THE ENGRACED BEAUTY
Written By: Lizzy Oyebola Yakubu
Many people wouldn’t believe it when I tell them that I am from a VERY poor background!
I mean, very poor to the extent that most times we would soak garri in a very big bowl overnight so we would have sufficient breakfast the next day.
My dad was a roadside vulcanizer.
My mum was a cleaner at the public toilet at Oshodi.
My twin and I were hawkers- of groundnuts, cold sachet water, charcoal and just anything in season!
But because of the special beauty, eloquence and smooth, luscious skin the Lord had blessed me with, I was considered well off when anyone set their eyes on me.
And well, I am well off!
I look at where I am coming from and I say that I am indeed well off! The Grace of God all over me is just too glorious! Why and how God decided to take interest in me is something I am even yet to decipher till date.
Did I attend a good primary school? I did! God raised someone to pay my 1500 naira per term bill for the six years I spent at school- a total stranger who my mum had provided more than enough tissue paper at the public toilet where she worked! I graduated as the best student!
What of my secondary school education? Well, I attended one of the best schools in Oshodi then. Our fee was 40000 naira per term and one man decided to pay it! Why? His daughter who was my best friend in church insisted she wanted us both to attend the same school! I graduated as the best student yet again!
Well, another person picked me up when it was time to move to the university. I was in the bus going home after a very tiring hawking when a rough looking guy started disturbing me and asking for my phone number. I refused of course- I didn’t even have a phone!
One woman who was seated beside us smiled at me after I had successfully put the rough looking guy in his place. She said she would love to give me a present for being a chaste girl in this age. She asked what present I would love. I playfully said ‘Four Years Sponsorship at the University ma’ and she smiled as she wrote her phone number for me. ‘Consider it done, beautiful!’ It was unbelievable!
After graduation as the best graduating student, I was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University. I was the Valedictorian yet again!
Who am I, Lord?
I worked per time at the department and the little I could gather before my programme would end, I kept sending home so that my twin sister could also go to the university and my parents could move to a larger house.
However, by the time I got back to Nigeria after my programme, it was a different case! It seemed as though the favor rain which was pouring upon me had ceased! We could barely eat twice a day!
When it seemed as though my twin sister would be withdrawn from school at the third year, I had to take my prayers more seriously. The Lord asked me to start a school. What? A school?
Of course I loved to teach but I couldn’t even imagine that happening with my terrible financial state. But since it was the Lord that said I should do it, I decided to trust Him wholly!
When I told my pastor about what was coming from the Lord, he passed the announcement to the church and we got some contributions- 5000 naira. A bucket of pink paint. A bag of toys. A small plastic table and two small chairs. A mat. Some children story books. A baby cot.
‘Lord, this wouldn’t go anywhere!’ I had cried but He asked me to go on and start.
I rearranged our sitting room and put up a cardboard signpost in front of our house. Grace River Academy was what the Lord had called it so I named it that as well.
The first day at school, I had ten pupils- Two of them were strangers and they paid their complete fee of 2000 naira each. Five of them were from our ‘poor’ neighbors around who only wanted to help me fill my class. They brought ten naira each when they were coming!
The last three of the pupils were babies. They would whine and cry. They would scream and throw tantrums.
At a point, I entered my bedroom to cry seriously. I didn’t say anything to anybody but after the serious wailing, I moved to my ‘class’ and started teaching again. I was not encouraged but I continued teaching.
I taught so much so that I had grown so fond of my pupils. They all excelled brightly at the end of that academic year.
At the end of three years, we had increased in number to twenty with just seven of them being the ‘serious’ ones who was at least bringing in some money.
As I taught, I applied to so many other places for job but I got none! A Grade A graduate from home and abroad, it was a very challenging time for me!
The day my Alma mater remembered me and asked me to come for interview, I suddenly developed serious, acute stomach pain- appendicitis!
I lost that opportunity and soon enough, the ‘appendicitis’ disappeared.
I got an offer from Oxford University too but the day I would attend the online interview, I woke up with a swollen face and leg so much that I couldn’t stand up from bed.
I was bedridden for five days and as soon as I got better and reached out to them, the door of that opportunity had been shut!
‘Bloom where you are!’ The Lord told me one day.
“Bloom where I am, Lord? Does this even make sense? I am an Oxford University graduate! I was the Valedictorian of my set yet what do I have to offer? I keep missing rich opportunities!” I retorted.
“Who gave you all that you have? Who gave you?” The Holy Spirit asked again.
“It was You! It was You but what is the use? You should have even let me be on the streets hawking! Why would You take me that high to bring me this low? Why?” I wept bitterly that night till the next morning.
I was still sluggishly moving out of bed when my mum said I was having a visitor at our ‘school’. I jumped out to find one woman with two beautiful girls beside her on our settee. I genuflected and she smiled beautifully as she saw me.
“You must be Grace, right?” She asked and I shook my head.
“No ma. My name is Taiwo ma”
“Taiwo Grace Adeniyi, right?” She asked again, looking so sure.
“No ma. Just Taiwo Adeniyi ma” I said and she frowned slightly.
