Any onlooker would have been amused by the sights. The sun was setting but that had not reduced the heat in the air. The gates were wide-opened and the participants trudged in. They were indeed a pity sight. Some had to be held by their friends, many had opted for the ambulances that had gone with them, and others literarily pushed themselves forward; taking every step with so much effort. It had been a hectic rally.
The facilitators didn’t need to expend energy making the students go to the hostel, as was the case normally. They of their own accord headed straight for their hostels. Some hit their beds straight up, not having enough strength to even peel off their shoes. Others made it to the bathroom to have a bath. It was a day they wouldn’t forget too quickly.
They had walked, jogged, walked, jogged and walked all through. They had sung most of the way, stopping at different points both to rest and distribute fliers that advocated the rights of children. The lunch break at the Rukpokwu Central Park had been a welcome break for them. Even the facilitators seemed to need a break. Their legs were hurting badly.
It would have been really dreary and exhausting if there had been no side attractions but the Man-O-War officials had been enlisted to help with the long trek. The songs they led lightened the moments; making even the most tired persons to laugh, at least giggle. But what was most strengthening was the power of togetherness. Being together, helping each other, and singing with each other propelled them through.
The power of unity.
They had been given two hours to get themselves together. By the time the whistle went for dinner, the dining hall experienced an unprecedented crowd in the first five minutes. Never had participants turned up so early for any meal. They were famished. Uche had been one of the first to enter the hall. He couldn’t remember when last he felt that hungry. He could hardly wait to start eating.
But that was not the only thing he could hardly wait for; he was still itching to know what Fatima’s response to his letter would be. He was dying to know. He wondered however if there was any likelihood he would get a reply that day because the premiere meeting was going to kick off in a few minutes. He was sure that was the major, if not the only thought on Fatima’s mind at the moment.
He had seen every other person walk in and take their different seats but he hadn’t seen Fatima yet. He wondered where she could be. Wasn’t she hungry?
His table was called to come for food. It was time to fill his belly; every other thing could wait a few minutes.
The room was silent except for a muffled sound that came from the corner; sounding like a girl in pain trying to stifle the sound of her tears. There in the corner, a little figure crouched on the floor in what seemed like an agonizing posture. Her lips were moving but her voice wasn’t heard. The only sounds were the sounds made as a result of her pains – her groaning.
Fatima had been down there for ten minutes and she wasn’t in a hurry to leave. Everyone had gone for dinner, but she knew there was no dinner for her. God had placed so great a burden in her heart for the many hurting souls in the conference that eating seemed so trivial. She wasn’t going to eat until the next day. She would pray and pray and pray until God touched every bleeding heart and restored every straying soul.
The more she prayed, the greater the intensity of the burden she felt. It was like God was transferring His heart to her; like she was feeling His very own pain; the pain of a Father who was bleeding for His many lost children; the tears of a groom weeping for His wounded bride. She had never felt that way before. It was a new experience, but a welcome one as she prayed and interceded for the lost sheep of God’s pasture.
She soon began to hear God tell her things she was to do when she got to the dining hall. She opened her eyes, reached for her bag, where her notepad and biro were, and began to write. She didn’t understand some of the instructions but she was in no position to question God. She knew beyond a doubt that God knew exactly what He was doing and all would work out perfectly in the end.
As she scribbled down the instructions, she felt like another Moses; another Noah. She was receiving specific instructions from the Almighty God Himself. She was indeed awed. The instructions might not have been as grand as the patriarchs’ were; might not have been as tripping as hearing the dimensions for constructing an ark or for fashioning the Ark of the Covenant but it meant the world to her all the same.
When she was done writing, she took some time to thank God for what He was about to do, and for counting the seven of them privileged for such a great task. She rose to her feet and carried her bag which had her bible in it. On her way out, she stopped at the bathroom to wash her face; she needed to look fresh.
