This morning, father prayed about our family being favored to see the morning while others died because they didn’t have the grace of God.

I didn’t say Amen.

Not because I wasn’t thankful for my life being “spared.” I simply remembered my Aunt, Ebere, who died in the Sosoliso air crash.

She was my best Aunt.

My favorite among father’s longthroat sisters. She’d buy me Nasco biscuits. My best flavors were Banana and Strawberry. And when mother said she was spoiling me, she’d smile and say “o so kwa buru nwam.”

That I was her child too.

Although she was Mama’s age, she wasn’t married, and father was becoming increasingly worried that nobody was coming to ask for her hand. He was so worried in fact that he persuaded her to start attending the “It Is my Time” program at some prayer house close by. Even though we are catholics, father says he doesn’t want sme-sme prayers—a term he uses to describe slow, drab prayers, like the Rosary. So, when some people from the church started a prayer group two houses away, father was always there.

When Aunty Ebere started attending the prayer meetings, she stopped buying me Nasco biscuits. She said I was eating too much biscuit and eating too much is gluttony. “Gluttony is a great sin,” she’d say.

“The lord hates sinners. His grace would not abound with them.” She always said that part loudly.

“Grace would not abound.”

My trousers too became a sin. She said God wants them to be worn only by boys.

Talking, Walking, Dancing.

Everything became a sin.

She changed from a fun-loving woman to a desperately anxious woman. It was as though my aunt had been swapped in her prayer house and replaced with an overzealous religious fanatic.

The day I failed my maths test in school, she said I failed because I wasn’t paying my tithe, and so I didn’t have the grace of God to pass. Mother laughed. The way she’d laugh when we said something silly. But It didn’t seem like a joke.

Aunty Ebere never joked with things like that.

There were times when I attended the Block Rosary devotions just to say the rosary on her behalf. Father says the virgin Mary would always intercede when we pray. So I begged the virgin Mary to help Aunty Ebere get married.

4 months passed and nothing happened. No suitors, nothing. Father called a meeting with his sisters. Someone at the prayer group had told him the holy spirit revealed that one of them had made a charm to ward men away from Aunty Ebere. They all stared in surprise as father stopped talking. Aunty Ifeoma, the short one who walked with a limp, stood up and hissed.

‘O dika isi agbakala gi.

“It seems knot commot for your head,” she shouted as she stormed out of the house. Mama and I stood by the kitchen door, watching them.

One by one they all left. The six of them. Aunty Ebere kept shouting that their plans would never work. That her God was more powerful than any of their herbalists.

Two weeks after, I was in the verandah when she told father she had been seeing someone she met at work and that she needed his prayers to know if he was the One. Father’s face changed immediately. He smiled and did a little dance, boasting about how his God never fails. He appeared to be even more excited than Aunty Ebere.

That day, for the first time in a long while, Aunty Ebere bought me Nasco biscuit and said she’d bring him the next day.


That was his name. But I called him Uncle Emeka. He was a tall, bulky man with a beard that reminded me of the young priest in church who always stared at me. Aunty Ebere held him every time as though she were trying to leave her scent on him. Or perhaps she was trying to show us how much she loved him.

Father said his spirit agreed with Uncle Emeka.

And then that was the last time I saw Aunty Ebere.

When she called Mother that she was going to Abuja for an official assignment, I asked her to buy me dresses. Flowery ones. She kept laughing like she was having a hard time understanding what dresses meant.

‘They said the plane crashed around evening from technical faults.”

Mother was heaving with sobs as she broke the news to me.

Father said it was God’s wish. That God gave her to us and has taken her back to a better place.

All this time, I never asked about what God truly ever wanted. I never believed God would cause accidents just so he could take someone.

Were they without grace?

Was it a punishment or a reward?

And so when father said it wasn’t by our power and might but by God’s grace that we were alive, I asked God either to take his grace or make it more reliable.



Image by jwltr freiburg via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - MuodebeluJustin Ebuka Muodebelu is a keen Sociologist who writes because of things he cannot understand.

For him, Writing allows endless possibilities to be something, to do something.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

18 Responses to “Grace? | by Justin Muodebelu | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. Fatima 2016/01/25 at 10:27 am #

    Love this.

    Love the story in itself and love the myriad of questions that it raises in an overly religious country like Nigeria.

    Bravo Justin.

  2. Nnamdi 2016/01/25 at 3:13 pm #

    It reminds me of the story about the elephant and the six blind men. The angle from which we approach religion determines how we apply it in our lives. As a kid, I disliked ladies who wore trousers because my church taught me so. My view has since changed.

    Nicely written story. Life throws up many questions that we can’t answer.

  3. A-jay 2016/01/26 at 9:33 am #

    This is deep. Beautiful write up.

  4. Adaeze 2016/01/28 at 10:43 am #

    This is so beautiful! That last clause made me smile.

  5. Shittu Fowora 2016/01/28 at 3:57 pm #

    Impressive write. Certain events are way beyond human control,and because no one assured us all of a stressfree subsistence, we’d better assessed events each on its merit. Weldone.

  6. asiwaju 2016/01/28 at 7:01 pm #

    the simplicity of the story is A-GRADE.

  7. Oma 2016/01/28 at 11:04 pm #

    Wow! Beautiful!!!

  8. Farida 2016/01/29 at 12:15 am #

    Powerful story

  9. Soogun 2016/01/29 at 2:47 am #

    This is so good.

  10. Roses 2016/01/29 at 2:50 am #

    Beautiful and beautifully written. Grace means God’s loving kindness. Which means all we get from God is as a result of His kindness for us that results from His love.Our parents make us do things that seemed unfair e.g waking up to prepare for school on a ccold harmattan morning- now that’s love. We go through certain painful and unexplainable things in life not because God is not nice or unfair, but for our own good. And at all times this grace covers us. Aunty Ebere was taken way for a reason we may not be able to fathom. In human reasoning maybe to save her from a loveless marriage * shrugs*. Everything that comes to us , comes as a result of grace; whether seemingly good or bad.

  11. Chinua Onyebuchi 2016/01/29 at 4:00 am #

    All we can ask for is the serenity to accept the things we can’t change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the differences.

  12. Omolade Collins 2016/01/29 at 6:42 am #

    This is a beautiful story, well told by a mind that might have well been ‘there’

  13. Michael Ogah 2016/01/29 at 4:44 pm #

    Aww. Beautiful and sad.

  14. oluwatoyin 2016/01/29 at 4:58 pm #

    The last line made me laugh! The story reminds me of me. Beautiful.

  15. Ifunanya 2016/01/29 at 5:56 pm #

    This is beautiful, Justin. well done!

  16. Mmi 2016/02/07 at 5:34 am #

    Hey Justin. Kudos! ur style of writing is peculiar. I also love the fact that you raise deep existential questions. Good luck trying to find answers.

  17. Ify emeka 2016/02/07 at 8:18 am #

    Great wrk Justin

  18. Catherine O 2016/02/07 at 6:56 pm #

    Loved the story. The last line was great. If God takes his grace away, perhaps we will learn to rely on our wits and intelligence more. Do some countries experience far less plane crashes than Nigeria because they have far more of God’s grace? Or because they are diligent in keeping up with preventative maintenance?

    Serenity to accept what we can’t change? Like what exactly? What can’t we change if we put our minds to it?

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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