Ongala Maurice

To Inspire is to Empower


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Private and Confidential

Daughter,
Hearty greetings from Daddy! How is this girl doing? I may not understand just how it must feel to be in the dark of the confine that is mummy’s tummy, which has been your God-given abode for the past many moons. I believe the Doctor, though, when he tells us you are fine. And chiefly, I trust God when He re-assures us of the same each time we pray for you. Mummy and I are well and blessed.
As I type this, there’s something like a line of gold thread running through these words when I concede them for you daughter, and gradually over the years it will grow long enough for you to pick it up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself. That gold-like thing is the first word I will introduce you to at the end of this letter.
Child, let’s dispense with this first. Your gender has remained a sweet mystery to your mummy and daddy – not that the 21st Century technology has failed, but because we like it that way. However, with the insane tendencies of this wandering-wanderoo generation aptly foretold in the closing verses of Romans 1 – lustfully lost and incorrigibly irksome – mummy and I feel safer thinking of you only as male or female. But mummy loves to think of you more as female than male hence my addressing you as ‘Daughter’. Mummy is more creative and insightful than I am, so she has gone ahead and given you a lovely heavenly name which will only be unveiled when you let out your first cry. I love it. I can’t wait to refer to you by it. But I have always loved everything about mummy. Let’s talk about her later.
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Photo impression courtesy of Dreamtime

Pretty Daughty, you must be a very playful and irresistible piece of human! Whenever mummy is enjoying an afternoon siesta in the cool breeze under a twig’s shadow in the backyard, she occasionally lets out an excited scream. Are you okay Love? I ask. It’s her again, she asserts. She complains you’re kicking her. Sometimes she says you’re just moving around as if backstroking in a swimming pool (do you even understand what a swimming pool is?). She gives me an expectant look. But I’m not sure you can kick that hard or even backstroke. So I don’t know whether to tell her sorry or to urge you on. I love you both so terribly, I tremble at the thought of my affection for you two. So I smile first – because my daughter is growing in grace. Kicking, even. That smile is usually for you Pretty. The I say a silent ‘oops!’ and tell mummy, ‘I’m so sorry Your Majesty, she is soon coming out’. But your mama is super intelligent, just like you. She knows I’m on your side so she frowns. I peck her dimple, rub her back till she smiles back. We are sorted.
But that’s not all, mummy has some incredible claims too. She says you are able to recognise my voice! Imagine that. She says when I get home and we’re just saying a prayer, you leap for joy because daddy is finally here! I laugh at these claims hysterically. But I also become so humbled at the remotest imagination that such a claim could be true. Many times when I sing for you ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…’ I pause to think, you are not a child of this world, you’re a heavenly gift. Then you give me a high five on mummy’s tummy, perhaps to remind me to sing on you’re still listening. The I continue; ‘…red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.’ My moments with you afford me the divinest of experiences under the golden sun. Makes me wonder when I shall see you and hold you in my very arms. When that time shall come, my little angel… I want you to look up to me. I want us to build a great relationship. I want to be your oracle, your hero, your first love.
Sorry Pretty Little One, I can sense your concentration span is getting used up. I didn’t mean to bother you with these vain utterances. Had I enough space and ink, I would have told you the nuances of this generation including the slay queen phenomenon. But allow me to wrap this piece by introducing you to your first vocabulary.
Daughter, as you grow older both in your humble confine and when by God’s grace you shall see the sun, never forget the word LOVE. Say it with me again baby, L O V E. The sages of ages and the linguists of lands have defined this word variously. But they have afforded generations nothing but confusion. For now, Pretty, I wanna give you something to look up to. When you come of age, daddy will make this word clearer. I pray already that then, you be able to both discover and discern. For now, it will help you to know that you are a product of pure, unadulterated heavenly love. Mark my word.
Mummy says hi.
Love,
Daddy.
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Love Divine

Behind every glory there is a story. Every juicy fruit was once only a beautiful flower whose pollination made the difference. Every long journey was once only a stride but the voyager’s reseal;eoience made the difference! For us, Love was the Divine pollen grain and God’s grace made the difference. Here goes our story.

