The Turning Point
By Noel Misanjo
It was a very big surprise for most members of the Nicodemus Revival Church congregation that Sunday morning to see their Resident Pastor, Akhwaka wa Mlopwana, introducing Mahala as a " powerful servant of God; a young man God was using in a mighty way."
He was clad in well-ironed white shirt and black trousers. A diagonally striped grey-white narrow piece of cloth was dangling on his neck. His presence next to the pastor at the pulpit was a big wonder in itself. That chilly April morning the church was extraordinarily packed.
Although members of the church had for a month now been seeing him in Sunday meetings including Wednesday milaga prayers and Friday night of prayers it did not occur to them in good time that Mahala had truly become part of the flock. Indeed he had announced his decision to follow Christ but most of them held the view that he was not serious and would shortly backslide.
But Mahala's story was different. His coming to the Lord was neither by accident nor by mere desire for personality decoration. His coming to the Lord was a product of reason and understanding when the real light of truth had descended upon him. The congregation did not know that in a few seconds from this time their lives could be taken into a consternating spiritual dimension.
Meanwhile, Mahala placed his bible on the pulpit and put his arms behind his back. His face looked solemn. His outlook portrayed that he could be above his age of 22. He cleared his throat before stating to the congregation that he had brought a testimony.
At that point Mahala asked the congregation to stand and sing with him a chorus. Hesitantly they helped him sing "ndi Yesu ali ndi chifundo nane,
wandichotsa apa wandiyika apa, ali ndi chifundo nane." Then he began to narrate the testimony. Everyone was eager to know how this brother in the Lord, who had caused a lot of havoc in the society, abandoned the ways of the world to follow Christ.
Shortly the story in the testimony began to unfold.
It was not very much long ago when people of Songeya village in the outskirts of Zombe Municipality used to see Mahala roaming around the village lane with a cigarette on his lips. He was the last-born child in the family of old Mavembe, a respectable septuagenarian in the village community. Old Mavembe had been a deacon of the village church for over forty years.
Mahala had dropped out of school only after sitting for his Junior Certificate examinations. He was always found in the company of the village's notorious youngsters who spent most of their time on smoking chamba, imbibing ntonjane, kabanga, bibida and Jang'ala and of course whistling at girls as they go to the community's day secondary school. When his eyes caught up with old Mavembe's money in the house, he would definitely steal it and be a boss at the beer place in the afternoon.
Responsible members of the family including uncles and of course concerned neighbours had tried to counsel him but it paid no dividend. Church elders tried their part as well but the first time they came to talk to him he chased them with stones and they never came again. A group of youngsters from the village's youth fellowship came one time to "lay hands on him" but them as well he stoned away. Every body was worried about Mahala. He was not only naughty but also violent. In fact at a time when the country's general elections were nigh, he had been the ringleader of a youth group that could be hired by parties to disrupt political rallies. With this he landed himself in police custody on a number of occasions.
Down life's lane it happene one time that Mahala's father fell sick. He had been attacked by lung tuberculosis. People from the surrounding community could come to see old Mavembe but Mahala was never concerned. He continued stealing things from the house and selling them in order to find money to use for buying beer.
Whilst everyone thought old Mavembe could show annoyance with his son's behaviour , his words were a surprise. He used to say: " leave Mahala alone. He is my son, leave him. He is only at the sunset of his childhood. When a divine relialisation comes on him that I am his father, he will stop"
The sickness of old Mavembe continued and after six months he found himself in one of the intensive wards at the district hospital. In the eighth month of his sickness old Mavembe became critically ill. He began calling relatives one by one to tell them his last words.
"It is good that I am leaving this world joyfully. I have fought a good fight. I went to school and excelled despite the poverty of my parents. I cared for my children. Sent them all to school and thank God they all excelled but for Mahala..." then tears could register in his worn eyes, "...but for Mahala..."
Mahala's time came to get his last words from the dying old Mavembe. He was the last of all relatives to be invited. At first Mahala did not cooperate as the message got him when he was already drunk. It was on the third time that Mahala finally decided to go. An idea did not occur to him that this call to the hospital carried with it the turning point of his life.
It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. Mahala started off for the hospital. His head was in short stunted dreadlocks. He was wearing a big black T-shirt bearing a big face of a deceased American musical artist.
