Break the Static 2012

I’m sitting here in tears. Why am I crying so much? I’ve never cried so much before over an event that happened in the past. And these tears came so suddenly, so out of nowhere. I don’t know what just happened. I’m still processing it really.

There are only a few things in my life that I would say have really changed my life and my course of direction. VERY few. And these instances stick with me for a while. They will stay in my memory and strong emotions will come from those incidents, almost as if I relive those moments again.

Well, this just happened to me.

I was reminiscing over the Forward Conferences that I’ve been to in the past. They were a huge thing for me and my sisters in the summertime of my high school years. That was the conference I looked forward to every year. But why? What made it so exciting and fun?

I reminisced over one particular Forward conference I attended, and that was the summer of my sophomore year, Forward conference 2012. I didn’t realize just how much that one conference stuck out to me until now. I was re-watching all of the forward conferences, and for some reason Forward Conference 2012 was the first result on google. So I clicked that one.

As I watched the recap, instantly longing to go back and relive that moment came back to me. I watched as amazing over amazing people showed up in the people back to back. I mean people who were leading the world of Christian music and evangelism.

I remember Chris Tomlin, my all-time favorite Christian artist came out. His performance was absolutely moving. The next day was Third Day, another favorite. And then the next day was Jeremy Camp (who had the most beautiful eyes that you could see from even far away), yet another favorite! Micah Massey, Adam Ranney, Israel Houghton! These were artists that I grew up with (besides Micah and Adam, but they were worship leaders at my home church, so basically yea).

And as I watched them kind of summarize their artists, I felt some tears come into my eyes. I remember how I felt broken after each of their performances, and I just felt so vulnerable and open. It was raw emotion. And every time, I was never afraid to cry out to God and have my hands held high.

I miss those times.

And then they got to the speakers, and oh my God, I remember all of them. Every single one changed me.

Gianna Jessen, I absolutely love this lady. She has one of the best personalities you will ever find on this planet. So uplifting, so genuine, so delightful, so carefree. She did not care at all about any ill words toward her or any thoughts about her. She was just her. Her laugh is so contagious and beautiful. Anytime she smiled, the whole auditorium smiled along with her.

I remember how she told the auditorium about how she is an abortion survivor. She was suppose to die before birth using a burning saline solution. But instead, she lived and her mother gave birth to her. Due to this, she does live with a few “gifts” as she likes to call them (which made me tear up at the time at how much this woman has had to go through because of her mother’s decision. She lives with cerebral palsy, which was somewhat clear with all the small mannerisms she had while she spoke. But it only added to her charm and her genuineness. She also talked about how she was put into the foster care system, and how initially the government didn’t believe she would amount to much. People doubted her time after time, but she kept proving them wrong time after time.

She easily became my favorite speaker of the conference.

Reggie Dabbs… Reggie Dabbs my God.. He is an amazing person. He absolutely loves every student, and he never fails to tell us time after time that we are loved by God and my him. He tells us so many amazing stories about his life and kids he has encountered, and once I hear about these amazing stories, I realize that my situation is probably very miniscule, which means that I know that God can do it and can take care of it. He told us about his own story, and about how he questioned why his parents didn’t want him (he was adopted). He talked about how he didn’t feel like he had a purpose, but then he came to God, and God called him to be a minister. And he has been doing it every since.

He comes to this conference every year, and every year I feel changed by what he has to say. I just feel love and hope and grace and passion come from him. It truly is amazing. Especially when he plays the saxophone, wow. The whole arena kind of looks at him in awe, it’s just amazing.

Steven Furtick is such a powerful speaker. He tells you how it is (He also has great looks 😉 ). He is such a young pastor, yes he’s talking to over thousands of people. It really is cool what he does. I love the part where he said, “The audition is cancelled, you got the part”. It really is powerful.

Matthew Barnett is amazing. My first thought while at the conference was, “Okay, I don’t know why they brought him here. He’ll probably be like any other southern pastor, and just tell that we’re all going to heaven. This will be so weak.” Boyyyy, was I so wrong. He basically told me about my life and everything that I was missing (I mean he wasn’t really talking to me but that’s just how powerful his message was). I learned so much from that sermon.

Jentezen Franklin, who was the pastor hosting the event, gave a powerful sermon.

Lincoln Brewster also performed.

The theme was Break the Static. It was so amazing, and I really do long to go back and attend a conference again. I feel like I would definitely appreciate it even more than I did ever before. Mainly because I really feel like I need it this time around.