We first met in Nairobi during a church function several years back. A good friend of mine nudged me,

“Maurice, look at that girl!”

At that first glance, I beheld a Queen in her Royal Majesty! She was standing at the outer upper corner of the sanctuary, not too far from the main entrance, perhaps having a good chat with two friends. She rocked a greenish African print skirt with a black short sleeved blouse. Her hair was so black, so rich and so long I mistook it for those Brazilian things in African markets – I was wrong. Before I knew it, I was staring. Naturally, our eyes met. I didn’t know whether to grin or smile, so I assumed I didn’t see her. But that was the most daunting assumption of my life. How do you assume nothing has happened when you have just seen an angel only short of wings? Her eyes spelt deep calmness laced with kindness. she was a bit laid back but her demeanor was all gracious. She had this thick, pink lower lip that formed a smoothly curved based for the upper one, and which perfectly matched her light skin tone. She wasn’t loud, seemed to listen more than talk. Impressive, I chuckled. You wouldn’t easily notice her except for her stunningly radiant beauty that betrayed her quietude before the sons of men.

My jaw dropped, but in keeping with good church manners (oh religion!), I maintained my cool and shot back at my pal,

“Ah stop it.”

She laughed and let me be.

Later, my pal and her hubby revisited the discussion about this girl whose name I didn’t even know (come to think of it, such friends are heavenly to say the least). Times without number, I quietly and secretly knelt and asked God to allow me to chance upon her again. Our next two meetings would be in a different church, both unplanned. But why church? I gave excuses for not making the first move. Church is not the place to ask girls their names and tell them that you like them, I rationalized. Maurice is the confident masculine guy oozing bravado and class. But he failed to make the move not once but thrice… damn! There was something unusual about this lady. There is.

I embarked on what me and my boys love to call “Chapter Two: Literature Review” and my findings were as good as whats in your mind. Fast forward, we became the best of friends under the sun. Not because the difference between our names was only ‘c’ and ‘n’. Not because our follower siblings shared both names. Not because our mothers both shared middle names, neither was it because it took us so long to become friends, but as we later found out, our friendship was authentic because we shared so much in common, it was incredible. Later she confessed that she had been patiently praying that I make the first move and if I didn’t within her timeline, she would! Brothers, that which thine hand findeth to do, to it now, but as my favorite author puts it, make haste slowly. I digress.

In my mind, the search had officially come to a definitive halt, because it marked the beginning of a new phase. We had become so close we would take offense if the other person didn’t call whole day. Time was now ripe to press the next button, to dial the next key. I had to take risks. Serious risks. It was a do or die kind of thing. Come with me…

 

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After sharing my plans to propose with a very close friend of mine, let’s call her Dee, we planned that we would host a surprise dinner just for Her Majesty at an exclusive upmarket place within the city and pop the ring on one knee. Stakes were high, almost everything was in place, when I an invite came my way to attend an exclusive wedding reception of Tom and Eileen, another great pair of friends. This was to go down at Mount Kenya Safari Club. When I shared with Tom I was planning to pop the ring, he said, man come do it there! What better place would I have done this! I exclaimed. So we abandoned the initial plan and took this memorable event 194 kilometers away from Nairobi.

A mild Sunday morning in Nanyuki town. The Fairmont, Mount Kenya Safari Club, an exquisitely agonizing scenery. Delicately tranquil atmospheric freshness hovering over the lush green grass at the very foot of Mount Kenya. Her Majesty and myself are attending the exclusive wedding reception in the company of lots of mutual friends. Our hosts know the plan only too well but she knows nothing about what’s about to befall her. I get a bit jittery and it worries her. I assure her all is well, isn’t this all they usually want to hear?

Then, kaboom! a set back sets in. The radiant red roses I had carried from Nairobi have been so badly damaged that if they were a car, the insurance company would dread compensating! But in the ind of Your Truly, every set-back is a set-up for a come-back. So I ask my bros Mandela and Barry to keep her busy as I run around in pursuit of fresh Nanyuki flowers. You should’ve seen the determination on your boy’s face! At the reception, I am quickly linked to the hotel florist and I’m sorted, just like that. Now the PowerPoint slides are ready, each with a unique love line and her pictures. The  live band is ready to back me up as I sing Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. I am supposed to sing all the way from the farthest entrance to the podium and end up on my knees with the piece of silver and diamonds on my hands. The plot thickens.

