By: Aakehtee Parhmilnee
In the words of the Father; “And having a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s” (2 Corinthians 10: 6&7).
I come from a family of Baptist preachers. Growing up, Sundays were the days everyone had to be in church (at least when I was at my grandparents’). We woke up very early and prepared food that we weren’t allowed to eat until we came back from church. Afterward, everyone got bundled up in the car and we rode to First Baptist Church on the Congo Town back road in Monrovia, Liberia.
I remember singing the hymns and learning all the Baptist church traditions. I got baptized at age thirteen and I remember thinking, “I may need to get baptized again”. This could have been because I didn’t understand what I was getting into. I did not have a personal relationship with God – I did read my bible by myself on some occasions, but I read the most when my grandfather, who had been a minister in his younger days, made me read to him when he was too old to see. The times that I did read by myself, even without much understanding, I was unconsciously searching for a higher power.
I believe we all reach a place in our lives when we seek understanding of our purpose here on earth.
I had my share of a wild teenage life that involved parties, being pressured and being the pressure, among other things. I reached a point where those things weren’t doing it for me anymore, and I wanted more. Based on my family history and my foundation, I sought what was familiar. I started to go to church frequently, and when I didn’t think Sunday services were enough, I decided to join the choir to get more involved. The First Baptist church already had great singers and they were all familiar with the songs. It was hard fitting in when choir rehearsals were either canceled or shortened because people were familiar with every song, so I stopped going to choir practice. After I had given up on singing in church, I visited the Restoration Baptist Ministries (RBM) on Allison street, where Rev. Joseph Gardea Johnson (the former senior pastor of First Baptist) was the head pastor, and I found my unknown desire – a church family, somewhere I was welcomed and felt at home, where I wasn’t judged and fitted in. At RBM, I wasn’t Rev. Cooper’s granddaughter, I was Aa’kehtee, and I was representing myself. I visited RBM a couple more times with my friend Habibat Amechi, and we loved the service and the people, so we stayed, and this time I joined the choir. Joining the choir at RBM helped me grow in God. We had mini bible studies before choir practice where people shared, cried, and testified. We were one big family that encouraged each other. My own family wasn’t too happy about my “desertion” of the family church, and it took a while for them to understand my desire for growth and change.
I kept seeking God, attending services, singing, praying and fasting more. I felt like I was getting stronger, but it was still a transition, and there was still a lot I had to rid myself of.
I was struggling to leave everything I’d known behind when in June, 2013, my friend Habibat lost her life. I hadn’t been a Christian too long and I didn’t know what to make of loss. I was not prepared, and I couldn’t understand how I was in a “good place” with God and he didn’t answer me when I prayed for someone I loved. I ceased church-going and its activities, I started drinking more and partying and doing everything except grieving. That lasted for a month when God decided that that was not what he wanted for me. On a specific night in August of 2013, I was sober, and I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t healed properly and everything about Habibat’s death was hitting me. I remember praying and crying out loud to God to help me. I woke up at 5 am, texted Rev. Johnson and we met at the church at 6 am. I told him everything I was going through and had ever done and he prayed with me.
That was the day I believe that I got spiritually baptized. I felt relieved. I learned to cry, to let go, to grieve and give God my weaknesses.
My walk with God became stronger, I prayed for discernment and God helped me understand the scriptures with interpretation. I became a leader and helped others find themselves in God. I quit drinking, partying and fornication. From those experiences, I felt renewed and became hopeful about my encounter and walk with God.
My journey as a young Christian woman has not been smooth. I’ve been in what I call the “best places” with God, and I’ve been “rock bottom” with God still beside me.
I am a strong believer of grace but a stronger believer that faith requires work.
I easily beat myself up when I feel I am not living up to God’s standards. In all my walking right with God, I’ve backslid many times. I’ve come to understand that being close to God means that you’ll have to fight repeated physical and spiritual battles. You’ll have to stay steadfast, but most importantly, you must refuse the guilt that shame and fear brings. Not giving in to negative thoughts and picking yourself up every time is key. Your relationship with God would not always consist of him giving you everything you want either. God knows our hearts and how we change and that is why he does not give us everything we ask for.
I do not expect God to be for me the way he is for someone else, and I continue to work on myself no matter how bad I think I’ve messed up.
The bible is filled with other people’s recollection of their walk with God. Those are promises and testimonies you can stand on and decree in your own life, but you’ll have to find your own rhythm with God. I believe God has placed multiple things in each of us and made us different so that we may relate to him individually and personally according to our gifts and character. I do not have the answers, I never will. Not on my own at least. But I can boast that I know someone who does, someone who has never failed me, and who has performed repeated miracles on my behalf. Someone who loves me without conditions. And you can know him too. Salvation is free. Righteousness, however, is not easy, but it is doable.
As I write this, I pray to walk uprightly, and I encourage you and me to never stop seeking to be more like Christ. I’ve tasted the reward of obedience and I want you to also. But I’ve also tasted the reward of disobedience and backsliding, which I pray you don’t have to. But even when I’m being chastised, I’ve learned to not cease praying and to rejoice in afflictions because like a good earthly father would, God chastises me for my good (1 Thessalonians 5: 17, Romans 12: 12, Hebrews 12:5-11).