As he was about to enter old Mavembe's ward, wisdom began to creep into his mind. The people that were gathered outside the ward waiting for their turn to see old Mavembe were all wearing sad and vain faces. This made Mahala to suddenly begin to see life in a different perspective. He saw that life was real.
He slowly pushed the door open. Old Mavembe's eyes were fixed at the door. It could appear he had been waiting for his son for so long. When old Mavembe saw Mahala, he forced a thin sickly smile on his wrinkled pale face. He beckoned him to sit by his side and old Mavembe raised his thin tired right arm and touched Mahala on the right shoulder.
"My son" old Mavembe started in a weak voice, " I am happy you are here." He coughed a little and continued to speak, " my son, I'm dying."
Tears began to well up in Mahala's eyes. He had learnt the other side of life. He had realized that life was sometimes painful. The pain suffered by him in police detention could not equate with the pain of seeing a dying father. He looked at his father and regretted all that he had done to him in the past. " I'm sorry father... I didn't know what I was doing... father please forgive me...." Mahala broke into tears. He cried like a baby.
But old Mavembe tenderly calmed him down.
"My son I'm dying but I'm dying a very happy man. I'm dying whilst I have forgiven you. I'm dying after having sometime to talk to you. I looked forward to the day you would come back to your senses."
Old Mavembe sneezed and continued, "My son, I know you've done all sorts of evil. But all is not lost. This is the time that you have to realize that you've a very big role to play in order to improve your life. Look, your brothers have gone to school, they excelled and they now have good jobs.
At that point Mahala felt sorry for himself. He only had a junior certificate that he had even obtained after cheating.
"My son" old Mavembe went on in his fading voice, "do you think all that God created you for was to drink, smoke and fornicate? Please think twice about your life. Leave the devil's path and follow your Maker. The devil is a liar and there is no gain in evil. A wicked man digs a pit and he falls in it himself. His mischief returns upon his own head. The wicked fade like grass and wither like green herb. Remember my son, the iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is caught in the toils of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline and because of his great folly he is lost. A man of crooked ways does not prosper and is not safe.
" I would not love to see you living ignorantly. Indeed you may think you are wise, but when you start to fear God you shall have real wisdom.
"My son the good news is that Jesus loves you regardless of what you have done in the past. That's why despite having disappointed him in many ways you still find yourself with this chance to correct yourself. There have been many moments in your life that could leave you dead. Remember the time the mob was on your neck for whacking the aerial chairman at a political rally, remember that day you were beaten to a frazzle for being found in the headmaster's bedroom with his youthful wife, remember the time you were close to death for stealing poisoned food.... look my son, you've been involved in many fights yet you haven't even lost a fingernail; you have smoked chamba for a long time but you haven't gone mad, you are still yourself.
Mavembe coughed and continued. It could appear he had more to say. Mahala was facing one of the most indescribable moments in his life.
"My son, you know I have lived on this earth for a very long time. One thing that I have learnt is that only those that have their relationships right with the Most Holy One live complete lives; they are the only people with sound hope for their lives; they are blessed people, they are protected people and they are right at the heart of God himself. Imagine if people feel good only when they are loved by their friends, their relatives, their spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, their bosses and parents, what more if they are at the heart of Jesus Christ Himself, who is the King of kings and the true son of God?
"Always remember that evil is a liability to life. You can never benefit from evil. All that you get from evil is abuse by the devil. Those that live in evil are always insecure, unsatisfied, uncertain about the future and do not appreciate their purpose of life. Evil leads to nothing but death. Death in physical life, death in spiritual life, death in everything.
" I could leave you my son with so much money, or greatly valuable property or something else that could give you so much money. Unfortunately my son I'm old and I've no energy to generate money for you. However my son I leave you with something that will give you Life if you believe it. My son I give it to you because I know there is no better treasure surpassing it. Receive it my son as my only legacy to you."
Then old Mavembe painfully fumbled under his pillow and fished out a Book from under it. The Holy Bible were the words written on it. He struggled as he handed it to his son. Mahala, tears on his face, trembled and received the gift.
"Please use it, believe it, this is my heart to you. Remember always, every word of God proves true. My son, I am dying a happy man..." and at that point the chapter of old Mavembe's life was closed.
That Sunday morning the spirit moved in a special way in the church. It was like a dream as Mahala spoke the mysteries of God. When he finished narrating his testimony, people believed that it is indeed like a dream when God intervenes.