Just  before the cake is cut, the newly wedded couple takes the stage and Tom grabs the mic. He announces a surprise raffle game (this was his idea, I just danced to his tune. Interesting guy!).

“There can only be one winner and whoever the lucky winner will be, we have a great gift for them,” declares Tom

By this time, I had excused myself to the ‘gents’ when in reality I was hiding with a mic at the main entrance, far away from the crowd, gathering every ounce of courage. Tom called a false name intentionally, someone who had left. Then he did one more round of raffle, this time round calling out none but Her Majesty. Excited to be the lucky winner, she dashed to the podium. It was my turn to swing into action, I did. She screamed, Yes! The photos will speak the rest.

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The traditional ceremony followed afterwards and on 15.10.17, we said our vows. For us, it has been a long, intriguing and thrilling voyage. Sometimes we wonder how we got this far, but looking back, we both know it could only be God’s grace. Glory to His name!

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Special gratitude to our pastors, elders, counselors, loving parents, families, colleagues, committee, friends and the bridal party for the prayers, support, counsels and sacrifices to deliver 15.10.17. You guys stopped at nothing. We love you so dearly.

To my charming wife, Kenny Rodgers says it for me;

I’d die before I’d damage, this union we have made
The vows go unbroken, and you still know I do
Love, keep and honor, always true to you

But King Solomon caps it best;

Set me as a seal upon your heart – Song of Songs 8:6

#LoveDivine


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ATTRACTION AND DISCRETION

When the face you have been staring into with grins and goosebumps turns into that of a monster. When the hands you have been enjoying to clasp burst into flames and burn your own. When the lip you have been kissing grows proboscis and sucks your blood dry. When the chest you have been hugging with fondness pushes you hard and you fall with a thud. When your hope of a blissful future turns into a painful eternity…

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“When the hands you clasped burst into flames”


Attraction is a natural law of socialization. Everyone needs some amount of attraction in order to be comfortable doing certain things, keeping a certain job, being in certain places or keeping certain people as friends or acquaintances. Without this subtle yet powerful law, all you engage in will soon turn out to be meaningless and worthless regardless of how dazzling and cherished they are right now.

Stop forcing yourself into a clique you are not attracted to. Stop trying to fit into a job which doesn’t satisfy you and which you don’t enjoy doing. Stop trying too hard to love people when the natural attraction jar between you and them is only emptying down rather than filling up. Stop trying to study a course that you have no attraction to, only to please your parents and professors, because they want to be proud of you when you finally hold that title.

Listen, you would rather die, than live a lie. Be real. The greatest form of betrayal is that committed against self. When you betray yourself, you have only yourself to blame

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“Do not be too timid to affiliate to your attraction” 

because you had better options on your hand but you consciously chose the wrong one. Sooner or later, the friends you were trying to please by staying on in an abusive relationship will be all gone. The relatives you were struggling to do their will, will soon leave you to your own devices when you are already shattered in a love triangle or smashed in a pitch-dark emotional abyss.

The Advisors-In-Chief who opened pages of “Relationship 101” for you day and night, will run short of lies, their prophecies will be nullified by time, their theories will cease to hold. Then they will block your communication channels. You will feel like dying after realizing just how cold this world can get. All these because you were not real in the first place. You were living your life to please others who sadly, didn’t have your best interest at heart.
With all these, where then is the place of advisability? Should we be headstrong and ignore every voice that cautions us and every instruction that we receive? Nay! This is where discretion comes in. Exercise discretion with caution and fearful obedience to God, especially when you know what God’s express will is, in such a situation.
You will be branded a few names here and there for it. Some ugly rumors will run across social media of you being a heart breaker, indecisive, ungrateful, tough headed, proud and evil. You will be ostracized by your family, discriminated against by your friends and maligned by those you held most dearly to you. But that is just fine, because it is both a phase of growth and a learning curve. 
During this phase, you need to keep your pen and note pad closest to you. Don’t let a lesson go un-learnt. Here you will unlearn to learn. You will sift and shift. You will acquaint and quit. But when you are done, you will be the best version of you: bold and strong, wise and knowledgeable. You will be ready to face the world. 
See you in the next article!


