“Ever since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.”
The wordings of the above hymn fit perfectly to my situation and condition. I was just like the author, William Cowper: ambitious, sinfully-laden with lusts and with no bearing, when Christ sought and saved me!
I was like “one who has been travelling in a desert until he is almost consumed with thirst, and who at last finds a river of cool and clear water.” In fact, it was more than that, for this water that Christ gave me to drink has made me never again to be thirsty for any other water than His.
My mum was a non-practising nominal Christian while my Dad was a non-practising Muslim. I was born into this unholy union towards the end of 1984. Therefore, I didn’t have any Christian moral background of any kind; rather, it was the very opposite. My earliest memory of attending Church was when I went alone as a preschool child to St David’s Anglican Church in Lagos Island, Lagos. I do not remember anything Biblical I was taught nor did I have any fond memory of the place. And sometimes, after school hours, to pray to the “Holy Virgin Mary” at the Holy Cross Cathedral which was a Catholic Church just behind my school; that experience in particular always left me with a hunting experience of some kind of demon appearing to me in dreams. So I eventually stopped visiting there.
During the hard economic and political crisis of the early 90s, my grandmother moved to the village and I was taken to go and stay with her. It was her that introduced me to Islam. I remember the first day to the Quranic school: I was literally crying while being carried by many boys to the Arabic school. Before I entered secondary school, I had read all through the Quran and started leading in their religious services. Everyone who knew me called me “Alfa”. My muslim name was Mukthadir (shortened as Mukka).
But in the sixth and final year of my primary education, as we normally trek back home from school, there was a man who was always with some tracts and the Bible. This man started engaging us kids. He had the most gentle soul and hardly took any offense from the kids. Few of us started listening to him while he sat us down and shared with us some stories from the Bible. In particular, he would explain to us how God so loved the world and gave us His only begotten Son to die for our sins. Even though my muslim background was strongly against that doctrine, I did not object at all. In fact, I was always thinking about that theme for some time. He’d take us inside to his relatively far beautiful house and parlour and we would all scatter the whole place and I’d be wondering why this man was not angry at us. That man was a Missionary and I think he was later moved away from the village, but I always have this strong affection for him and wish he’d be around much longer.
The period spanning my secondary education was a tough one for it was mostly when Gen. Abacha, the erstwhile military dictator was in power and the south was systematically and economically impoverished. So staying alive was a priority. Many dropped out of school to help their parents in their farms or businesses; it was by God’s grace that I was one of the very few left that continued schooling.
During these periods, even though I was still a practising muslim, I always offer up prayers to God most times when I’m alone walking along bush paths. And surprisingly God answered many of those prayers. I also started reading a Christian book I stole from the vicarage of the United African Church which was beside our house. While reading the book, I started feeling guilty and wanted to know about Jesus. It was while sleeping one day after reading the book that I woke up never again to find it beside me. I now suspected it must be my Mum as she was around and she must have noticed the effect the book was having on me. But I continued my discovery by reading the Gideons’ pocket bible which was very ubiquitous in many southern homes. In fact, I started specifically praying to God that I want Him to give me my own Gideons Bible before I finish secondary school. And I remember I was vividly conscious if God would answer that prayer too.
So in my last term in secondary school, I was beginning to be more thirsty for the Bible. I started reading more of the Bible, especially Psalms, while still practicing Islam, to the extent some people started calling my 2-in-1, meaning I was practicing two different faiths. I’d read the Bible and also read the Quran. I started irregularly attending a church on Sundays and also hardly fail my islamic five-times-a-day prayer.
One day, few weeks before we started our WAEC exam, which was my very final few weeks in secondary school. It was a very sunny and beautiful day when I saw a car, I think light-green in color. It was this old Beetle car slowly driving closer. When they parked and looked lost, as the Social Prefect of the school, I went to meet them; I was the first person they spoke with in the whole school. And their question was like: “We are from The Gideons International and we are here to distribute Bibles. Can you show us the way to the Principal’s office?” I quickly remembered my prayer and the fact that even till a few weeks earlier I was still wondering if God would answer that specific prayer. As far as the history of the school is known, the Gideons have not been there before.
After the formality, I quickly summoned the whole school to the hall. I was the one leading the arrangement and students. In fact, I was the only one, I believe, who got two of those Bibles: one of the Gideons members gave me an extra copy for assisting them in the distribution, I suppose!
