Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where The Voice First Came A-Calling...

Those who know me well know how much I love(d) radio. In fact, I would say there was a time I was addicted to my radio. I couldn’t go to sleep without it. … I had to know it would sing or talk me to sleep. And I know they say, ‘It’s loners that watch too much TV or listen to too much radio…’ Well, all I know is that my radio is always there for me ;-)

‘My sheep knoweth my Voice'…

In all my years of ‘radio-addiction’, it was for the great music, gossip, news and so forth.However, in 2003 a new journey began….

I was in the University, spending a lot of my days trying to ‘find myself’. Even though at the time, I didn’t really understand what that meant. But…I soon knew.

Typically, I wouldn’t turn on my radio in the mornings…life was too busy to have that luxury. But once upon a quiet and lackluster Sunday morning, I did. I heard this man’s voice…he was describing how he felt whenever he listened to a particular Yolanda Adams’ song that had just finished playing. What struck me the most wasn’t what he was talking about; there was just a depth about his voice…which he would later describe as his ‘strongest point’.

Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year, I would tune my radio to 96.9. There I would always hear something that would in some way store itself in my heart. This ‘voice’ moved to a new radio frequency; 92.3, I followed. At this point, I was listening to more than radio…I was hearing a ‘voice’ that I soon recognized.

In 2008, I met Dan Foster for the first time. It was by chance…so it seemed.
One day, I was at my desk at work when I was called by my editor. When I met with her, she told me she was scheduled to do an interview with Dan, but she had an emergency she had to attend to. I stared at her thinking, ‘Oh oh…I am not about to do an impromptu interview with Dan Foster…not happening. ’ Without giving me much time to arrange my thoughts, she grabbed her purse and left the office. I stood there confused.

As I returned to my office, I ran into my editor-In-chief who immediately asked me who was doing the interview with Dan, as he had just arrived. (I sighed and accepted what it means to be a journalist.) I followed her in tow as she led me to the boardroom where Dan waited…

So, I am sitting here alone with Dan Foster. A man; the voice I had listened to for many years…a man who-in my opinion- is undoubtedly anointed by God. I had no questions scribbled down (never done that before)...But somehow, my mind drifted back to that first Sunday morning; and the entire interview evolved from there.

Fast forward two years later…we have remained what he describes as ‘friends for life, Mo’!’

This past Sunday I decided to visit him at the studio. I watched him take every phone call, switch CDs out of his unprecedented selection of beautiful and heavenly music, talk about his son and little daughter all at the same time.

He spoke of the first time he came to Lagos. It was in 2000.
I still can’t wrap my head around how he made that decision; leaving everything familiar behind to step into complete and absolute unknown… with nothing but hope. He walked away from everything he knew.

He reminded me of a message from Bishop TD Jakes he played a while back; ‘Traditional or Transitional’. It’s a test that God gives us all…when he wants to know if we are so stuck up with tradition and conformity that we cannot see when he’s trying to move us into our destiny. And as the Bishop would say, ‘whether we like it right away, is not the issue...God keeps moving.’

When we started talking about this, it was almost like we both wanted to talk at the same time. I guess that’s what happens when one’s heart is filled with a story that always wants to find its way out… chatter!!

Dan moved to Nigeria and has become the greatest radio personality yet. I like to think of his show as an ‘altar-call’. He puts you right in the presence of God. Plays the right songs, the right messages… like a minister who knows whatever comes out of his mouth must be for somebody out there.
That’s who Dan Foster is to Nigeria.

For me, Dan was the voice I heard…but God’s was the voice I followed. He knew what I couldn’t live without; radio. Hence, He reached out through it.

So, here I am sitting before the microphone…definitely the same position Dan assumed 8 years ago, when he unknowingly touched a life.

My life.

'The Day Before Jesus Rose...'
An amazing gospel jazz concert holds at the Muson Centre, April 3rd.
By Dan Foster Enterprises.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Looking Too Far...

I apologize for the vacuum…

From the time I wrote my last post till now, it seemed like I was waiting for another big story until my next post. I guess that’s just the journalist in me; believing that until I had something great to share I didn’t need to bore anyone with any triviality. But, recently I heard a voice in my head say…“You are looking too far off…look around you.”

So I picked up a book, I recently bought myself… ‘Come Thirsty’…by Max Lucado.

The title struck me because of its similarity with 'Come As You Are'...

The first line that jumps right out of the book is ‘If you are thirsty, come! If you want life-giving water, come and take it…It’s free!’

As I read each page…I remembered years ago when my soul thirsted, and how I found my way to the well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Willing Vessels

The whole world is raging with disasters…
I say, it’s God’s way of making us see beyond ourselves.