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WHILE I CARRY ON


The story of legendary songstress Lydia Achieng Abura is one that gives my heart so much pain. Struggling with one too many things in life including terminal medical conditions, a sickling son and loss of close family members to be left all alone! Then came the hypocritical celebrity friends who left her to her own devices… 
This reminds me (aside). Recently, a very close friend of mine lost her beloved step brother just a day after I had prayer by his bedside and we had expectant hopes he was gonna get better – he is no more. Death indeed is painful and tragic!

Anyway, I thought you should know these about me, y’all hypocritical friends: 

I want to be translated and in a twinkle of an eye, ‘be caught up’ with the resurrected saints in the air as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. 

I want to sing happy Hosanna Hallelujahs to the King of Kings as we match on into The City of God.

I want to do my best by God’s grace to work, watch and wait for that epic day so it finds me ready…

But since death is real, and since it is not for me to decide whether I be translated or not, I thought I should tell you the following too: 

Don’t wait to buy me a coffin when I die, afford me a shelter now while I carry on.

Don’t tarry till I’m gone to come dress me in a sassy black Italian suit and exquisite silk Prada neck tie from Milano, and that costly gold cuff-linked white cotton shirt from wherever – I need them now, while I carry on.

Don’t wait to come shed crocodile tears in my funeral as though they could raise me from the wooden box, come cry with me now when I need a shoulder to lean on, while I carry on.

Don’t wait to come to my funeral, grab the mic and lie to mourner how I was a good man yet during my lifetime all you did was to slander my person and assassinate my character. 

Don’t wait to pile up roses 🌹 on my casket and grave after I’m gone. Give them to me now while I carry on.

Don’t wait to write condolences on my social media pages when I can read then no longer, show me kindness now while I carry on. 

Don’t wait for my demise to say, “We loved you but God loved you most…” and those tired plagued lines; come assure me of your love now, it will rejuvenate me while I carry on. 
Please, do me all these things while I am yet alive. While I can afford to hug you, smile back at you and thank you, while I carry on.

#SeasonsOfGrace


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The Luggage or The Flight?

Doubtless, you need both. In fact, both seem equal in significance. The one literally takes you to your destination and the other sorts you out while you’re venturing on escapades away from home. If you’re a frequent traveler, was there one instance when you were compelled to consciously choose between your luggage and the flight? When you just couldn’t have your cake and eat it, like we do many times and take it for granted? What was your choice? Come with me.

December 2009, good year of the Lord. A young Kenyan student in his early twenties is making his second grand trip out of the country! He’s thrilled and intrigued. Thrilled as a student of Anthropology because he can’t wait to meet and greet the people of West Africa, experience their culture and contrast their diversity; and intrigued because he has to go down south to Jo’burg before he proceeds up west to Dakar. What a journey! But for some reason he loves it. Back then, take off and landing were bitter-sweet experiences which he clearly didn’t mind.

So on the material day, journey begins at JKIA. All luggage intentionally checked in for Jozi just so he could go trace the damn baggage carousel in the massive Oliver Tambo International Airport, check it in again for Dakar and feel nice! That was part of the adventure, how could he miss that? 


But immediately after check in at JKIA, kaboom! Something not so normal happens. One of the counter attendants for South African Airways announces with the eerie Southern African accent that has exerggerated r’s and d’s – you’d imagine her teeth are crushing pebbles instead of nuts, “Sorry your flight is delayed by at least 7 hours… The airport runway lights failed last night so the aircraft didn’t land… Some flights were deflected to Mombasa and others to Julius Nyerere…” By the way, you should’ve heard her pronounce “land” as “leeend”. I can’t.

