THE BLANKET: YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU COME FROM

“Americans are irreverent.”

“Nigerians are scammers”.

“Arabs are cheats.”

These comments (or things like them) are said about people of specific nationalities and ethnicities on the daily. And for the most part, this sort of labeling passes unchallenged, because it’s more frequently done in group conversations involving people who actually believe that individual behavior can be put down to the purported tendencies of the societies from which they originate.

Interestingly, many of these people will resist attempts from others to slap the same sort of negative group labels on them. They will claim exceptions for their own individuality, perhaps even reject derogatory descriptions of members of their group.

A lot of us have done these things at some point in our lives. Some of us still actively identify the behavior of individuals with popular stereotypes of their countries or cities of origin.

If you’re reading this right now, your default response might be to “condemn negative stereotypes” and “encourage us to see one another as unique in ourselves.”

Of course, there are irreverent people, scammers, and cheats in every ethnic group, country, or race. In any case, there’s next to no empirical evidence that any specific nationalities are more given to doing bad things than others.

The problem with blanket statements, positive or negative, is that they significantly distort reality. They tell us that things are as they are not. And these distortions have serious consequences.

There’s one obvious example. Young children don’t seem to mind about the colour of their friend’s skin or where they are from, until they get exposed to negative social ideas about race and their parent’s take on geopolitics.  As they grow, they pick these ideas up. By adulthood, they have acquired a full set of stereotypes which they’re ready to slap on to the next available target.

That’s a very easy takedown.

But what about positive cultural stereotypes then? Do we give those a pass?

We suggest not. Claiming that the Chinese are accommodating by default simply glosses over a sizeable number of instances in which Chinese people have treated strangers badly.

But there are consequences for so-called positive stereotypes as well. When we say that an ethnic group has some fantastically good qualities just by virtue of their being that ethnic group, we’re claiming that ‘goodness’ is expected of people of that group by default. In reality, it’s wishful thinking (and even dangerous) to trust that ethnic identity will confer positive traits by themselves.

It’s wishful thinking because selfishness, the default human tendency, eventually rears its head even among the most ‘pleasant’ people, if we hang around them long enough. It’s dangerous because it sets us up to be disappointed, to lose the trust we have invested in people, and to despise them for disappointing us.

In the end, we are individuals, with a capacity for both good and evil. Our expressions of these things may vary according to our environments (and some stereotypes may be drawn from characters that actually exist). But this doesn’t change our individuality. It doesn’t make us any less human in God’s eyes.

This rings true for Christians, united as we are by our faith in Jesus. As the apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:28,

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

The criticality of our lifestyle as world changers

An Issue Paper presented at the National Strategic Youth Missions Summit, Salem University Lokoja, Nigeria by Steven Kator Iorfa

Introduction

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.(Mt 5:13-16)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect(Rm.12:2)

We live in a generation where the undiluted Word of God is already scarce. The youths especially can no longer endure the sound doctrine of God’s word and therefore teachers, mentors, disciplers, pastors, etc. are beginning to look for more appealing ways of presenting the gospel. They adopt high sounding philosophical and psychological motivations to get young people coming to church, and in very bad scenarios, some have employed devilish methods to attract, exploit and retain members. 2 Timothy 4:3 is fast catching up with us and before our very eyes, our friends, colleagues, children, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers have begun to accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and are beginning to turn away from listening to the truth and are wandering off into myths. However, in all of these, our heavenly Father has affirmed over and over again in 2 Timothy 2: 19 that His firm foundation stands, bearing this seal:“The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” What more can we say? Generations may come and go, civilizations arise and fall, dispensations change, but the Word of God will remain. The interpretation of His instructions on Christian holy living and conduct will not be subject to geographical locations or changes in generations. It is therefore critical that as world changers, we begin to pattern our lives and conduct to reflect the change we want to make, the change God has called us to make. To do this, we have to adopt a lifestyle different from what the world knows, has defined and accepts. We have to conform and be transformed to the life of Christ, the kingdom lifestyle. 

This plenary addresses issues on godly living for young persons who are aspiring to change their worlds. And it must be noted here that asides the term “world” meaning the physical planet earth, our worlds could mean the different platforms our Father has graciously granted unto us to serve him through. Thus, I would be having us treat the term “world” in a generic sense that would encompass the worlds of politics, academia, fashion and entertainment, sports, health, science/technology and innovation, art. Even the world of religion and spirituality. We will briefly define some key terms and then go on to look at the lifestyle of a world changer, its nature and criticality.

