I arrived there at 9:15a.m. Not a person was to be seen. The gates and doors were all locked. My brother, the younger one, did not want to leave me alone. The church building was unassuming from the outside. There was no sign indicating the name of the church. Not even a symbol or statue was evident to identify the building as a church. I would later discover that the name of the church is the I.C.J.C Life Center.
I decided to call the pastor of the church, Dr. Alisa Hamilton. She answered in the affirmative when I questioned if the pink building I was facing was in fact the church at which I was supposed to attend. However she quickly informed me that service would not start until 10 a.m. so that I was early.
I convinced my brother to drop me off at the Catholic church, not too far from where the other church is located. There were two young boys waiting for their transport, so that I would have some company. Within two minutes though, the boys left and someone came to lock the gate. I was left standing there alone until just about two minutes before 10:00 a.m.
I spotted this elegantly dressed woman and immediately recognized her as the pastor. I slowly made my way toward her, giving her enough time to enter the yard and open the building. As I entered the yard, she did not immediately recognize me. I smiled and greeted her and then she realized who I was. I was warmly welcomed and invited to sit until she settled down. At that time there were just two other people in the church.
As I waited a few more people came in. What was outstanding in my mind was the manner in which each person who came in, young or old, knew exactly what their duty was and they executed it with purpose. Gradually more people came and the pastor, or apostle as I heard her being called, came out and asked me if I would be willing to give my testimony. My first instinct was to say no, but upon brief reflection I told her if she felt so moved to call upon me, then I would certainly do it.
The service started late. It started with singing. The music was moving. This apostle travels to Ethiopia and Nigeria and other places internationally to minister. The African influence was unmistakable. There was one drummer on the African drum, one drummer on a traditional drum set and a keyboardist. The rhythm of the drum was intoxicating. I did not sway or dance or clap but I was able to reach deep into myself and meditate upon God and His word.
After the first set of singing there was a prayer, followed by the reading of scripture. The scripture was taken from Psalm 100. I was pleased with the way it was read. Each verse was explained before reading the next. Any unfamiliar words were explained by the use of simpler terms. Even the youngest child there would have been able to understand the verses…and there was a high percentage of young people. Of the approximately thirty people present, about seventy five percent were young ones.
While the next round of singing was going on, I glanced outside and saw my mother approaching. I was really quite happy to see her. She stood next to me and began to sing as well. Then it was time for testimonies. The first person to be called gave thanks to God for being with her during the last epileptic episode which she experienced. Apparently she usually loses all control and at the end of the episodes, she is bruised and hurting, physically and emotionally. The last time however, she was in greater control. She was able to sit out the episode and it came to an uneventful conclusion. She attributed the improvement to the grace of God. She ended her testimony with a song.
The next speaker gave thanks to God for her life. She had been falling dangerously ill, with significant blood loss. The doctors had been unable to diagnose her problem. She spent almost a whole year in that situation before emerging victorious. Again the grace of God was highlighted as the main reason for her improvement and for her presence with us that day. She looked so vibrant and healthy that if she had not spoken, I would not have had a clue that she ever did have a problem.
Next I was called to give my testimony. I was introduced as a victim of a gunshot wound. I also attributed all praise and glory to God for my presence. I shared my near death experience with those present. It was not yet the time for more detail. I saw my mother moved to tears – it would have been due to the depth of emotion she felt on hearing me publicly praise God. In fact it may have been the first time she ever heard me address a crowd.
My mother was then called upon to say a few words. After her speech I am sure that the people must have believed that I had been a very bad person before the incident. My mother kept saying how much I had changed. The truth is that she has changed a lot and now appreciates me for the individual that I always was. Although I have changed in that I am now willing to find a place of worship based on God’s guidance and am willing to declare his mercy towards me, my basic personality, value system and general approach to people have not changed.
This episode taught me a lot about perception. No matter what may be the truth of a situation, what people think it is, is what it becomes. All my previous actions, when viewed through my mother’s eyes would have been bold and aggressive ones, perhaps without conscience. In reality this is further from the truth than I would ever want to say for fear of sounding full of pride. Worse than that, the people who did not know me previously would have conjured up a different character than mine actually was.
In the end we left before the service was ended. I felt really elevated after the service. I was at peace and felt as though I did as I was commanded to do. Will I go back? That is a question I cannot yet answer but I would like to think that I will.