medicine, and at another, I had to put something in my stomach in readiness for taking medicine. Some drugs also demanded that I had to eat something within two hours after taking the drug. For the one year I took the medicines, it was a very difficult life.
If I was going to use the medicine, I would use them according to the instructions given by the doctor. I had found myself more often “flouting the rules”. I told him that this was against what I had been preaching and explained the lesson I learnt from Robb—an ointment for muscular pains and colds, etc. The instruction on the Robb is that it is “for external use only”. Influenced by my cousin, we used to flout this rule by putting the ointment in warm tea and then drinking it—we learnt a hard lesson from that. (3)
My Fourth Encounter With an Angel—Or Was it an Arab?
At one time, it must have been in 2003, we were attending the annual Summer Conference in Stokke, Vestfold (Norway). We had had the morning session of the conference and were having a lunch break. My wife and I found ourselves alone, sitting on a bench outside a building. This conference usually attracts between 800 to 1000, or even more people. Because of this great number, you would expect people to be everywhere. Where we sat was particularly popular. If people were not sitting on the benches or lying down basking in the sun, they would be playing badminton. Just being the two of us—isolated and alone—was rather strange. We never thought about it though. A man walked straight to us. He was an Arab, the type that when you see, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “He must be a Muslim!”
If you gave people a choice, many would rather choose to live without memory than die with it.
He came and sat next to us and initiated a talk. He waxed eloquent for the rest of the time he was there. He was testifying how God is doing wonders. He never talked about anything else except on the topic of HIV/AIDS—reporting to us how he was in a meeting where God healed people with HIV/AIDS. He didn’t seem to be interested in engaging us in a conversation—he did the talking, we did the listening.
I usually get moved by an Arab getting to know Christ the Saviour. As he was talking, I was preoccupied by the beauty of beholding a saved Arab. The way he was talking, I perceived that he was saved. What he was saying was not as important to me as what he represented—an Arab Christian. When I say what he was saying was not as important as his being saved, what I mean is that we don’t think much about the fact that we had once been declared HIV positive. It doesn’t bother us. This is why we were not stirred when he started talking about this topic. Nevertheless, I took note of what he was talking about.
When he had spoken himself through, he went away mysteriously the same way he had appeared.
Why do I think the man was an angel?
I had never seen that man in the conference once and I never saw him again after he spoke to us. As I have noted above, an Arab Christian would catch my attention at first sight. We were regular attendants of this conference. If he was a regular attendant, we would have seen him. I admit that this may not be enough to pass him for an angel. There are many Christians that might have attended the meeting only once. But there was more to this man.
The way he appeared and disappeared was rather special, not to mention the way we were isolated at a place that is usually teaming with people. It looked to me that God had “isolated” us so that the man may deliver the message without people interrupting.
He never told us who he was and where he was from. In normal circumstances, the man could have introduced himself and probably tell us where he lived.
I wish I knew that this man was special in some way. I would have listened to everything he was saying and probably wrote them down. He was there with us for about five minutes and he spoke non-stop. I can’t remember all that he said except the healing cases.
When he was talking, I took it as just one the general beliefs of healing but later in retrospect, I realised that this was meant for us.
Talked to Eggs and They Obeyed
One of the signs that God gave me to support the fact that He is still in the business of healing was the way he cured me from being allergic to eggs. My story of an agonizing allergy to eggs begins in 1981.
I had been suffering from stomach pains. It wasn’t easy finding out what it was. Medical science to help me ascertain the problem was not readily available. But in 1981, I discovered that I was allergic to eggs. Once in a while, whenever I knowingly or unknowingly ate something that had eggs as part of the ingredients, I would suffer excruciating stomach pains. The pain was comparable to a knife-work, whacking indiscriminately in my stomach. It reached a point I had to call it quits with eggs.
I dreaded eating cakes and anything else that could have eggs as part of the ingredients. I had been prayed for multiple times since I discovered the allergy but each time I tried eating eggs, believing I had been healed, I would suffer greatly. I got tired and gave up. I was even reluctant to allow anyone pray for me in this regard lest I be given “false” impression. The idea was that after each prayer, I was supposed to put faith into action, meaning eating eggs. It never worked!
