It was an ordinary day, or so it seemed. The sun was shinning, and the temperature was above normal for this time of the year. September 18th, 2014 will forever be a memorable day, at least for me. Come to think of it, that was exactly a week after the annual remembrance of the September 11. Umm, would it matter? No, I do not know, but it was just a thought.
I took the day off work so I could prepare something nice for my growing church family. In three days, it was going to be my birthday. It was not a special birthday except that it was going to fall on a Sunday. “Why not treat our church to a barbecue meal?” I thought to myself. I know what you are thinking right now. Yes, you are right. I could have contracted it out. What does pastoring have in common with cooking? I might answer that later.
But then again, why should I have to pay someone to do it? My wife is an excellent cook, and I’m very good at barbecuing. I derive some pleasure in doing it. I’ve been doing this for the last 20 years. In fact, I barbecued until November of 2013. Our grill only gets to go into the shed for just five months of the year. That is how much I love barbecue and making it. So I took the day off.
I got out the grill set and lit the charcoal. Everything was going on well until the second batch, and there were only going to be three batches. I set the cooking heat to medium as I wanted the meat to be well done. As a result, I lost most of the heat and the kindle. I then set aside the cooked meat (the first batch) and began to fan the dying coal. Nothing happened. I then decided to add some combustible liquid. Again, nothing seemed to happen.
As if I was watching a movie, as I got closer to take a look, the set suddenly exploded right in my face. Just like that, I was ablaze. I lost any sense of my surrounding. “Where am I? Am I alive or am I dead? In hell or earth, where am I?” Those were the questions that ran through my mind. Though it was only a second, it felt like I just opened a door to a house on fire. I was thrown from one end of the garden to the other. My pair of slippers snapped with each ending up at different spots in the backyard. The fuel bottle slipped as I staggered away from the grill set.
Inside the fire was a figure that looked like an angel of death. I saw it; it was so real. The devil had come for me, but God was with me. I remember shouting the name ‘Jesus.’ I continued shouting the name as I started running for help. The children were at school; my wife was at work, and I was alone by myself. I quickly picked myself up as a soldier ready to fight, ran into the house and started pacing the floor.
What am I to do now, call my wife or the emergency services? I quickly reached out for the phone and could not be bothered whether it was a mobile or land line. I desperately needed help. I was burning. In a split second, the person I thought fit to call was my wife. She would give me the best care. She would attend to me like no other. After all, she is my wife. She knows my frame and my need. Above all, she’d been in the nursing profession for over 30 years and currently working as an Occupational Health and Well-being Manager with a reputable London University. I called her, so sure I had made the right decision.
The mobile phone, the office land line, both kept ringing, but no one answered. I knew I had the right numbers as I had used them over the years. I know them by heart. Oh yes! I had my wife’s voice, but it was only the prerecorded message. That was not what I needed, so I went to plan B and dialed 999. It would be another four hours before I would find out she went to a meeting in another office. The devil had everything well planned, but God gave me a little strength. Remember, I was all alone in the house, but for God, I would have died before anyone arrived home.
By this time, I had lost a lot of protein fluid and water from the burns. It stung, and I was in excruciating pain. I was asked by the emergency services control room operator to describe the pain I was having to any other I had ever experienced. All I could say to him was that there was nothing comparable. Friends, I’m not kidding – I had not experienced anything worse in my life. The fire was long dead, but the burning had just only begun. The emergency personnel then told me that help was on the way and that I should run water over the affected areas for at least 10 minutes. That meant I had to strip completely as my chest, and my right arm were also affected.
I could not stay under running water for ten minutes as I was desperately awaiting the arrival of the medics. Joyfully, every minute spent under the tap brought relief, suppressed the sting and was soothing. I wished I could carry on under the tap for longer. But I got quickly dressed and before I could put my top on; I had the sound of the doorbell.
