Upon reading the message of Mother Elisha about God, His gentleness, and love, I was convinced that I should share His Love, kindness, and gentleness and how he has touched me in my life and how I have witnessed that. I haven’t shared much about myself with anyone apart from my mother whom I see as a mother, a sister, a brother, and a friend to share because she has proved to be a trustworthy person to me. Just to begin with, I was born by chance.
By this I mean I survived several miscarriages from her womb. She told me the worst of it was when she was six to seven months pregnant. She experienced heavy bleeding for two weeks, which sent her to [the] Emergency Room. She was admitted and was given bed rest until I was born under the close monitoring of the nurses. She stayed in the hospital for around four months. I’m not sure if what she was expecting was okay or not — something that caused High blood pressure to her. Under the care of the nurses and the doctors, she was assured that all was alright from inside. I was born a healthy child of 4kg. Whenever I recall this story I see God as the giver of Life and only Him alone with the final word of the unborn. He saved me from death [at] that time because He had a mission to be accomplished by me and me alone according to His plan which is the reason I exist today. My mother took me for the baptism when I was eight days old. I grew up being a charming little girl who loved to play and pray as well. She taught me how to recite some prayers from the book and at the age of seven, I could read and lead the family in prayers before we went to sleep. But my elder sisters used to lead the Rosary. I didn’t know how to follow the beads by then with my younger brother, but we could only hold them. I remember very well, [that] we used to sit near Mom and maybe near one of the sisters who would guide us in following the beads. But before they were done with the first decade, I used to be on the fifth decade, or as they move to the second decade, I was on the fourth or beginning the next round after completing the five mysteries because I didn’t know how to do it then.
As I was growing up, I found my mother as a devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary— something she does even today—and she would sit to pray her prayers every day. She called me to sit beside her, and she used to give me a prayer book and she recited those prayers of her head. I was pleased by her devotions, and it reached a time when I joined her in reciting those prayers of the head, and even up to date I can remember some of them and I can pray them in my native language. I loved covering my head with a veil at that tender age and I always told my mom that I would like to be a nun.
At school, I was an average student but when I was an adolescent—at around 12 years old—I developed a feeling of self-hatred, low self-esteem, and some suicidal thoughts, and loved being alone. One of my classmates once told me that I look like a monkey simply because my hair was so different from theirs and was almost covering my face. These words ate my inner self like a cancer, and for a long time, I saw nothing good from myself, but in another way, I can say it helped me. As I was an adolescent by then, these words kept me far away from any opposite sex and all the behaviors of the same sort because, back in my mind, I could say to myself, “So-and-so said I look like a monkey, what else do they need from me then if not just to exploit me and go away?” Once this came to my mind, anyone who approached me for an intimate relationship could regret why did he think of coming closer to me. I still had self-hatred in me, and it was like I was trying to develop self-defense.
With all these in my mind, I was comparing myself with other girls and I could see them as beautiful and see myself as an ugly girl. So I was ever stressed and the good body shape of an adolescent girl had reduced to almost bones. My class performance dropped, and all this drew the attention [of] my parents and even teachers – but I never shared it with anyone on the same. What I could do was cry when I’m alone and cry bitterly even in prayer. I used to go outside and hide myself under a bush and cry passionately until my clothes were soaked in tears. I was sure that everyone was looking for me and so I was sure I will be known I was crying because they will ask why are my clothes wet and I wasn’t ready to tell why I was crying. So most of the time I would hide one blouse or another dress to change before I go back home. That was a knowledge of a growing kid I had by then, who seems to be so smart upstairs only to find myself in another trouble. I was asked why did I change my clothes and where was I all that time. I don’t know if they thought I was out for sex or what because I was thoroughly caned by my mother and even still need to know where I have been going of late. I never told her. I think she was eager to know what was disturbing me to an extent of being affected physically.
So, the monkey look they saw in me protected me from early pregnancy at some point because several friends of mine who were surely beautiful, dropped out of school to prepare for parenthood. This struck me completely and back in my mind I thought, “Oh, Magdalene you are the next victim now.” I could cry when alone thinking the same people who impregnated my friends could come and force me into such a relationship or rather rape me. I was more than cautious in any way and improved my prayer life. My thoughts were right because I survived such attempts several times and I believe it was because of the prayers I had begun, out of fear. Those who attempted that were not even the adolescent boys I was studying with, or the boys around, but they were grown- ups with their own families. I wounded one in his private parts when he attempted to rape me. And that is how I managed to escape, and I dared to tell no one.