As you’d expect, one or two white dudes start cursing vehemently, fisting up and throwing hands in the air. Americans are easy to tell, my brother, they rule the world! To this, another SAA lady, stout, short and light skinned with tiny eyes and chubby face, comes forward and barks in a coarse diction, “The mistake was not ours, please blame the airport management, not us…” 

Meanwhile, this young student chuckles. That “Please blame” line sounds to him really amusing but now is not the time to laugh. He is disgruntled in the queue. He’s thinking about his connecting flight at Jozi and how he’s gonna spend these 7 or so hours at JKIA. He remembers a close friend, Donna, who works close to the airport, calls her up. She comes just in good time. They talk time away, sip vanilla shakes and crush some nuts (not pebbles). Time is eaten like pounded yam, the bliss of friendship. Soon they part ways with a warm hug and a “take care, safe travels” line. 

Time to board, time to fly and four hours fifteen minutes later, time to land! But fresh trouble begins right after disembarking the bird at O.R Tambo. First step into the airport, still at the immigration and police checks, this young man hear his name on all the loud speakers. It’s a boarding call, only unique and scary because they’re only calling his name. Each time they call they say it’s his very last chance to board. His eyes pop. His anxiety heightens. His fingers are sweaty and clumsy. He answers the police with repeated nods, grabs his passport and yellow fever certificate and dashes to nowhere! Then he stumbles on a man in uniform and asks where his boarding gate is. He gazes at his boarding pass then roars,

“Hey, are you the one they are calling? They have been calling for too long, use the escalator then go downstairs and you will see your gate!”

“But what about my luggage, sir?” He asks

“Did you check it in for Jo’burg?”

“Y-yess sir”

“My friend, choose one”

“I don’t understand”

“The luggage or the flight”

Tough choice there. The seven hours he thought he had in O.R Tambo were spent in advance at JKIA. But why do people refer to you as their friend when they’re only meeting you for the first, and probably last time? He wondered. Anyway, the uniformed man advises him to take the flight and leave the luggage as it would be impossible to get a seat in subsequent SAA flights since it’s December, a peak season. He further instructs him on how to use his baggage claim pass to trace his luggage once he lands at Léopold Sédar Sénghor. He assures him that he would have his luggage delivered to his hotel in a day’s. 

So he thanks the man and off he dashes with a whizz, albeit half-heartedly. As he boards the Airbus, it is clear that the whole crew has been waiting for him and it is such a relief to them that he came! He feels like the man of the moment – he is. Nine and half hours above the clouds, no sleep in his eyes. The poor boy is thinking of his luggage that he left in SA and wondering they’ll ever be united. To him, it’s more like a break up between two love birds who just don’t seem to get over each other but neither has the humility to make the first move in making up…

Two days later, SAA delivered my luggage right to my hotel room! 

But come to consider it, life is a constant choice between the luggage and the flight. In this choice, passion, appetite, dazzling allurements, and company are no safe guides. In this choice, we are called upon to be radical and consciously abandon the luggage and baggage that deter us from flying. 

Like in my case 7 years ago, baggage always seem very important and greatly to be missed if lost but the truth is, it’s not! At least not as much as the flight. Life calls us to strive with our very blood to excel, tread wisely and leave our footprints as landmarks on the sands of time for our posterity’s sake.

We struggle daily to impress, under self-instigated duress, people and things who probably care nothing about those impressions. Yeah, the pressures of life are enormous and compelling but some times it makes sense to abandon all the craze, take a respite and re-evaluate the worth of these struggles, then with rejuvenated resolve, give it a fresh shot.

Will you choose the flight of the luggage?

#SeasonsOfGrace


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Going Down Below

Soon after she rudely told me they had no vegetarian plate (the woes of flying economy), I threw my sight balls out the window to deal with the anger and the hunger, and behold, spectacular clouds! Then I started typing…

There are times when you will be cruising above the clouds where only extraordinary lives – like the Eagles – thrive. You will feel the pride but fail to see the privilege. You will forget that below those same clouds are other human beings just like you except that they are crawling with the turtles. You will forget that before you got up above, you were down below, and whether it is hard work or connections that got you above the poor clouds, it’s still a privilege all the same.

Clouds above the city of Bamako, Mali

But the most crucial thing that you are likely to forget – which will sooner or later throw you in utter disarray and poisonous poignance – is the fact that one way or the other, you will have to go back below those very clouds! Poor you! In going back below the clouds, the reality is that you will either land or crash, and the probabilities are not for you to determine.

