I wanted to talk about myself and how much I dreaded growing old, and how grateful I am to be adding another year and probably insert some life tips and all, but the words won’t just form. I have written, taken away and written over and over again, until I decided this isn’t going to work.

I miss Michael and this birthday, I just want to talk about him. I am sure he would not have permitted it, because he was shy, but I was always stubborn and he loved me for it.

I met Michael in 2013 during a worship rehearsal. And you know people, there always would be gist especially in Christian circles as large as the one I was in, and word on the street was that Michael was the “excellence conscious one”, and some others were the “spiritual ones” and the rest. Maybe this narrative was sponsored because of how much attention Michael placed on excellence and detail.

My first encounter with him personally wasn’t a nice one. After a long bible study session, I got the vibe that he was too busy and wanted to get rid of me. I think I even wrote him a letter and stuff. He didn’t regard it much, and it formed a perception in me.

Two years after, we each had grown and then, we had mutual friends. I still was a bit wary of him, but our mutual friends seemed too comfortable with him. I would politely excuse myself whenever he was around and try to put some distance. Truth is, I honored him quite a lot and felt the distance was appropriate in order to maintain that level of honor and respect for him. What a lie that was.

One day, I was at my friend’s house, Marcilina and they had just had a bible study session. She urged me to come along for the next one, and everyone who knows Marcs, knows how persuasive she can be. I did.

Honestly during that session, I didn’t comprehend half of what he said. All I knew is that I felt I had been in the shadows for the longest of my life and couldn’t explain the warmth and belonging I was feeling.

Soon afterwards, I went to his house and broke down. I was like I needed to have real tangible experiences and knowledge of God. I was tired of chasing shadows and wanted to learn. It was a very humbling moment for me, and I still wasn’t sure why I went to him. Truth is, I had so many “teachers” and people around who could put me through and I barely knew him, or knew if I could trust him. But still, I went. That is not usually my style.

He started teaching me about the rudiments of Christianity and faith. I couldn’t believe the Gospel could be so simple. But even with the teachings, I still was distracted. And he noticed. One day, he asked me what was wrong and at that time, I was emotionally attached to a man who had consistently put me down for about 4 years. It was one of the darkest moments of my life and just like that, I opened my mouth and told Michael every single detail. He couldn’t believe his ears.

God knows I had tried so hard to let go of this man, but I kept going back. Sometimes, when he realized I was getting out of his grip, he will resurface and make me feel worse about myself. I think it was largely unconscious but that fact about hurt people hurting others  is very true. I knew this guy didn’t want me, but he wouldn’t let me go somehow. I couldn’t even bring myself to grow.

Michael asked me that night, Grace, do you know you have been emotionally abused? I didn’t even realize it. It had become my reality. Then he said these words to me: Grace, allow me care for  you. I cried. Just like I am crying right now typing this. Someone finally sees me. Someone (in my mind) way up there wants to care for me. I didn’t fully understand what he even meant, but the fact that he was seeking my permission to care for me? Me! I cried.

That was my first liberation. As soon as I left his house, I called the guy I had been hung up on for years, and with so much confidence, I confronted him. I told him, “today is the day I move on from you”. He had abused me and made me question  my worth and never again would I allow it happen to me. He couldn’t believe it. Then I asked him why he hurt me so much, and he said he didn’t know. That is when I knew he needed help to and I prayed to God that he found it.

As Michael and I got closer, I experienced what Scripture talks about in Romans 8:1. I faced no condemnation and I learned how to enjoy being accepted Jesus. There was a night we stayed over at Michael’s house for the most unusual vigil of my lifetime. Abba’s defender, Michael (in Peace’s words) wanted us to experience what it really meant to be in heaven with God and he gathered us in his home. We prayed a while; a very non violent, heart to heart communication with God, as we watched our minds intermingle with God’s and waited on him. I saw beautiful pictures of people with messages for them. Some I couldn’t comprehend, some I could. I drew them and showed Michael, and he urged me to wait for the interpretation. I did.

Michael never believed some gifts were made for certain kinds of people. He took the limits off God and wanted everyone, without discrimination to experience same beauty. I loved that about him.

I remember the first blog post I featured him on, on God’s Presence. Michael believed his beliefs were quite unconventional and wasn’t quick to share. I didn’t mind. Because who will mind? After being liberated from emotional strain of over 5 years? I wanted more. Truth is, I doubt I would ever be able to paint a picture of how much I loved Michael to people, because it is beyond words. But this is an attempt.

Michael wasn’t perfect. In fact, I knew some of his struggles and I was angry at some, but I loved him regardless. He was sincere. A leader didn’t have to be perfect to be honored and respected. They just had to love God and point people to him. That is what guarantees true honor and respect.