Lifestyle: a) Someone’s way of living; the things that a person or particular group of people usually do; b) the particular way that a person or group lives and the values and ideas supported by that person or group; c) someone’s way of living, for example the things they usually do, where they live, what they spend their money on, etc.

Critical: a) of the greatest importance to the way things might happen; b) extremely serious or dangerous; c) extremely important to the progress or success of something

World-changer: A world-changer is someone who is committed to changing the world. A Christian online devotional has this interesting thing to say about who a world-changer is; A world changer is not someone who blends in, a world changer stands out, sticks out and stands up ready to make a difference. A world changer goes beyond the usual expectations of Christianity. A world changer finds the most intense demands that Jesus places on Christians and does not shy away from them but goes after them with all his/her heart. A world changer does whatever it takes to get the job done. A world changer pursues God passionately. A world changer has been radically, completely and totally changed by their relationship with God. 

The world changers’ lifestyles

a) Dressing 

Do we now begin this endless debate about dressing? About whether it is okay to put on this and that as world changers? A world changer knows that when our Lord gave a command, He meant it and they are determined to live up to the standard. A world changer does not conform to the standard of dressing dictated by this world. He or she sincerely yearns to fulfil the mind of the Father. A world changer knows that he/she is always in the presence of God the Father and permit me to say that there is no sincere child of God who does not know how to dress and appear before his/her father. As God is with him/her always, so his/her dressing also, always must please the Lord. Or has the interpretation of the Word of God suddenly become subject to geographical locations such that our compliance with and obedience to it varies from place to place? Have we become so pretentious that the intensity of our obedience increases with our proximity to church alone? Are we world changers? Do we desire to become world changers? Can we please let our dressing and appearance reflect the true nature of the life we carry? Let’s be reminded of the scripture in Hebrews 4:13 which says “no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account”, and remember that He knows the very reasons why we dress the way we do. There is a pattern for Godly dressing, the pattern a world changer is known by.

b) Earthly riches and wealth

What about the love and desire for earthly riches? I know this is another area most believers do not agree on. But has our Lord not also clearly stated in Hebrews 13: 5 that as believers we should keep our lives free from the love of money, and be content with what we have? For our Father has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. What does this mean for us? Does this translate to our living beggarly lives and becoming burdens to our brethren and the heathen who seem to prosper? No. Our heavenly Father has also promised in Mathew 6: 33 that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then all other things will, in addition to His kingdom, be given unto us. We are not to live poor all our life. How else do we speak into the financial crises of our generation? How do we offer solutions to the enormous financial challenges of missions? We are to tap His resources for life, ministry and missions. But even if, He so desires, that through the denial of earthly riches, His children’s character be polished, shaped and sharpened, would we then as clay, tell the porter how best we want to be moulded?  

c) Prayer life and personal altar

A world changer is on fire for God and his/her prayer altar is always burning. He or she recognizes the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 18: 1 that men ought always to pray and not to faint. World changers are committed to building an intimate secret life with God for they know that in it alone lies their strength. Therefore, they will not trade their Quiet Times and alone with God for anything else. They cherish the refreshing times spent in the presence of God and are always eager and yearning to return there. King David, a man who radically changed his world in his generation, had this to say about God’s presence; “one thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Ps. 27:4).

Conclusion

In Mathew 28: 19, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded saying, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In other words, go therefore and change the world. How else can we change the world other than through the very best way we live our lives?

Firstly is the need to understand that the ability to really change our world and not just try to slightly improve it can only be divinely given with the ideas needed divinely inspired as in the case of Joseph and Daniel. Changing the world requires a power from Him that made the world.  Truly changing our world is about changing men and bringing them to the point that they become like Jesus. Where there is a complete transformation and renewal of the mind. It goes beyond an ability to put together a long list of exhaustive dos and don’ts to an internal transformation that seeks a fundamental foundation laying that equips an individual with the ability to take the right decision even in situations never met before or never put down into law.  This can only be achieved as God gives a man the ability to do so.

