Christmas!: The Line Between the Cradle and the Grave

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It’s been long since I posted on this blog! Christmas is almost here, and it is one of my favorite times of the year (I hope you like this season too!).  Also, the year is almost over; very exciting!  So, a few weeks ago, I was not able to make it to church, so I ended streaming a live service from my Ohio Church, Word of Truth Christian Church.  During the service, one of my friends sang a song titled, “It’s about the Cross” by the Ball Brothers.  This was the first time I heard this song, and it was a powerful reminder of what Christmas is really about.  And here are the words of this song:

It’s not just about the manger where the baby lay 
It’s not all about the angels who sang for him that day 
It’s not all about the shepherds or the bright and shining star 
It’s not all about the wise men who traveled from afar

It’s about the cross, it’s about my sin 
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once 
So that we could be born again 
It’s about the stone that was rolled away 
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross

It’s not just about the good things in this life I’ve done 
Its not all about the treasures or the trophies that I’ve won 
Its not about the righteousness that I’ve found within 
It’s all about His precious blood that save me from my sin

The beginning of the story is wonderful and great 
But it’s the ending that can save you and that’s why we celebrate 
It’s about the cross, it’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once 
So that we could be born again 

It’s about God’s love nailed to a tree
It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from him when it should have been me 
It’s about the stone that was rolled away 
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross, It’s about the cross

Listening to this song reminded me of the powerful connection between Christmas and Easter.  It is important that we remember that Christmas is just the beginning of the redemption story, and it is INCOMPLETE on its own.  As I was listening to Dr. David Jeremiah’s preaching series, “Why the Nativity,” he said, ” We need to take a pause here away from the joy and gladness of Christmas, and just remember that Christmas is only meaningful in the light of the fact that it is the beginning and not the end. Christmas by it self is a beautiful story and nothing more. Christmas without Easter is one of the better stories in the world but no more. But when you put Christmas together with Easter, when you realize that the cradle and the grave have a straight line drawn between them, even Christmas becomes more profound and more meaningful.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us think about this powerful and life-changing connection between the cradle and the cross! And, let it not end at Christmas, but it should be a vivid picture that is constantly on our minds and hearts even in this new year.  Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

My Prayer to God

FB-prayerhonorI have been reading a book written by Stormie Ormatian titled The Power of a Praying Woman.  This books ends with a prayer to God at the end of every chapter, and there is one prayer that really spoke to my heart. It was a reminder of what my greatest need is, because many are the times that I forget. I thought of sharing this prayer with you:

Lord,

make me continually aware that my greatest need will always be for more of You in my life. Don’t let me get to the place where I think I can live my life without You in any way. Help me to recognize my complete dependence on You. I crave Your presence, peace, power and perfect love. I want to walk so closely with you that I hear Your Holy Spirit speaking to my heart at all times.

Don’t let me forget the things you have taught me, are teaching me, or will teach me. Remind me so I don’t have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again. I don’t ever want to become arrogant and think that the rules don’t apply to me. I don’t want to put You to the test in order to see how much I can get away with, or how far I can presume on Your grace. I know that unless You and Your law had been my greatest delight, “I would then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92). I want to always say that, “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life” (Psalm 119:93). I want to become stronger in my spirit because I rely on Your spirit in me to guide me. Deliver me from wrong thinking. Cause Your Word to be so much in my heart that I don’t make mistakes (Psalm 37:31).

Lord, I submit to You the things I see as important needs. I lift up to you the longings and deep desires in my heart and recognize that you are the source of, and answer to, everything I need or long for in my life. Thank you that you will supply all of them (Psalm 4:19).

If there are Words for Him, then I don’t have them

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In one of her songs, Natalie Grant said this about Jesus, “What kind of king would choose to wear a crown that bleeds and scars to win my heart?” Only Jesus Christ. All of today, I have been looking for the words to say out-loud to God, but I just could not find the right words.  I still feel this feeling as I write this post, but I don’t know how to express it in words.  I am now sitting on my couch, thinking, “God, you know exactly how I feel in my heart.  How grateful I am to You, and how thankful I am for the cross.  I want to express this to You with many words, but I just can’t seem to find the right words to say.”