Wanting to ensure all she needed was there, she looked into a bag again, and while looking through, she saw a paper in her inner zip. Without opening it, she knew what was there. Uche’s letter. She smiled; she would give him her reply after the meeting.
Shade looked around. A few people where hanging around. They had possibly been invited for the meeting. She had forgotten to invite anyone. Still scanning for any familiar faces, she saw Utibe on the far corner, sitting on his own. He seemed he was also waiting. She could only wonder who had invited him.
They had to clear plates, as usual, before the meeting started. George had been asked to ask the women for permission earlier and they had been too pleased to accommodate them; glad to have an opportunity to appreciate the students who had been helping them. They cleared the plates as fast as they could. Shade noticed that as they did, some students stared in disbelief, some watched in horror, feigning disgust at what they were doing. Shade sincerely pitied the future spouses of the latter.
A few, however, decided to join them. That made the work much faster. Fatima had come in just as they were about to start clearing up the plates and Shade couldn’t deny she saw something different in her new friend’s eyes. She was almost scared to look at her; there was a special glow in her eyes; like she had just spoken to God face to face.
Moments after, Fatima called for everyone present for the meeting to gather together. As they did, Shade did a rough count; they were about thirty. ‘Not a bad start’ she thought. Utibe was to her far right. He seemed a little uncertain as to why he was there but he stayed anyway. Shade turned to her far right and saw a girl sitting there. She was too far for Shade to ascertain what she was waiting for. She looked away and focused on Fatima who now stood in front of them all.
Disappointment sounded a trivial word to use in expressing how she felt. She was pained; deeply pained. Her plans were getting delayed and she wasn’t in the mood for delays. She had been lurking around, waiting for the Igbo chap to walk out of the hall. She had been stupefied when she saw him and a group of others clear the plates. She had endured the delay then, but this was getting worse.
Christiana shook her head. Now, it seemed they wanted to have a meeting of some sort. This wasn’t how she had planned it to be. Not at all. She had hoped to get a hold of him immediately after dinner and twist his head till he was exactly where she wanted him to be; in her arms. But now, he was farther from her than she had hoped. She was in a dilemma as to whether or not to wait.
She hadn’t wooed any other guy that day; she had been pre-occupied with thoughts of getting the Christian boy, and now she was about to go empty handed. She couldn’t afford that. Her problem now was she didn’t know how long their meeting was going to be. After some analysis, she decided she would join them. She walked over to where they were clustered. Her eyes were fixed on only one person and she walked in his direction.
She was headed for the Igbo chap she had proposed to ruin. If it meant she had to be patient, a virtue she lacked completely, then so be it.
As Fatima looked at the few people gathered together, her heart soared in joy. She didn’t know exactly what God wanted to do but she couldn’t wait to have Him start. She introduced herself to the students gathered. As she was doing the introduction, she saw the girl she and Uche had seen in the dining the day before. The girl was headed towards Uche. She now knew beyond doubt what the girl was there for.
She smiled. She wasn’t fazed. She was definite the girl was going to have an encounter that would disarm her. She came seeking Uche, but Fatima was sure she would leave, having at least tasted Jesus. It was a pleasant thought.
God had instructed her earlier that Tara should lead worship, Faith should lead prayers, and she should take the word. They were the three He wanted in the fore front for the first meeting. The seven of them would then share their salvation experiences briefly, and counseling would begin immediately after. Fatima was so sure plenty of counseling would be needed. She had made that known to them immediately they finished clearing the dishes.
When Fatima was done explaining to everybody present why they were there, she motioned for Tara to walk to the front. Tara did and the meeting began.
As Tara walked to the front of the small gathering, she felt something rush through her veins. It was something more than adrenaline; more than a hormonal rush. It felt more like she was feeling a presence all over her. The moment she opened her lips to begin singing, she understood what she was feeling. It was a divine presence.
The song she started with was the only song she sang for the fifteen minutes of worship. On another day, she would have resented the idea but it wasn’t her doing. God was moving through the song and He was leading her to repeat it over again. Most knew the song, but those that didn’t caught up fast. Her pitch rose every time she started over again.
Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I’m Your friend
You are my desire
No one else would do
Nothing else can take your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace
Help me find my way
Bring me back to You…
You’re all I want
You’re all I’ve ever needed
You’re all I want
Help me know You are near
Those were the fourteen lines that God used to start off His work. Tara’s eyes had been closed all along as she sang the song; she had gone on her knees at some point as tears started streaming down her eyes. By the time she was rounding up and she opened her eyes to look at those she was leading in worship, her heart soared. She had never felt such bliss before and the tears kept flowing.
Every single person was down on the floor, most with wet faces. It had been a very long time she had seen anything like it. She then sang the final two lines of the song, lines she hadn’t sang so far as God brooded over His children.
I’m desperate for You
I’m lost without You
They repeated those two lines till there was calm. She stayed there and felt someone join her. It was Faith; it was time to pray. Tara wondered how Faith was going to take over; the anointing in the air was just so strong, but when Faith started, Tara smiled through her tears. God was indeed at work.
Without warning, Tara, on her knees, began to sing in tongues. It was a beautiful sound. As she did, others there who were already baptized in the Holy Ghost joined her. Others who weren’t Holy Ghost baptized just remained quiet. A few minutes after, the singing became prayers, as they roared in tongues to the heavens. Any demon standing close would have fled.
Faith was just doing as she was led; she hadn’t planned it that way. A few minutes into their praying in tongues, she began hearing some voices she hadn’t heard before, praying in tongues. She opened her eyes and what she saw stopped her cold as she marveled at God’s handiwork.
Without anyone laying hands on anyone or cajoling people into speaking in tongues, people were receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, right there on the ground, with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Faith was filled with joy. If this was all she was going to witness; the worship and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it was enough a memorial for a life time, but she knew God had just started with them.
They continued praying solely in the Spirit for the next half hour. Faith had come to learn that when God was in a place, moving in His power; people never remembered to check the time; if anything at all, they never wanted the experience to end.
As she led them in prayers, Faith began to see things with her eyes closed. She had been so scared, she opened her eyes, but now she was even seeing clearer. It was like God was showing her the hearts of the different people around her. She felt the hair on her neck stand. She was dumbfounded. She had always longed for a spiritual gift but that was over two years back when she had been seeking God with all her heart.
Tears trickled down her face. God had finally remembered her on the day after she came back home. This God was too much. She wondered if she would be able to handle the gift well, because she was already seeing things that she was sure were top secrets in the lives of those people.
“My grace is sufficient for you”, she heard God whisper in her eyes. It was like cold water had been poured on her. She felt refreshed by those words. She was re-assured.
Soon after, Fatima joined them in front, on her knees. She quietened them and rounded up the prayers. When she was done, she asked them to rise and take their seats.
As they did, she could see the different expressions on their faces. Some were elated; some seemed relieved while a few seemed surprised at themselves, wondering what came over them.
Fatima smiled. She couldn’t have imagined a better start. Whether they knew it or not, God had started a great work in their lives, hers inclusive. She had felt things she hadn’t felt in a long time as they had worshipped and prayed. It had been like a moment of re-awakening of dormant areas of her walk with God.
When they were all seated, she started. “We have all felt something new today; some people have experienced more than one new thing today”. She saw nods of agreement. “God is set to yet do more among us. Please be open to Him. As we prayed, He told me that He was distributing gifts to some of us, healing our wounds, restoring our joy, amidst many other things I can’t begin to mention.”
Their expressions told her they agreed with what she was saying. They were experiencing what she was talking about.
“I had planned to share the word for a couple of minutes but I feel God asking me to step out of the way.” She paused and looked round at them. “Seven of us would share our encounters with Jesus; we’ll tell you how we met Him and what He’s doing in our lives. Please listen to every line. At least one person among us will have a story similar to yours.”
She went to her seat as she called the first person forward. Tunbosun.