 

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Stories from the Past

Growing up, I really wish that I had spent more time asking my parents questions about their past. It’s something that had never come up in our conversations, and I wish it had.

Last week, I had mentioned how I had a paper about genocide, and it was a topic that I became super interested about.

I don’t think I have mentioned this in any of my past posts but… I’m Nigerian.

My whole family is Nigerian. I’m the first in my family to ever be born in America, which is exactly how it sounds: exciting yet daunting.

I’ve always asked my parents about how they met or how they came to America, but I never received much information about it. It seemed like something my parents just didn’t want to talk about.

But today, I had to call my dad about financial aid matters, and then, as usual, we diverged to other topics usually related to school. He would talk about his friend who has a daughter in Brown and she decided to pursue her Master’s after graduation. I talked about how I was still looking for summer storage and I was debating on whether I should stay this summer or stay at home.

Then it got to the topic about college and if I was on track. I reminded him that my birthday was in two weeks, and he was surprised at how fast time had flown. He talked about how he had finished school at a much later age. Then he really thought about and wondered why he had finished so late. I told him that maybe education was started much later in Nigeria. He said that that wasn’t it.

Then he said it was because of the civil war.

It was then that I had a lightbulb moment. I told myself that I would ask him about it, but I completely forgot until he mentioned it. Wow, would you look at that?

I had tried asking my mom about it a few weeks ago, but she was really tired and said that I should just try to ask my dad about it. But I forgot to ask him…

So for my genocide paper, I had wondered if Nigeria had ever experienced a genocide, and it turned out that they did have a civil war/genocide called the Biafran War between 1967 and 1970. about 2 million Igbos were killed during this time (and my family is from the Igbo tribe). I looked at the places that this had affected, and it affected the exact places of where my parents were from. I was super intrigued and wondered why my parents had not mentioned anything about it.

My dad was born in 1959 and my mom in 1964 so I was really wondering if this had affected them at all.

Apparently it did, much more than I would have ever imagined.

So I asked him if it was the Biafran war that he was talking about, and he said “Yesss”, as if a bunch of memories just flooded back into his memory.

There was a civil war brought about by religion in that Christian Igbos in southern Nigeria were trying to secede from the republic of Nigeria (which had been established on October 1st, 1960) which was majorly Muslim, and they were trying to make their own state called Biafra. The war was brought about my government officials (who were all Muslim) who didn’t support this event. As a result, the Biafran war began.

My father was about 8 when the war started and it didn’t end until he was 11 year old. He was still in school during this time, and he talked about how anytime there were bombings happening, they would all run into the bushes to hide.

The Head of State, who was an Igbo man, was killed, which is one of the events  that helped to start the war. He said how his family eventually relocated out of the area  (about 3 hours out) and into the village where trees would hide them. I asked him if he had witnessed or heard anything. He said that he could feel the bombs hitting the grounds, and he could hear the airplanes flying over and dropping bombs on public areas such as schools and churches. Then, after every bomb the military soldiers on the ground would come and catch and kill the people who would survive the blasts.

During this time, there were killings happening everywhere. He said how on trains there were fathers being killed while the mothers and their children were allowed to escape.

Bridges connecting the Igbo land to Yoruba and Hausa lands were blown up, and the ports on the southern region of Nigeria were closed off. The Igbo people were closed in, making the annihilation of its people easier.

He talked about how times were so hard while in hiding. He had to fetch water with the elder women from a stream that was 5 miles away at about 5 in the morning. Usually a girl would have done it, but his mother bore no daughters, only 7 sons. As a result, since he was one of the younger kids, he had to do it.

He talked about how he had plenty of brother- and father-inlaws who were drafted into the army to fight in the war, and he never heard from them again. The little kids weren’t drafted because of schooling.

He talked about how the whole year after the civil war was over, military men came to every door, searched the houses, and collected all guns and weapons from everyone. His father had a gun that he hid in the kitchen, but he had forgotten that there was a bullet somewhere in the house. When the military approached and searched their house, they found the bullet and interrogated his father about where he was hiding the gun. His father tried to lie and say that he may have sold the gun or something, but then the military men pulled out their gun and hit his father with it. That was when his father had to pull out the gun from its hiding place and hand it over to them.

I was completely shocked by this. My father had witnessed this along with his brothers and his mother. They had done this when everyone was home, and everyone had thought that the war was over. According to my dad, there were still plenty of killings going on and it was still unsafe to leave your house at night.

