I Went Through the Fire, But I Don't Smell Like Smoke

I've been thinking a lot lately about the significance of testing and trying times in my life, and the Lord has truly been ordering my steps even in the secret places where I once thought surely nothing good could come out of this circumstance or situation. Yet time and time again, I've been strengthened by his grace and never ending power to remind me that a momentary bad situation does not indicate a bad life. Nor is it the essence of my being, but merely a necessary part of the chapter for which I will grow from and be able to handle much better the other chapters that will come. 

When I graduated high school it was such a bittersweet moment. Here I was giving, the graduation empowerment speech to my fellow classmates and all of our parents and teachers who were in attendance. While I also was being showered with awards for accomplishments that I had gained while being a student. Yet my prospects for life after graduation were looking dim. I was 18 and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was going through the motions of celebrating yet on the other hand I was dealing in private with my family the dwindling and declining health of my father. At graduation he came in a wheel chair as he had lost his ability to walk by then, his sight wasn't so good at the time but he had insisted on being at my graduation in a suit even though that doctors were initially hesitant to discharge him because they had anticipated that he wouldn't live so long. It was a difficult time in my life, one where I reflect and remember that God's grace must have been all over my life and that if my family, because I still went to school everyday and after school would be in the hospital with my dad and brothers often relieving my mom and older brother who were there that day looking after my dad. This was my life during my junior and senior year of high school. I was one of the four student body presidents, I was a committed student in regards to my studies and I had these big dreams that one day I would go to the USA and get a degree and either become a diplomat, talk show host or an actress. My dreams were in a sense my escape from the reality that I was living at the time. Yet the interesting thing was that I still maintained my social life on the outside and told myself to be strong everyday, which meant that I wouldn't go to school crying about my situation but that I would tough it out and carry on. Even as bad as everything looked. I had this feeling within me that prayer would get me through the process, and after all God would heal my father and things would go back to normal again. Or so I thought 

Three months after I graduated everything I believed to be true had slipped right through my fingers, my father passed away and weeks later my grandfather passed away out of the mere shock that his oldest son had died. My entire world had literally been turned upside down, it was as though gravity had lost its significance and I was orbiting in grief that was unfathomable. 

Everyone I knew from high school was leaving for college, or had already left. Yet my world was different I was picking up shattered pieces that were difficult to put back together again. And although the my family was being comforted literally by the hundreds of mourners that knew my dad, had worked with my dad or being friends of the family I was feeling so inconsolable.

Yet the irony of everything that I still remember the most comforting words that someone from my church family told me, that have stayed with me all these years since that time. Those words were, "From here on out, God is your father. No matter how bad it looks like, God will be doing all the fighting for you." 

Although my life was undergoing a process that was beyond my understanding I remember a dream that I had after my father had passed. A dream that reassured me that although my tears seemed so heavy and although I was going through suffering that was unimaginable in this present moment. Jesus had not left my side, Jesus was next to me. Even in my grief it would actually end up drawing me closer to the Lord. As I had prayed for healing I just hadn't envisioned that my father would have received eternal healing that was not of this world so soon.. 

I can only imagine as a reader the silent tears of grief that you may have been in enduring in your life, or maybe it isn't grief maybe it's just pain that seems to sting so much more as the circumstances of your life have shifted and taken a turn for what you may consider being the worst timing in your life. 

However I want to encourage you trust the process, commit this chapter in your life to Jesus. For he is truly the author, perfect or and finisher of our faith. He is the Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end). He will never leave you nor forsake you.. 

As my story that I've shared with you happened 10 years ago, it's still a shock for me how much has happened since that time. I still very much miss my dad, and grandfather but what comforts me deeply is knowing I'll not only see them again in heaven. But that these God fearing man instilled so much value in my life, I sense their legacy in my life every time I get that urge to feel like quitting I am reminded that had they quit I wouldn't be here. Had they quit I wouldn't be able to have even thought my own dreams were valid or ideas of defying impossibilities were normal. 

 Where I am now doesn't even remotely resemble what I have been through. And yes my dream did come true I did move to America almost 9 years ago. I not only got my bachelors degree, but I also graduated with my masters degree and I'm pursing my dreams of being a diplomat. 

However the key thing here is the sequence of events in my life good or bad happened in a timing that had to have been allowed by God. I say this because of the specific people I've met in my life and the timing for which I met them, as well as the opportunities that suddenly became available during all the processes that I had to endure either publicly or privately. 

I'm not saying life is a piece of cake, but I am saying that just like the various ingredients that go into making a cake, each ingredient is essential because all  of them are necessary in order for the cake to taste good. And even when combined together all ingredients swerve as raw batter and in order to fully appreciate the smell, taste and texture of the cake it must be baked it must endure heat in the oven it must be willing to allow the heat to smooth out the batter consistency and make it into an edible and delicious cake. 

As 1 Peter 1 vs 7 says: These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Do not give up, even in your momentary discomfort for the Lord is with you every single step of the way.


Meet Valeriana Chikoti Bandua

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Valeriana Chikoti-Bandua is a former refugee from Angola, who was born in Zambia, but at the age of 3 years old alongside her family they fled from Zambia to Papua New Guinea due to series of serve life threatening circumstances. As a result she grew up PNG.

By the age of 18, her life took as her father, uncle and grandfather's deaths within a span of 2 months shifted the course of her livelihood. She went from being a high school grad to burying her loved ones, to experiencing homelessness with her mom and her younger sibling all while trying to manage her studies as a student at the local community college. During that season as difficult as her life had become, her family stood by their faith in Christ to continue to overcome turbulent circumstances. Upon graduation with her associates degree, she was awarded as the valedictorian of her class and was given an opportunity of a lifetime to move to the United States to pursue her further studies at ORU in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Today, she has since graduated with her masters degree and currently works as a diplomat advocating for human rights and women's rights for her nation of Angola, to the United Nations in New York. She is passionate about her faith and how it affects the state of human rights, social world issues and mainly the plights of displaced people groups, refugees, immigrants, women and children from all over the world as especially those who society has often forgotten.