It swept through our community like a hurricane – this sense of expectancy… and the need to know that you are right with your maker. I would have called it a revival, but my not-yet-pre-teen- self did not know the name. More and more kids in school were squeezing into the class where lunchtime mwaki was held. This small group that prayed the rosary was for the Roman Catholic kids, but that did not keep us from attending. We, the protestants, started off fumbling with the new words, Maria mutheru nyina wa Ngai, tuohere ithuī ehia… hail Mary full of grace… Soon enough, the words – if not the meaning – became familiar, and we could sing-song with the best of them.
As if that was not enough, we began to hear of the sightings of Mary! My new understanding of the Catholic faith said she was the fast track to God. Soon enough, rather than head home after school, I was tagging along with other kids to one of the homes where Mary was being sighted. Would she allow me to see her, granted that I was just getting the hang of my Hail Marys? Would my fledging faith be enough? There we were masses of us, angling in for the perfect line of sight to where she was expected to appear. The choir was singing their hearts out. “Sometimes she appears holding baby Jesus”, the whispers made their rounds. Bated breath… Only God knows the excuses I gave mother for showing up home later than usual.
And then the convener of the mwaki, teacher Mrs Ndūrū, got saved. What?! Romans Catholics did not get saved…or so we had been told. That was our thing, protestants! And then little girls (there were possibly boys too, but that is my memory) started saying “nīmahonoka”, they were getting saved! Wait a minute! Kids? I thought this is what you did at the end of your life to insure your afterlife after you have ‘enjoyed’ life on earth?! It was clear that the end of the world was at hand. Have you heard of the 666? Those in the know would ask. 666? The rest of us hapless ones would ask. Yes, the number of the beast, the mark that will send you straight to hell? And the rapture? Yes, when the born again will be taken up. And the sinners will be left behind! It’s all there, in the book of revelation.
Who was to hold my hand? Who was to help me make sense of all this? On the one hand, was the shame that came with being ‘saved’ as a young child. It was sooo uncool (not that we had that word). But, oh my God – the fear on the other side of being left behind! I remember more than once turning in the night, and in that split second, when you come to wakefulness and wonder where you are, my heart would be pounding, threatening to come out. I would be entirely convinced that the end of the world had come and I had been left behind. I would then listen for sounds of anyone else in the house.
Maybe the reason this fear was so intense in the night was from the then oft-quoted words that Jesus would come back like a thief in the night? You might not live with the irrational fear I had as a 12-year-old, but you will do well to heed the words of the Lord of time who said, You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.
The fear is because your house is not in order – you have not made peace with the Lord of time and eternity. The good thing is that we do not need something significant to trigger commitment to Jesus. Because it’s not just an insurance policy for the afterlife, it’s a relationship, a walk in his presence on either side of eternity… this one and the next.
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