I was born into a very religious family and very early in life, I had developed the habit of attending church service on Sunday.
On the other days of the week, my mother, a pastor’s daughter and now a church elder, woke us up early for morning prayers. Unfortunately, these prayers became a bore to me in the long run, because I had to rise very early.
While we lived together as a family, I was struck by one thing – the love my parents had for each other and the climate of harmony that reigned in our family. All went well at home. I felt loved and was proud of having as parents a man and a woman who neither hit each other nor quarreled like the couples next door. This calm atmosphere forced me to be helpful at home because I wanted to contribute to maintaining this calm. There was a maidservant who helped Mum with the domestic work, but I remember that I did clean the kitchen and empty the dust bin before the servant arrived at our home for work. In short, life at home was really good.
But in April 1967, one of my father’s younger brothers died leaving behind two wives and thirteen children. At the funeral, the village agreed to commit these orphans and widows to the care of my father. At the beginning of the new school year in that same year, my father was transferred to Bafang. He set off with his battalion made up of the following: eight children of his own, the fifteen new-comers, his wife and him – a total of twenty-five people. This was the beginning of a life I had hardly dreamt of. A few days later the atmosphere of a polygamous home began to reign in our home. The harmony that existed between my parents soon disappeared and gave way to perpetual tension. Things got worse when my father had a child with one of the widows. Two camps were formed at home and a domestic war began, characterized by jealousy, quarrels, discord, and hatred, particularly in my heart. I felt bitter about my father and about those my late uncle had left behind. Nothing was of any interest to me any longer. I shirked even the smallest responsibility. Cutlery could lie on the floor, it was no longer my problem. Though I would play with the others at school, this lasted just for a few minutes because life at home would come to my memory and I would experience very deep sadness. A time came when I could not bear it any longer; it was absolutely necessary to put an end to this hell in miniature. So I started thinking; I thought about death, but when I thought over things carefully I asked myself the questions: Who had to die? Why must he die? How was I to proceed to eliminate this or these undesirable persons? My brain knew no rest. I had to act quickly. I was particularly vexed with my father for not only having accepted his brother’s kids but, worse still, for having taken one of his widows for a wife.
I had a grudge against this widow because she had caused a division in our home by becoming a rival to my mother. One day I thought about how we would live after my father’s death with his concubines, and I understood things would not end there. It was certain that the domestic war would go on more overtly this time and perhaps even bloodier. So I decided I would spare no one. I thought of feeding everyone with poison and thus settling the matter. In the meantime, Mum gave birth and went to spend a few weeks with her brother. Here then was my chance to prepare the food and to carry out my plan. It was lunch-time; food was ready and I had served it. The table was laid but I was waiting for my Dad to return home before I could put the poison (Raticide Clement) into the sauce. I had cooked the meal so that everyone (including me) would eat it.
Dad was still delayed and people were impatient and wanted to eat lunch. Finally, I was forced to serve the food without poisoning it because the person I particularly aimed at was absent. I was thirteen and was living in Bafoussam when these things happened. My plan had been foiled, so I became even more bitter, quieter and more lonely. Once in a while, I would think of committing suicide, but I felt sorry for my mother who, having been told about my plan for suicide, had come to plead that I should not go that far. I was thus condemned to live in this hell.
A few years later, I fell ill and, as a result of doctors fumbling for a solution to my problem, I was operated upon two times, in 1977 and 1980. Still, in my sick condition, my parents thought it was better to take me to herbalists who groped for a solution too, for they could not diagnose my illness and so could not treat it.
My studies were disturbed because of the constant pains I felt and because of my broken heart. Noticing that I was in a hopeless condition, my parents drew closer to me and showed me a lot of love and gave me money. I remember that every month I had a share of my father’s salary. Mum did everything to offer me either a dress or shoes in addition to the money she gave me. My elder sister who had just started working sent me large amounts of money. Even my young brothers and sisters gave me part of their allowances. I had money, I was surrounded by care, but the depth of my problem was apparently increasing. I was sad.