Ever been in a place where you felt safe, understood, heard, sane and loved? That was God in Michael that he shone through to everyone. I started skipping meaningless church services to go sit and listen to him explain Scriptures. Michael never shared his opinion on matters you asked him about. He just wanted God to be known through him, so there was always a Scripture somewhere about something. He would never compel you to read or study or pray; He would lead you to find God and allow you make the decision yourself. Michael believed that until you find him yourself, you won’t be able to stay through to the process.

Michael would tell me stories of all of his dabbling into different practices just to find what truth actually meant. He said it was fine to have doubts. God would leave the 99 and come for you, just to answer your questions. God wasn’t a terrifying master who was waiting on you to mess up and remind you of all his wrongs. How would you approach him boldly if you had an image of a tyrant? There is no fear in God, and the knowledge of his goodness is what makes men repent (Romans 2:4)

One day, I did something very undignified. Something I thought I could never do. I was hurt and shattered. While I was done, I called Michael and just cried. He didn’t ask me what it was. He just asked if I could find my way to his house. I did. I got there and just wailed on his shoulders. Michael allowed me, and without compulsion or coercion, I opened up everything to him. His leadership style was the most unique ever. I didn’t feel like I had to tell him anything, but I wanted to, and I did. He reminded me of Romans 8: 1 and said it was a good thing I felt remorse.

I remember asking him if God would trust me again after what I just did. That I had learned that God doesn’t trust men so easily, especially after we let him down. Michael smiled and said God isn’t man. He reminded me as always of the Scripture where Judas kept Jesus’ purse. Even after the remarks about the oil being sold instead of being poured and wasted on Jesus’ feet, the purse remained with him. God doesn’t operate like man. His goodness is what makes men repent, because you won’t fathom how a God can love you, even when knowing how much sin you would still commit.

I didn’t believe it immediately. In fact, as I left his house, I felt everyone could see through me and know exactly what I had just done. Only for me to get calls of astounding promotions shortly afterwards. I couldn’t understand it. And trust me, that wasn’t the only time I did something wrong. In fact, I did that same mistake numerous times after then. I made worse mistakes until I couldn’t bear hurting my lover. I didn’t stop these mistakes because I was afraid of a judge waiting to sentence and punish me. It was his love that liberated me. I went through all the Scriptures Michael had mentioned, and in that sinful state, I still felt connected to God. I saw why he had to come in more glaring terms, and remembered the parable where a man boasted about his sinless nature, before another sinner and God would look onto the sinner with more compassion.

I knew that many of us looked onto God the way culture and tradition had helped shaped our minds. We remember our earthly father, and think that’s how God treats us. We think about the African culture and think that is what being in Christ entails. That is why it is so difficult to reconcile certain parties and practices that are not African, but possess great understanding of God’s love and power.

I told Michael that more people needed to hear God’s thoughts through him and he started recording audios. You can gain access to them in here, and see more testimonies about Michael. You can also share yours. I can’t wait to play those audios for my kids and tell them there was a Michael and most of the things your mum now knows, he taught her. Come hear from him.

I remember on one of those days, I told Michael, I love you MD, and he said “I know”. Tears filled my eyes. I am not always expressive but somehow he figured it out and I was so gladdened. Knowing that he knew was just everything to me. I tried to show him in all ways possible, but he always raised the bar in return. When I made up my mind to quit being a Christian, Michael asked me, what do you believe Grace?

He didn’t think it was ridiculous or blasphemous; he was just concerned about me. I told him I didn’t know what to believe. At that moment, I didn’t think about the numerous fasting and prayers I had done, or the power of God that had manifested in and through me, or even the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All that made sense to me was that it was impossible for me to love Michael and Michael to love me so genuinely, without strings attached, and God wasn’t real. I told him, no one can love this way, if not empowered God. That was the evidence that made me stay with God. The love I had experienced from him, through Michael, was insane and incomprehensible. No human being could love like that. I remembered the Scripture that says, only when you love your brother is the love of God in your midst. That was when it all made sense.

Michael raised the standard of love relationships for me. And it had nothing to do with position or wealth, but your ability to be good. Many people have lost the ability to be good without expecting something in return. They are always good for futuristic purposes. I see how Michael taught secondary school students, babies were so comfortable around him, adults, men, women… It is hard to say an unkind word about Michael. People might think he wasn’t smart; he didn’t monetize his relationships and all those plenty jargons many contemporary church now teach. But Michael gave peace and intangible realities no money can buy.

Money is very important of course, but never at the expense of eternal realities.

I would write a book about Michael and show the world very soon, but this birthday, I want to let you know that Michael lives. In many people, because he treated many of us the same way, alike and without discrimination. And today, Michael lives through me and my words will always testify that he did.