Because of this fear, I began the fifteen prayers of St. Brigid of Sweden which has twenty-one or so promises. I went through the promises and only two Promises struck my heart and convinced me to pray those prayers for a whole year. The first one which was the seventh promise said, “I will put before their eyes my victorious cross to help and protect them from the severe battles of their enemies.” The second one which was the tenth promise said, “after I take them to heaven, I will give them a special drink from the source of My Godliness, something that I will not do to those who never recited these prayers.” These might not be the exact words, but I remember the real message of those two promises.
So the first promise I knew would protect me from all those with evil intentions with me, especially those who may wish to destroy my life. The fear of the boys who would wish to see me leading the same life my friends were leading – a life of parenthood at such a young age.
The second promise encouraged me to want to know of that special drink which Jesus promised to give to those who prayed these prayers. I even today remind Jesus of such a promise when in prayer. At this time, I was preparing for my final exam at the primary level and my father had retired from his job due to the reasons I have given above, I didn’t perform well. So I didn’t secure a good high school to pursue my O levels. My mother urged me to repeat the national exam for another year so as to work hard and try to secure a better school for O level, something to which I didn’t object. When another academic year approached the end, I sat for my national exam, and I performed well and secured a good chance in a high school. My dad never embraced the idea of taking me to high school as many African fathers always believed that only boys should be educated to have a good life in the future and not girls. Upon hearing this I took a Novena of St. Jude, who is a patron of the impossible, and upon finishing it like today, the following day my sister who is a religious came and asked me to prepare for admission to a high school the following morning. Today it remains to be a miracle to me, and I promised St. Jude to help me in honoring him in my life for such a miracle. This is the reason I named my son after St. Jude after more than ten years ago of the miracle.
So my sister told me that she had to plead with one priest who was a missionary to help in my admission to a high school entry, something which he accepted.
I found this a miracle because my sister who had completed before me, never went to high school. And my younger brother who completed primary level after me, he too never managed to high school due to a lack of the school fees. Just to be brief, my high school life was so challenging due to school fees, and I had no hopes to continue but to succumb to tears and loneliness. I remember spending the whole term at home due to a lack of school fees. I had to become used to such a life of being on and off of the school for four years.
Thank God I managed and passed with a good grade. But after completing my O levels, I didn’t know what next, and because I had learned some leadership qualities in high school in some movements like Young Christian Students (YCS) where I served as secretary of the movement in school and in the Diocese level, I still maintained the same position as secretary. And another movement, the Legion of Mary, I also served as a secretary of the movement at the school level.
So with this, I knew how to take the impossible to God for guidance. So I chose to join a convent which I truly desired. That was after I finished my O levels. With this I mean I wanted to live in a monastery and lead a Monastic life as a Cloistered Nun. I can say God blessed me with a very beautiful hair which caused the name monkey in my early years, and I think it’s because when we were in the primary level we used to shave hair, and my hair when it is shaved, it grows with many, many curls and it was falling to my face. but in high school, we were allowed to maintain hair. and so it grew to be smart and long. So I chose to shave it and go join a monastery. When I shared my desire with my mother and my religious sister, my sister told me not to shave the hair and she would provide anything needed to maintain it. I grew up as a quiet girl who never argued back even when I should. So I kept quiet and maintained the hair, but I wanted to shave all the beauty and proceed to the convent.
My sister never liked the lifestyle of the cloistered nuns and so she encouraged me to join the active sisters whose charism is to give different services to people like being a nurse, a teacher, a clerk, etc. She, therefore, took me to different convents including her convent. I remember when she took me to their convent for the first time, she showed me their chapel and after showing me everything in the house, I sneaked to the chapel, and I had a good moment with Jesus in the Tabernacle. I took around an hour there, and when she came to my room, she didn’t find me, so she called me several times and I remember I didn’t hear because I was surely weeping before Jesus. So she opened the chapel and found me inside. And because I was crying, I just pretended immediately that I was just gazing at Jesus in the tabernacle. I didn’t face her. So, upon finding me there, she told me to stop pretending to be a small Jesus by staying there for long. This crushed my heart deeply and extended my tears before the tabernacle. So, I kept crying but I was still counting the minutes because she had signaled me to leave the chapel.
From that moment, the desire of being an active sister left me, and I remained with my original desire of becoming a cloistered nun. So I was not convinced of their life at all. She also took me to other different convents, but the desire was crushed totally from the word “go” because their convent was the first one she took me to stay there with them and get to learn their way of life and prayer. But once she learned I was still under the influence of Carmelite sisters, she changed and became somehow aggressive, and things grew worst with time. I remained the same person who never argued anything back or responded to an aggressive statement. I listened to the weight of each word, digesting them, and packing them one by one in my heart, and later looked for a chance to isolate myself to cry. I even today have the same habit of not arguing any point with anyone I choose to keep quiet and wait to ponder those words later.
