We laugh and we smile. We don’t pretend. But inspite of everything we laugh and we smile.

Inspired by Sebastine Obi Alagwu

This one isn’t really long or is it like verses and this and that its really straight forward. He’s had a tragedy I would say in his life. He’s lost a boss, a mentor, friend, a brother a supporter. Someone who believed in him and nurtured him when he was down on his luck in SA and no one else would give him a chance. Sebastine is a professional footballer. Who due to injury, if you don’t know his story, had to go through losing his career and trying to make ends catch each other in a foreign country. You could call it being down on his luck. But Sebastine, with my little background of this wonderful brother, is and has always been a man of God. By no means mr perfect, but by all means a perfect man of faith. A regular guy whose a great guy if you catch my meaning. His tall imposing figure at church belies one of the most humble funloving always smiling men you’ll ever meet. But his character and personality, also due to his Christian upbringing, have shaped and moulded through hardship. Which is why I’m writing this email. When he was let go by his previous team because of a permanent injury, by the way which cost more than he could afford at the time (God provided) he had to find his way here in Joburg. Originally from Nigeria, not, according to many, your typical stereotype.

Many of us have this misunderstanding of them being loud and obnoxious. We sometimes fail to recognise that they have seen the western world for centuries longer than most african peoples except maybe Nubians. A nomadic people who met Egyptians, Romans and conquering Arab moors long before Rhodes and his buddies got lost in central and southern Africa. Most west african peoples, particularly Nigerians are simply proud. Fighters. A strong people, whose culture has survived many many conflicts and cultural shocks many other peoples have not. For them, pride in their outlook on life is a way of life. They hang onto that tooth and nail. On top of that, the one stereotype which is true is their spirituality. When a Nigerian believes in God its almost a fanatical belief. Prayer warriors and powerful preachers. Again, despite what you see on TV, rallies in Lagos and aroudn the country pack stadiums FULL on a regular basis. A people hungry for the Spirit of God. So with this background and fighting against all the bad stuff Sebastine found himself a coupla years ago in South Africa. No friends. No family. No money. And along comes this man. This boss, this friend, this brother, this mentor. Helped Sebastine get up, not picked Sebastine up, on his feet. A man, a boss, a mentor, who understands that when dealing with men, God gave men strength of will and a core personality need to protectors and providers. Giving a proud protector provider man a handout destroys his soul. He wants to EARN his way. A man who comes from a family of honour. Who’s father is strictly yet loving. Proud but immovable or implacable with his principles. A traditionalist . Sometimes called stubborn in other peoples eyes. But trust-worthy and dependable without fail. That’s how Sebastine describes his dad. And if you know the man Sebastine, his father has passed on many of those traits. This is a guy who will raise father-fearing and God-fearing children. Odd isn’t it. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with our society today, there aren’t enough simoultaneously father-fearing and God-fearing children being raised today. If we look at the really old-school tradition. At the risk of stepping on a few toes or offending some people. If you aren’t a father-fearing man you aren’t really a man. Some will say there aren’t man fathers! My response is that, not only is God your father, but watch those guys other men call real men…there is guaranteed to be a father-figure in their life somewhere that they fear (deeply respect and admire to the point of being afraid to disappoint them).