He said how during this time, no school was in session. Everyone was in hiding with their families. As a result, he didn’t attend school until the 3 years of war were over. Unfortunately, they also had to make students repeat grades, so he really didn’t finish all of his schooling until the age of 27.

He says how to this day, no Igbo men are allowed to be in office due to this event. The only ones allowed are Yoruba and Hausa.

He explained to me how Igbos were considered the minority during that time, and they were treated as such. They were not respected as people.

He says that this mindset led to Igbos being more industrial and stronger people. They started building industries, working with mine and oil, and created a stubborn mindset among the people.

My dad also says that this led to the reason why he wanted to leave Nigeria. It wasn’t a nice place at all. He wanted to come to America.

He says that everything he does today was shaped by that event, and he could never look at Nigeria the same because of it. Unfortunately, this event has also led to him and many other Nigerians not having very good thoughts about the Muslim faith.

I don’t think I would have ever thought to ask my dad more about this subject if it hadn’t been for the anthropology class. I wonder just how many stories my parents had and they were not telling my sisters and me. Don’t they know that this is how we preserve our culture? Do they know that these are the stories that need to be passed down generations? Without them, we lose our culture, and we lose everything that our ancestors worked so hard to establish.

Have your Piece or Find your Peace

I’ve had a good amount of experiences on this earth during my almost 2 decades of being here, but never in my life have I ever encountered such close-mindedness by people who I considered to be my friends, my closest allies, my sisters…

So last night was a time of bonding for the dance group that I am in on campus. It is focused around Christian dancing, so it is assumed that everyone on the team is Christian (which I don’t believe should be something assumed, but the majority assumed it).

Last night, we had mani-pedis done courtesy of our head choreographer’s over-abundant collection of nail polish. I painted mine light blue, a color that I would never see myself wearing until tonight.

It turned out beautifully, might I add.

We ordered pizza, wings, and fries, though I only ate about two pieces of pizza and five fries because I was full for whatever reason.

Actually, now I remember!

I had come from the mall because I had just watched the movie Captain America: Civil War (an Ah-MAZING movie that is worth watching. I’m a huge fan of Marvel, and Captain America and Iron Man are two of my favorite superheroes. Of course the entire time, I was just so sad because they were against each other, but it was still an amazing movie.) I had eaten about three pieces of Twizzlers and about 4-5 handfuls of popcorn. It was a great time because I went with 5 other people.

Anyways, due to the movie running longer than expected (and me and a friend missing the bus), I got to the bonding two hours late. I walked in right when they were talking about how God had shown himself to them. It was super emotional, and I was actually not enjoying myself at all. I hate these kinds of things, because although it seems like a time when there should be “no judgment” and “whatever is said in the room stays in the room”, that never happens, People’s view of others change drastically. And unfortunately, that’s what happened here.

So everyone had went around the time that I came in, so they said that I should think of something. I couldn’t think of anything on the spot so we ate, and had elections for next year’s E-Board. It turns out that I’m Treasurer, a position that I really did not want, but it seemed like everyone wanted to put me there because that was the only one they thought I fit in. Honestly, I wanted Publicity Chair, in fact I wanted it so badly that I nominated myself. I had so many ideas for how to make the group extravagant and shown more to others. Unfortunately, they said Publicity Chair would be given to someone else. Oh well.

So we finished eating food and started with mani-pedis. The girls kept pestering me about sharing my “coming to God” experience, so I did. And now thinking back, I shouldn’t have told them that.

I shouldn’t have told them about my dad’s situation, my financial situation, my health, and all of these problems. These were my private matters, and I should’ve left them private because after I told them, they looked at me differently. They looked at me in pity as if they were saying “Oh you poor thing”. They would stare at me and just nod or smile.

I shouldn’t have told them.

And this is why I hate these types of situations.

Anyways, the next thing was talking about relationships, which I really didn’t want to go into, for one reason and one reason only.

But of course, some of the girls knew about it, so naturally they were like “So how are you and so-and-so?”

The rest of the girls were curious now as to who this was. So of course, I had to talk. I talked about how we met and how long we’ve known each other.

Then came the hard part. The question that I knew they were dying to ask me:

“So… how is his faith?”

This was the exact reason why I didn’t want to share our relationship. It was as if nothing else mattered if we didn’t practice the same religion. He could be the perfect guy, put thought into everything he gave me, everything he did. He could be literally my dream guy, and yet, if he wasn’t the “right” religion, then everyone could care less.

So here it was. I told them that he was not a Christian. He was Muslim.

Now, some jaws dropped, some eyes went wide, some people shook their heads, and others just nodded.