I remember one time she called to tell me that among all her siblings, I’m the only stupid, and she regrets why she contributed to my education. This was after taking me to live with her friend whom they worked together in a parish hospital and who abused me totally, including denying me food. I remember I was like a house helper, helping in the house because she used to live with her sister. I would cook, wash, and do every house chore there. I could cook their food and not eat it.
So the woman would just call her and lie to her many things about me, and my sister listened to her without asking me of anything. To cut the story short, I can say I suffered a lot, and all that because I could wake up early in the morning and go for the Mass which was done to the sick in the chapel of the same hospital where they were working. And I mean I suffered so much that I cannot even withstand to tell you here. Only my God was my everything by then and it reached a point when I decided to poison myself and die than to see my sister and her friends do what they did to me. This was a sure plan I had but it failed because I had gone [to] another convent for a week and upon completing the seminar we had for the “Come and See” Program, I was going back to stay with the same woman and her sister who never liked me at all. They were Protestants anyway.
So, they complained to my sister so much that I was waking up, going for Mass, and not cooking tea for them by then. Yet I could go to Mass and come back and find them asleep and proceed with the house chores.
So, I thought of poisoning myself before I reached their house and die. What came to my mind was, “If I die now, they may sue the convent over my death”. So I had another plan — to go to their house and after seeing me alive from the convent, I [would] then poison myself there. But again I said, “I hear when someone takes away his/her life, he /she goes to hell,” and I never want to go to hell. Another thought came that I should tell my sister to return me to my mother or I will walk back home by myself. If I were to walk back home, I would have taken almost a weekday and night walk or more than a week. My aim was to be killed by anything as I walked home at night or exhaust myself and die. That was because I was not being given any food in that house, and I as used to the life of lacking. I depended on water, and I could not ask anyone for food on the way.
All that was accompanied by the feelings of my childhood of having low self-esteem and loneliness, plus someone proving to me that I was looking like a monkey and not a human. Adolescent stage is a crucial stage that to some if it’s not handled with care, with much care – a life and precious soul can be lost and become past tense. I have witnessed the help of heaven not once or twice or thrice in my life when I was undergoing all this. God the Father still proving to me that He created me for a reason, and He still keeps on proving the same even today. I suffered pretty too much at my sister’s hands, but I gave it all to God in tears.
To cut the long story short, I lost hope with the religious life. Several Mother Superiors wrote me a letter to join their convents, but I was already frustrated. Some followed the directions I had given in the questionnaire they used to give to our home place to plead with me to join the convent. The only answer I could give them was, “ I need more time to make a mature decision before I join you in the convent”. I never shared this with anyone else except my mother. It took me another three years to discern the will of God for me in serving Him.
When I went to a teaching college, I had in my mind that I should make a resolution of what I wanted to do or to be once I’m done with this career. It was so challenging, and I suffered from within so much, not knowing the will of God. I prayed to God to show me where He wanted me to serve Him, but back in my mind I still struggled to join a Monastic life after [my] studies.
I again reduced in weight due to much thinking and I never shared with anyone what was wrong with me, not even with my mom this time. I came across these words when I was reading a certain book; “never choose to God what you want to be but let Him choose for you.” These words struck me with much weight because I never wished to lead a marriage life, but now I had to consider those words. It cost me so much to agree with them that I should let God choose what He wanted for me. So I was like, “What if I choose a marriage life for me?” I never wanted to have time to think of the answer. But when the situation seemed to grow worse, I remember telling God that I was ready for His choice for me, whether a religious life to lead or a marriage life.
I came to realize that sometimes we prevent the Blessings and the Will of God in our lives. So after college, I had to make my choice known after a deep fight with myself. I said to myself, “I have prayed to lead a religious life, why can’t I pray about a marriage life to see if God would answer that,” I gathered the courage to ask GOD for a good husband. And I remember a few weeks after I was done with the college studies, my high school friend called to inform me that her dad had passed away and she wanted me to attend the burial. I surely hesitated and back in my mind, I knew I wouldn’t go. So I informed my mother about it and since this friend of mine was well known to my family that she even desired to lead a religious life of the Poor Clare’s so I felt I should give her an excuse. The reason why I didn’t want to go to her dad’s burial was [that] I studied in a very high-altitude place, a very cold place indeed. And upon coming back home I got some sunburns, and I didn’t look [very] good with them. I’m ever shy and so I was not comfortable at all even at home meeting some people. So, I wanted to stay at home with my mom and dad since by then we were only three of us at home.
[Continue in Part 2…]