FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaWednesday, July 12, 2017
amobipchuks@yahoo.com


CROSSING OVER

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here was a very heavy downpour few days ago in my area of domicile. This gave rise to extremely cold weather. In order to maintain body equilibrium, I embarked on a jogging jamboree in the evening hours. After about two kilometers I developed fast breathing. Then I slowed down to avoid sudden slump, because Obi is no more a boy.

In the next seven minutes I came to a cross road at Neni in Anaocha Local Government of Anambra State. I applied the human break in me in order to look left, right, front and back before crossing over. What did I see? I cleared my eyes well. I saw a colleague in the Lord's vineyard with two policemen in mufti measuring the road. I asked the priest popularly known as Asa what was amiss. He narrated how he escaped death by the whiskers when a reckless young driver hit his car mercilessly without looking before crossing over. The priest's car was almost damaged beyond repair while he miraculously crawled out unhurt. The reckless young driver might have been drunk or under the influence of drugs. The priest was right because he was driving down the main road. The reckless driver who was coming out from a remote road should have stopped at the cross roads to look well before negotiating. I consoled the priest and thanked God with him that he is alive to tell the story. I wished him goodbye and continued my jogging. Since life has no duplicate, I looked carefully seven times at each of the cross roads before crossing over.

As I was moving along, I was equally reflecting on the cross roads encounter. Some ideas came into my medulla oblongata. Also, some dangerous cross-over events I encountered in the past years re-appeared to me like video film. The human brain is a memory recorder, if one is still sane. But when insanity sets in, the brain becomes blank. Thank God that I still have the sense of rationality, even though my memory is no more as sharp as it was when I was younger. In order to put the encounter at the cross roads down, I started searching for the adequate topic. Before I reached my residence, I decided to write this time on CROSSING OVER.

In the year 1980, I travelled from my ancestral home with my friend to Onitsha to admire the Niger Bridge. We used the pedestrian line on the long bridge from Onitsha end to Asaba end. I was wondering how the bridge builders built the entire iron edifice over the deep and wide River Niger. I shook my head and exclaimed, "Bekee bu agbara. Wonders shall never end!" I was frightened as I was trekking over the bridge as if it would collapse and I would fall into the river. The worst thing is that I am a novice in swimming. The fish in the river would thank their God for providing lunch for them. Thank God that I crossed over safely. My friend was walking faster than I because he was brought up at Onitsha and has crossed the bridge many times. It was my maiden cross over on foot.

After coming out of the Niger Bridge, we decided to trek up to Zik's roundabout before boarding a vehicle to take us home. At Upper Iweka axis, we agreed to cross over to the other side towards MCC. My friend crossed over first like a ghost. I followed suit without observing the traffic. I was not lucky like my friend. A lorry loaded with rods nearly crushed me. But the driver did his best and avoided me. I stood motionless and speechless at the centre of the busy expressway. Passers-by stood still and were shouting on top of their voices. They thought that I was already crushed. God saved me miraculously. The lorry driver after avoiding me by the whiskers stopped abruptly and started scolding me for crossing over without looking. There was traffic hold-up instantly. I thanked the careful driver who avoided crushing me. At that time, my spirit had almost reached the judgment seat of God. But an Angel of God at the gate of heaven turned me back and told me that my time of death has not reached. The devil was on the left side beckoning on me to come into hell. I shunned him. After regaining consciousness, I and my friend continued walking up. He blamed me for not looking well before crossing over. I accepted the blame and gave praises to the Almighty God for rescuing me. Since then, whenever I come to that spot at Upper Iweka, I normally observe a minute's silence.

In August 1992, another dangerous incidence that involved crossing over happened. I went to St Theresa's Parish Ichida in Anaocha Local Government of Anambra State to make a commentary during the first Mass of a priest friend who was newly ordained. The liturgical commentary I gave rang bell in the town. After Mass we ate and drank. I ate a plate of rice crowned with a chicken thigh and drank only a bottle of malt. I joined the parishioners in the reception of the new priest at the church field. After some hours, I decided to find my way home. As I was walking along a village road, I met the brother of my boy riding a lady's motorcycle. He offered me a lift. Hardly did I know that I was approaching a death-trap. As he came to a cross road, he crossed over with enormous speed without stopping to look left and right. At that time, a commercial 504 wagon loaded with passengers was returning from Onitsha to Ekwulobia. He nearly crushed us, but he swerved into the bush. My spirit departed again. In a vision I saw the same Angel I met last time asking me, "What, you again?" He waved at me to go back to earth because God still needs my service there. That was when I became conscious of the second incidence of crossing over at Ichida. The 405 driver and his passengers scolded us for reckless driving. It was only at that time that I noticed that my friend handling the motorcycle was 90% drunk. On behalf of the two of us, I expressed our gratitude to God over the rescue. Equally I thanked the careful 405 driver who swerved into the bush to avoid crushing us.