And so began the interrogation.

“Why would you go out with a non-believer?” “The Bible says ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’.” “Are you thinking about marrying him?” “What religion would your children be?” “What would you say if your boyfriend says he wants them all Muslim?” “What about your values?” “Have you prayed about this?” “What if he changes your values?” “Is this long-term?” “Have you talked to him about all this?” “Do your parents know?” “How would they react?” “Why would you waste your time?” “Are you ready for all of that?” “Have you guys reaallly talked about this?”

While trying to answer these questions with my own answers, it seemed like they already had an answer formed and cemented into their minds. It was as if their opinions were facts, and they were not open to anything else or any other ideas that I brought. So I stayed silent for most of it while they were constantly telling me about what they thought

That upset me for a little bit.

More than half of the girls have already met him and known him for a really long time, so they know him. Unfortunately, since he’s Muslim, I guess his personality and character are not enough.

I don’t believe in any long-term relationships right now, as in marriage and kids. I don’t want that because I will be going into medical school after college. I don’t have the time for that. He’s going into medicine too, so he has said the same thing. I told the girls this, and they seemed to be super confused. They believe that dating meant finding someone who I would potentially marry. If he is not someone I would potentially marry, then I’m wasting my time.

I see where they are coming from, but since I don’t plan on getting married anytime soon, is it wasting my time? If I had stayed single, wouldn’t that have been an even greater waste of time? I wouldn’t have been able to experience life with someone, with a support system, with someone who I could depend on. And these characteristics have nothing to do with religion. As a result, unless I am looking for the love of my life and the person who I will spend the rest of my life with, I can honestly keep my options completely open. And how would you know if a person is wrong for you without actually experiencing it firsthand?

I basically told them all of this and all they kept saying was, “Just pray about it” as if they keow for sure that God would not support it. So I asked them the question, “Do you believe that God could say yes to the relationship?” Some of them didn’t answer, but one person said, “I feel like He would say yes so that you could have the experience, and He wants you to see how it is to be in that kind of relationship.”

And that was the end of the conversation. I nodded, and asked for others to share their relationship stories.

It was very interesting to get this feedback from my “sisters”, because yes the Bible says “unequally yoked”, but when I had asked them earlier in the year what that meant to them, they all said “marriage”, so all of these arguments that they had towards me was only if marriage was involved. I made it perfectly clear to them that I didn’t want marriage and I wasn’t looking to it at all, but they just kept going back to it. It was as if they couldn’t see a relationship without it.

I should have asked them, “So in high school, were you in relationships because you thought you could see them as your potential husband?” I wonder what their response would be.

I also told them that I was also influenced by my mom who told me to make sure that I knew the person I get into relationships with very well. She stressed to me that if I had a relationship in college, it would be more like a “strong friendship” in that we were to build each other academically and socially. We were suppose to be each other’s support systems. The person we could study with and receive help from. The person who we could talk to in times when we needed an ear. And I understand where she’s coming from because my dad was not the greatest ‘dad’. Jeez, I can barely call him that without flinching. He has gotten into lots of trouble in the past (which is still affecting not only his present and future, but ours), and much of it could be attributed to the fact that he lied about alot of his life.

He tricked my mom into coming with him to America, saying that he was rich there and he had inherited so much wealth. He said that he was super successful in America, so my mom said okay. She came to America only to live in the projects of Oakland, California. He lived in the slums, and didn’t even have furniture. My mom had to work twice as hard to make it in America, because a man decided that he wanted to lie about his upbringing.

Then, I came into the picture, and of course this was a lot for her. She had me in California, and I don’t remember any of that experience because we moved after I turned 1. After we moved, my other sisters were born.

And he still lives with us doing absolutely nothing. He watches two televisions in his room (using up my mom’s electricity) and writes constant letters to “friends” begging for money. He had a couple cars, and completely totaled both of them. He does not have a job. He barely has a penny to his name and refuses to work because he believes that he is old enough to be the boss of his own life. He’s almost blind, so he can’t really drive, yet he insists that his vision is perfectly fine. So many people ask my mom, “Well, why don’t you just kick him out?”

It’s funny, because people will ask these questions and then not ask themselves, “Don’t you think they have tried that? How easy do you think it is to do that?”

In fact, you bet it is exceedingly difficult to kick someone out of their own house, given their name is on the lease (yet he hasn’t paid or contributed any money to it for years)… The police won’t allow it. In fact, we’ve had the police appear at our house plenty of times in hopes that they would kick him out.

Nope.

