Testimony of MB
I am originally from Niger, in Africa, and was born of a Muslim father and a Roman Catholic mother. Back home the dominant religion is Islam with about 90% of the population, and a child usually inherits its father’s religion, therefore I was dedicated to Allah as a baby.
At the early age of 5 years old, I started receiving religious education from my mother and grandfather, who were fervent Catholics. I would sit close to them while they kneeled down in their daily prayers to Jesus and our Blessed Mother.
When I was about 8 years old, I was introduced for the very first time to the charismatics at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Niamey. The feeling I got was out of this world. I felt peace. Everyone was genuinely lifting each other up, and I could feel the strength of their faith - it was vibrant!!
At age 14, in Yaoundé in Cameroon in 1990, one of the helps at my house was to my surprise a devout Catholic charismatic! She used to sit with my mother and me and basically led a prayer group right there inside the house! I really appreciated the words and teachings. She invited us to her church for the “Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” All this was new to me. My mother insisted that I come with her but I was anxious about it because I thought Jesus would come during Mass, and since He knows everything, he could voice out all my sins in front of my mother.
I still attended and was grateful I did. There were many prophecies in the assembly. The one that really touched me was a young adult who spoke with a loud voice and said words something like, “I am the blood, look at the Chalice, I overflow, this is real, I am here in your midst…”
In this setting I started my relationship with Jesus during my journey in Cameroon. I started praying and reading the Bible, and learned that all my questions and prayers were answered through the Bible. Each time I took my concerns to the Bible, the Lord gave me an answer. It was fantastic!
In addition, I was reading the following verses in my daily prayers.
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This told me not to let anything disturb or worry me.
Galatians taught me about how to live my life in the Holy Spirit. The verse Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” Also, Galatians 5:22-23 says, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
I knew about the Holy Spirit, but I still did not very deeply and personally know the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. I did not know who He really was, but I was experiencing His manifestation in my life without knowing it. I used to pray two prayers to the Holy Spirit daily but I didn’t understand what I was really asking for. I prayed:
“Holy Spirit, God of Love, Light and Strength!
Thank you for the wonders that you make every day for the happiness of men.
Thank you for everything that happens in my life.
Come to me, Counselor, guide me, enlighten me, strengthen me, sanctify me.
Make me obedient to the Will of God the Father through Jesus Christ my Savior, Amen!”
“The Spirit goes before me and opens the way…
He fills all my needs. I have nothing to fear, absolutely nothing;
The Spirit covers me with His protection.”
The Wisdom of the Spirit guides me in all my thoughts, my words, in all my actions.
Even though I did not know what all this meant, the Holy Spirit heard and answered my prayers. He came to me! He changed me!
For big decisions in my life I pray to Jesus, and also sometimes the novena to St. Rita of Cascia. All my prayers were answered.
Although during all these years my heart belonged to Jesus, I didn’t take the next step to become a full Catholic. I felt that my feelings were more important than rituals. So, I would go to Mass sporadically and did not receive any Sacraments.
I arrived in the Untied States in 2002 and looked for charismatics but did not find them until later.
In 2010, I ended a bad relationship and felt emptiness in my spiritual life. The Lord touched me with his grace one afternoon at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, DC. God opened my eyes to the spiritual world. Before that day, I saw myself as a human on earth and I knew God was everywhere, but I did not feel His presence. I did not feel union with God, even though I always felt that there was a warm light above my head watching over me, making me very cautious about what came out of my mouth. I felt like God was counting my errors and expecting me to be perfect. I never felt what God was feeling, or experience His feelings inside me.
That day I felt the sorrow God has because of our sins. I felt the love He has for us and for me. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me how sad He was to see how we behave. God Almighty loved us so much that he sent Jesus to save us. Jesus suffered and died for us because of our sins, and we still have hearts of stone, still hurt people and make others suffer. I realized how ungrateful we are because even though He did all that, there are people who do not even acknowledge Him by spending time in worship.
I cried that day like a child. I could not stop sobbing. I felt He was cleansing me and opening a gate between us. I finally understood that God is much closer that I ever thought: He was within me! I finally lived what I always heard at church and other places where you constantly hear that God is present, but you feel like it is true only for some very lucky people like the saints, but not for sinners!
For the first time I felt what it means to live Heaven on earth. A new dimension unfolded before me and that let me understand that the spiritual word is accessible despite my human condition, and that the spiritual world is more lasting than the physical world. I grew up that day I found hope REAL hope.
After this epiphany at St. Matthew's, I met a young priest named Fr. John who came for a reflection on priesthood sponsored by the Staff Catholic Association at my workplace, the World Bank. He was humble. Listening to his talk, I was touched by how he gave his life for Christ and the Church. He shared about how he is attacked on a daily basis and taunted because he is a priest, which is visible by the collar he wears. His talk opened our eyes to the daily struggle of good priests who are hurt and disrespected by society, people who are against the Catholic faith, and the media who use the disgraceful actions of a small minority of priests to generalize and call them all great sinners.
I was shocked, and gave thanks that we have good priests like this one. I realized how important it is to protect priests and promote a good image of the priesthood, which at its heart is a gift from God to help us. The Church has great priests who do not take advantage of people, but humbly use their authority to comfort people and bring God’s light into their lives. This is exactly what Fr. John did in my life. He confirmed that the power of God is with the Church, so here I am now armed with the Holy Spirit in me and the Body of Christ as a belt to keep and strengthen the light in me!
I was finally ready to be a Catholic! I understood that the Church was where I belonged, because a sign that the truth is here is that society reacts so intensely against the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church, and certainly the devil would react against Christ’s gift of good priests like Fr. John in whom we can encounter Jesus so clearly.
A few weeks later in August, I attended a healing service with a Catholic charismatic named Damian Stayne, and finally connected with the charismatic groups in my area!
With Jesus’ at my side, I took the step to finally join the Catholic Church and was baptized in April 2011! The Lord held my hand all along and never let me down. I am not a foster child anymore; I am fully in my family of faith. I am not just looking in the door; I can eat and drink at the table of my Lord. He made my life richer.
While I was in RCIA, preparing and studying to become Catholic, the Bible verse John 5:11 spoke to me. This passage described very well the spiritual stage I was in. It is about Jesus healing a sick man and telling him, “Take up your mat and walk.” I realized I had been my own obstacle by thinking that other people are better than me and they deserved Jesus’ time more than me. Jesus taught me to get out of that mindset by His help! No one is unworthy of Jesus’ time. Jesus was inviting me to follow Him!
This is the faith for me. This is exactly what I need and I thank God for how He led me in my conversion. I was fully aware of my decision to become a Catholic and took my classes seriously. My father was totally okay with my decision!
I think God let me experience the presence of the Holy Spirit prior to participating in the rituals and the Mass so that I would recognize Him when I found Him in them, and not dismiss them as empty rituals. This was helpful before I could learn and understand in greater depth how He is present in the Sacraments.
Now the journey is complete that started by feeling comfortable around charismatics, hearing the Word of God in my house, experiencing miracles, and receiving comforting messages in the Bible. These were seeds God planted in my life, and now I am growing, blossoming, and can enjoy each harvest in thanksgiving.
My trust in God today is stronger. Even in hardships I know nothing can come between me and God’s love. God is the Truth, and my Rock.