Somewhere late 1997, my family and I were visiting a family friend who also happened to belong to our local church. They prepared cakes among other things. I refused to eat the cakes. Our host asked why I didn’t eat the cakes. When I told him that I was allergic to eggs, he answered casually: “We can pray for you now; you get your healing now, and eat the cakes now!”
“It isn’t that simple!” I answered and explained that I had been prayed for countless times and that each time I only suffered when I acted on the prayer. He wanted to insist that I accept prayers but I adamantly refused. There was just no chance for him to convince me.
That was a Saturday. On Sunday, we went to church. Arne Skagen, a man of God whom I knew had a gift of word of knowledge stood up in the meeting and called out, saying: “There is someone here in the congregation who is allergic to some kind of food. Come! I’ll pray with you. God is going to heal you.”
I refused to go forward. “They are playing tricks on me”, I whispered to myself. Though I knew that Arne Skagen was gifted in this area, I thought this time Dag Rune—our family friend we visited the previous day—must have told him. Furthermore, I had had so many such prayers before and each time it only led to agony when I tried eating eggs.
Meanwhile, I was so scared of accidentally eating something with eggs. The devastating pain I used to experience meant that I couldn’t take any chances at all. If I was to eat anything that wasn’t prepared by my wife, I would ask if there could have been any chance of eggs being part of the ingredients. It reached a point where even things that were “obviously” not meant to have eggs were a threat. This reminds me of Adam, a six year old friend of our sons. His parents were Muslims. Adam was so apprehensive of eating pork that whenever we gave him something to eat, he would ask if there was pork in it. The interesting thing was that he would ask even when we gave him bread.
One day, my wife went to visit a Nigerian friend of hers. She had prepared some Nigerian stuff. It never looked like something that could have eggs. Because it was so nice, my wife carried some home so that I could have a taste. I ate it without a thought that it could have eggs. I forgot to ask. Two minutes after eating it, I was sweating and rolling on the floor, crying. It was like my intestines were roasting in fire at the same time someone was cutting them with a knife. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced this far.
He didn’t seem to be interested in engaging us in a conversation—he did the talking, we did the listening.
I became so apprehensive and a bother when visiting. I would instruct my hosts that if they were preparing something, they have to be sure that there were no traces of eggs in it.
One day, towards the end 1997, the Holy Spirit convicted me, saying: Eat whatever is set before you without asking any questions! That was hard! How could I do that? I had reached a point where it was unthinkable to eat without ascertaining that there were no eggs in the meal. When I got this conviction, I refused to yield. Somehow, the conviction didn’t die away even though I disobeyed the first time. I began sensing that God was going to heal me. But I dreaded the hour I would consciously put eggs in my mouth. After buying time for a while, I finally decided to face my fears. I said to myself, “One more time!”
I went, bought eggs and asked my wife to prepare them as delicious as she knew how. When the eggs were ready, I did something strange. I was prompted to speak to eggs. I pointed my finger at the dish before me and spoke to eggs, saying:
You are food! Today I am not eating you as eggs but as food that the blood of Christ has sanctified. You aren’t going to cause any problem in my stomach. The Bible tells me to eat whatever is set before me without asking questions. So from today on, I’ll eat food set before me without asking any questions after giving thanks. You are sanctified by the Blood of Jesus for my consumption.
After speaking those words, I thanked God for the food before me and had a good meal of crumbled eggs. The pain began a short moment after I finished eating but I spoke again:
I refuse to accept that pain. It is fake! I thanked God for the food I ate and it was sanctified by the Blood of Christ.
That was it. Today, I have no problem with eggs at all. Praise the Lord!
An Encounter with Christ is for Publicity
By the way, it is now 11 years since we were diagnosed with the problem; more than six years since I stopped taking the medicines, and more than 4 years above the years the doctor told me I would have been called home.
