“Hey hun, been feeling like it’s been a long time since I’ve ever been on stage ministering using a spoken word. Kinda been heavy on me to restore this gifting I have kept idle for far too long, and hopefully grow it even to greater heights. Spoke to my pasi about it and he agreed I could use our church for a comeback of sorts. So I’ll be performing Sunday and I want you to be there. What you say?”
“Hey, that would be awesome. I feel it’s been too long too. It sure is time you used that gift bana. Had plans for Sunday at our church, but anything for you baby (I can’t believe she calls me that with this huge goatie tailing my face at the chin). I’ll arrange and come. I love you.”
That was how we got it started. About a month back. Sunday at the Interdenominational Church JKUAT, the church I attend didn’t quite work. So I had to push my plans to another time. Meanwhile her pastor had asked to meet me. A great guy; laughs as often as he talks. So busy you feel for him and yet wonder he’d even slot you time in his schedule. Reverend Alfred Apela, God bless his soul. He and his wife had known their lovely daughter from church was planning to get married. So he asked to see the boyfriend, perhaps to confirm he wasn’t the usual fisi type, in it today and out of it tomorrow. Every loving parent fears that, right?
We met with pasi at their church, All Saints Cathedral (despite attending service there a number of times, I still marvel at how Pentecostal their youth church feels. So not the typical Anglican, with old hymns I used to find boring when a child. Used to!) It wasn’t a long one, but the meeting was great. Before leaving, I floated the idea of proposing at their church. He thought it could work, and promised to make arrangements. Boy this place can have busy services. I had to wait for about three weeks while he pushed for me all he could. Isla did great ever reminding him and encouraging me to keep hoping. The kind of supportive girlfriend who won’t just believe in you, but believe for you when she has to.
Sunday, June the 5thof 2016. This would be the day of God’s choosing. The day this ring I had safely kept in some case in my room would find a perfect host. She spent Saturday at my co-conspirator Flo. It had just worked itself that they agreed she would go there for a sleepover. Flo is a sister to me; the type you easily gel with from the day you meet. She’d even taken me to the nice shop in Hurlingham where I got the ring. Helped me figure if it would fit. A ‘traitor’ plotting Isla’s final fall. Of all places, hers would be where she wakes up to her surprise day from. She tells me that Isla passionately prayed for this ministry I’d be launching that morning (you are a tough one Flo to not have burst into laughter). Left me even a text saying how she’d prayed for courage and confidence to minister to God’s people.
Those two traits, sure I needed them to pull off what I had planned. And thank you so much for praying honey. But ‘people’, sorry my love but you were the people you were praying for.
We met outside the church and she gladly ushered us in. Showed the girls to their sits. She couldn’t suspect a thing despite the many friends there with us. All she knew was I had invited them to come watch me minister, excited for me just as much as she was. The worship was great, such a gifted worship team they have. The visiting preacher’s moment came, but before he would climb up the pulpit, Rev Apela called me up. Our relationship had grown and he was right to introduce me as his son. He said I had a spoken word. I grabbed the mic, did a little introduction and then got on it. It was a very missional one, like from beginning to the end. Two lines away from finish, I jumped down the pulpit. I had maintained a relative ease since beginning with a chorus of that Chris Tomlin song I Will Rise. The crowd had been silent; I suppose absorbing the piercing truth that God was calling them to join Him on His mission to the lost.
My move downward would perhaps be interpreted for a genius attempt to connect with the crowd better. The mood was solemn, and maybe moving closer to them would make the message sink deeper.
Will you follow me as I follow Christ, and believe in this one thing that I believe in? (walking towards the congregation, my eyes staring at no one in particular)
Will you join me to the ends of the earth, and make famous the God who made it? (closer, eyes stuck to one section of the crowd now)
A slight pause with a telling smile:
Will you, ISLA AMBIYO marry me, so we can perfect each other for when our real bridegroom (Jesus) someday breaks in like a thief? Yes, will you marry me? (walking towards her row, and eyes – not just mine but all in the room, on her. Some wowed and some quietly staring in utter disbelief)
She couldn’t believe it. How her eyes popped I’m just thanking God now I won’t be marrying a blind Isla. I honestly feared they would chuck out her sockets. That brief look on her face; if she ever threatens me with that face, I will surely give her anything she demands. You know you’ve shocked the life out of a pretty girl when for her lone time in life she doesn’t look picturesque. Thank God chances of that happening again are slimmer than finding life in the sun. Suddenly she shot up from her sit and walked towards me. Don’t think she was excited and couldn’t wait for the ring in my hand to get to her. It was all adrenaline and impulse, walking towards me without realizing she was. I feared she would knock herself on a sit or trip on her heels and so took her by the hand fast.