Well anyway I digressed. He’s going to be embarassed by this email, but Sebastine is a man’s man. Fearful of his elders. Supportive but striking that balance of being stern and gentle and kind with his brothers. Even his brothers from another mother. So here he is down on his luck and this stranger. This guy who isn’t even a believer, saw in Sebastine that attitude of pride and honour. “I want to work. I want to earn my way. I have too much honour to take a handout, but I’m humble enough to pay you back with 100% commitment if you give me a chance”. Sebastine can go into other details more personal with how his boss helped mentored and supported him in so many ways. Especially after Sebastine proved his worth. Another thing about men. A man’s loyalty to his brother increases when his brother shows commitment. Men, real men, expect to have to prove themselves. Probably why God decided to use us so much in the Bible. He used that part of humanity that needed the most help after we fell into sin. Custom built to be kings, selling ourselves into spiritual sinful slavery. Men come up with phrases like no pain no gain. Put your shoulder to the plow. All is fair in love and war. No sweat. One of my favourites —come on ladies….do you wanna live forever! Lol. I digress again. Men, real men, by the way I keep saying that as a compliment to him, real men WORK… No wonder the Bible is so full of men doing this or that, we need the most help understanding grace. But when you break a man down and he submits and commits, he becomes such a powerful tool in the hand of the Potter, he’s unstoppable. Men need to be broken down then built up. They also submit. Wanna know who a mans mentor is. See who he submits to. Wanna know if a man you’re interested in will respect and cherish and protect you? See if he submits to his father. Submitting to his mom is easier. He has a soft spot for her that’s not comparable to anything on earth. But for a man, full grown, who says he loves you ladies, to put down his pride, and submit fearfully to his dad, trust me its a good sign. Not be a walk over. That’s different and that’s dangerous. I men submit. I mean bow. I mean a grown man capable of lowering himself and honouring his dad or the mentors in his life. That’s a good sign.  See what I mean? They need more work. But when you break in the stallion. The herd follows. These things are spiritual. Don’t just read the words. Read the deeper meaning.

Ok enough digressing. So Sebstine works hard, his boss sees it promotes him, gives him more responsibility. WITH NO QUALIFICATIONS for the job. All these years Sebastine has been testifying to me about his prayer life. You’ve barely heard his story if you go to Sandton but its wonderful. All this time he’s been sharing, when I had no money for the surgery I prayed. When I had no where to stay I prayed. When I had no job, and my family was saying come home, I prayed to God..don’t send me home empty handed with nothing. When his father a devout God-loving Catholic, leader of his community, teacher and senior of his church asked Sebastine why he was converting, what did Sebastine do…(no prize for guessing right)..he prayed. When Sebastine met his better-half to be,  a woman also strong and proud, 4 brothers! And wanted to make a move, what did this man do…he prayed.

So yesterday, and this is the crux of this mail, a few minutes after Sebs leaves his office, a bunch of men…armed….walked into his office, and shot and killed his boss. His mentor. His brother. His friend. On the phone with Sebastine yesterday, this insane praying tall Nigerian dude says to me “We praise God…even when the heart can’t understand what the mouth is saying. Even when the wife is crying. Even people are holding his head when I got back into the office trying to resuscitate him and blood everywhere. Out of my mouth, we praise God!”

He’s crazy. He’s mad.

So anyway, I say to him…I’m coming to see him. I get back to the office this morning. (Chasing paper as usual). But I couldn’t transport issues. Long story. So I call him. You know what he says to me…. Andrew I’m praying for you also. I’m like Sebastine I called to minister to you! And he’s like don’t worry. I appreciate it. I know you can’t make it but pray from there your prayers are enough. So I said in my heart, Father God you’ve created an amazing man. Wish I was like him. So Sebastine keeps sermonizing me on the phone and goes on to say “Andrew, we pray to God…and ask for strength and for wisdom… What must happen to us? This world is bad, he doesn’t plan pain but he allows us to go through these things because we asked and He is preparing us for something bigger!… I said to him man of God! You are prophet.” A prophets job isn’t to be a fortune teller but its to encourage and edify! Sebastine is M.A.D. Making a difference in hearts and minds of everyone in his sphere of influence as best as he humbly knows how. I keep telling he’s a great man. He keeps chuckling and going no. Then I keep getting annoyed with him. Why won’t people see their worth 🙂 The greatest surprise in life is when we realise our potential (that’s a quote). SO he ended the conversation with me saying “So smile, this time will pass. Laugh. Let’s value each other. Life isn’t long and it isnt safe. Let’s value each other in our lives and our God”  Don’t walk around with your troubles on your face. Walk with your God on your face. I said to him “Brother I’m keep a diary my life story. People won’t believe some of the thing’s I’ve been through. Then we’ll tell our stories brother and they will be so surprised!”. So I said to him “Shalom!” (yes some of you are laughing cause you know that’s my personal slogan).

God is good… All the time?