The second matter that proceeds immediately from the first is the fact that this ability is not available for every dick and harry. The decadence we have seen thus far cannot be attributed to the inability of God but rather the unavailability of usable men. There are those certified by heaven to carry out this task. Only such certified individuals get endowed with the divine grace to affect their generation and leave indelible marks of eternal worth upon the sands of time.  2Chr 16:8-9, makes it clear that God is actually more eager than us to demonstrate His power upon the face of the earth, but the bottle neck of the whole mix remains in the ability to locate such men on whose behalf He can show Himself strong. Such men that He can point to other men, such men about whom he can say “this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him”. It is needless to say that such men are scarce. This necessarily brings us to the point of realizing that it is such men who please God that will get endowed. Now the big question is what is the criteria, and the clear answer is “life”. There is that life that God is willing to associate with, that life that pleases Him, that life that He can call a friend. These are lives embedded in divine consecrations, lives that the actions you constantly see is a manifestation of the fact that they are completely sold out to Christ, again, lives who’s lifestyle is embedded in consecration. Heb 11 gives an account of such men in the Old Testament, men who loved not their lives. Even though they had limitations. They had not experienced the death and consequent resurrection power of the cross. As it is written Christ in you is the Hope of Glory.

The inability to connect with the almighty, the very SOURCE is what makes many resort to other means, but alas they can only be noise makers not change agents. If we must have devoted workers, honest students, faithful husbands, submissive wives, responsible fathers, sincere bosses, the list goes on… We must have correct lives to compel a following, lives inspired by God. True change comes from above.

We see few of such lives already existing in the world of missions, but many more are needed in business, law, engineering, medicine, banking…..lives before whom the Nebuchadnezzars of their professions will tremble and bow and acknowledge as in Dan 4:1-37. That the Lord HE is God. 

Steven Kator IORFA

© 2019

 

THE BLANKET: THE BIG SIN DILEMMA

Once in a while some “new” social vice steps onto the scene that seems to rock the very moral core of the world. Whenever this happens, the church has been known to be very damning in their judgment of whatever it is, giving the world the notion that though God hates sin, He hates some sins more than the others.

Of course, this is laughable for anyone who has actually studied the Bible. In theory, it is clearly stated that in God’s eyes a rebellious person is as bad as a murderer. The thing that creates these distinctions is our own moral bias and since we are somewhat afraid to own up to them, we just slap our God on it and hope that everyone accepts it without question.

The only problem with this is God only backs up his word, not yours. So, if and when the inconsistency is found in your judgment of some “big sin”, your sense of judgement called to question. But the God you claim told you that is also called to question. Making the world doubt the sovereignty of God’s wisdom and stray farther from salvation.

Another problem with this dilemma is the way a blanket is thrown over anyone struggling with such vices or tendencies. This happens because once you put the spotlight on a character flaw, a single story begins to manifest and sure as day it is slapped on every individual with even an inkling of a trait close to the said character flaw. Popular instances are, “All smokers are wife beaters”, “All serial killers are loners”, “All homosexuals come from broken homes” etc.

These look harmless and probably justifiable on the surface but if you look deeper, it is hurting more people than we realize. A very big reason for this is when people build their lives on such a premise, it does cave in and when it does, they lose trust and begin to question everything. It is just like the proverbial hole covered with a blanket and throne set on it as told in African folklore. We are setting a trap for ourselves when we proliferate these stereotypes. Even when we do so in goodwill.

The human character is perhaps the most dynamic phenom on the planet. It may look like the same trait, but it frequently changes in its expression. This tells us that to help anyone with a character flaw, an individualistic approach is the best way. An approach that considers the human in question and their specific experience with the said struggle.

Also, take off the veil over the act. Every sinful act is sinful before God and Jesus died for them all. Once we give one priority over the other, we inadvertently give power to a sinful act; which should not be so. No matter how horrendous it may seem, it is no different from what we may call ‘everyday’ sin and it is a product of man’s inordinate desire to control his own destiny. The way out is always to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Sin is quite the topic in the Christian sphere, but that is about it. There are no big sins. And no matter what it is you and I are struggling with, the fact remains, it is wrong, and God wants to help us with it. Go to God in prayer, change your focus from yourself to God, get all the help you need and see God save you as He has promised.

 

Grace.

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

Suicide note

Ramatu,

You actually did form a part of my life, and you did so in ways I can’t explain. Only I wish now I had more time to appreciate. But even as I write, there is this looming doom in the horizon and it’s just few hours before the Imam comes with a vest of explosives to dress me up. Life has been most indifferent for me. I know they say it’s not a bed of roses, but I would have preferred a bed of thorns to what I am passing through. My peril describes that of a sinking man who actually thinks he is floating until his back touches the river bed. That’s the sad point I am now, a point of no return.