You may not believe this, but as I was in the midst of these thoughts, trying to figure out how to write this post, the song Forever by Kari Jobe, randomly started playing on my music list. This song talks about how the lamb of God was slain, but after he was buried, war on death was waged and the power of hell was broken.  It continues to say that the ground begun to shake, the stone was rolled away, and our resurrected King, Christ, is alive forever!

At the end of this song, there was a poem that was read.  As I listened to this poem, I was amazed to hear the words spoken because they were the exact description of how I felt. The words that I was not able to express, were perfectly crafted in this poem: (take a listen by clicking on the poem link, or read below):

If there are words for Him, then I don’t have them.|| You see my brain has not yet reached the point where it could form a thought that could adequately describe the greatness of my God || And my lungs have not yet developed the ability to, release a breathe with enough agility to breathe out the greatness of His love. ||And my voice, you see, my voice is so inhibited, restrained by human limits, that’s hard to even send the praise up.|| You see, if there are words for Him, then I don’t have them|| My God, His grace is remarkable, Mercies are innumerable, Strength is impenetrable. || He is honorable, accountable, Favorable. ||He’s unsearchable yet knowable, Indefinable yet approachable, Indescribable yet personal. || He is beyond comprehension, further than imagination, Constant through generations, King of every nation.|| But if there are words for Him, then I don’t have them. ||

You see my words are few in trying to capture the one true God, using my vocabulary would never do.|| But I use words as an expression, an expression of worship to a Savior.|| A Savior who is both worthy and deserving of my praise. ||So I use words|| My heart extols the Lord, blesses His name forever. He has won my heart, Captured my mind, and has bound them both together.|| He defeated me in my rebellion, Conquered me in my sin.|| He has welcomed me into His presence ||Completely invited me in. He has made Himself the object of my sight. Flooding me with mercies in the morning. Drowning me with grace in the night.|| But if there are words for Him, Then I don’t have them.

But what I do have is, good news.||For my God knew that man-made words would never do.  The words are just tools, that we use to point to the truth.|| So He sent His son Jesus Christ as The Word, living proof.||He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, giving nothingness formation, and by His words, He sustains in the power of His name,|| For He is before all things, and over all things He reigns.|| Holy is His name.|| So praise Him for His life. The way He persevered in strife, the humble son of God becoming the perfect sacrifice.|| Praise Him for His death.  That He willingly stood in our place, that He lovingly endured the grave, that He battled our enemy, and on the third day rose in Victory.|| He is everything that was promised. Praised as the risen King.|| Lift your voice and sing, for one day He will return for us.|| And we will finally be united with our Savior for eternity, eternity.||

So it’s not just words that I proclaim. || For my words point to The Word.|| And The Word has a name, Hope has a name, Joy has a name, Peace has a name, Love has a name And that name is Jesus Christ! ||Praise His name FOREVER!

Loving Arms: Embarking on a journey of healing & hope (Part 1)

Changing the world one story at a time

In 2014, I co-founded a Christian nonprofit called Loving Arms Malawi.  My close friends Sunga and Livinia are the other co-founders, and I am always amazed by their passion to support and empower young women and girls in Malawi.  Loving Arms is a youth-founded and youth-led organization that focuses on raising awareness about sexual violence, and provides free counseling services and access to resources to individuals who need support. Additionally, we are dedicated to promoting girls education, by providing scholarships, giving the girls access to educated/professional role models to encourage them to stay in school and mentor them in their academic/career journey. We also provide professional development opportunities and career coaching for young people.

