Wednesday, June 13, 2018

God is the Father of the Orphan

In all the years I've worked at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), I've noticed a common trend among students. Many struggle to sustain themselves in school. Payment of fees, purchase of books, taking care of assignments, feeding and other needs are met after much anxiety for many of them. Some depend on coping mechanisms like the 011 eating pattern, whereby a student skips breakfast to save money.

But two and half years ago, I met a young lady, Chetachukwu Umeremmadu, who'd just been admitted into my department, Mass Communication. She came to my office and said she wanted me to be her mentor. As I conversed with her to know her better, I was surprised to hear her say she was an orphan. She was very well dressed and had taken care of all the stuff that other students spend sleepless nights wondering where they would get money for them from.

Yesterday, Chet (how I shorten her name) and I had occasion to discuss for a long time and she gave me her testimony in full, a testimony that buttresses the fact that God is indeed the father of the orphan (Psalm 68:5). I also call her Mother-in-Israel and by the time you read through, you will see why.

A big thanks to my friend and sister, Rita F. Kurian, for having me guest at Springs in the Valley 

Chet was born on 3rd Sept., 1992. Her parents were church goers but not born again. Her father, James, was a rich trader in Lagos and came home often to see his family in Imo State. Her mum, Felicia, was also a trader and she had six older siblings.

Trouble came calling on the day of her christening. Her father and his brothers were embroiled in a land dispute and on that day, one of her uncles invited the police to arrest her father. Her mum tried to intervene, pleading repeatedly that the man should, "Remember God!" ("Chetachukwu" in Igbo, our native tongue.) She told him that although he had issues with his brother, he should not have him locked up on the day of his baby's christening. The plea fell on deaf ears but Chetachukwu's mum decided that would be her name.

As is usual in land disputes in Igboland, the matter took a dangerous twist thereafter as Chet's uncle resorted to diabolical means to eliminate his brother, James. James became seriously ill and six months later, he was dead. In a bid to get vengeance, James' elder sister took a bizarre step. As the body was lying in state prior to the burial, she addressed the deceased and placed a machete in his hand, asking him to pursue and kill the person responsible for his untimely death.

When the perpetrator learned of this, he went to James' grave and performed some rituals redirecting the spirit of the dead to go after his wife, Felicia. Felicia began to be chased around by the malevolent spirit and although she kept protesting her innocence, she died six months later. (The man in question confessed this and other atrocities he had committed before he died.) So at the age of one, Chet became an orphan.

She and her siblings were distributed to relatives and Chet ended up with her maternal grandmother. Many children who suffer such a fate have their education aborted. They serve as servants to strangers and relatives, who may not be able or willing to train them beyond primary or secondary school. For a means of livelihood, they become apprentices to traders and artisans for some years, hoping that their masters will be generous enough to set them up in their own businesses at the end of their apprenticeships. But God had better plans for Chet.

Chet (foreground), with a friend 

At the age of eight, her eldest brother, Chinwendu, who had just completed his apprenticeship as a trader asked that she be brought to Lagos. That was in August 2001. Upon arrival, they went to visit his church member (he attended The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, TREM), Ms. Charity Anuebunwa. She said that Chinwendu was too young to bring Chet up and offered to play the part.

Two days later, Chet moved into Charity's home and she became her foster mum till date. Charity made the little girl to feel so much at home. She took exceptionally good care of her such that people could not believe they were not related. She introduced her to the Lord and bought her a Bible, with which she began to learn to read. She got her involved in the children's ministry, where she became a representative of the unit, going for Bible competitions and other Christian activities.

Charity assured Chet that if she stayed close to God and remained dedicated in serving Him, she would get to any height she aspired to in life. She, however, explained that knowing God in a general sense and going to church, including serving there, do not amount to being born again. She advised her to learn and grow and when she felt ready, she should invite Jesus into her life to be her Lord and personal Saviour. This she did in 2008 and to the glory of God, she has been growing in faith since then.

Although she was living with her foster mum, her brother, Chinwendu, insisted on paying her school fees. But Charity always paid the fees promptly, leaving Chinwendu to reimburse her whenever he could. She also provided everything else Chet needed so that she was never sent home because she defaulted in payments or lacked anything required in school.

In 2010, the General Overseer (GO) of TREM, Dr Mike Okonkwo, established the Discovering Ministers Challenge, (DMC), a platform for unveiling ministerial gifts in young people, both in the word and in music, and training them accordingly. Chet represented the Ijesha-Lagos branch of the ministry in the premier edition from the auditions to the finals. Although she was the smallest contestant, she won in the Word Category. As a result, on 29th Aug., 2010, she was given the opportunity to minister to the whole congregation at the ministry's headquarter church at Anthony/Obanikoro Expressway, Lagos.

The prizes she should have earned for winning the DMC contest were 70,000 Naira cash, a ministerial Bible, some Christian books and a plaque. But the day she ministered in church, the GO was absent because he had travelled to the United Staes to see his mentor, Dr Morris Cerullo. His wife, Dr Peace Okonkwo, who officiated at the service said she was so blessed by Chet's message that instead of those prizes, she would receive the plaque and a scholarship.

The scholarship has been running from Sept. 2010 when she was in her second year in Senior Seconadary School (SS 2) till date. She is currently doing her third year in a B.A. programme in Mass Communication. The scholarship she is enjoying is a comprehensive package which covers her school fees, books, feeding and accommodation. The bulk of the money is released promptly at the beginning of every academic session, while her upkeep allowance which takes care of her feeding and sundry needs is sent every semester. The provision is so generous that none of her classmates has an inkling that she is an orphan.

Besides God's extravagant provision, Chet has enjoyed excellent health all through her life, only feeling the occasional headache when she overworks herself, minor menstrual cramps and common cold once in a long while. She has never had reason to go to the hospital even as an out-patient. She is also an athlete (a sprinter).

Winning the DMC gave Chet a heightened awareness of her identity as a believer. She realizes she is an ambassador of Christ and is seen as a role model to other youths in the church. She is currently a chorister in the church and the President of the TREM Campus Fellowship, UNN. She is, therefore, like a mother to the members of the fellowship. She served as the Teens President and later as the Teens Co-Ordinator at the Ijesha branch of the church..

As a beautiful girl on campus, temptations and distractions sometimes try to steal her attention, but because of the discipline she imbibed over the years and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she is able to overcome them.

Chet's first home is still with her foster mum, Charity, with whom she spends her holidays. You can see Charity's teachings, Chet's attention in church and to the Holy Spirit reflected in her admonition to young people and other believers:

"It's not enough for one to say, "I've given my life to Christ and God is blessing me,' then the person continues to live anyhow. Rather, we should cherish our relationship with the Lord, submit to the teaching and leading of the Holy Spirit and live a separated life so that we will be untainted by worldly influences and draw others to our Lord Jesus."

This is sound advice for every child of God coming from someone who has known Him as a Father indeed, a sustainer and provider like no other. He is the One who makes a way where there seems to be no way. He wipes His children's tears and gives them hope.

Edith Ohaja