It all began when I met you. You carried an aura, a semblance of that possessed by Queen Amina. You were queen, an angel or so I thought. I fell in love with you. But ours was not the Western world where you could express your love publicly especially when it was considered ungodly. Religions in Nigeria demand purity and Islam would not be an exception. So even in the midst of our passions, I never got closer than close to you in those early days. You would invite me over to your house on Salah days but I shied away. I remember on one of such occasions you promised your father would be out and only your mum would be in. So I went along with you. We talked, joked, laughed and were only interrupted by your mum’s intermittent calls. That was my very first visit and it seemed pleasant. When you came to see me off, you held my hands for what seemed to me like forever. I felt I was in the presence of Allah. That night as I walked back to school, I felt butterflies dance in my stomach. Our friendship went on and on and we began seeing each other at late hours and odd places. I loved it but usually wondered what kind of father you had that was never at home to monitor your movements. Each time I enquired about him, you answered, “He has gone to the mosque”. He must be a devoted one I thought. Whenever you came to visit me, you would wear one of your big hijabs. When we wanted to kiss or do our thing, I would hide under the hijab. No one ever noticed, probably because romance under the hijab was the norm then. This went on and on until one day you said you would like me to meet your father. He was a politician and was well known throughout the state. We arranged for a Friday after mosque for me to meet him.

Alhaji Usman as he was called was not a man who spoke much. So that Friday when he met me in his house, he only asked my name and whether I’d been to the mosque at all. When I told him I had, he only smiled and went into his room. You were proud I’d met your father and even spoken with him. Your mother served freshly made Kunu and Masa but I didn’t join them. I was shy. That was my second visit and what would be the last.

One evening I returned to the room and met a note. I looked at Abdul and he jabbered “your girlfriend brought it.” I carefully opened it. You wrote, “My father wants to see you”. Fear seized me. Had he found out my sins with his daughter? I’d be finished. The next sentence read, “He said you should meet him at the mosque unfailingly this night, any time this night. Love you…” What could he possibly want from me? We had only met once. And why did he choose the mosque of all places? And he said any time at night, was he going to sleep there? I looked at my watch and it was already past seven. I decided to go straight away.

Alhaji Usman sat beside the Imam in a circle of eight men. One of them was dressed in army uniform. I could recognize the silhouette of one other person, Shehu. Shehu was one of the most notorious students in school, a strong advocate of Islam. What was he doing among noble men? I wondered. I drew a mat from the shelf and sat on it waiting for Alhaji Usman to be through. I could hear faintly their voices. It looked like they were agitating over something. The discussion went on for about forty minutes before they prayed and dispersed. I felt like asking Shehu to wait for me so we would walk back to school together but I had no idea how long Alhaji Usman intended keeping me. As the others walked out, I saw Alhaji discussing privately with the Imam and afterwards started walking towards my direction. I could perceive his Tulare fill the air, the scent of a noble lover of Allah. I imagined that it was bought from Mecca. As he approached, I quickly squatted well and bowed in respect. I received his outstretched arm and stood up. He did not look like he was mad at me for anything. His very first statement made me relax. “I knew you’d come”, he said. “Right from the very first day I met you at the house, I knew you were the special kind. But as you can see, you have come late and we possibly can do nothing today.” I saw the Imam approaching. He whispered something to Alhaji and then left. Alhaji Usman continued, “Please come a little earlier tomorrow.” He hurried after the Imam till they both disappeared into the inner room.

That night as I walked back to school, I wondered what Alhaji wanted from me. I thought about the man in military uniform, the agitation, the fierceness of the few faces I saw. What was wrong?

The next morning had a series of unusual happenings. The hostel tap had been damaged by nobody. Ali, the hostel chef, master in noodles and eggs did not open and most unusual of all, Abdul had left the room before me. I left my room to look for water in the next hostel. There I found Shehu addressing a group of students. I pretended not seeing him and quickly took the next turn towards the tap.

It was a light day and I returned to the hostels earlier. I and Abdul played the game of chess for a while and then I slept off. I woke up some minutes to seven and made straight for the mosque. They were already seated in the usual manner and the Imam was addressing them. He stopped when he saw me, motioned me to sit down and then continued. “Jihad is the holy struggle against good and evil. It is the fight against infidelity and the infidel. The opportunity the almighty Allah has given each of us to prove our fidelity. You are instructed to slit the throats of the infidel when you see him. How would you feel when you stand at the gate of heaven and Allah asks you, “what did you do with the one weapon I gave you, your body?” Will you display the wounds of martyrdom or will you bow your head in shame only to be thrown into the fires of hell?” As he spoke, I felt the tension, hearts beating, fists tightening, faces sulking. He sat down and then shortly after, the man in uniform who then was whispering to Alhaji stood to address us. He shouted, “Allah ku bar”. We responded “Allahu Akbar”. He did these three times and we responded and each time the tempo rose above the previous.