If you’re capable of believing that. Then say. Don’t though if you don’t mean. Don’t say cause people around you are chiming in like at the chorus of a popular pop song. Say it cause you mean, cause you DON’T feel it but you know it cause you been put through it! Key word…PUT.

If you aren’t capable of believing it right now, then say it anyway. Keep saying it..till you believe. Maybe that’s your only hope.

Just don’t parrot it. Don’t say like a reflex response. My neurologist takes this rubber little hammer and smacks my knee below the knee cap and my leg kicks involuntarily. Whether I planned it or not. It just kicks. Don’t just say God is good all the time cause someone up front smacked your knee and your spiritual foot jerked. Say cause you been through it. Or say cause you want to believe even if you don’t right now. That’s faith. That’s “help my unbelief” – there I quoted a verse 🙂

Here’s the kicker, don’t suffer in secret. Let people know. Especially those close to you. But smile and laugh. When you are delivered from the locusts of life. You will have an inspiring testimony that will win the stars on your crown the God so wants you to have. That “well done good and faithful servant”… There I quoted another verse :-). Be wise in who you tell your story too but don’t keep a secret. Have some…”witnesses” like a cloud. When you come through and are vindicated by God because of your peculiar faith. When you’re a Sebastine, who prays with a family who doesn’t even believe. Who takes a wife to go identify the body of the man you admired and loved. When you remember his lifeless body and you value life. When you thank God! And people around you think you’re crazy. When you do these things. These things imitate God and He says..this is my son Sebastine…in whom I am well pleased.

So this email was a mix of encouraring all of you out there. Your heart is deceitful and not trustworthy. Sometimes the way you feel isn’t the best way to go. But it can be transformed too. When you submit your will to God, then you’re heart chases after things like laughter in the face of trouble. You are faithful. You are gentle. You are kind. You are true. Don’t exclude the heart. Watch it. Decide in the will, make a choice. And pray for a heart that submits before the will of God and it will come round. By the way. In case you didn’t know.. You’ll have to watch your heart the rest of your life on this side of heaven. Examine yourself. Fearfully and with trembling. 🙂 See how that verse applies. This email also touched on some very sensitive issues around family. Some a little harsh. Check any of your heroes in the Bible. The men. The real men, submitted deeply to their fathers and mentors. David to Saul “father!”. Joshua to Moses. Elisha to Elijah. Notice how each one of those submissive men, conquered and did even greater things than their mentors did in some cases. Joshua prayed a prayer Moses wouldn’t even have dreamed of “Lord hold the sun I ain’t done”. David conquered every nation around Israel such that by the time Solomon became king all of Israel’s enemies were paying tribute in money and their own daughters (which was a bad idea for Saul, be people come on, we know men and their daughters, you don’t give away your daughter lightly). Elisha had a double portion of Elijahs power. See the hints. Here’s is something even more beautiful form the mouth of Christ Himself. “I of myself, can do nothing, I only do what my Father in heaven commands, and I only speak what I have heard from my Father”. Jesus was submissive. These are ideals men should aim for. The abuse in society today is because in a lot of men’s lives, there is no ultimate authority ruling over them in addition to God. When a man’s father dies, even from the grave, the dad’s voice still guides him on life’s twisted treacherous path. So what do those without fathers do….the get raised by God Himself…if they let Him. “For I am a Father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow”. And there are always spritiually connected, morally strong, wisdomly packed men inyour life available to help you. If you’re looking. Guys…gentlemen.

To end my question to you is – When you’re hurting..can you still smile like nothing’s happening? Can you still laugh.

Let’s remember this family. Coming in from France and Holland to fetch the body of their son. Murder if far and foreign land. Let’s pray over them that they may come away at least encouraged by the Spirit of empathy and caring that a Christian can have even though they don’t believe. Let them love us believers. Last quote “weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice”. Don’t say much. Just shed a tear, share a hug.

I hope this has blessed you.

In all things…. Shalom and remember, the Father Himself loves you! Be well. Be good. Be faithful. Be plentiful. Be powerful! Be gentle. Be long-lived and see many things in this lifetime! Be kind. Be wealthy! Be assured. Be blessed. Be at peace. Be saved. Be SAFE.

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