Posts Tagged ‘House On The Rock The Refuge’

Hope is a currency more valuable than the dollar, more desirable than the pound, and yet the most easily dispersed, if you’re in prison.

I visited Kuje Medium Security Prison on Friday the 22nd of April 2016, my first time ever in a prison, home and/or abroad. I had heard of prison visits by charities and fellows given to philanthropy in the past, but a chance meeting with Big Mo of Wazobia FM and I was off to ‘The Committee’ to tell them we needed to contribute towards the visit.

The trip to the prison was moved a few times due to high security alerts issued by the authorities, and the calibre of people housed in the prison and at some point I lost hope that the visit would happen. But, on Wednesday I was informed that we had received the all-clear and Friday was the day.

Thanks to monies graciously approved by The Committee, I drove to the assembly point, back seat full of toiletries – toothpaste, petroleum jelly, bathing soap, washing soap, dettol, sanitary towels, and bleach – and I had to change into something totally hiding my figure. Yep, I had been warned that the less *insert a word of your choosing* females look when they visit prisons, the less excitable the men will get.

image

Me, in my sister’s maternity kaftan!

And then we set off to Kuje, which is a right turn off the stretch from the city to the airport, and transforms from urban to underdeveloped with each kilometre. Unfortunately, there is a stark difference between state capitals and satellite towns around them; stark differences in what we present to outsiders, and what we really are.

The entire drive, my mind was racing, almost crashing into itself with all the emotions I was feeling and the stories of prison visits I’d heard. Would they pee on me, would anyone be really injured? Would they be hungry, angry or just stoic? I tried to distract myself with music, with very little success.

As we turned onto the dirt road leading to the prison, the butterflies in my belly doubled, trying to keep up with the increasing military presence we encountered. I was reminded of the absolute power of celebrity and the media (read as radio) when we were stopped at one of the checkpoints and told to go somewhere far to park. Then Big Mo introduced himself and it was magical how all the soldiers started hailing him. Fist bumps, laughs, the once tense mood melted into camaraderie because the soldiers matched a face with a voice they listened to maybe everyday.

We got into the prison reception, and the ladies were taken into a room to be searched. I’ve been body searched on three continents and I tell you, none have been as embarrassing and almost invasive as this search. The body search in America comes close, but these guys take the cake abeg.

We were led to a courtyard where there were at least 100 inmates sitting under canopies and laughing as one of us cracked jokes. And there was more laughter, raucous laughter as comedians thrilled the inmates. It got better, there were comedians drawn from the inmates themselves. Hilarity!

Beyond the laughter though, I was bawling like a baby at different points. One of them? One of the comedians was told he could only do one joke. He finished it, and when the mic was going to be taken from him, he said he’d been locked up for 8 years and he didn’t know when next he’d hold a microphone. Cue my wiping my eyes furiously.

When each performer finished, he would give out a tube of toothpaste, a bar of soap, or any of the little household items we had. The joy on their faces as they received the items, the look of longing on the faces of their peers, cue my wiping my eyes furiously.

Sometimes it was easy to forget we were actually amongst inmates. The thunderous laughter, hailing their own performers or ours, and the clapping would have been great joy to a politician at a rally. Each time an official asked them to move back, or sit down though? I remembered, all over again.

I wondered what crimes they might have committed to get there, wondered about their friends and family and if they were missed, if some of them had families waiting for them to get out, or if they had moved on. I was told of people who were locked up (for years) because they couldn’t afford bail of N5000.

A pastor from House on The Rock The Refuge gave a brief exhortation, and he led us in the song ‘Everything written about you is great’ by Steve Crown before that. Watching the prisoners standing, waving their hands in worship? Kai. Pastor TJ preached hope, courage, and Jesus being able to turn their lives around.

We danced too, even me! The performers all danced with the inmates, the prison officials danced with themselves, and then us females (two of us) were asked to come out to dance. Took all of me not to cry all over again as they hailed us to the ‘stage’; couldn’t manage beyond shuffling from side to side.

And it was a teary Chioma who gave soaps and toothpaste to the inmates, including one really old, frail man as afternoon turned to evening and we had to leave.

I was turning everything we’d experienced in my mind as we walked to the reception to be processed out. Only to see prison officials whipping one really rough-looking man so quickly it seemed like every step I took coincided with a swish of the whip. I started begging the official to stop, tears flying down my face. One of the officials told me not to waste tears on the man; apparently he’d been released from this prison after spending four years for raping a female; he had just been arrested, caught in the act of raping a four-year old boy. Yes. A four-year old. A boy.

I left.

PS: A very big thank you to Big Mo, Chuks D General, Willy Willy (all of Wazobia FM and who have organised these prison visits for a number of years), all the comedians and entertainment guys who came along on this visit. You guys are awesome.

