by Steve Popoola

Saturday 18th February 2012. I got into my car and drove out of my driveway. My destination was Heathrow International Airport, London.   I was going to welcome my family to the UK after being away from them for almost 2 years, the longest time we have ever spent apart.

My thoughts went beyond the two years to twenty years ago.  I had gone to the British High Commission to apply for my British passport and had been refused on the basis that I did not have enough documentation to prove my identity.  I had prayed, fasted and trusted that God would make a way for me but the letter in my hands told me otherwise.

My emotions raged within me as I considered my present circumstance which was an unenviable one. My parents were separated, I was practically homeless, I could not afford to further my education like my mates whose parents ensured that they got into the best schools and even the option that would have given me the opportunity to benefit from my British citizenship had now been shut in my face.

I wondered why God would allow this to happen to me. After all didn’t He say that if I have faith,  could ask anything and He would do it for me? I became upset, angry and bitter.  I Didn’t feel the need to serve God anymore because  I thought He had abandoned me like everyone else had.  I became withdrawn and even at one point, I started having suicidal thoughts.

God however would not let me go. Even in my temporary rebellion, I could sense Him close to me. I tried to ignore Him, I really tried! He just would not let me go. One day,  I  had enough and I rededicated my life to Him. Things did not change overnight but I started seeing with the eye of faith. I began to believe in myself but much more in God’s ability to make me what He wants me to be.

Gradually  I started taking one step at a time. I started appreciating God for every little step forward. There were setbacks along the way but they did not deter me.  I noticed that there were no giant leaping steps but the little steps forward were definite and once I moved forward, there was no backtracking.

When  I met my beloved wife, the last thing I was thinking was marriage. We met by what looked like mere coincidence but I have learnt that with God, there are no coincidences.  She came to my office one day to see a friend and I just happened to be the only one at my desk at this time while others went for lunch. I did not go for lunch, not because I was not hungry but because I did not have anything to eat and whatever money I had with me was reserved for dinner.

She asked for her friend and I told her she was away on holiday. She thanked me and was about leaving when she turned back and enquired why I was in the office while others were out for lunch. I think I must have given her a lame excuse because she finally got me to go for lunch that same day. Thus began our friendship. Little did we know we worshipped in the same church but attended different branches.  She had many questions about the bible which she asked me and I shared with her my insights from scripture. Thus started the pattern of daily lunch breaks. She soon found out why I never went frequently for lunch and ensured that her lunch pack was enough for two. At this time neither of us knew that we would end up as husband and wife.

Our friendship continued until after a couple of months when I realized I felt something deeper than friendship. I fought it, oh! I fought it real hard! Marriage was the last thing on my agenda. How would I take care of a family when I had my own plans? I had forgotten about travelling to the UK, in fact I now hated anything British! I used to love listening to BBC on my small transistor radio but now I only listened to Voice of America for foreign news.  I was now focused on developing myself in Nigeria and getting myself a University degree.

When I could not fight it anymore, I told the Lord, ‘Fine, let’s get this over with!’.  On the next lunch break, I told my friend how I felt. Her immediate reaction was a triumph for me. I felt like, ‘Well Lord, I hope you are happy now,  I knew she could never accept to marry me. Now I have lost her friendship too!’

Two years later, God got the last laugh as Maria and I stood  before the minister who declared us, ‘man and wife’.

(to be continued)