My wife has been a bit sensitive about the case. She fears stigmatisation—I care very little about stigmatisation, but I care so much about my wife. To protect her, I have kept this for all this time. It is the reason I don’t permit that anybody calls to raise this case with her. To be honest, I am writing this book without her permission or knowledge. Am I betraying her by doing this? Maybe! It depends on how one looks at it but considering a bigger picture I don’t think so! It has taken me eleven years and I was not planning to write anything about it at all until three years later after writing the manuscript that led to the book “THE PURSUIT OF COMMITMENT”. In chapter 14 of the book, I wrote that an encounter with Christ is for publicity. This is what I learnt from the story of the woman who had bled for 12 years (Lk. 8:43-48). Her condition was judged by the public opinion as “uncleanliness”. Fearing stigmatisation and castigation for touching a “holy man”, she couldn’t risk letting anyone know what she was doing. But the Lord Jesus turned around and “exposed” her and by so doing He turned her shame into fame. If we can embellish the Lord’s determination to expose her, He was kind of saying: You cannot touch Me and go into hiding—an encounter with Me must be publicised! Like the woman fearing castigation, we might have feared stigmatisation, but the Lord impressed in my heart that I have to publicise our encounter with Him. For me, the basic reason for doing this is not to ask Christ to turn our shame into fame but to touch someone’s life in one way or the other.
In the above book, I also gave the example of the two blind men whom Christ healed but warned not to talk about what had happened (Matt. 9:27-31). The former blind men “disobeyed”. The same happened with a leper that Christ touched but of whom He strictly warned to keep quiet about it (Mrk. 1:40-45). I have “disobeyed” my wife to tell this story, but for good reasons.
Spilling the beans on this matter without the blessings of my wife is like the case of Abraham taking Isaac to sacrifice him unto God without telling I saac’s mother—or did he? (Gen. 22:2-3). I believe if Abraham was to discuss the matter with Sarah, there might have been a problem. Going by Sarah’s advice to him concerning Hagar (Gen 16:1-4), there are all the reasons to believe that Abraham would have listened to his wife. And it is predictable what could have been Sarah’s position about Isaac being sacrificed.
Adam was so apprehensive of eating pork that whenever we gave him something to eat, he would ask if there was pork in it. The interesting thing was that he asked even when we gave him bread.
I had told a number of people and because I didn’t have any conviction to go public, and more so because I wanted to protect my wife, I pleaded with them not to make any BBC or CNN out of the case—that is, I wanted them to keep it to themselves and not to broadcast it.
This request was flouted by very unlikely people. One case was however special. One of my closest friends, Jwan, whom I had not told about our plight one day surprised me when he asked me about a rumour he had heard back in Kenya.
Jwan was doing his masters here in Norway. He had travelled to Kenya to collect data for his thesis. When he came back, he asked me: “Ogweno, what is this I heard ‘everywhere’ in Kenya that you and your wife were dying of AIDS?”
I was shocked to hear this because I never imagined that there was anybody in Kenya who knew about this matter and who could spread such “rumours”—rumours because we were certainly not dying. Nevertheless, I absorbed it, put up a face and asked him, “What do you mean?”
He told me that Ken, a former college mate in Moi University who now resides in Sweden, had travelled to Kenya and spread the rumour to anybody who cared to hear. He had said, “Ogweno and his wife are dying of AIDS in Norway—their caskets should be arriving any time.” To make his case believable, he told people that he had personally met me. That was in the year 2000. Eight years later, we owe it to God and are humbled for that matter, they are still waiting. The Lord has ashamed the devil.
I responded to Jwan: “Well, do we look like people whose caskets should be arriving that soon?” Although he asked me about it, he was one person who couldn’t believe what Ken had said. Jwan himself defended us saying that unlike Ken who lived in Sweden, he was a neighbour and saw us almost on a daily basis. He stressed the fact that we were not even sick.
The general belief about HIV/AIDS is that it is contracted by promiscuous people. If this was the case, Jwan could testify that we were not that kind of people. Although surprises can always beat even the strongest, he could still testify to our integrity. For him, there was no chance that what Ken said could have been true. Nevertheless, what Ken had said could have been true had it not been for God intervening for us.
I was almost certain who among my friends could have told Ken about our plight. And knowing the kind of person Ken was, I knew he also had his own salt to add to what he was told in order to sensitise the whole thing.