Then at the spot where all could see, I went on my knee. I was surprised seeing the photos later that I actually did it right and knelt on the left one; and yes, that I didn’t care if my cream khaki pants would pick dust from the floor confirms I love this girl. If you are surprised at that then you have no idea what washing a bright, stained, heavy material cloth is to a man. Isla wasn’t back to earth yet. She couldn’t tell which hand was the right one, so she stretched both to me. I was like, “easy girl, it’s me Jose. Not some Alejandro or Hollywood icon.” Then I realized am the most special man in her eyes. Far better to her than anyone else she’s ever met or seen. Asking her to marry me before so many people was by far her best (though a bit scary) experience in life so far.
I knew it was the left hand. I just didn’t know which finger. Yeah, I was losing it too out of the excitement. I asked Rev on the mic and he offered no help, he only gave a laugh. Of course the watching crowd laughed too. But I figured and placed the ring where it belonged. I rose, and she impulsively pulled me to herself and hugged me. Not that she couldn’t wait for me to hug her. She just wasn’t back to herself yet. We climbed up the stage and Rev prayed for us. Every believer in there said a prayer for us, and it felt beautiful. It was glorious in our eyes what the Lord had done for us.
I doubt she got much from the sermon. The friends who had come flanked us after the service and we went out together. (So thankful to you guys for coming. You’ve been faithful and true every step of the way). The wait finally paid off. It was worth the hustle of forfeiting a thing or two and affording her a beautiful ring from my little monthly support for ministry. It was worth the weeks’ long labor of playing with her fingers on dates trying to figure the size of the ring to buy and hoping she never sees the surprise coming. It was worth keeping the secret so long and baiting her into her love trap. I can’t imagine how Teckla, her longtime best friend with whom she shares so much and neighbor, who always itches with news survived with the secret these many weeks. Girl you are a perfect example of grace and we will always be grateful for having you in our lives.
We hope to have our wedding on the 18th of November, and you reading this are invited officially. A simple evening wedding, still at All Saints Cathedral, where we will snack and not necessarily eat (sorry y’all pilau lovers). Our hope has always been that our wedding will be excellent yet simple; to model something replicable to young couples out there hoping to someday walk into marriage in honor of God without having to break a bank. You can read this link to see how simple we hope to have it and why . We invite you to support us as we plan for our big day through whichever way, with however much; that you will cheerfully be a blessing to us. Though we may or may never be able to repay you, I only pray that God rewards you in a most remarkable way.
Every good gift is welcome. You can do a car (laughs); by the way it’s not like I haven’t been dying to self, I do every day. But I think the ujaluo in me will be the last to die. More seriously anyway, whatever you bring we will appreciate. Even if you can’t afford a thing, we would still love to be honored by your presence. I’m not promising the best wedding you’ll ever witness, but am praying that God’s glory shines on that day. That like He did with our engagement, He will lift Himself again to be seen by all who come to our wedding. If He doesn’t mind, may some water be turned into wine even (smiles).
Thank you so much everyone who sent in felicitations. It felt like we were under a spotlight for a moment. It actually still does. Couldn’t respond personally to every single message, but we read them all. We are so grateful to have felt your love and warmth. May every prayer you made for us come true according to God’s will. I anticipate that life will soon get back to normal, both for you and us. That there will be days when it will be just us two. No cheers from the crowd that now celebrates us, maybe not even the slightest show of concern. Those days will feel lonely no doubt, and we’ll wish we could snap out of them. Then I will remember, and Isla will too, that there is only One being with whom it all ends. The One with whom it all began. God! We will seek Him and with Him remain. Not the ring, nor the world, nor even the love we feel for each other will keep us together. He will. It is my prayer for you, for your relationship, for your marriage, for your anything, that He shall be the center of it all.
To whoever wishes to send in a gift of any kind to us, either for the wedding or more importantly for our marriage ahead, kindly reach me on my email firstname.lastname@example.org.