I was at House on the Rock The Refuge today the 31st of August, a few hours before the ’ember months’ broadcasts start flying around on Blackberry, Twitter, and Facebook. Miss me with that nonsense please. God bless you.

I digressed; church was many shades of amazing! To be honest, the only church that compares to HOTR for me is my home church, Hillsong. There’s something about the amount of care and preparation that goes into readying their services that makes it super exciting for me.

I was blessed by the testimonies, especially the lady whose sister God snatched from death, and the guy who now has two flexible, well-paying jobs. There was the single mom whose son has now come to Christ and is now in university and away from his rough friends, and yes, there was the guy who heard a word from Pastor Goodheart in 2001, ‘ran’ with it and has now received a mandate letter from the Federal Government to bring his 9-year-old dream to life! Exciting stuff, God is truly amazing!

And then Asu Ekiye took to the stage, and I couldn’t sit down! Yes! Yes! Yes! From the first song till his team left the stage, I was catapulted to several times in 2013 when my darling aunty Pat and I would play loud music on the days before she fell ill, and then days when she didn’t feel a lot of pain.

Sometimes, I would wake up to Yinka Ayefele, some other times it would be Kefee (of blessed memory), and then of course it would be Asu Ekiye blasting through the roof. How no one ever reported us for disturbance I don’t know, and you know how paper-thin walls can be in England.

It always annoyed me when she did that (because I have the craziest sleep patterns); she’d leave the music on (at its highest), and then open my door just so I’d hear her sing along to it. When I opened my eyes she’d say, “eye no go rotten” or “sleep no be death”. If I frowned, she’d say, “I just came to visit you o, you don’t know if I’m an angel”, and that would make me smile. I miss her to pieces.

And so when Asu Ekiye started to minister, I danced my heart out in honor of God, and in honor of my aunty. I flashed back to the times we’d play these Nigerian traditional tunes, and then I’d dance to show her the steps I’d put on during my traditional marriage (even when I wasn’t dating anyone). I remember asking to check if my bum was shaking or not. Lol!

I miss her. I miss her. Kai.

P:S – At this point I shut my moleskine and concentrated on the service. So I wouldn’t cry too much. 🙂

Service today was powerful! Whoop!

When I’m in Nigeria, there are very few reasons why I won’t attend House On The Rock The Refuge in Abuja, and first four of a possible five reasons is I’m probably not in Abuja!

This particular Sunday, coming after a particularly horrible week both locally and internationally – Gaza, Air Algiers, Boko Haram, Ebola (hian!) – there was a real sense of fear/panic around me, and I promise you I was checking my calendar and things.

But God always has a word for His people, a word of peace, a word of comfort, a word of hope. And so I listened to testimonies of how God delivered a guy from violent death in an accident where the villagers were asking, “where are the dead bodies?” He came out untouched.

I listened to ‘Praise In This Age’ worship God like a man adores a girlfriend who just said yes to him, heartfelt, feeling in every single word, it was the kiss of my day. He has an incredible testimony too, God delivered him from a violent death too… He was pronounced dead after his accident et al but he’s alive today, with the most ‘goose-bumps inducing’ voice I’ve heard in a while! Dang!

Tehilah choir? Minstrels of life! Whoop! Instrumentation at its peak, and their excitement is always palpable, even when you’re sitting upstairs! Love them! Watched my sister bumping her head (with the cutest smile ever) as they did a hip-hop number today, love, love, love!

The Word. My Daddy Rev Goodheart led the church in a session of prayer, and brethren if you’re not praying for Nigeria you’re on a looooooong thing! What!! How can we be ranking highest for everything evil? Why? Can we not see there are evil forces at work? What else can we do but pray to the God who created us (and this country) to deliver, defend, and preserve His own?

Defend, deliver, and preserve us oh Lord. We will take precautions (like not hang around dodgy places, practice strict hygiene and stay aware of how to minimize risk to Ebola, etc.) but we know if you don’t watch over us and our cities, our efforts are in vain.

Rev Goodheart preached on the help of God, and 7 ways to engage it. Did I need this word or did I?

  1. Admit and acknowledge you need God’s help. No point if you feel like you can run things yourself. Deuteronomy 8: 2. Isaiah 66:3
  2. Denounce/release anything that might ‘help’ God or attempt to share his glory. Yes Sir! Take your eyes/hopes off them! Isaiah 50: 7. Psalm 147: 10-13
  3. Acknowledge/thank Him for past interventions. Works both ways – He comes through for you, but while you wait your faith stays unshaken cos’ you know if He did it before, He can/will do it again. Psalm 103: 1-4
  4. Ask/pray for His help. Hebrews 4: 16. 1 Kings 18. Don’t get weary with it. Ask!
  5. Activate divine help by praising. Psalm 23:3. 2nd Chronicles 20.
  6. Anticipate a God-given strategy will be made available. God always gives instructions when He wants to come through for you. Obedience to divine leading delivers you from destruction.
  7. Keep your eyes on the victory. Have you done everything you should do? Stand. Keep calm. Let God do His thing. Give God what Pastor Obi called ‘sleeping praise’! As in, sleep!