The betrayal pained me more that anything had done that far. In fact it drove away sleep from my eyes. Around that time I also had some migraine. I would lie awake at night. I had to make a hard decision. I was not going to hold it against the person whom I suspected to have told Ken. I even decided not to ask him. Instead I made a decision to pray for him and for Ken that God may forgive and sustain them.
When I made that decision, God used my sleeplessness to remind me of things He has done in my life and fresh insights some of which I wrote in the book WHEN GOD DID NOT FULFIL HIS WORD. The person whom I suspected turned out to be an indispensable friend.
The reality of life as people relate is that one is wont to be wronged by very close people—relatives and friends alike. This however doesn’t mean that you call it quits. Instead one can learn lessons from such experiences. From this experience, I learnt first hand how it pains to be betrayed by a friend, and because of this, I have covenanted that I will never tell anyone (including my wife) a secret where I have been asked not to tell it to anyone.
Reason for the Permanent Residence
Both of us, that is, my wife and I, came to Norway as students. This meant that after our studies we were supposed to go back to our home country. We didn’t have any other reason that could have made us stay in Norway. And Norway is not a country where one can hide as an illegal immigrant, more so when one has a family. Because of this, we hadn’t schemed in any way to get a reason to stay in Norway after finishing our studies. But as I have noted above, after we were diagnosed with the problem we were put on drugs. It became like a life-support. Going back to Kenya meant that we would stop taking the drugs.
Dr. Schreiner advised us to seek permission to stay in Norway so that we could continue with the medication. He wrote a letter, explaining our medical situation and why it was important for us to continue taking the drugs. He also sought and got a lawyer for us.
On our behalf the lawyer, attaching the medical letter, lodged an application for us to be allowed to stay in Norway for medical reasons. When we got the reply after about one year, it was a rejection. We appealed through the lawyer, or rather, the lawyer appealed on our behalf. This was again rejected.
Following this second rejection, the lawyer told us that there was no way we could get our case reconsidered. Any case that had been rejected by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s Justice Department was as good as sealed. The only option was to go to court. Our lawyer, however, told us that the court process was extremely expensive and that the government wouldn’t give any financial support for it. We had no chance at all of paying the court expenses. As if that was not enough, it was almost guaranteed that we would not win against NDI’s Justice Department—it would take a miracle to have the court revoke the decision. And to hammer the last nail on the coffin of our case, he told us that he would not be in a position to take the case even if by any miracle we managed to raise the money to enable us go to court. He must have perceived that it was futile to do so.
The reader should get it right. Our lawyer was a very good man and he had tried his best. The “discouragements” he gave us were actually the reality. We had verified his statements elsewhere and they were corroborated. We released him—no hard feelings.
Our doctor was disheartened but there was nothing he could do, the law had spoken.
It was time to leave for our home country before we could be forced out. We booked a flight. Although the Norwegian government was willing to buy us tickets, it would look like we were thrown out of Norway. Our local church at the time, Kristent Fellesskap, Bergen, decided to buy the tickets for us. We bought a container and packed our things, ready to hit the air for Kenya.
One day after a Sunday Service in the church, I was briefing my friend Per Kristing, one of the elders in the church, about the latest developments and how we were fairing on well with packing. Kristing had been of an immense support, a real friend. As we were talking, Per Erik Olsen, another leader in the church, joined us. He is one of the people with a rare heart—very delightful to have as a brother in the Lord. He came with a newspaper in his hand. He showed us an article where a new committee in the Justice Department was due to be inaugurated to take over from the former committee. This new body would be charged with deciding on new cases of immigration appeals.
“Maybe this can be of some interest!” Per Erik said. He handed over the newspaper to me as he waked away. I took it home with me, not thinking much that there could be a miracle of any sort for our case.
When I read the article closely, I realised that the date on our rejection letter coincided with the date the former committee was closed down. Then it rung a bell in my mind: After almost a year with our appeal, the former committee only decided on our case on the day they were closing down. That was interesting! I had found a gap where to fit our case and seek the audience of the new committee.
