Some Call Me Second Lazarus

I was born into a polygamous home of seven (7) wives and over thirty children. I was born in a ship along the River Niger and my parents said I had this persistent desire to be dropped in the river especially when I was sick or upset uptil the end of my early childhood years. But God saw me through. 

     The road to adulthood was far from smooth socially, economically and otherwise, but God was there still to guide me out of dark corners and grant me courage to pick up the pieces and continue plodding along. 

     Eventually, as an NCE teacher, I got married in 1978 to my wonderful husband, Engr Sunday Ibok. For the first 5 years of my marriage, I was barren but God, in his infinite mercy, stepped in and gave me two children in quick succession. Satan created a great storm around my matrimonial boat. At about that same time, however, in April 1985, a gentleman, my husband’s colleague, brought me an invitation to a breakfast meeting of the FGBMFI at the Metropolitan Hotel, Calabar. At that meeting, one of our most respected elders was the coordinator.He addressed the audience as if he knew what I was passing through and asserted that whoever came to that programme with a troubled heart would never go back the way she came; that Jesus was there to sort out my life for me. At the end of the ministration, when the altar call was made, I knew I had no option; I gave my life to Christ. 

     I continued to play church and wallow in unforgiveness and bitterness but in the last five years, I had this inner change and took some important decisions which were inspired by the Holy Spirit. In my home, office, in the market, on the street, I plead with the Holy Spirit not to depart from me so that Christ may be made manifest in me. 

     God wrought a miracle in my health. In fact, some people call me Lazarus the second. I took ill mysteriously in December 2002; it started with cough and breathlessness in November 2002. In January 2003, I was referred from the University of Uyo Medical Centre to the University Teaching Hospital, Uyo. A consultant Cardiologist diagnosed Pneumonia and gave us medication for that but instead of improving, I was getting worse. 

     Between April and December 2003, I was treated at the National Hospital Abuja, Asokoro General Hospital Abuja, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). At LUTH, a consultant of chest conditions told me that every symptom I portrayed indicated that I had reached the last stage of a lung disease and that there was no need of my going to seek medical help abroad. However, he reluctantly linked me up with a chest consultant at the London Bridge Hospital. I saw this consultant who also told me that neither the x-ray nor the scan carried out in that hospital could show conclusively what was wrong with me. On March 1, 2004, I was taken to the theatre where they carried out a Video Assisted Therocospy (VAT) lung biopsy, with the intention of checking what treatment I would respond to, after the tissue had been processed by an expert pathologist. Six weeks later, I returned to Nigeria with a huge prescription for intersitial pneumonia and looking worse than when I left. 

     Two weeks after my return, I was carried to a private hospital. While there, I accepted death; I thought the end had truly come. I wrote postdated cheques in my son’s name for every banking transaction I had, in the thought that my family should have no problems accessing whatever funds I kept for the children’s education. 

     I pitied my first daughter who used to take care of me in the hospital as I was nothing other than a wreck. However, I was conscious of one thing: My pastor, members of FGBMFI and other believers never ceased to pray for me. Most of the time, when they came to the hospital room, I was conscious of their presence and their prayers but I Mrs Julie Ibok & family could not say 30 ‘Amen’. Whenever I could pray, I asked God to heal me, not for my sake, but for the sake of the people who were praying for me. God answered that prayer in the middle of May 2004. As though in a trance, I saw a man dressed in a female nurse’s attire beside my bed. He pointed to a carton of bottled water and asked me to drink it to get well, that I had suffered too much. 

     That same morning, I coughed ceaselessly and some substance like what is brought out of chicken intestine gushed out of my system, through my mouth. I asked for a container and when my daughter panicked, I told her that a spiritual operation had taken place inside of me. Praise the Lord! I started looking better. One week after, I was discharged from the hospital. 

     Interestingly, while trying to explain to me what he had discovered about me, the doctor who carried out the operation on me in London on March 1st, 2004,  told me on the 9th that I had one or two years to live, may be three but no more. March 2007, I celebrated my 3rd birthday after discharge; I have been to London twice since then, the last being in December 2007. After seeing the x-ray and scan carried out at the London Bridge Hospital, my doctor declared that I was healed. 

     I carry out both my official functions as a Deputy Registrar of the University of Uyo, and my matrimonial duties as effectively as God grants me the ability. My age is renewed like the eagle’s on a daily basis. 

     My husband gives me all the support in my Christian race. After witnessing how his wife had been transformed from a near-corpse to a living person, it did not take him any struggle to respond to the invitation by one of our Field Representatives, to attend the International Convention of FGBMFI in Abuja, in 2004. I was at that same convention but we sat at different locations due to the crowd, so I did not know what was going on with him. 

     When we got home after one of the sessions, he narrated his experience and I knew that something had happened to him. Shortly after, he retired as Executive Director (Engineering) with the Nigerian Television Authority, Abuja and returned home to me and our children. Since then, to my joy, he’s been a committed member of FGBMFI and recently, was elected Vice-President of Ewet Chapter. I know that it is the beginning of greater spiritual blessings in his life. Prior to his repentance, we had difficulties which the Lord helped us to solve. Now, we operate on stronger Christian love and friendship. Interaction with FGBMFI, becoming born again and an unyielding commitment to the Lord saved my marriage and gave me a stable home. 

     God has been gracious to us and our children. This woman who had been labeled barren did not only have children but wonderful and Godfearing ones; they love the Lord and walk in His ways. I have been graciously spared the usual problems of adolescent children. My first daughter who is studying in one of the Higher Institutions was ordained a Pastor in one of the nation’s vibrant churches. 

     Mrs Julie Ebi Sunday Ibok is the Deputy Registrar of the University of Uyo. She is a life member of Ewet Chapter, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

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