I had a great time at church, loved it! Looking forward to the dedication of the church in September, and Tehilah’s concert! Fingers crossed I can make it!

Written on the 27th of July.

Hello you!

So, six days into the third month of 2013; where are you with your resolutions? Did you make any? I didn’t, I think I’ve grown past that phase of promising myself to do stuff different only because I need to ‘fulfil a tradition’.

Also because I haven’t done very well with keeping a lot of them! With different resolutions, there were years I didn’t go past the first six days of the new year, years when I mentally kept adjusting the resolution (because I couldn’t stick with it), and then years I even forgot I made any resolutions!

What do I do now? Plan. Concrete, achievable plans that I can evaluate periodically and then either move forward with or discard them.

Not talking about me a lot today though. Looking through my moleskin today I found a sermon from a service I attended on the 6th of January at House  On The Rock (HOTR) The Refuge, Abuja where Pastor Goodheart Obi Ekwueme talked on ‘7 Musts For The New Year’. It lifted my spirit, and I just thought to share the notes I took on the day.

Ready? Welcome to church!

Pastor started with all of us reading Isaiah 43:18 – 19. It says:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Then he said not to dwell in the past, but to live in today, stay alert, and expect great things from God.

Philippians 3:10 –  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”.

The scripture above was explained thus – one of the best ways to flourish/prosper in this Fast Track year is to simply find out what way God is going and go that way. Why? It is more profitable to ask God for His plan for your life than to present your plans for Him to bless. Amos 3:3

John 2:7 tells the story of the first miracle Jesus performed, when He turned water to wine at the wedding in Cana. The obedience of the servants was implicit, no questioning, no second-guessing; Jesus said to do, and they did.  “Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim”.

My Fast Track is on the other side of my obedience. 2013 is the year to be wholly submissive to the will and direction of God for your life without question.

Proverbs 4:13 says “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life” while Proverbs 4:18 says “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

So, what are the seven pointers for a beautiful, super productive 2013?

1. Recalibrate and take stock of the past (in this case, take stock of the first two months that have passed)

2. Make quality decisions for this year. Some of the decisions he talked about include:

  • decide to invest rather than spend/waste
  • invest time in things that make for eternal consequence
  • invest in quality relationships, alliances, and alignments
  • decide to serve God and humanity
  • decide to please God at all costs
  • decide to be the best at whatever it is you do

*looks like a lot of deciding to do right? That’s why we have the Holy Spirit, always there to help, all we need to do is ask*

3. Purpose to forget the past

4. Plan and programme strategically for the year. Where do you see yourself in March, in June, by August? What do you hope to achieve? What do you need to do to be able to achieve them?

5. Count the cost of Fast Track 2013 and be determined to pay the price.

6. Make God first/numero uno/The One – establish the law of priorities and stick with it.

7. All through the year, review your progress. How far? Are we on the way to the things we want to achieve?

May God bless the reading of His word, and prosper that same word in our hearts, amen.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Hugs!

Hello! And welcome to church!!

Today we’re going back to a service I attended in June. Venue: House On The Rock, The Refuge, in Abuja! I found it in my notes and at this time of the year when we start to evaluate what we’ve done with ourselves, the failures and successes, its instructive that we don’t become gloomy.

be merry

Ok? Pens and notepads out? Lord help us internalize these words today, trust you to help us, heal us, and take all our sorrows away. Amen.

Ok, so Pastor Goodheart Obi Ekwueme taught on ‘The Medicine Of A Merry Heart’; I have adapted the first part of the message to suit my purpose. We start with a few scriptures:

Proverbs 17: 22 – “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”.

Proverbs 4: 21-22 – “Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. (Referring to the scriptures and the instructions from the Lord)

Psalm 11: 3 – “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Psalm 107:20 – “He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”

We need to learn to enjoy our today on the way to our tomorrow – Joyce Meyer. I like it when Ministers of the gospel reference other ministers of the gospel in their sermons, makes me feel like they acknowledge they are not the only ones out there, that they seek knowledge themselves. Pastor Obi Ekwueme is like that, bless him!

Here’s the gist: regardless of what you achieved or not, there is a reason to be merry, especially this season. You don’t have a job? Thank God you even qualify to be job hunting in the first place! You’re not married? You qualify for a partner, they’re not just here yet! If you were resident under a bridge, starkers and out of your mind, would any of the two questions above worry you? So be merry!