I took a short break from packing so that I could write a letter to the new committee. I maintained that it was conceivable that our case was summarily rejected because the old committee was in a hurry to close down. I attached a copy of the rejection letter and highlighted the date the letter was written and noted that it was the very day the committee wound up.
I had gotten interested in the law, especially the paragraphs that dealt with conditions upon which one could be allowed to stay in Norway. One such condition was “humanitarian reasons”. I maintained that whatever interpretation one employed, it was curious indeed that a case where one was being torn away from life-support was not a humanitarian case. If a case of life and death didn’t meet the humanitarian condition, then what did?
Without a lawyer and without even going to court, God intervened for us. When God is at work, He doesn’t fail because no one can foil His plans.
I went to our doctor and he also wrote me a new letter stating the medical implications of our being rejected to stay in Norway. I also went to the church and collected signatures of people who sympathised with our case: I then copied the letter and all the attachments to the Prime Minister’s office amongst other ministries. I never went through the lawyer. I was told that such cases are only taken seriously when they are presented by a lawyer. We had said bye to our lawyer. Time was short to look for another lawyer and brief him on all that had been going on. I just posted the letters and went back to packing. Per Erik had also written a letter on behalf of the church, pleading our case.
Meanwhile, on what was supposed to be our last Sunday Service in the church, we were prayed for and released. Everything had closed down for us; we didn’t have jobs; the social welfare had been instructed not to give us any money. In a monetary system like Norway, life stops without money. The only thing that was available for us was the air, but even breathing becomes difficult when every other thing is not in support. There was completely no sign that anything will change.
A number of people prophesied over us and told us that God was going to use us in Kenya; that we were not being sent there to be destroyed, etc. etc.
After the service, I told a Norwegian friend that I believed with all my heart that God didn’t only send me to Norway to get something but also to give something. I got what He sent me to get but I hadn’t given what I was supposed to give; that it was not because I was unwilling to give it but that I was denied the opportunity because of the apprehension of men.
To cut the long story short, on a Thursday, two days before we were due to travel, we got a letter from the new committee. They accepted to look at our case afresh. As a result, they advised us not to travel. They would get back to us in due course. When they did, they invited us to Oslo, the capital city (just to remind the reader, we were living in Bergen at the time). Bergen is the second largest city on the western part of the country. Per Erik accepted to accompany us. The new committee interviewed us after which we went back to Bergen. They asked us to wait for their response that wouldn’t take long.
After a week, we got their response. They had revoked the decision of the Justice Department. Without a lawyer and without even going to court, God intervened for us. When God is at work, who can foil His plans? Think of Per Erik coming with a newspaper at the right time, and that set things rolling. Think if he didn’t buy the paper; or if he bought it but didn’t carry it to church; or if he didn’t read the article; or if he didn’t overhear us talking about our “inevitable” departure! Coincidences? I don’t think so. How can my life be awash with delicate coincidences just when circumstances are critical?
The Bible tells us about the story of Esther and Mordecai (in the book of Esther). A man called Haman had wanted to annihilate the Jews. The King had given his signet ring and decreed what Haman had connived to do. The Bible tells us that the laws of the Medes and the Persians were irrevocable—not even the king himself could revoke them once he made them. The interesting thing is that God is not mentioned once in the book of Esther. My understanding was that God was working at the background. Expectedly, He was able to revoke what human beings saw as impossible. I perceive, better still I believe, that God was able to revoke for us what the lawyer saw as futile. We didn’t go to court; we didn’t hire another lawyer; we didn’t spend a coin except what we used to post the letters; our case was an old case but we addressed it to a new committee that was not even expected or mandated to deal with old cases. Against all these odds, God worked everything for our good (Romans 8:28).
The unfolding of events, the details of which I may not go into in this book, shows me why God had wanted me to stay in Norway longer than was expected.
Now that I stopped the medication, the reason for which we had asked to stay, did we use our condition to buy us residence in Norway? Maybe, but the truth is that when we asked to stay, we sincerely wanted to continue with medication. We didn’t know the kind of side effects the medication would have. My wife, by the way, is still on medication. Lastly, staying in Norway was preferable for the sake of our children. But the most important reason why I believe we got to stay in Norway is because God sent me over here for a purpose which He wanted me to accomplish. I believe that the books I have been able to write is one of the results of my stay in Norway.