At a certain time in my life, as I tried to come out of my loneliness, I decided to discover the world of men and so I behaved like other young girls of my age, except that I was shy and afraid. But bit by bit I found myself going steady with not only bachelors but with married men whom I had dreaded for a long time. I did not need a long time to discover that I was dealing with flatterers and deceivers. As a result, I became hard and cruel to the extent of using charms against them.
In August 1981 my elder sister asked me to go and spend some time in Douala in order to consult one of the best doctors she knew. I was to spend two weeks, but I had to stay longer in order to be followed up carefully by this specialist. During my stay in this town, something I will never forget and that changed my whole life, happened. One day, an old friend invited me to a concert of religious music. I very much liked this kind of public meeting and so I went there, accompanied by my two younger sisters. That evening, a group of young people sang and in one of their songs they said this: “Life, what an adventure! Without Jesus Christ everything around is confusion and no hope,” and they continued thus: “Life is without light when it is lived without reference to and far away from God. Everything is changing and is repulsive to us.” In just a few words, they had exposed the condition of my heart. One thing struck me: They said that it was so because I was without Christ in me and far from God. This song was personally addressed to me and I was touched. For several minutes I was thinking with my eyes fixed on those people who had just spat the truth at me. These were young boys and girls radiant with joy and full of assurance. Still, in a song, they talked about the joy that Jesus gives and they invited me to taste it. I wondered whether I could ever again be as happy as I had been when I was very young. But I saw this joy in them, their smiles were not false and I wondered what had happened to them. At the end of the meeting, an invitation was made to those to whom Jesus had spoken to come forward and, as the others left the hall, I said to my younger sister. “Henriette, I am going to the front.” She also stood up and went along with me. A young man came to us and helped us to place our hands in the hands of Jesus. That evening, I understood clearly that I was a sinner separated from God, although I had been baptized, confirmed, a church-goer and I received the holy communion. I wept over my sins and begged God to forgive them, and I gave all of myself over to Him so that He might take the place that the devil had always occupied in my heart in spite of my offerings in church. I received forgiveness for all my sins and, for the first time, I felt the presence of God. I was reconciled to God. I was born anew. In a very short time, many things had changed. I had a new heart and I could forgive my father and my uncle’s widow as well, and even my father’s younger sister whom I hated so terribly that I used to listen to death announcements hoping to hear her name in order to say “at last…”
In fact, I said to myself that it was she who, by her magic, had not only lit a fire between my Mum and Dad to the benefit of the widow but had also disturbed my elder brother’s brilliant performance at school. From then on I was set free. Yes, I was liberated from grudges, bitterness, and hatred. The adultery and fornication I had progressively become a slave to left me and went away to their father, the devil.
Truly, Jesus sets free from the slavery to sin. Since 31st October 1981, I have never been the same. I am steeped in deep peace and I no longer worry about anything and I am afraid of nothing; for I am walking under the wings of the Almighty. Joy has become my lot; I can laugh and sing. Staying lonely is no longer the desire of my heart. I love the great family of God and the brotherly fellowship that reigns there. I have discovered true love, and that is why I can love even my enemies. The Word of God has become precious to me, and day after day I discover the wonders of God. Oh how wonderful it is to belong to the Lord Jesus, to the King of glory, to Him who loves with an everlasting love!
“Lord, I am Yours forever. May your Holy Spirit make me submissive to Your will, and may Your love in my heart be without limit.”
It is written: “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4-5). Many changes have taken place in my life since Jesus became the Master of my life. The most recent one, which makes many people wonder, is that Jesus has healed me of the sickness I had been suffering from for about seven years. Yes, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Jesus cleanses from all sins, He sets free from all kinds of bondage.
He transforms, heals, and He gives eternal life.
Zeh Mbarga Rose