I sat down at breakfast with my family enjoying the meal, suddenly my cell phone rang.
“Olubunmi” The voice at the other end cried. “Something bad has happened!”
“Sandra, what is wrong?” I asked as my mom stared at me. I could hear her sniffing as she tried to talk. “Please calm down and talk to me. What happened?”
I knew Sandra could be highly emotional about things.
“I can’t believe this” She went on as she blew her nose.
“Sandra you need to calm down and tell me what the problem is so we can solve it together? Or do you want me to come over to your hostel so we could talk?”
“Why do good people die?” Sandra asked, leaving me utterly confused.
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say” I replied, completely perplexed about the situation.
“Mr. Martin is gone!”
My fork clanked to my plate as apprehension scuttled down my spine. What was she talking about? Which Mr. Martin? The one I saw yesterday?
I felt my mom’s gaze on me as I stood up from the dining table. A sick feeling churned my stomach to pure acid. The alarm in Sandra’s voice was enough to infuse fear, yet I still could not comprehend what she was trying to say.
“Wait, I don’t still understand what you’re saying Sandra. Please explain.” I almost screamed at her. I just did not want the thoughts forming in my head to be true.
“Gone, Gone where?” I asked still quite confused with the emotions expressed in her voice.
“He is dead Bunmi”
“Come on Sandra, what are you talking about? This is not true” I stated in disbelief.
“I saw him yesterday evening laughing with some students at the university cafeteria. This cannot be true.”
“He died in an accident this morning, he was on his way to school when a trailer hit his vehicle” She said as she resumed crying.
My stomach dropped as the hair at the back of my head stood.
No! it just couldn’t be true. My buttocks hit the floor as I hugged my knees to my chest.
I screamed as liquid grief took over, flowing down my face.
“Mr. Martin, gone” I said repeatedly to myself still dazed as the call went off. This was not a solvable situation, this was reality.
“He’s going to be fine now” My mom said as she walked towards me. She’d been listening to my side of the conversation “At least, he’s not in pain anymore” She continued as she patted my shoulder.
I yanked my head towards her retreating figure. “You don’t understand Maami!” I screamed, still plagued with grief.
“I know the man, is it not Akorede Martin, that nice Lecturer in your school?” She stopped in her tracks as she responded. “The man must be in heaven by now, enjoying himself.”
I covered my face with trembling hands as another crying jag threatened to surface. “Maami” I called out with all the calmness despite the grief which threatened to swallow me.
“Mr. Martin was a nice man, a very good man who was well loved by his students on campus” Mama sat down as she could sense my seriousness.
“He was always jovial, ever smiling. He was someone who always gave and was truly concerned about the people that came his way.” Sorrow welled up inside my heart as I talked.
“Mama, He was just a moral man” A lone tear traced its way down my cheek
“He was not born again.” I whispered almost choking. My heart bled with pain as I remembered the times Sandra and I would visit him both at his office and home to talk to him about Christ.
“I am not a sinner” He would say as he joked. “I am good, I don’t tell lies neither do I join my colleagues at work to go after girls and do evil.” His wife would also laugh and say “My husband does not even drink, we are good people.”
All of our pleas and admonition fell on deaf ears despite the fact that we told them that Jesus was the only way to heaven and that our righteousness and works were like filthy rags before God.
At one point, Mr. Martin almost gave in but his wife had persuaded him and shouted on us.
“Leave us alone” She’d smiled at us with clenched teeth. “We’ll be the first people to enter heaven, we care for poor folks and run a motherless babies home with our limited income. God is not a evil person.
Nothing we said made sense to them, they didn’t need a savior.
“Maami” I wiped my face and sat up straight. “Good works alone will not take anybody to heaven” She bowed her head as a slight moan escaped her lips. “It is only when we accept that we are sinners, recognize our need for a savior and believe on Jesus that we really can get to heaven.”
“Is that so?” She asked as she shivered slightly. “What can I do my daughter? I don’t want to suffer here on earth and still go to hell.” Fright filled her face as she held my hands.
I looked heavenward as I smiled through tears; God was working out something great through the messy situation.
“Do you accept that you are a sinner and you need a savior?”
“Yes, I still lied to Mama Risi yesterday, I am full of sins.”
“You need to believe that Jesus alone can save you. You also need to confess all your sins to him and ensure that you do not return to them.”
Mama didn’t even wait for me to finish before she started to pray. She prayed with the whole of her heart as tears lined her face.
“Jesu gba mi, shanu fun mi, elese ni mi (Jesus have mercy on me, I am a sinner)” she cried out with seriousness in yoruba. “Forgive me of my sins” She switched to English as she started to confess her sins, “Let your blood wash me clean and free from all sin and guilt” she prayed on.
The peace that emanated from her face filled the room as she ended her prayer.
Six years later.
I was walking into the Hall of meeting where the Minister’s conference I was attending was to hold when I heard my name.
I turned back to search for the voice calling out my name when my eyes met hers. My mouth went dry as it opened and shut like a goldfish with no sound coming out.
What was she doing here? In a place like this, a minister’s conference?
Not that I thought she could not be saved, I was not just expecting it.
“Miss Olubunmi!” She shouted and she went straight into my arms.
What was happening here?
I stood confused as she embraced me. Suddenly, I felt wetness at the back of my blouse.
Mrs. Martin was crying.
I became confused, the more. Why was she crying? What exactly happened?
I led her to the car pack to sit as I steeled myself with a quick breath. She slouched on the seat and looked off in the distance. Tears flowed in quick torrents down her face as she struggled to speak. She looked at me and started crying afresh.
The sorrow on her face yanked at my gut as I adjusted myself on my seat and waited patiently for her to speak knowing I was running late for the conference.
“It was my fault” she blurted out.
I looked at her not making any sense of what she was saying.
“It was my fault my husband died without any hope of heaven” she continued. “I was the one of held him back; I was the thorn in his flesh.”
“How do you mean ma?”
“Whenever you and your friend came to preach and it seemed like he was going give in, I always stopped him. I hindered him from receiving Christ” She went on as she wept profusely. “Ah! Bunmi, he died a sinner.”
I folded my arms across my waist watching her as she lamented.
“I feel so bad because a year after he died, I met a missionary who preached to me. I was broken and accepted Christ. I am now born again.” She continued. “I am a young adult leader in my church and I also came for the Minister’s conference.” She said as she pointed in direction of the main auditorium.
“Hmm” I sighed, “You don’t have to feel bad Mrs. Martin. Every living human is given a choice in life. God made us free moral agents, he presents us with choices but does not force us to choose the right things. He leaves the decision in our hands. Her eyes widened as she nodded her head.
“Irrespective of the part you played in Mr. Martin’s life, he made his choice. He was presented with the gospel, the good news of Christ on several occasions but he chose to turn away. The most important thing right now is that you are alive and you have chosen the right way.” I continued.
“Don’t feel bad and wallow in self pity. I’m grateful you found God.” I rose to my feet and hugged her. “It’s going to be fine ma. Let’s head into the hall of meeting.
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind sweeps us away. Isaiah 64: 6
Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. John 14:6
Adedokun Shalom Kehinde.