The meeting dispersed at about 8:03pm. Alhaji Usman walked up to me, his face so serious. He told me to follow him. I went with him into the inner room. There the Imam was sitting with three other mujahideen round what I observed was the blueprint of a building, a church building to be precise. He beckoned me to draw closer. I watched as all five men discussed. They studied the blueprint over and over again. Then it became clear to me. They were planning on blowing up the building. I became more scared when I heard the Imam say, “Sunday would be the best.” I looked at the name at the bottom of the drawing. It seemed familiar. “Was that not a church, wouldn’t there be people in there on Sunday?” I thought. By now, their intentions were no more hidden to me. This was war, and I was right in the middle of it, part of the plan so to say. Alhaji Usman told me we would be sleeping over at the mosque that night. I could not hesitate. After all it was already past ten.

The next morning at about 3:15am, I was awoken by the Imam. Alhaji had gone home and I was to make a journey with the Imam and the mujahideen to Suleja. The Imam drove the bus, I sat beside him. At the back were the mujahideen and one other face I could not recognize in the dark and more so because it was masked with a a cloth made from a talisman. At such, only those of us in the car were aware of a fifth traveller. The talisman would protect him from all unwanted eyes. Due to several other delays and visits paid to prominent politicians on our way, we arrived at Suleja around 4pm in the evening and that was when I realised that the unknown face I had travelled with all these while was Shehu. We were welcomed by five men who took us into a room lit by only two torch lights. There Shehu was separated from us into an inner room where only the Imam could enter. I was left with the mujahideen. They watched me closely and hardly said any word neither to me nor to each other. Later we were served kunun gyada and a cupful was taken into the room where Shehu was. After some time, it was returned untouched. I guessed he had refused to drink. The mujahid closest to me looked at me and said “He should be happy that Allah saw him worthy for this one” referring to Shehu.

The next morning, the 10th of July 2011, we left the house where we had passed the night. The Imam drove us again through a narrow path and packed some distance away from a building. He then whispered something to Shehu who was in front with him. Shehu was unusually big that morning. He alighted and walked down to us and said in Hausa, “Brothers, the time has come. May Allah be praised.” He looked straight at me and said “Carry on.” He then made for the building while the Imam drove away. Some time elapsed then we heard a blast, then screams, then noise, then silence. I bowed my head in utter shame, a murderer. The Imam said, “We head back home” then smiled and never said anything throughout the rest of our journey. Satisfied that the mission was accomplished, he sped off. The next morning I woke up still in the mosque and saw the Imam listening to the news from his radio. I heard them talk about the blast from a church at Suleja after which the presenter announced that the University had closed down its campus till further notice citing security concerns. The Imam had made it clear to me that having come thus far with them; I would not be allowed to turn my back anymore. Any attempts to do so would be interpreted as treason and infidelity. I needed not be told what would become of an infidel. I could not run away to my elder sister Aisha. She and her husband saw no use in me. And besides, they would not in any way help me. So later in the day, I went with the Imam to pick the few things I thought I might need.

Days rolled by and we went from place to place doing the one very thing. On 25th August that same year, we arrived at Abuja. There I met with several other disciples like myself. We were not allowed to interact with one another. Three people were selected for this one and they were transported to the venue in a similar bus with the one we came with. There the car for the operation would be waiting for them.

With each passing day, my interest for school diminished and I got more at home with my present life accepting my predicament as the will of Allah. I had not seen you for months now but would not dare ask your father. Even the few times he spoke to me, he only congratulated me for accepting the will of god. “Many youths” he would say, “will never be as courageous as you my son.” But I never stopped thinking about you. I never cared about the fact that it was him, your father who got me into all this. The more we travelled, the more I lost contact with you. It was clear to me now that you would have given all sorts of explanations to why I left and left you in the dark. But I loved you all these while. Time would fail me to express much love as I would have loved to for I must let you know the truth.