Premonition of Death and the Out-of-Body Experience
In 2003, after many years of joblessness in Bergen, I finally got a teaching job in Skien, a city South West of Oslo and about 8 hours’ drive from Bergen. The job was not full time. My family didn’t accompany me. My wife had to hung on the job she was doing for a while so that we could see how things unfold. They therefore remained in Bergen for a year before they joined me.
Before they joined me, I used to visit them once in a while. On one such occasion, I had visited them for as weekend. It was time to drive back to Skien. After we had prayed together and asked God for journey mercies, a thought run through my mind: Did you know that you are seeing your family for the last time? I looked at their faces and felt so strange. My two sons looked like orphans and my wife looked like a widow. I felt a strange sadness and great sympathy. I almost shed tears. All these thoughts and reactions went very fast.
“Of course not!” I responded to the thought that has crossed my mind. I bound the spirit of death and left. As I was driving away, I was overcome by sorrow, I tried to win over it but the premonitory feelings refused to fade. I was so overcome that I found myself shedding tears.
The driving went well until when I had about 20 minutes to go. Fatigue got the best of me. I slept! Yes, behind the stirring wheel. It is a terrible feeling. It must have been short indeed but when I woke up, I was on the wrong lane and two seconds away from a head-on-collision. I swerved towards my lane, lost control and almost landed in a ditch when miraculously I regained the control. That was close—closer than I am able to make the reader visualise! After about ten minutes, it happened again. I prayed loud in the car, thanking God for journey mercies and binding the spirit of death. I reminded God that I still have a lot to do for His glory and that I was not about to go home to Him. I finally reached the house—relieved yet shaken!
That same week as I lay on my bed to sleep, I felt like there was no air to breathe. I had not fallen asleep when I went into a trance. I saw myself floating towards the roof and by body remaining on the bed. I tried fighting to get back to the body but gravity had completely lost interest in me. I was like a down feather (the fine feather) that the wind had picked.
The more I struggled, the more I was moving fast towards the roof. Somehow, a power that was not mine, pushed me back down into my body. I came back to my senses and heard a voice whispering: That was death! Why don’t you unlock the door so that you don’t give people hard time finding your body?
Again I spoke to the spirit of death that he had no right over me; that I would only die at God’s appointed time and that time happened not to have come.
The devil was determined to make life miserable for me. Hardly six months after these experiences, I lost my job under racial circumstances hiding behind language incompetence. Thank God, I never succumbed to feelings of misery. The joy of the Lord had been graciously and generously deposited into my spirit. Actually, I was writing the book “A Life of an Enthusiastic Worship” and I had just done chapter 5: The joy of the Lord is your strength. When I finally lost the job, a voice from within spoke to me saying: You haven’t lost a job! At this I thought that I would get the job back because the school administration had asked me to reapply. But this was not to be. I guess the job that God had for me was either the writing of manuscripts that I embarked on or it was like the prayer for a wife that He told me He had answered yet it took almost 4 years for me to get my wife. After losing the job, it took almost 4 years to get a reasonable job.
This far God has been faithful. Once in a while I fall sick but I trust God to help me stand firm and not consider sickness as the beginning of the end. After all, anybody else can fall sick. We live one day at a time; each day is a gift. Generally, my wife and I have enjoyed divine health. Praise God!
I have No Problem with Medical Science
The purpose of this part is to disclaim, with the strongest terms possible, any misunderstanding that may occur as a result of the things I have written in this chapter. Much as I aim to inspire others to greater level of faith, there is no faith as compelling as that which results when one personally communes with and in the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Another faith that compels is that which results from personal convictions following the Holy Spirit’s instigation. One can stand by such convictions oblivious of the consequences. This is what I mean: When I stopped taking the medicines, I was ready to take any responsibility that comes with it. If I was to die as a result, I wouldn’t regret the decision I took.
Nobody asked me to stop the medication and I am not asking anybody to stop medication. If you stop, you have to have your own reasons for doing so and be ready for any consequences.
