Monday, September 19, 2011

Those Who Fear God

Moses Nwoke

Like Moses in the Bible, Moses Nwoke’s life was threatened at his birth. Also like the Biblical Moses, he too was born near a river. But that is where the similarities end.

Moses Nwoke was born in a small village in eastern Nigeria, in the Niger River delta. His mother died giving birth to him. The village his family lived in held a superstitious belief about babies like him. Steeped in black magic, the villagers believed a baby whose mother died while giving birth was possessed with an evil spirit. This, they believed was the reason the mother had died – the evil spirit in the baby had killed her. Her death was sufficient evidence of the existence of this spirit in the eyes of the villagers. So, they had a solution to the problem; they threw such babies in the river in order to get rid of the evil spirit and appease their god.

Moses’ fate would have been sealed at his birth were it not for a group of Christian women from a nearby village who knew this practice was wrong. These women had a practice of their own. They always asked to be given babies like Moses. They even renamed their little village “Graveyard” (or rather the native word that meant graveyard) This enabled them to tell the neighboring village they could still appease the gods by honestly telling them these babies had been put in the graveyard.

Moses Nwoke was one of the first babies saved in this manor. He grew up in “Graveyard” reared by these women. My parents knew Moses as one of the first and most trustworthy nurses at the little hospital in Joinkrama where they served as missionaries.

After some time, Moses rather abruptly quit his job at the hospital, taking another more lucrative job with one of the oil companies which had begun to drill for oil in Nigeria. My parents were sad to see him go. His new company moved him away to a larger city.

Some years later, my father received a letter from Moses. In this letter, he told of becoming quite prosperous. He told of living in an air conditioned building. He had electricity and was sleeping in a real bed with sheets for the first time in his life. But he also confessed that he had wandered away from his faith. He had stopped attending church and had ceased reading his Bible. Then one night, while sitting in his air conditioned room, he saw his Bible among his belongings and decided to open it. This was the first time he had opened his Bible in a very long time.

That night, by divine providence, Moses opened his Bible to Mark 8:6, “For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his life?’ (HCSB) Moses looked around at his comfortable environment – his bed with sheets, his electric light. And that night Moses realized what really mattered in life. He finally understood what held real value.

Moses left his lucrative job with the oil company and came back to his little village. In his later years, he served as the head nurse of the pediatric department of Methodist Hospital in Iliasha where he contributed greatly to curing the problem of Kwashiorkor in children. This is a condition that results from a protein deficiency due to malnutrition. In the end, Moses Nwoke, a man who was rescued as a baby by fellow believers, spent his life rescuing children and restoring them to health.

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