It was all out of altruism that thousands gathered at the Christ Embassy, Loveworld Convocation arena on Sunday to pray and raise funds for the displaced and orphaned children of Haiti. Tickets were sold out. The performances by great gospel voices –that I’d describe as Nigeria’s best kept secrets- were incredible. The turnout was staggering. And by the second hour of the concert,a record (still counting) of almost a million naira was declared.

Haiti is still the worst of all the natural disasters recorded this year.
The children remain a major concern… we aim to give them hope and renew their faith in God.

PS. I wish I could post more pictures but it was more of a private prayer-fundraiser than anything else.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mercy Said 'No' : The Zoe Sheppard Story

So, I read the book.
All 306 pages in one day….

I opened the first page and all I could hear was Zoe’s voice…"I refused to believe that my God would allow little children to suffer…maintaining my belief became increasingly difficult. But, somehow I managed to hold on to my faith. Because just like the song says Jesus Will Fix It, I knew that someday He would….so I held on to tight hope and prayer." - Page 51.

When I met with Zoe Sheppard a few months ago, it was by chance. Joi Gordon and the other miraculous women of Dress for Success couldn’t stop talking about her. So, I interviewed her. I still remember our meeting in the hotel lobby. Also, I remember not knowing what to expect from her or the interview… I just showed up.

As she spoke boldly and selflessly about every unimaginable situation she’d survived, I kept trying to visualize her life in those ‘lowest’ days. In our one hour thirty minute interview, she took me through her gruesome days as a little black girl raised in New York, in the 1960’s. Physically abused by her grandmother, raped at age 10, and abused by her step-father…she sought escape through narcotics, hardcore prostitution, compulsive stealing and forgery. She did it all. And somehow, after almost 8 incarcerations and over 29 years, she’s still here…

"What I am not able to do myself...God can do", she says.

After that interview, I went back to my room and quickly started reading the book. But after a few pages, I immediately knew this was no book to breeze through…her pain and helplessness jumped right out of the pages. So weeks later, one Saturday…I picked up this (no-holds-barred) book and I entered into the world of a woman once lost, enslaved by drugs, and utterly at the end of her rope. Everyone who loved her watched painfully as she lost all control and 'self'. “It was while I was on these slopes of death that I called for the help of a power greater than myself, God.” –Page 163.

In her book, ‘Poetic Recovery: Life Don’t Rhyme’, Zoe tells of how she ‘wrote’ herself into healing. Many nights in her cell, she’d spent writing over 100 poems that reflect her excruciating past. During this time God became sufficient. “Through it all, I still chose to believe in a God who was a Savior”- Page 53.

See, this was a woman who saw murder first hand, abused as a little girl, exchanged sexual favors for survival, could do anything to feed her addiction…she was a girl who (with each action) was dragged farther into a ‘hell hole’, unthinkable.

But even God Himself declared… “I didn’t come to save the saved…I come for the oppressed, rejected, helpless, broken, shattered, lost, alone and in their darkness…I will bring to them Light”

Throughout the book, Zoe constantly reminds us that her name means, ‘life’. She was determined to get her life back…all that was stolen from her (the years of pain and shame), she knew God would restore. And He did. “This time I was indeed ready to let go and let God.”-Page 265. Somehow, everything that once worked against her, started to work for her. When she was in the streets, her ‘PR’ skills got her into many beds and sustained her addiction, but this time, she used it to work her way through prison.

She volunteered to teach the other women in prison, as well as help write their letters or pleas. She was even labeled by her inmates a TC (therapeutic community) robot. “At this point, I remember thanking God that I graduated high school…as I promised my father I would.” Zoe was ready to get out and she did. Walking right into the hands of the great women of Dress For Success, helped land her first decent job. From there, she took computer classes, and exams to get her certified as a substance-abuse specialist.

After many years of remaining sober, she admits she’s ‘still a work in progress'.Now when she walks the streets of New York, she remembers herself ‘the teenage crack head’ who could do anything for a ‘hit’. “This was an old habit I acquired through my addiction…my eyes zeroed in on empty crack vials and bags that littered the streets”-Page 301.

Today, a free woman, Zoe Sheppard recently self-published her book, still resides in New York and works as an alcohol and substance-abuse assessment specialist for an agency in Manhattan. She’s dedicated to saving the lives of many who continue to suffer from the horrors of addiction.

Here’s a Zoe Sheppard Poem written during her final days behind bars…

To Be
To be or not to be high
That is the question
Whether it is nobler to face life sober and free
Or go in and out of jails to which I have no keys
Living life on life’s terms
This method of living I must learn
Running from reality
Can soon become a fatality
Addiction can only take you from
That beautiful person you could become
So when answering the question
‘Should I get high?’
Know if you respond with the word ‘yes’
You have truly failed yourself
Not allowing yourself to live
Your life to the fullest
Understand if you answer ‘no’
You will be able to show yourself and the world
A person you are now proud to know.

Visit her at zoesheppard.biz or zsheppa@aol.com