Have you ever been so desperate to reach a friend and the network provider says out of reach or route busy or temporarily out of service or switched off or worse still the number you are calling is not on the network. At that moment, the phone becomes of no value to say the least. God must feel that way when He tries to reach us and we are preoccupied, when he delivers our answers and we are just not there to receive. You may have experienced a similar situation in different facets of life.
For years I thought of studying abroad and laid it before God a couple of times though I did not make it a by fire by force situation. I never visited the embassy to make enquiries, never searched online for schools or requirement; I probably filled a Ford or Fulbright application once but may not even have submitted the most valuable material - transcript.
After 5 years of holding a first degree, I decided that study abroad may just not happen so I started making rounds to few universities in Nigeria to check out courses in the hope of pursuing a post graduate degree but something always crops up - deadline over, take qualifying exams, use a year to study basic courses etc. However, none of these had a turnaround effect like strike. In Ogun State University I had the unfortunate privilege of participating in two 5 months strike but for some strange reasons I believed that post grads were over and beyond strikes. So when I heard that with all the Naira I will have to cough out I am as eligible for this daylight thief as my undergraduate counterparts I said, mba, no, not I.
One fateful evening, a friend called to ask if I was interested in traveling for a conference in Brazil. Having attended a previous one in Greece my name was in the database of prospective invitees but someone needed to do the leg work and I just didn’t have the time. She offered to do it for a fee and I consented. After the conference invitation pulled through, I needed a minimum of
N350k (about $3, 000) to make the trip. Though I didn't have even half of that, I knew God kept nudging me. I grumbled, complained, lamented but none solved the problem. One day as I sat still, the Holy Spirit said “Speak to grandma”. My first reaction was - chuckle, chuckle, grandma ke! She has not worked for years and she has become our responsibility. I was going to wave it aside but thank God I did not because surprisingly grandma had pensions which were mostly unspent because her children and grand children had taken up the responsibility as tradition demands. I got a fair loan from grandma!
There were so many hurdles like Mr. Visa, Ms. Ticket, Master Hotel and Mrs. Conference Fees. I got an additional loan from my friend, solved the issues that could not wait and made it to the airport. Having overbooked, the airline cunningly retrieved my ticket and wrote STB on it. Not until I started pleading to be allowed to go on the plane did I realise STB means ‘standby’. What nonsense! They offered Euros but while others scrambled, I held back knowing what God told me. As I continued pleading and the officials and customers kept shouting me down, the Holy Spirit whispered "GO!" It was so soft but so clear that I told my sister and mum, won o so pe kin lo o but e ka lo (they did not ask me to go but let’s go).
On that information, I acted. They carried my travel bag and we made for the point of entry. As if an angel was on guard; God cleared the way up to the plane. He surmounted every obstacle in my way. From the plane and through the trip, I met with such amazing miracles that made me realise that when God says “Go!” He never leaves you to go alone. In the plane, I met a mentor who offered hotel lodging with breakfast FOC, at the conference my full fee - $1000 - was waived and I paid $100. When I decided to stay extra days to tour Corcovado where the statue of Christ the Redeemer is placed above all else in Rio de Janeiro, I met with a Brazilian woman who offered me lodging. To crown it all, at the conference, I met a woman who told me about a university in the United States of America. Though the woman backed down on assisting, I gained admission to the university about sixteen months after. The miracle did not end there; as tough as the visa interview seem it was drama free when compared to what others experience. On landing in the US, God prepared an American family that drove me directly from the airport to my school. When I say God prepared, I mean I had never met or spoken to them it was purely God’s intervention and this story has been shared as a newspaper article and as a background to the Community Ties Initiative in Athens, Ohio. The Millers have remained a family that has stuck as close as my own blood family.
Ten years after my first degree, I got my post graduate degree, a year later I got another master degree from the same institution and not a penny owed since bulk of the fund was waived by the school. You may not understand but what I am trying to say is I did not have to use a credit card and I left an American University with two masters degree fully paid for. While at school I witnessed a lot of people even Americans complain about lack of funding, interest on credit cards and killing weight of loans yet my Jesus paid it all! The school President is not my uncle neither is the Program Director my cousin but my Dear Daddy God holds the hearts of kings and princes in his hands!
It was not like I had a smooth ride. But looking back I can tell that no man or woman can prevail by strength and praying and trusting is definitely easier than worrying. While others had a fun-filled tour, I toured a little at Corcovado then went to tap into the pull current of that mountain by praying. I couldn’t even afford to pay for the picture I took on the mountain. I returned to Nigeria broke having saved up the conference money to repay part of the loan. All I had was the business card from the woman I met and held tightly to it as my divine connection. Pride almost cost me the visa interview and surviving the rigours of two masters, three jobs and giving back to the Athens, Ohio community was not in the least easy yet God was there every step of the way. He even buttered my bread by making my dream of assisting at least one person to gain admission to the institution a reality. My prayers for those who God worked through has been answered in God’s own way – my grandma enjoyed good health till she went to Jesus, my friend got transferred abroad, Nancy Miller became the first female vice president of her company and the Brazilian woman was recently promoted to a school principal.
The question I have never stopped asking is, what if I did not respond to the still small whisper "GO!” What if I had doubted? What if I had spent time querying? What if my financial situation had made me consider gaining the Euros? I probably would have added study abroad to the list of unanswered prayers when in fact God answered and made provision. How many times have God dropped our blessings but our hands were just not in an out-stretched position to receive. How many times have we been divinely connected and we are just not at the other end of the line. Whenever I want to write off a request, I remember this beautiful story and ask God for a second chance peradventure His Grace will call forth a second GO.
Feel free to send me your comments or share your story (firstname.lastname@example.org). I pray God does a call back for every opportunity we have missed.
The above story appeared in the first edition of Divine Connection Newsletter. Should you wissh to receive hard or e-copies, or support the initiative, email email@example.com.