No one had ever asked me to tell my story until I met Pastor Yusuf, quite frankly I didn’t see anything special in my story, I still feel the same way about it. Here is why, everyone has his or her own story. I am telling you mine because the LORD Jesus asked me to. As you read this story, may you see Jesus and only Him. I want you to know that I am not any different from you and may you not look at me and think I am special because I am not, I am as ordinary as anyone can get, if anything I am an unworthy servant. If it weren’t for the grace of our LORD Jesus, you wouldn’t have heard about me.
My purpose in writing you is so that Jesus Christ may be glorified for to Him I belong, I wouldn’t be without my sweet Jesus. He gives me the courage to share and His Spirit instructs me. May He speak to you through my letters and help you see His invisible hand in your life. Most importantly may the Holy Spirit help you see that everything that has happened to you up to this point including those painful situations have all been for a purpose. When things don’t go as you have planned, may the Spirit of God remind you that all things work together for your own good. It is only a matter of time.
As I pondered the Pastors question to tell my story, I felt led to go back as far as I could remember, I will tell you a lot more in details that I didn’t share with him. I was born in Kumi to Mr. Okiria Charles and Mrs. Grace Okiria on 10 April 1984. My parents come from neighboring villages separated by a swamp. My father was a student at Mbale College and that’s where he made friends with my mothers younger brother called David Okiring Oceger. As friends, they would visit each other’s homes. One fateful day when he had gone to visit uncle David at Kajamaka village that’s when he met a beautiful girl who charmed his heart, that girl is my loving Mother today.
I don’t know how soon they fell in love because my mother is shy about her side of the story though I think like some girls they want you to first chase them then they behave like they don’t want yet deep inside they actually want. She was quick to tell my dads side. She told me the man couldn’t settle, when he saw her; he found every excuse to come home even when uncle David wasn’t there. I have walked the distance between Kajamaka which is mums village and Abubur my fathers home, oh boy its not funny, its about 4kms from Agurut crossing which is the swamp separating the two villages. During the rainy seasons, the swamp bursts making it impassable. Now imagine, my dad did the trip everyday.
Eventually the walking paid off, after walking hundreds of Kms for love, the man got his prize. Lets put this a little into perspective, shall we! Like I have already mentioned, a one-way foot trip from Abubur to Kajamaka is 4kms that would make a round trip 8kms. Lets assume the man walked for at least 300 days a year that meant, 8×300=2400kms per year. Eh the things people do for love.
In 1980, my parents got married. At the time when they did, Teso was thriving; almost every home had cattle in hundreds if not thousands. My dad being a first-born was fortunate, his father my grandfather Late Mzee Basilio Odeke commonly called Ekwarajang by the local people was quite well off. Having worked, as a chief then, that wasn’t a small thing, he also worked with the British and bragged of his impeccable English, not one word off like he used to say. Ekwarajang was such a gentle soul; he was much different from his fiery wife, my grandmother Asekenye Mary the beautiful girl, from Kachede Village, Malera Sub country in what is now Bukedea District. Today at 89 years young, I can still hear her sharp voice in my mind as she yells for me to crawl out of the little grass thatched house to go plough with the bulls at 4am.
Basilio Ekwarajang, Agama, Isemu and Akol the elders from Abubur crossed Agurut to go negotiate with mum family headed by my late maternal grandfather Oceger Popurasi. It was agreed that 30 cows and several goats be paid, that wasn’t a problem considering Iteso were rich in cows before the cattle rustling intensified. In what was the grandest of events, the two lovebirds got married. My dad was a happy man, he had finally married the love of his life, my mother had finished her Grade 1 Primary Teaching Course at St Mary’s Bukedea which is the first level of qualification from Teacher training school and she was preparing to go for her Grade 2. She was posted to Mukongoro Township Primary School in Kumi for her first job. She was the pride of my father and my grandfather loved her, she was his first daughter in law. Back then being a teacher as it remains today meant so much, it was such an esteemed noticeable career in rural Africa, and how times have changed.
Dad made the rounds to Mukongoro an even longer distance from Kumi town, this time not to woe but to go wine and dine with the love of his a life. How I wish things had stayed the same. But that period seemed to have been as short-lived as a fake smile. My mother isn’t forth coming especially about when things started to fall apart but she is sure of the how, another woman came into the picture. But first lets deal with the when, in 1982, she decided to upgrade, enrolled for Grade 2 at one of the PTCs in Pallisa District. She thinks that’s when things started to fall apart.
She was pregnant with our first born late Sata Asekenye. Teaching while studying meant that she had to take the classes during the school break holidays. My dad made trips to the PTC but only for a while. It must have gotten hard for him especially with work commitments. Soon the trips reduced until they stopped. Like most girls do, she confided in her mother my late grandmother and best friend Juliet Achom the locals from Kajamaka called her “Ejulerii” the ‘E’ is pronounced as ‘A’ in Ateso but picked from the English vowels. Ejulerii told her to be patient and that she was over reacting. My mother, Toto as a mother is called in Teso told me that Tataa which is grandmother sensed that something was terribly wrong she could read it in her eyes but didn’t want to worry her daughter. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t my father’s actions that worried her; it was what she saw in Tataas eyes that unsettled her. She knew she was hiding something from her and she also knew her mothers instinct’s never go wrong.
News travels fast and it didn’t take long before Toto found out that dad was seeing someone else, a young girl from Ngora, which was then a county of Kumi District. Her fears had come to pass, the very thing she was afraid of happened. Panicking, she left the PTC to go find him but he was no were, it seemed love was in the air for him again and poor Grace had to sort of deal with it. She quickly went to the district education office to try and get a transfer to Kumi so she could be close to him since to her the distance was the reason my dad started to see another woman. God helped her and with Ekwarajangs connections, she managed to get placement at Kumi Township Primary School where she met, shared a single roomed house and taught with her friend, Hon Amongin Aporu. Things didn’t get better as matter of fact they went terribly bad. Dad now had two official homes and Toto had to accept the fact that there was someone else. In April of 1984, I was born into this already chaotic situation. A year later, my now stepmother gave birth to her first-born. Life was never to be the same.
In this whole thing, Ekwarajang and Mary his wife whom the locals call Epurijo, ‘remember to pronounce the ‘E’ as ‘A’ were very supportive to Toto. They tried to reprimand the son but it was all in vain since he was a man of his own besides Ekwarajang himself had wives so each time he brought up the issue, Epurijo would look at him with this eye as if saying, “even you with many wives dare to speak nnhuu!” mean while on the other side of Agurut swamp, Popurasi my grandfather was baffled, how could a man have more than one wife? He himself had 10 children with the only love of his life Ejulerii. No explanation was enough, besides Grace was his favorite, he had given her out on the promise that she would be looked after and treated her like he did. He went to his grave a sad man in 1989; his only regret was giving Grace to my dad.
If somehow your hoping it got better, it didn’t but in all things I will show you Gods plan in the midst of pain, humiliation and turmoil. It took me a long time to understand or even see His plan in Toto’s life. Until I started walking deeply with God, I couldn’t comprehend the fact that all things work together. It’s still hard to convince Toto that it was for good. As you read this, know that God is faithful, you may not see His plan in all this but eventually you will and you will agree that indeed all things work together. In the next letter, I will share what happened.
And we know that all things work together for the good of those Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
To Him who alone sits on the Throne, I write.
Pastor Mark A Odeke Mark
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36