Good and perfect gifts come from God, the Father of light, in whom there is no partiality. That God is your Father, and the number one reason you should be merry! For the gift of life; January to December, we’re still here! Even if we got sick, we got better. Even if we got broke, we got better. There’s so much evil going on around us that we’ve been spared, all these are reasons to be merry!

As we enter a new week and preparations for Christmas and the New Year start to peak, let’s always remember that we have a good God who loves us and wants the best for us. And let’s stay merry!

Mwah!

 

Hello you!

Good week? Mine’s been on a sort of pendulum type ‘P’, swinging between pleasant, exciting, ecstasy, and then several shades of disappointment.

Week started out alright, went to the House On The Rock with my sister, Momma, and boo boo, and the service was electric! It started from the choir’s perfect rendition of a very difficult song ‘Get in the Spirit’, to the sermon which spoke clearly to my situation. I had been a little ‘somehow’ immediately I found out that Pastor Goodheart C Ekwueme wasn’t around but Pastor Chinedu Nwosu took us home with the ‘Rest in the storm’ sermon! Whoop!

Week was pretty uneventful, my contract with a government commission was up on Tuesday but technically I’m still there because I’m rounding up on training my successor and wrapping up on projects. Word of advice? Sort out everything before you start to expend your energy on behalf of any government agency. The bureaucracy  according to the Bible, ‘wearieth them all’.

Made some progress in the registration of CC Consulting Services Limited; I must say that the long, winding process of registration makes it easier for business owners to just operate without registration. Plus the fact that I was there on Wednesday with photocopies of every document they had asked for, the letters too. I was told to come the next day but I couldn’t make it. By Friday when I went there they had lost everything. EVERYTHING.

So we started again. Yup, we started everything again. Fortunately I had only handed in photocopies, and I’d gone there that day with the originals. Apart from filling out all the forms again, I had a 45 minutes wait because ‘network was down’.

Before all of that I’d been to Access/Intercontinental Bank to get my ATM card (they’d rang to tell me it was ready –nice) only for me to get there and they’d spelled my name wrong. How do you spell my name wrong when I wrote it out for you?

Before then too I’d spent a few hours with @jeremyweate; brilliant, interesting conversation over a nice, rich, mocha. At 6feet 5inches tall, Jeremy completely dwarfed me and I am tall (or like to think so). We talked about Nigeria, new media, the ‘fight against corruption’, lots of interesting stuff. Plus there are fresh opportunities for networking and that always gets me excited!

Then, on Wednesday the 14th I blogged about a dear friend of mine, Meka Akerejola who is battling kidney failure. He’s 31 years old, engaged to be married, and has lost both parents. He desperately needs a kidney transplant but cannot afford it (7 million naira) so all his friends are leading the drive to raise that money for him. 7000 people give 1000 naira and we hit the target. Guess what? In seven days we’ve raised one million, five hundred thousand, and some. Isn’t that amazing?

We’re still very far off though so if you haven’t given towards that cause, please help. His details are:

ACCOUNT NAME: AKEREJOLA MEKA
ACCOUNT NUMBER : 2080664569
BANK : ZENITH BANK

OR

ACCOUNT NAME: AKEREJOLA MEKA
ACCOUNT NUMBER : 0023054669
BANK: GUARANTY TRUST BANK

Did I tell you that my nephew got immunized on Thursday? Momma says if I had been there I would have been reduced to tears, he cried so much! Spent the night at my sister’s and he was in so much pain, fretting et al, it broke my heart. He’s good now though, thank od for that!

It’s the long weekend, what with Sallah upon us, and I’m really excited for my Muslim brothers and sisters on the Ramadan fast, well done! Thanking God in advance for y’all for answered prayers, happy celebrations tomorrow! Who’s inviting me over?

Hmmm, what else? Went to Utako market yesterday, haven’t been there in almost three years! Seeing so many live chickens in one part of the market reminded me of growing up and my folks trying to get us to be able to kill chickens. Two stories but I’ll share one so I don’t change the way you see me.

My darling sister elected to kill a chicken in the bathroom (actually she’d been instructed by my folks to kill, pluck and boil by the time they got back), she only just picked the venue for the slaughter. The bathroom was tiled, floor and walls. She entered the bathroom, bird in hand, placed it on the floor, held it in place, and plucked a few feathers off its neck. Then she gave it a cut, and blood gushed. The chicken jerked, it startled her so she let it go and the thing started flying, shrieking and splattering blood everywhere. Of course she started screaming; hilarity for days!!

Nope, I still haven’t killed a chicken, of course I’m afraid. Unashamedly so.

Enjoy the long holiday, and a fruitful week. That’s an order!!