They would come and say, “Well, if he wasn’t physically hurting you, then we can’t do anything about it.”

Hell, he threatened my own mother’s life atleast twice, and both times they said the same thing. “We can’t kick him out, because he didn’t become physical.”

What the actual hell? There’s something wrong with a system that allows for a man like him to stay in a house that he doesn’t even pay for. He causes emotional and social damage to our family due to his schizophrenia, paranoia, and laziness, but that’s not enough for police. In fact, they’ve told us to be the ones to move out, which would be easy if my mom had the time to look up places to live that have good education systems and good work compensation. There’s alot of factors that go into that, yet they made it sound like the easiest task in the world.

He had a business for a while until he completely messed that up. He was sent to jail for it, actually. And to this day, he refuses to tell any of us what he did. We had our entire house completely searched by police. The entire house was flipped upside down. The living room and our rooms were a mess. And yet, after all that, he kept claiming his innocence. My mom tried to help him with his business because she saw the potential, but he didn’t want the help and constantly accused her of trying to take his money. She has tried to help him invest it, and he was never willing.

My mom even set up an education fund for me and my sisters, and she always put money into it yearly. That was the money that ultimately kept me at the college I am at now. It was not until I entered college did I find out that my dad did nothing of the sort. My mom tried to convince him when I was about 6 years old to do this for his children, but again, he only accused her of taking his money.

Now he has nothing. And now he depends on us completely, though he does absolutely nada in the house. It bothers me so much to see my mom struggling through all of this, barely making ends meet with the paycheck that she gets and having to take care of one more big baby in the house, and that’s why I vouch to never allow my children to go through that.

Which is what swayed my reasons for not being super attached to a person during college. I need to do well in college. I need to help my mother out and eventually supply her with everything that she’s ever wanted. She’s sacrificed so much for my sisters and me. She is the main reason as to why I’m even in college now.

Hayy coincidence, it’s Mother’s Day, and I’m talking about my mother. I’m so thankful for her. I have no idea where my sisters and I would have been without her. We have had the world’s largest and loudest arguments, yet she had shown unceasing love towards us. I love you, mom 😀

Of course, I was not going to explain all of this to these girls who I wanted to call my “sisters”. They probably still wouldn’t care about it and they would say “Oh, you just need to pray about it.”

What do you think I’ve been doing all of these years??

I have prayed, cried, yelled out to God, balled my eyes out night after night for years. And they believe that I just haven’t done it hard enough?

That’s what got me upset. That’s what has gotten me shaken up. The fact that they will never understand. But at the same time, I don’t want them to understand. Giving people too much information is dangerous, which is why I do not trust people enough to do it, and sometimes you do need a certain level of uncertainty to keep on living in this world.

So after that, I basically felt the distance come between me and the girls, and it was sad because it was suppose to be a bonding time. Even when I left, I only gave hugs to two of the girls. The other girls seemed disinterested. Some of them continued to stare at me. Others couldn’t even make eye contact with me.

Wow. Just wow.

I am almost completely sure that I will be leaving this group by the end of this semester. It was a nice year that I’ve been with them, but I feel like it’s time for me to open a new chapter.

These were girls who I thought I could grow in my relationship in God with, but I feel like I’m shriveling. Is this how God’s love is suppose to feel like? Conviction? Like I’m in a courtroom all the time? Like I’m always stepping on egg shells? It seems like they’re making themselves look like angels without any flaws or mistakes. No impurities, not a spot.

And I simply do not believe in that.

I really wanted to stay with this group until I graduated, but I just can’t see it.

I actually went to another showcase that was more about hip-hop dancing, and that was something that I was always into. I love watching music videos, and making my own dance to the beat of the music. I’ve never really been interested in the words of a song, but if the beat was on point, then I was listening to it. I actually joined this group’s listserv first out of all organizations that I joined on campus. I was suppose to attend their workshops, but I always had work during the time. Now, it’s been 2 years, and I think I’m ready to make the change.

So watching this showcase was just amazing. I loved it so much. It was like an experience. I will definitely be attending the workshops next semester to see how it works out. They seemed like just a concrete family-no judgment, no pre-conceived notions, no assumptions- and I wanted to take part in that. My friend is in it and she told me about it, and her eyes lit up when I told her that I was interested. That’s the kind of welcome arms that I like to see. That’s what you call pure joy.

It’s sad because we just had our showcase last week, and it went flawlessly. I made myself more public about my standing in the group to all of my friends on Facebook and everything. I guess bonding time is also considered an eye-opening experience too.