If you safely land, you get a chance to continue with the not-so-normal routine of pain, sickness, politics, murder, tears, treachery, betrayal and graves! This will be a golden chance for you to right your wrongs and redefine your purpose but I can bet with you, you will waste it. If you don’t, then you are among the rarest exemplary breeds. 

On the other hand, if you crash, that’s the end of your story. Sad and absurd, but we are being real here. Forget about ‘happily ever after’ – it’s a trap! A mental trap that’s aimed at keeping your spirit comforted in an uncomfortable zone, your intellect maimed worse than that of a zombie and your rationale blocked so you don’t think or reason. Happily ever after is non-existent, it’s a hoax. Anyway, I digress. 

So if you crash, you lose not only the privilege of being above the clouds but also your life itself. You die. You lose it. And this kind of death isn’t comely (not to mean others are) because folks don’t get to view your remains. They are given your body parts or ashes or things, but not your intact remains. Chiefly, you lose forever a chance to live forever. The pride that beclouded your sight and the privileges that you never took time to appreciate, all gone! 

I need to let you go now, but just in case you missed the whole point: live simply, learn and refuse to unlearn humility. Remain humble regardless of your worldly achievements, both apparent and assumed. Stay connected to more human beings than machines and do not forsake your God – He alone will have your back till your last breath. Spread the Word! 

#SeasonsOfGrace


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STEERING WHEEL OR SPARE WHEEL?

Suddenly, I had a tyre burst. I held the steering wheel with my life and the spare wheel didn’t even cross my mind. There were two on-coming vehicles, one already overtaking the other and obscuring my lane. I stuck with the steering wheel even though I couldn’t safely steer the car to the left hand side and park because of this deep trench. I was at sixes and sevens! It was a real pell-mell. Mind went blank but instinctively, I didn’t get my hands off the steering wheel, even though it couldn’t seem to be availing much.

The last thing on my mind was the spare wheel. The time to think about it hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe, if I managed to safety stop the car then I would think of it. But for now, I was doing 85 or 90 Kph and the distance between me and the on-coming rogue vehicles was narrowing by the second.

I was afraid (a driver is not supposed to be afraid). I was terrified. I felt as though I was was inside Wastage Mall with that eerie Al Shabaab guy pointing his rifle right at my head, at very very close range. I shuddered, but still held the steering wheel, albeit feebly. I just refused to let it go. I dreaded a head-on collision, but I also dreaded rolling into this ditch. I honked and let out full lights. Honked again, hard. All these didn’t avail much.

Never in my entire life had I felt that desperate. Drama was unfolding and I was at the very heart of it. Everything happened at the speed of light and I had little time to think or act. I was dying. Lawd! Snap shots of my mother and family came to my poor memory. I had just seen said bye to mum, but I wished for a chance to see and hug dad too. To assure Barry, Maurine, Mercy and Felo that all’s gonna be fine with them without me in this world. I was seeing death but I wished for life.

At this point, handed over the situation to God. Then Isaiah 41:10, a verse we had studied with Javan two years ago, came back to memory. Only then did I feel the bravery of a lion in my heart. I stepped on the brakes and rolled safely and graciously three or four times! I knew I was in safe keeping. I was no longer afraid of death. I was covered by the blood of Jesus Christ (Amen). The wreckage halted and I was alive! The driver’s side was untouched, unscratched, just safe. As I walked out of the wreckage, some superstitious humans thought I was a ghost. Funny, right?

 

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Look, if you’re still reading, this is the whole point:

1. When you treat God at the spare wheel, fear will engulf you. You will lose all the battles, including your life itself. But when you treat Him as the Steering Wheel, the Lion of Judah will impute His courage on you and you will be safe even in death!

2. If you memorise the sure Word of God and not fables, He will bring it back to memory at the time you need it most and it will save you.

3. You gotta make your ways right with God and man (right now) because you don’t know when your life may be taken from you.

4. Whe you see death, do not wish for life. Pray for it in the saving name of God’s Son.

More segments of this testimony will follow.

‪#‎SeasonsOfGrace‬