We visited Damaturu after our attack at Abuja. It was there that I came face to face with the one who would enchant me and declare me trusted. The initiation process was very brief but full of incantations. He told me I was hence forth worthy to meet Allah at any time I chose to, provided I chose the right cause. I had become a mujahid. At the completion of the Damaturu attack, I was told I would be taken away for training. I will spare you the details of my training because they are not good for a lady’s ears, especially one who has love for the trainee. While we were away, news reached us from Nigeria that eleven of our brothers had been killed by the Nigerian army. There was need for immediate deployment. So I returned home on the 30th of January, 2012 along with other brothers of mine.

Back in Maiduguri, I was reunited with my old family; the Imam and the earlier three mujahideen. We were all glad to see each other. It was there I got to learn of the next point of target. Musa, the eldest of the three mujahideen told me that his time had come. That finally, he would go to claim his seven virgins at the house of Allah. He was the chosen one. The Imam handed over to me a blueprint tagged “Army Headquarters Kd.” I was literally lost for words. The thought of raiding an army headquarter was just something I did not want to think about. Not that I was afraid but I felt, we were biting more than we could chew. Nevertheless, I reserved my feelings to myself. Letting out such discouraging feelings to the rest of the family would be counted infidelity. And for a young mujahid who had risen to high ranks in no time, I would dare not try that. We set off for Kaduna on February 6, 2012. It turned out to be a well accomplished mission. Two brothers well known to me now gone; first it was Shehu at Suleja now Musa in Kaduna. My time, I knew was coming.

Something tragic happened on the 31st of May. I and the Imam had gone to buy food when we received news that there was an on-going attack around home. For us home was far away from where the ordinary people thought it was and when “they” raided a small gathering of our brothers, they went to report to the media that they had looted our hide outs. Five of our brothers alongside an infidel who was kept in our custody were killed. It was another loss. We were visited at night by Alhaji Usman who assured us that only the will of Allah could be done, and only what he permits. The whole camp was filled with pressure. If “they” could get as close to the gathering of the five brothers then it meant they were closing in on us. The next morning, the three of us along with other prominent mujahideen sat down to plan what the Imam called “a series of jihads”. Two of our brothers were sent to Bauchi to carry out what we all agreed to be called “a friendly attack.” Friendly in the sense that not much damage would be caused but only to create awareness that we were still around. People argued and argued that whatever was worth doing was worth doing well. So if there was going to be any strike at all, there should be a proper one. Nevertheless, Bauchi’s mission was successful.

The next places of duty were Kaduna and Plateau. Some of our troops headed to Plateau while myself and the Imam headed for Kaduna along other brothers. We stayed there and planned fervently, a triad hit.

On the night of 16th June, I was summoned by the Imam. He looked at me very sadly and rubbed my head. I felt his rigid coarse palms on my newly shaved skull. Then he stroked my beards and asked in the calmest voice possible “has Allah not been good to you son?” I muttered a solemn but hazy “he has”, fully aware of what I felt was coming yet scared of the sudden reality. Then he looked down and said “go, prepare yourself. Your hour is come.” I left him not knowing how I felt.

Back in my room, I did not say the usual prayer that was the custom before going on divine duty. I picked my pen and pad and began. I had to write you because it was necessary. Each one of those moments I spent with the group, I spent for you with the hope that at the end of it all, I might have no difficulty asking for your hand in marriage having proven strong to your father but….here is where I end. All I have left are the scattered shots of the times we shared together, in memory. I hope I don’t misplace them on my way to heaven. It should suffice me to say that throughout my stay with the Imam, I failed to accept the correlation between the holy jihad and the struggle against western education. Please let the world know I did not die fighting against Western education. I died trying to please your father, for you. Mine is a different story altogether. Please kindly extend my last remarks to Abdul my roommate and tell him not to travel home to Mubi, at least not in the first week of October. I love you Ramat.

Sadiq.

Steven Kator Iorfa

©2019

The strongest charm ever made: Samson’s tale retold

I lived a life full of pride. My life was awe with matchless grace. My hair was strength, my strength was grave. Nations and cities bowed to me and all I knew was victory. Victory, till I fell to charm. Now let me tell you about the strongest charm ever….

Yahhhhhh!!! I’m so excited to write this. Sometimes most truths are really just hidden in plain sight.

Let’s start by screaming at her, cursing out loud, and maybe, if we get the chance, we would still shake her hand; because she showed you the way.

On a cloudy Friday evening, I took the lone road I’d always stayed away from. The grasses were wet, my feet felt moist. The air was soothing and my heart was free. I saw her. I trusted her, why won’t I, When I had nothing to lose. She was the roadside beauty. Her wink always made me act funny. She was good; at least that’s how I remember it. She was on every man’s lips, only problem was, not every man could get so lucky; her attention had a high price.