The motivation behind this start up is that we have lived similar experiences with the young women we serve.  We have walked in their shoes, and know how it feels to be in them.  My passion is directed more towards girl-child education, and I coordinate most of our education-related projects.  Being a first generation college-student from the global south, I know how hard it is for someone like me to pursue education.  From my mother’s side of the family, I was the only person who completed higher education, but I am glad to say there are a lot more who are working hard and have embarked on this journey with me. My mother went back to school after she had me and my siblings, which is super awesome! She is my greatest inspiration, my top role model, and my number one fan.

Some of the girls we reach-out to through Loving Arms do not have educated people around them.  This makes it is difficult for them to know the importance of staying in school because they have not fully engaged with people who have this type of education, and how it has changed their lives.  This is why we bring educated/professional young people to encourage and mentor our girls.  Through Loving Arms, I seek to encourage young women and girls to pursue education because I believe it is the one thing that will change their lives because it changed mine.  Just as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

Loving Arms also focuses on addressing the issue of sexual abuse, which is a taboo topic in most of our Malawian communities.  Watch out for my next post because that is my next topic!

To be continued…

Bringing the “Flavor”

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A few days ago, I was hanging out with my roommate/housemate and her friend from Tanzania who ENJOYS eating my Malawian kapenta (Kenyan Omena).  But on this special day, we were having some yummy drink/porridge that my roommate made.  It looked and tasted like my Malawian Thobwa, but it was a Kenyan porridge made from sorghum, millet, and beans and it was seasoned with lemons and sugar.  I love it! Later, my Nigerian friend Oma joined us, and it was just wonderful spending time with these great ladies.

As we were talking, my roommate shared a story with us, which resulted into us going on Facebook to find a poem by Anna Mwalagho titled “Bringing the Flavor.”  The poem is based on how people who are international/foreign will always standout or be called out for having an accent, which sometimes is either a negative or positive experience.  I can totally relate to this because I obviously have an accent when I speak English, so does everyone else when they are outside of their native home/country.  I remember going to the Post Office trying to send a package to a friend and the Post Office lady was like, “Aaww, what a cute little accent! Where are you from? Nigeria?” I smiled and did not know what to say because I sound no close to the Nigerian accent. Some of my friends will usually not want to reply and start the whole explanations (because you usually have to educate the person about how diverse our continent is), but I  try to explain sometimes because I kinda have fun when I explain such things.

But anyway, the point is, no matter who you are, or where you are from, or how your accent sounds like, always know that you add value and flavor to your community, friends and family.  Below is poem by Anna Mwalagho from Kenya that relates to this experience.  I found it interesting and I thought of sharing:

As I speak, rhymes flow into my mind || and as I blaze the stage I hope you will relate and comprehend my linguistic phrases.|| As I speak, your dialectic phrases can use my accentual tongue to bless thee with words of wisdom. || I am a victim of discrimination. || No, not because I am black, and surely I ain’t white, || but because I am an immigrant, an alien, a foreigner. || See I speak the same words, comprehend the same phrases, but just because my tongues rolls in a different way doesn’t mean I am dumb, but sí, comprehende English. || I can speak normal English than you. || See, I am tired of being labelled, people talking to me SLOWLY, like I am dumb, having some disability of some sort. || Disability ain’t nobody’s choosing, but brother and sister, I am fine, one hundred percent sane. || Matter of fact, much better than you in many ways than one. || I mean, if you cannot say my name right, MWALAGHO, then you have no right, to tell me to say “water (wädər)” if I know it as “waTer.“… if you have not walked in my shoes, you have no say, in my world. || Don’t you dare command me to walk in your shoes, because I love the smell of feet, the feel of my shoes, and the history of my life…

Why is it important for you to embrace your mother tongue?

Language-and-Culture

Today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the global community is celebrating the International Mother Language (IML) day. For nearly 20 years, February 21st has been the day set by UNESCO to celebrate linguistic diversity. For some people, this topic may seem trivial, but for others (like my friend Dianah K), it’s a subject worth spending 4 years to study and understand.