For me, it is settled, I am no longer afraid of death—I may be afraid of the process. The only reason I want to live longer is because I believe from the bottom of my heart that I have a work to do for the glory of God. Another reason is that I want to be around because of my children and the people God has put in my custody to help in one way or the other. If these are noble enough reasons for God to keep me around for a time, then I have no fear of what is going to happen to me. If I live, I live for Christ; if I die I die in Christ.
The reader may need to be reminded that my wife continues to take the medication. This is a sign that I am not out to stop anyone from medication. If I was to stop people, I would have started with my wife. There are a number of other cases for which I have sought medical treatment, a testimony that I am not anti-medical science.
When I say that I don’t fear death, I don’t mean that I would see death approaching and just sit there waiting for it. When I see death coming, I would run with all my strength. But even after running to safety, I will not count my safety on the success of my running. The reason for this is that we may think we are running from sickness only to find out that death had already overtaken us. We reach a destination only to find that we ran from sickness and ended up into the hands of death. The case of my wife going to the hospital for treatment only to be received by the hands of vengeful death is a good example. Another reason why our running is not the ultimate factor to save our life is the fact that sometimes we may want to run only for God to command: “Stand still and see the salvation of My hand” (Exodus 14:13, KJV).
Sometimes we may need wings to fly from danger only for God to take away even the foot that we could have needed to at least run. But still, like a snake, a creature without legs, we may get away faster crawling than a millipede with its hundreds of legs. Surely, the times of my life are in the hands of God (Ps. 31:15).
Reconciliation with God Drives Away the Fear of Death
If you are saved and death scares you to the point of phobia, then there is something not in place. The reader should not misunderstand this. I don’t mean to imply that when one is saved, one becomes “careless” with life because one is not afraid to die. Life is a gift and long life is one of the blessings that the Bible talks about (Ps. 91:16, Eph. 6:3). Again, it is natural to be afraid to die. What I was referring to is an “unreasonable fear”. This kind of fear can also make one do “anything” in order to live—including denying Christ when the circumstances demand so.
One of the missions of Christ was to deliver us from the fear of death:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
—Hebrew 2:14-15 (NIV).
Generally, people who have not settled their cases with God through Christ can be pretty scared of death, except they have taken to a religion that deceives them that all is well.
In panic, he ran out half-naked and barefooted. If he thought he had escaped from a frying pan, he was surprised to find himself in a deep freezer, an equally life threatening setting.
I remember two cases where I felt there was an overreaction by some people to an impending danger. The first case was in Moi University, Eldoret (Kenya). I had been visiting a classmate, Oduor.
Oduor was a Catholic; he had rejected to be saved. On this day, I never went to his room to witness to him but we ended up discussing about spiritual matters. In the process he asked some straight doctrinal questions. I answered him as best as I could, pointing him to the scriptures. It turned out that the things I was pointing out offended him. The reason was that they were undermining some of the rituals he had embraced as a Catholic. He accused me of being anti his church. He asked me to leave his room. I told him that I only answered his questions and that I had pointed him to the scriptures. He was however so offended he didn’t want to see me.
I left gracefully and went to my room. I took my Bible, lay on my bed and started reading. I was reading Mark 13, talking about the last days. I had just read about earthquakes when I heard a sound like something had dropped from the bed. I checked casually but because I was so engrossed in what I was reading I didn’t pay much attention. I thought that maybe there was a knock on the wall from the neighbouring room. I continued reading but not for long.
The next thing that called my attention was Oduor’s hysterical shouts. He was shouting my name asking me to pray. It was an earthquake. He was scared thinking that the building would collapse any moment. If only my prayers could hold the building standing until he got out or better still stop the whole quake! He ran so fast along the corridor and then down the stairs—he could have won a medal if he managed that speed in a competitive race. Meanwhile, he was still shouting pleading that I pray hard. I walked relaxed out of the building. In my spirit, I had sensed that it wasn’t going to get any worse.
It wasn’t bad for him to call for prayers and also to leave the building, but the hysteria and phobia he displayed was really uncalled for. That kind of fear is wont to cause more problem than solve anything.