I was muscular, athletic and strong. In many parts of that region, I was a kickass warrior. Trouble was my father’s name (laughs); I could almost always get away with anything.

She caught my attention that cloudy evening, when I chose the wrong street to walk my dog. I was careless as usual, not minding whoever my dog tried to disgrace. I loved it actually; what a Bruno he was. As I turned down the lonelier bend, there she was; looking. Charming her way, as usual, she was the first to notice, after all I had big abs. While I was still carried away by the stubbornness of Bruno, she was positioning herself for the kill or let’s call it; the catch.

My heart stopped, I couldn’t even contemplate. Was I delusional, such a beautiful somebody could not even have existed in your time? Call it whatever, but I was hooked at first sight. Unfortunately, I had developed poor wooing skills; like always, my muscles did that job. I was already on a spaceship to HERS and there was no turning back.

I saw her, I know I saw her. I cannot be mad, my two eyes caught her; smiling at me, and my godammmn legs just had to find out. Then we made out (and don’t even ask me what charm I used); I was getting wooed and I didn’t even know it. Her body was perfect, her sense of humor would make you feel like you had never laughed yet, there was no other girl on her level, she was phenomenal; and she knew it.

I was in trouble; and I didn’t even know it yet. I was trapped in the web of my desires.

I fell! I fell without a rope and don’t dare ask me where. I’d whisper anyway, I fell in sin.

It didn’t take long; I was already proposing pitching some permanent ideas to her father. She was my burger without the buck, my silent night on a stormy day, my rose without the thorn, she was my slut. I couldn’t bare it anymore, so I told her everything; my heart is yours.

He was my stuff, my war without the sword, my pass, my personal bodyguard, He was my crush. There he was sleeping on laps; I would like to narrate how beautiful he was, but let me bear my cross. I would have loved to trade souls, but money was always first.  

It was my first loss, she was my only cross, her lies were stronger than death, she was my curse. ‘My heart is yours’ I told her, and that was clearly her plus. The battle was lost the first time we crossed, but how would I have known that I had been jazzed.

Three times she asked and three times she tricked me. All she wanted was the gold and it didn’t matter if my eyes had to go. Three times I broke her bounds, but her jazz was too strong; because every single time, I only came closer to telling her, what made me strong.

Now it is gone, now I am no longer strong. Now she is gone, I wouldn’t even know if she’s not. My eyes are gone and so are my locks, now I could never kill a thousand men like I had with a jaw bone.

Her charm was strong, only it was not hers. My heart was wrong, it fell in LOVE.

Love; real or not was strong enough to cost me my strength.

Love; true or not, was strong enough to take Christ to the cross.

Love; now or later will cost you some sacrifice. May it be for the good. May it be for the truth. May it be real.

Love’s charm is unbreakable.

John Okor and Steven Kator Iorfa

© 2019

Ambition

IF YOU ARE YOUNG, THEN YOU ALREADY GOT A MAJOR PROBLEM…..?

You’re probably too ambitious.

I’m young like you, or at least my mind is. And you have no idea how ambitious I am. Unfortunately, that’s the sickness that plagues you too.

Yeah I know, I’m totally aware, that I just called your always present, overzealous, soulful Ambition, a sickness. A sickness that needs to go away and I’ll tell you why.

Don’t get me wrong, ambition is good. Good Ambition is good.

But your ambition, that your precious drive, that unexplainable passion has left you living a pixelated life. This is not a 100% match make, but I’m kind of sure you’re part of the 99; the 99 that don’t understand that ambition is the door, but patience is the key. In lay man’s terms; time, plenty of time is the avatar to your fire nation.

I said I’ll tell you why, so here is it.

Ambition is crazy, it’s the local dog off its leash, it’s a wild cat far away from the wild, it’s the wisdom-less chi that lives inside you, that tells you everything is possible. Everything is not possible mate, but some things are; just some things.

And maybe Ambition is not the problem, I mean; shouldn’t I simmer down on this factor that has accelerated civilization for all of man’s existence? Then you have to be the problem.

Yeah…I said it, I know I said it. You’re the problem. Because it’s a blessing to be blessed with even a little ambition, but yet the curse; cause it came with no ‘handle with care’ manual, it came with no prescription to tame your dose; its abuse.