At Ekwulobia motor-park, I took a commercial bike to my hometown Aguluezechukwu. At the dangerous curved junction leading into my God's own town, the bike driver made a dangerous cross over on the same day. An oncoming vehicle applied a sudden break to avoid crushing us. By God's grace we escaped unhurt again. I jumped down from the commercial bike after paying the rider off. I decided to trek home. I convinced myself that it is better to be late than the late. In addition I asked myself if I were under a spell in crossing over. On reaching my home, it was already getting dark. I went to bed without narrating the ugly experiences to my grandmother whom I was living with. She invited me to come and take my supper. I told her that I was not feeling hungry. Before lying down, I knelt down and sang praises to God for his wonderful deeds. During my sleep I sang loud intermittently unconsciously. My grandmother opened the adjoining door between the two of us and shouted, "Amobi, what is wrong? Why are you singing at this late hour of the night?" I jumped up, cleared my eyes and replied, "Mama, I am seeing a great vision. No cause for alarm. Go and sleep in peace." She retired. Immediately it was daybreak, I narrated to her what God did for me at cross over roads the day before. She was very happy. The two of us started to sing and dance. The Lord is good all the time!

Another critical crossing over episode took place in 2003 when I was on further studies in Germany. After lunch on that fateful day, I boarded a bus from Vallendar suburb to Koblenz city for shopping. After disembarking from the bus, I began to trek to the market. At a T-junction I was quite sure that I looked well before crossing over to the other side. Suddenly a car appeared from nowhere at an unimaginable speed. I cried out in German language, "Gott rette mich!" (Oh, God save me!). This God propelled me very high into the sky and I jumped into safety. I was almost crushed to death in a foreign land. Passers-by were wondering at my miraculous escape. The white man who was behind the steering did not even dare to stop to console me. If he had succeeded in crushing me, my mangled body would have been brought home in a plastic bag. And it will take me time to rise on the resurrection day.

Now let me arrive. Our journey here on earth involves crossing over in one way or the other. From the womb we cross over into the world. From sucking the breast we graduate into eating solid food. From sitting we begin to craw. From crawling we stand. From standing we start to walk and to run. From childhood we cross over to youthful age. Then we enter into adulthood, if we are opportune. Some die at infancy. Some die at youthful age. Some cross over into adulthood. The Psalmist laments that our span of years is now 70 for the weak and 80 for those who are strong (Psalm 90:10). On the other hand, we read in the Book of Isaiah that it is a curse not to live up to 100 years (Is. 65:20). Only a few cross over to hundred years nowadays. In other words we are under a curse because of our sins. Lord, have mercy!

Whether we live long or die young, our stay here on earth is temporal. We must cross over from temporality to eternity. In other words, we must cross over from this physical world into the spiritual world. It is a cross over from mortality into immortality. Three things await us at last: Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. Each and every one of us must answer this question: "Where shall I spend my eternity: in heaven or hell?" The Catechism of Christian doctrine tells us that God created us to know Him; to love Him and to serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. St Paul clearly states that some would be saved but through fire (1 Cor.3: 15). The Scripture also emphasizes that those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will not cross over into heaven (Rev. 20:15). Therefore, to cross over safely from this earth to heaven, we must be very careful as St Paul tells us: "So be very careful about the sort of lives you lead, like intelligent and not like senseless people. Make the best of the present time, for it is a wicked age. This is why you must not be thoughtless but must recognize what is the will of the Lord" (Ephesians 5:15 - 17). If we have sinned, we need to repent without delay since God does not desire the death of a sinner. If we die unrepentant, we have ourselves to blame. Crossing over to hell means being lost forever. God forbid!

Saint Peter admonishes us in these words: "Be calm but vigilant because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Stand up to him, strong in faith and prayer" (1 Pt. 5: 8 - 9). We must be watchful in our everyday activities. Before crossing over into the next day, we should make a sober reflection on how we lived during the day. We ask God for forgiveness and commend ourselves into God's hand before we sleep. Some people have crossed over from sleep to death. If we make a successful cross over into a new day, we owe much gratitude to God. Do not embark on the day's activities without thanking God in prayer. At the end of each month, we express gratitude to God and pray for a smooth cross over into a new month. On the last day of the year we make our cross over prayerfully into a new year. Shine your eyes always in order to avoid 'had I known'. Happy reading!

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