UNESCO’s purpose for celebrating the IML day was to “preserve linguistic diversity and promote mother tongue-based multilingual education.”  One point that UNESCO highlighted that caught my attention was that linguistic diversity is increasingly being threatened.  As a result, languages disappear with an average of one language disappearing every two weeks.  The sad part of all this is that, it is not only the language that disappears, but it takes with it an entire culture and intellectual heritage.

When I read this, I was shaken up because I would never want to lose my culture because that is one thing that makes me unique.  However, I think people do not know that the more they try to get rid of their mother-tongue, the more they are distancing themselves from their culture or intellectual heritage.  I remembered an experience I had a few years back when I was tutoring a Malawian Kindergarten student.  After we finished our learning session I said something to the child in our mother-tongue (Chichewa) and the child said to me, “Sorry, my mum told me not to speak Chichewa.  She only wants me to speak English.”

Unless we do not value our culture and do not want our children to learn about it, I think it is important to allow our children to learn their native language so that they know and understand the customs and attitudes that make them unique and give them the chance to stand out in this competitive world.  Even when foreigners visit a new country, the first thing they do to learn the culture is to learn the mother-tongue.

In addition to preserving culture through language, multilingualism is key in achieving global development.  Through the Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 goals created by the United Nations to end poverty and ensure prosperity by 2030, multilingualism is included as an integral part of this initiative.  This is because “the SDGs depend on linguistic diversity and multilingualism as a vital contribution to global citizenship education as they promote intercultural connections and better ways of living together.”

So parents, let us not stop our children from speaking their mother-tongue; this will help to preserve your cultural heritage and become part of the global development process.  Teachers, let us encourage our students to speak their mother-tongue. Students, be confident to speak in your mother-tongue and share your language experiences with others.  Happy Mother Language Day!

Let Love be Genuine

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For the past few days, I have been studying the book of Romans for my morning devotions.  Today, I read Romans chapter 12 and more than half of this chapter was talking about the marks of a true Christian, and after reading this, I came to a conclusion that the mark of a true Christian can be summarized in one word, which is LOVE.  I remembered that today, people all over the world are celebrating love (valentine’s day), and it would be a great day to talk about LOVE.

I believe that everyone desires to be loved, and the greatest example of love ever shown was that of Christ.  Just as John the Apostle said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (ESV).” From Christ’s example, I have learnt that love is sacrificial; we should be willing to lay down our lives for our friends, family, and those around us.  I think this is what genuine love is all about.

So, as I read this chapter, and looking at the description of what genuine love is all about, I felt guilty because, sometimes, I fail in loving the people around me.  I wanted to share with you some of the points mentioned in Romans 12 (ESV):

  • Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints
  • Seek to show hospitality
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep Live in harmony with one another
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all
  • Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the words of Anthony Evans, I believe genuine love is willing to get hurt, giving and needing no return, and going on a road that would lead to your end but still going ahead to let someone else live.  So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with ALL.

African Time

TimeIf you are African or have an African friend or colleague, then the concept of “African time” may not be new to you.  African time is described as a tendency of a “more relaxed attitude to time” in most African regions and among African people.  Because of this attitude, people show up late at events, or events will start late or end later than scheduled.  Honestly, I must confess that I am culprit of lateness.

I remember when I was in undergrad, my friend Sue would always say, “We are meeting at 4 pm American Time. DON’T be late!”  This was her telling me to show up on time.  My undergraduate institution was founded by American missionaries, most of my instructors were American, so I always say that I attend an “American Institution.”  Attending this school taught me the importance of keeping time, because all our activities always started on time.  Additionally, during my studies, I was required to do a broadcasting practicum and I had to do radio and television presenting for almost two years.  As a radio presenter, you CANNOT afford to be late, because air-time cannot be lost (every second counts).  On top of this, my dad is very strict about being prompt.  I had a lot of pressure from friends, family, and school, so I tried to live up to these expectations.