“But the Lord said Grace na. Didn’t I hear that right?” She asked rhetorically, her head tilted to a side.
“It was the Lord that called me Grace, right?” I asked, knowing where the whole thing was coming from.
“Yes” She nodded with great surety.
“Yes ma. I am actually Grace. The Lord calls me Grace. I thought it was just a name between myself and Him. I didn’t know the Lord had publicized it” I said and the woman burst out laughing.
“It looks as if I will love you my dear. You are so sweet and funny” She said and I chuckled.
“I am fluttered ma” I said shyly.
“Yeah, so you are the proprietress of Grace River Academy right?” She asked and I reluctantly nodded. The way she called the school sounded too excellent than the real thing.
“My son sent his children from Colorado last month. He wanted them to have home training in Nigeria” She said and smiled again.
“Oh, mummy, are you Mummy Londoner? The mummy that lives down the street?” I asked suddenly and she started laughing.
“I guess I am as popular as they say I am” She laughed again and I joined her.
“To what do I owe this visit ma?”
“I want to enroll my grand-kids. I don’t want them too far away from me and the Lord said they should come to Grace River Academy. G. R. A! That was what the Lord called it!” She said and laughed again. I sighed and shook my head.
“Ma, I don’t think you will be able to…”
“How much is the registration fee?” She shut me up quickly, still smiling.
“It’s one hundred naira ma” I said and she burst out laughing. She laughed so much that when she was done, I had tears in my eyes which I tried to hide.
“What of the school fees?”
“How old are they?” I asked, trying as much as possible not to break down in tears. I knew too well that the fees were too meager for her person.
“6 and 4”
“6 will pay 2000 and 4 will pay 1500 naira” I said and she looked shocked.
“Per hour right?”
“No ma. Per term” I said and she burst out laughing again.
“Grace! Funny Grace!” She exclaimed, picked up her handbag and started walking to the door, still laughing. “Children, please follow me” She said still laughing.
I fell into one of our dusty, foamy cushion, the sides of my head pounding.
“What was that? Did she just come here to ridicule me?” I asked as tears rushed into my eyes.
Just then the door opened. I turned to look back and it was Mummy Londoner.
“Won’t you follow me? I am a grandma. You shouldn’t stress me!” She said and shut the door. I wiped my tears and scurried after her.
When I got outside, she signaled for me to enter the Range Rover parked in front of our house. I hesitated.
“I am not a ritualist. Come in” She honked.
“Let’s go Taiwo. I will go with you” My mum said and soon we were on our way to God-knows-where. She wouldn’t tell us where we were going too no matter how hard we tried. She kept humming ‘Jerusalem’ song till reached an estate.
She drove in and told me to close my eyes. I frowned slightly but obeyed, my heart beating heavily.
She drove on for like five more minutes, my eyes still shut. I couldn’t even think about it. I didn’t know what it was but I shut my eyes.
“Oh my God! What is this?” My mum screamed as soon as the car was brought to a halt. My heartbeat tripled.
“Can I open my eyes ma?” I asked anxiously.
“Not yet!” She said. “Ma, you and the children can go inside there while I speak to Grace?” She asked
“Sure, madam!” My mum answered. Soon, the doors opened and closed. Mummy Londoner drove forward and stopped.
“Open your eyes” She said and I did. We were on an open field. I looked around and didn’t find anything special.
“Grace, I have been having sleepless nights over your case”
“Mine? You know me from somewhere ma?”
“I do not!” She said and held my hands. “Grace, I will tell you a story, please listen attentively”
“Okay ma” I replied pensively.
“Last year, the Lord instructed me to purchase four units of houses in this estate and renovate them for a very large school. He gave me the exact plan of what He wanted and told me to start. I hesitated because education was just not my thing! I am a farmer and a business woman. But when the Lord says go, one must go indeed!”
“Okay?” I asked anxiously, my heart still racing fast.
“The building project finished and the Lord said I should buy two school buses. I obeyed. I should buy a fine jeep. I obeyed. I should build two small flats behind the school, I obeyed. I should go to the authorities to register the name of the school. I obeyed. I should start running the adverts on the radio and TV. I obeyed. I didn’t know what I was doing or why but I obeyed still!”
“Hmmm” I nodded, wanting the story to be quickly told. She sounded too slow for my liking.
“There was no more instruction afterwards until last month when my son sent his kids home. He said he wanted them to be in Nigeria for a while. I asked the Lord to guide me on the choice of the school they would attend and He said He would”
“So, one day, I went to Mummy Kola’s hair salon to weave my hair. It was there and then that her children jumped in and started speaking English well. They were doing their sums beautifully. She and her friends were then gisting about one Grace River Academy and how intelligent the teacher is who transformed her dullard children to kings and queens” She said and I chuckled.
She wouldn’t even pay her children’s school fees o!
“The Lord said I should enroll my children in that same school. Since then, I have plied our street trying to find the school. I couldn’t. Yet, the Lord wouldn’t leave me alone. I asked Mummy Kola for the address and she showed me your house. I was shocked, truth be told. I questioned God but He insisted.”