But I quickly went deeper into sin. When I moved back fully to Lagos in 2001, I discovered new found freedom. I wanted to fully explore the world, especially the world of lusts. Until early-2000, wearing tight-fitted jeans, even trousers, was very uncommon in Nigeria. Let alone women and ladies showing their cleavages, wearing mini-skirts etc. As a young 17-year-old, seeing these rapid changes in Lagos was a crisis for me. My imagination became a fertile ground for every unclean thoughts. I was desperate to get into the university to try many things. I started actively desiring to have relationships with girls. But my shy and introverted nature was a type of prevenient grace or pre-regenerating grace the Lord used to tame that unruly spirit pending the time of my total redemption from Sin.
I started fully going to a Church but I never understood nor even remember anything they said. In fact, I had a girl at that Church I attended then who was in the choir and always wanted to be associated with me publicly; this I dreaded. The Church was full of activities and after each service I was never conscious of taking anything home. It was like a social gathering without the food and the drinks.
I aced my WAEC exam easily and expected the same for my UME. But despite my confidence, my UTME result was not posted to me and being the days before digitization of the results, we couldn’t trace it. I had to write another UME exam. It was during this period that I delved deeper into sin and the blessed Holy Spirit started convicting me more of sin and the judgement to come.
Eventually, while coming back from Church one Sunday, a young man who was going in my direction moved closer. And while conversing, he asked if I was saved. And I said yes. But he discovered I wasn’t so he started coming around to my house to share the gospel with me and always left me with bible tracts and Christian magazines to read. And he never failed to tell me that if a man truly got saved, “old things will pass away, behold all things become new.” That 2 Corithinans 5:17 verse I knew off hand from him always repeating it to me. I started having conviction that I was a spritiual fraud. That I was not a true Christian, rather a stranger to God and to grace.
But one faithful day in August 2002, I woke up feeling like I just fought demons overnight. And I felt powerless, conquered, defeated, lost and doomed. I quickly went to the bathroom but I couldn’t bathe. I started crying wondering if I stand any chance of being delivered from sin and Satan. So I knelt a little bit and offered a prayer that Jesus should please forgive me and save me. And almost immediately the tears stopped and I felt good in my heart and even in my body! But I doubted if that was anything real, if at all that was the Salvation I was told. But I decided to observe myself to know if truly old things about me have passed away, that all things have become new.
Indeed, Christ has saved me! That was it! August 5th 2002. Everything indeed did became new. I surprisingly, for the first time in my life, never ever wanted to sin again. I dreaded sin so much that I abstained from every appearance of evil. For instance, I cut off all sinful relationships and friendships. In fact, in the ensuing weeks as I started praying and reading the Bible with a totally new heart, I’d prefer death rather than go back to sin. Prayer and Bible became second nature. It could be said of me what was said of Paul, “Behold, he prayeth.” I could not have enough of the Bible and prayer. I’d knelt down in my room and face the wall and pray for hours. I had time for prayers and reading the Bible was all the time; no one could separate me from the Bible, to the point I felt maybe that was not normal. I hated the very sight of immorality and all the worldly songs became so repugnant to me. It was Christ and Christ alone. Christ became so soothing to me. All I wanted to do was to know Him and live for Him.
A pilgrim was I, and a wandering,
In the cold night of sin I did roam,
When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me,
And now I am on my way home.
It’s been many years now and the LORD has been faithful in keeping and preserving me. I have realized that the Christian is on a continual war with self, Satan and the world to the very end of his pilgrimage. That Christ is more than sufficient to meet all my exigencies. That the LORD is able to “save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
When I stand before the throne,
dressed in beauty not my own,
when I see Thee as thou art,
love Thee with unsinning heart,
then, Lord, shall I fully know,
not till then, how much I owe.
Chosen not for good in me,
wakened up from wrath to flee,
hidden in the Savior’s side,
by the Spirit sanctified,
teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
by my love, how much I owe.
I am being helped greatly on my pilgrimage journey, and I trust I shall be helped even more grealty unto the very end; unto my glorious exit into Christ’s everlasting bossom. I shall see Him and be exceedingly glad, for I shall be like Him. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” And may I forever be Christ’s and Christ mine.
Let me love Thee more and more,
Till this fleeting, fleeting life is o’er;
Till my soul is lost in love,
In a brighter, brighter world above.