After moving to Bowling Green, I had a complete change of environment because it felt like I moved into a time-bound culture.  During my graduate studies, I worked as an Administrative Assistant in our College of Education and Human Development.  On the first day of my job training, my boss said, “We open the office at 8 am, but we show up at work at 7:45 am.”  This meant that work started promptly at 8 am and showing up on time (at 8) was being late.  I had to up my “time-game” because I wanted to impress my boss and be a good employee.  As a result, I decided to show up at work at 7:40 am.  I always made sure that I arrive at work before my boss does and set up everything before he arrives at the office.  There were a few times that I was late, but I would let him know in advance, and he would understand because I set a high standard at the beginning of my employment.

In my understanding of African time, I believe that it is not just about tardiness or lateness, but it also goes into building relationships.  In most of my experiences regarding this, people will sometimes choose to be late just because they are willing to spend more time with someone and deepen the relationship.  Besides, most African communities are collective and have high levels of social cohesion hence people value spending more time with one another, which may sometimes mean staying longer in one place than expected—and being late for the other.  From my understanding, I think African time is more common in settings that are more relaxed and casual such as parties, get-togethers, etc.  However, as a young African professional with diverse experience working with different African professionals, I can assert that this idea of time does not really take place in professional and high-level meetings.  I would say that the idea of African-time is a social construct that is overly generalized.  Yes, it a “thing” is casual settings, but in professional circles being on time is an important work ethic that is nonnegotiable (maybe with a few exceptions 😉).

I understand the importance of respecting other people’s time, and I am sometimes not happy when someone is late (I can relate with those who feel frustrated when people don’t keep time).  However, try to give them the benefit of a doubt, hear them out and try to understand where they are coming from.  It may be that there is something bigger going on, than just them being late. orologio-africano-674x674

To Know You…

To know you is to want to know you more

Last night, I was trying so hard to remember a song I used to listen to when I was in undergrad.  I literally only remembered too words from that song, which meant that even a google search would not be of much help.  I woke up this morning still thinking about this song– I still couldn’t remember (I felt a little sad).  I got out of bed, started my morning devotions and as I was about to finish my prayer, the title of the song came back to my head!  Yay! The song is titled “No matter What,” googling the title helped me remember the artist (Kerrie Roberts), and I was able to listen to the song. #Excited. (I think it’s a good song, try listening to it if you can).

I LOVE listening to music– maybe that is why I was a little sad that I couldn’t remember one of my old time favorite songs.  As I was trying to make my brain remember this song, another song came into my mind, which I haven’t listened to in a very long time.  This other song was done by the Casting Crowns and it was released in 2009, and it’s titled To know You. I immediately googled this song also and as I was reading the lyrics, it spoke to my heart.  This song reminded me what knowing Jesus means to me, and it may mean the same thing for you.  I thought of sharing–  Here is part of it!

Jesus,

To know you:

is never worry for my life
is to never to give in or compromise
is to want to tell the world about you
is to hear your voice when you are calling
is to catch my brother when he is falling
is to feel the pain of the brokenhearted

is to ache for more than ordinary
is to look beyond the temporary
is believing that you will be enough
To know you is to want to know you more

The Dream, the Closed Lane, and Help from a Stranger

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The day before yesterday, I woke up from a strange dream.  I dreamt that I was at a gas station fixing the tires on my car.  I was able to get the two tires in the front, but my back tires were messed up—and then, something bad happened because of the issue with the back tires (but I can’t remember the details).  Immediately, the scene in the dream changed, and I found myself sitting with a great multitude.  Someone stood up and said, “we need to help Pempho” and lots of people volunteered to help.  After I woke up from this dream, I kept wondering what that was all about, but I just decided to let it go and start my day.

Let us rewind the story a little bit.  Last week, our town had a bad snow storm. It was all over the news and we were being advised to be safe on the roads and try to stay warm.  I had an errand to run that very day, 30 minutes away from my house.  I decided to leave home and run the errand a few hours before the weather got bad.  Unfortunately, I was delayed a little bit.  On my way back home, it had just started snowing and the roads were covered with snow (it was not too much).  While driving, my back tire hit a pothole; it was very loud. I silently said “Ouch” when I heard the sound, but I later ignored it and never thought about checking the tires.