Finally, help arrived. First it was the car ambulance. Waiting for a van ambulance could have taken longer perhaps, they thought. After ensuring I was very alert and conscious, the medic that attended to me excused himself in order to make a quick call. Apparently, “the whole of London is on the way to my house,” he said. Meaning that, all the emergency services were rushing to my rescue. Well, his call was too late. Within two minutes, my street was littered with ambulances, fire engines, and more paramedics in vans. This is to show the perceived severity of my accident. After narrating the incident to the medics, for more than ten times as I could vividly count and recollect, they kept saying I was “very lucky,”. Their expectation was worse, going by their experience. Glory be to God.
After assessing my condition and concluding that there was no possibility of the fire rekindling, all the emergency services except the van ambulance left. I was then taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital where I was further examined, treated, and the degree of the burn established. The hospital was unexpectedly busy on the day such that I was treated by a junior doctor. After several results had come in, it was decided I had to be referred to a specialist burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, being the closest burns unit to where I live. I could not travel on the public transport with the burnt face. Even when I drove to the hospital for treatment, heads would turn in disgust and bemusement. I became a scorn.
I read stories upon stories of fire casualties. The scars, the deformities, the skin tones, nothing was going to be as before. I was told it would take years before anyone would be able to recognise me as I was before the burn. Then, I began to pray that I would have a different experience. I had prayed for people who needed God’s touch in the area of healing, but it never crossed my mind that I would need Him to heal me next. He did, and it was so speedy.
By the fourth day, the scabs started lifting and it was so quick that I was forced to take my first selfie by the sixth day. I said to myself, “No one would believe my story unless there was a proof.” Within eleven days, the scabs on my chest, arm and face were all gone. All that was left was the little redness on my face and on my lips. The nurses and doctors were so impressed by my quick recovery that I got discharged from the hospital by the eleventh day which was my third visit. They concluded I “healed quickly.” Well, Jesus healed me quickly.
Three times before the accident, God revealed there was an impending accident but did not disclose the specifics. When at first I had a revelation, I just prayed over it and considered it settled. When I had a second encounter, I had to tell the church, and we prayed fervently on the day. In my mind, the synergy settled it. But before I could inform anybody of the third encounter, the devil struck. The incident happened on one of our bible study days, and I was to teach on the day. Upon hearing the news of the accident, the church went into another praying mode. I believe the revelations and the prayers of the saint saved me. My 2014 birthday would have been my burial, and I would not have seen 2015.
If you are a true worshiper and are busy for God; that upsets the devil. I am not praising myself; this is just the truth. At the time of the incident, our Church was in the second week of our Praise Month. Every Sunday in September, year in year out, we do no other activity but praise God. Maybe you didn’t know, I love worship and I can lead worship. So I led worship the first Sunday. The third Sunday was my birthday and Pastor Emmanuel King, our guest minister, a highly anointed man of God, was to lead worship on the day. Can you now imagine why the devil was upset?
To make matters worse, the incident happened three weeks to our European Ministers Convention. The devil did everything possible to take me out, but God prevailed. For 2014, I chaired the National Events Committee of the New Covenant Church UK, and the Convention was our biggest event. We had been planning and praying for a spectacular supernatural visitation at the convention and God make it possible for me to witness it, despite my ordeal. I was to be the convener at the convention. By this time, all the redness on my face had disappeared to the point that just about three people wondered why my lips were reddish.
Two things God did to save me. I had initially set up the grill set by the back door leading to our kitchen so I could reduce my movements to just an arm’s length since there were no other helping hands. If the accident occurred at the entrance to the kitchen, our new kitchen and perhaps the whole house could have been raised to the ground. Also, I could have fallen into several sharp objects cluttered around the back door entrance and would have bled to death. However, for some reason, I decided to move the set exactly to the middle of the garden just before the accident.
The second is this – I had my highly flammable nylon top taken off. For some reason, I felt sweltering and was uncomfortable right in the middle of September. So I had to take my top off leaving me with just a vest (singlet). If I hadn’t, the top could have caught the fire and no doubt, I could have burnt to death with just me at the house. Thank you, Jesus.
I didn’t miss my birthday, the praise month and the convention. In fact, we had the barbeque on my birthday as planned.
There are many lessons from my ordeal but these two stands out:
- The devil is upset with every child of God walking in the light.
- God will always reveal the enemy’s plan and also provide a way of escape.
To Him, be the glory and honour forevermore. Amen.