The second case was in Fantoft Students’ hostels in Bergen, Norway. We were preparing to go to bed for the night when fire alarm went. According to the rules, any time fire alarm went students had to walk out of the building. A friend of mine who claimed to be an atheist must have been in the process of changing into his pyjamas when the alarm went.
Because we were at the eighth floor, it would take time before coming out of the building. According to the rules, whenever there was fire alarm, the elevators were not supposed to be used. My friend must have judged that there was no time for anything else except escape—death had threatened! It was winter—extremely could. In panic, he ran out half-naked and barefooted. If he thought he had escaped from a frying pan, he must have been surprised to find himself in a deep freezer—an equally life threatening environment.
Some kind of panic and fear of death can make some people run away from an imagined danger into the arms of a waiting disaster. By the way, there was no fire—it was a false alarm. But even if it was fire for real, I don’t think one needed to behave as if the huge building had been doused in petrol and would be engulfed by flames in no minute. Those are the kinds of fear that I would consider “unreasonable”.
The closest I have come to dying came three months after I thought I had finished writing the manuscript leading to this book. If I had the opportunity of publishing this book immediately the manus was ready, the story below wouldn’t have been included in this book as part of my encounters with death so far.
It was on Thursday 2nd October, 2008, around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. I was cycling home from our local church. It was gently drizzling. I was due to go to work and I had to get home, pick the car and drive off to work, some 15 km away.
A delivery van drove by. As soon as it passed me, without warning, it turned in my way, leaving me with not breaking distance. The instinct response was to brake but the abrupt braking and the wet ground only meant one thing. The bicycle skid and even before it hit the ground, it banged on the van. As I fell, the momentum dragged me under the vehicle. My head was exactly on the way of the back wheel.
The wheel caught my jacket and my left arm. By the time the van stopped my arm was securely under the wheel. It was like God used my arm to stop the wheel from reaching and eventually crushing my head. The wheel had also drawn the jacket in away that it was strangling me. I couldn’t breathe.
Thank God that there were people nearby. They ran to the driver and told him to reverse the vehicle. I must have been there for about a minute but it looked like I had been there for a whole day. The driver reversed and got my arm released. I stood up immediately. That was the first miracle. The witnesses never expected me to stand up on my own. They had thought I was badly hurt that I needed to be helped up. They would have called for an ambulance but the way I stood up and didn’t look hurt made them hesitate. But they were sure my left arm that the vehicle climbed on was broken or badly bruised. I tried feeling the arm but didn’t feel any excruciating pain. When I told them that I was alright, they didn’t believe it. They insisted that my arm was hurt. I had to remove the jacket, the pullover and the shirt for them to see and be sure that it was alright. They still insisted that I be taken to the hospital for examination because they believed that there must have been at least an internal injury.
I had an inner witness that I wasn’t hurt enough to seek medical attention. I had a small bruise on my right knee which a plaster would take care of. I didn’t go to the hospital; instead, I was able to go to work.
Something strange happened while I was waiting in the fangs of death. I had peace. I had always thought that I would use my last breath to thank God for saving my soul. But as I laid there the “whole day”, I could feel the wheel coming towards my head yet I said nothing. I laid there like a baby who had no sense of the danger. No fear gripped me; no panic invaded my being; no heart pulsating with anxiety. I didn’t even experience any aftershocks when I tried to cogitate how it would feel to have one’s head lying on the way of a wheel waiting to be crushed. If I was to go HOME on that day, it would have been a very peaceful departure.
Seven hours later, Amollo Wilfred, a pastor friend in Kenya, sent me an sms as follows: “My brother Dan, I hope you are doing well. Today I got to breathe lots of prayers for you and your family. We bless Him for His leadings”. I replied and told him: “If you prayed for me before 2 pm [1 pm. Norwegian time] then your prayers worked, literally. I almost went HOME through accident. God used my left arm to stop a van from running over my head after the van knocked me from a bicycle. Witnesses didn’t believe that my arm didn’t even break”.
Coincidences, sceptics may call it, but to me, it wasn’t. The Holy Spirit still prompts people to do things out of which God would act.
Proceed to Chapter 22