A few days later (back to the morning I had the dream), I was driving on the high way and one lane was closed; traffic was very slow.  On a 60 mile/hr road (96 km/hr), I was going 5 miles/hr (8 km/hr).  During this time, I was on the phone with my friend Fisayo, and I was complaining to her about how traffic was extremely slow.  While talking to her, I started feeling like the car was shaking, even though I was going very slow.  I told Fisayo about the shaking car, and she was like, “Daza (that’s my middle name), you are thinking too much, and probably that’s how your car is.”  I laughed about it and kept going until I reach my destination and parked the car.  I decided to look at the back of the car to check the tires.  My goodness!  One of the back tires had a big cut on it; it looked like someone used a knife to cut it open, but it was a pothole cute.  It came from that huge hit/bump that I had a few days back.

I called for roadside assistance, but they were not able to come because of some policy issues.  I called my friend Daniel and he drove to where I was to help me change the tire (I don’t know how to do a tire change).  I asked him to come with the tools we needed (I didn’t even know I had all the tools in my trunk lol) and he brought them.  It was freezing cold outside; the weather was 18 degrees Fahrenheit (which is equivalent to -8 degrees Celsius).   I am thankful that my friend came out in the cold to help me.  Although we were both dressed up for the cold weather, we were both freezing.   I could not feel my tiptoes and my fingers were so cold even though I had gloves on.  We struggled to take the tire off the car.  We tried every trick we knew, but it did not work.

As we were standing there trying to come up with ideas on how to remove the tire, a woman drove by and parked her car close to us.  She got out of the car and walked closer to us and asked if we needed help.  I was about to say no, but I replied and said, “we are trying to change this tire, but we are having a hard time taking it off the car”.  The woman replied, “I have triple A, I can call them to come and help you with the tire change.”  We told her we were able to do it, just that the tire was kinda stuck, and we did not want to spend money on something we can do on our own.  The woman insisted and said that we will not pay for the service because it would be covered by her policy.  She expressed her concerns about the cold weather, and insisted that she calls them to come.  We agreed to have her help us.  Within half an hour, the triple A personnel arrived at our location and changed the tire within minutes.

When the tire change was done, the woman said to me, “You know, I never drive through here, but something just told me to come in the back and then I saw you.”  I was overwhelmed.  I was amazed at how a total stranger would be willing to go above and beyond to help me.  She stayed with me (in the freezing weather) after my friend Daniel left until the tire change was done.  My eyes were filled with tears because I was overwhelmed by this woman’s kindness (she did not the tears though 😊).  I told her “thank you” but deep in my heart, I wanted to say, “God bless you.”  As I was about to say this, the lady said, “It’s amazing how God works. I am glad he brought me here to you.  I am a big believer!” I got very excited when I heard this, and I told her, “God bless you, I am a believer too!”  I was so excited to know that she was a Christian just like me!

I never got the chance to get her name.  This is probably the only time that I get to see this woman.  I wish I got her name and her address so that I send her a thank-you-card.  But I am very thankful, that she helped me.  And I think it was not a coincidence that my dream, the morning of this event, sort of touched on what happened later that day. I believe it was a miracle! What if I was going 60 miles/hr with my bad tire? Probably something worse would have happened! I am glad the lane was closed, even though I was complaining to my friend Fisayo that traffic was too slow.  Who knows, maybe the car would have overturned if I was going too fast.

All in all, I thank God for the woman who helped me (and for my friend who came to my rescue).  I also thank God for the closed lane.  You may never know, there maybe a closed lane, path, or door in your life and you may be complaining and wondering why it is not open.  It may be that God is trying to save you from something bad that can happen if you go on that lane.  Sometimes, we may know why that lane was closed, but other times, we may never know.  But through it all, God works all things for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).