“Hmmmm” I sighed
“I asked Mummy Kola what the name of the school is and she told me Grace River Academy! I was stunned! That was the same name He gave me for the school I built in the estate”
“You can’t be serious!” I exclaimed, not still knowing exactly what to say or do.
“He then said, go and give Grace everything! That was when everything made sense!” She said still smiling. I shook my head dreamily.
“I still don’t understand ma”
“The buildings, the school buses, the jeep are all yours!” She said and I shook my head with great disbelief.
“How can it be ma?” I laughed shortly.
“The Lord said you would doubt it. Anyways, the ridiculous prices you were calling for school fees and registration fees isn’t just it. I have been instructed to sponsor your twenty students and my own. So this is 50 million naira here for a start. It is small, I know but we will grow.” She said and I started laughing as she handed the check over to me.
“Ma, see, I really do not understand what you are talking about. See, what is really happening here ma?”
“You know God too right? Go ask Him!” She said as she turned and started going back by the way we had come. “See, what was used to complete everything was just 500M. In comparison with what the Lord has done for me and my family, that’s nothing!”
“Ma” I chuckled uneasily. “500M? I don’t get that ma” I stuttered and she burst out laughing.
“You are too dramatic mehn!” She exclaimed as she honked in front of a gate. The gate opened automatically as a gate-man saluted her. She stopped and wound down her window.
“This is your madam. I am just her contractor. Greet her, please” She said and soon, like five uniformed men moved to my side and started saluting. I waved at them uneasily as tears formed in my eyes.
“Those men each earn 150k per month.” She told me as she drove in.
“What! My dad and mum need a job as soon as…” I was saying when she burst out laughing.
“The dad and mum of the proprietress need a job in their daughter’s school? Very hilarious lady!” She said as she pulled the car to a stop and hopped out.
I looked outside of the car and goosebumps filled the whole of me.
“Impossibleeeeee! Impossible! Lord, this is a dream! Lord, this is a dream! I can’t believe this! I can’t!” I burst out crying. I cried till I lost my voice.
I would look up at the gigantic school that had the ‘G.R.A.’ Inscription and weep again!
When I had cried enough and asked God for forgiveness enough, I looked outside and saw my mum rolling on the floor. I was crying so loudly, singing as she did. Mummy Londoner joined them as they started one of Tope Alabi’s song:
Oluwa E dara (Lord, You are so good)
E dara o (You are so good)
E dara (You are so good)
Oluwa E tobi (Lord, You are so good)
E tobi o (You are so good)
E tobi (You are so good)
Ko s’eni ta le fi sa’kawe Yin o (Noone can be compared to You Lord)
E dara (You are so good)
Ko s’eni ta le fi sa’kawe Yin o (Noone can be compared to You Lord)
E tobi (You are so good)
Oluwa (Oh my Lord!)
“I am never late, am I?” The Lord asked as I walked round the school environment. I couldn’t even answer the Lord in words! I shook my head to everything He said!
I was too overwhelmed!
I was too flabbergasted!
“You are graced my dear. You are!” He said again and I nodded sheepishly, my head really light like it had been deflated.
“No matter how long you spend in the valley, when you faithfully serve there and you graciously listen to me, one of two things will happen to you. You will either flourish in that valley or climb up to the mountain and bloom there!”
“Your place is with the kings!”
“Lord, I didn’t even know that You were planning all these and I got tired and spoke anyhow to You!”
“You are human! You held tight enough! You did! You trusted me! And when I realized you were losing it, I supplied more grace to you”
“Lord, what have I done to deserve this?”
“Nothing! It’s just grace! That is all! I never shower my blessings on just anyone! I shower on people that I am sure have my heart! People who would use my blessings well! That would affect where they are for me!”
“And that is me?”
“You are beacon of hope in this generation. I want you to start here. This isn’t even the beginning of what you are going to enjoy from me.”
Today, Grace River Academy is 10 years and has produced more than 50,000 graced students in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Namibia, Gambia, The USA, United Kingdom. Our graduates are known to be excellent and Godly wherever they find themselves.
We are proposing the start of the Grace-River University in the United Kingdom and over 90% of the capital for the project has been acquired!
When I look back at how God has dealt so wondrously with me, I still pray.
‘Oh Lord, may I never leave the covers of your Grace!”
I would say:
“Oh Lord, may I never be a Grace waster!”
I tell the story everywhere I go that one of the greatest prayers to pray in the Bible is Psalms 23 verse 6:
Surely, Goodness and Mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever and ever! Amen!
That verse summarizes how graciously the Lord has and is still dealing with me.
Ah! No wonder King David was just different in his generation! He was so graced to the extent that generations after him enjoyed that grace!
I encourage you today to hold on to the Lord! Don’t give up! Hold on to Him! Stay by Him, Learn by Him, grow by Him, listen to Him, obey Him and He would take you to the highest parts of the earth for Himself alone!
I leave you with the words in Psalms 27 verse 14:
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord!
Stay where the Lord has planted you for He alone knows if you are groomed enough to be transplanted to a higher place or remain in that place, flourishing gloriously!