So I’ll tell you why ambition is bad, firstly and apparently, you cannot predict how life will turn out. Secondly and famously, you will probably chose a style of attack that will end with you king dead. And I mean, from the plethora of options of people past, who have achieved their dreams, how exactly are you supposed to approach ‘this little light of yours’? Ambition is bad because 99 out of 100 of you will make it bad, preferring to pursue rather than to wait, preferring to strive rather than to be patient.

We all hate that phrase; be patient. I mean, what gives anybody the right, including yourself, to demand patience from you, when it is clear to all mankind that nobody knows the time, the place and the when, when everything could have ultimate meaning.

The problem with ambition is, you might spend all of your good years pursuing, striving after this dream, that islandic passion, without any applaud-able achievements to show for it, and yet, that drive will still be on heat, ambition will still not set you free.

I mean, isn’t it really ambitious of me to think that I could sentence Ambition to a life ‘outside your heart’?

And yet without Ambition, life will be a whole lot harder.

John Okor

(C) 2019

Thunder

On my rugged road
To gather coins and grains
I blinded my conscience,
I buried the Lord’s laws

And strangled my Mama’s
Moral whisperings
Just to overtake time and space
Now, look at me !

Look at what I have become
Timeless prince in prison
Hero, who does not exist
Legend of the unknown

I look around and all I see
Is despair and darkness
No one cares for me
Just because the flesh has fallen

My errors are my mine
But Lord you’re my THUNDER!
Forgive me O! Lord
Break my chains, for I am yours

Ugwu David .C
©2019

Blanket One: The Cross-Bearer’s Blank Intellect?

‘Godidit.’

That’s the trendy new term with which internet atheists mock ‘scientifically illiterate’ Christians for ascribing every good thing to God. When us faithful people praise God for the birth of a new baby, deliverance from dangerous circumstances, or even the beauty of a sunset, skeptics now respond by shooting that short ugly line back at us.

‘Goddidit’- a bundling together of the phrase ‘God did it’ -is the latest addition to a pool of cliché terms that militant unbelievers draw from to highlight the apparently lazy intellectual attitudes of Christians (or their lack of any intellectual attitude).

The careless compaction of the words that make up the term is itself supposed to suggest that Christians can’t speak intelligently about what we say we believe. It also carries with it the idea that we are unwilling or unable to probe physical reality with our minds, and just invoke God as an explanation for things we can’t understand.

In a nutshell, it’s supposed to make Christians look dumb.

But are Christians really bereft of intelligent thought?

As a Christian and a proud lover of all things intellectual, I deny that this is the case. I know too many straight-thinking, ridiculously smart people who live a life of faith to accept the assumptions implicit in mocking terms like ‘Godidit’.

I mean, there are brilliant responses to such derisive claims, as well as to the more sophisticated arguments against belief in God- responses formulated by Christians. There’s even a whole branch of Christian ministry- apologetics –which tackles these issues. It’s clear to any well-informed person that Christians aren’t intellectually inept by definition.

Also, contrary to popular belief, faith, especially in the Christian context, does not defy logic. Too many times in the bible has the message and personality of Jesus been called to question and that many times it has stood its ground against reason. The abhorrent laziness of ‘some’ Christians in our day does not do justice to the fact that ours is a faith-based on undeniable facts and answers not many are willing to accept.

Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted the unbeliever’s caricature of them as weak-minded without realizing it. You see this resignation in the way a lot of us respond to questions about God and suffering, or nature and its functioning, or the resurrection of Christ. “Just have faith” or “because the Bible says so” appear to be the standard answers to such inquiries. This sort of attitude fuels atheist memes about Christians, and undermines our attempts to reach out to a world that won’t simply take our word for it.

We’ll conclude with a two-sided appeal. To the unbeliever or skeptic: Christians aren’t silly by default. We can and have answered your questions about our faith with logic, facts, and sympathy. If you’re open to sound reasoned arguments for Christianity, please look up the works of Christian apologists. We’d recommend reading C.S. Lewis if you’re a regular fella (like us), or William Lane Craig if you’d like more advanced stuff or watch lectures by Dr. Ravi Zacharias on Youtube.

To our Christian brothers and sisters: faith is not an excuse to indulge in intellectual laziness. Always be ready and willing to give reasons for your faith (1 Peter 3:15). Be like Paul at Athens, if the occasion demands- debate the skeptics with smarts and tact. Show them that to believe in Jesus is not to cower from reason, but to believe in the one who is Logic made flesh.

Selah.

 

By

Godswill Ezeonyeka and Alexander Ikenna.