The native Nigerian had a recurring dream in which she said God "insisted" that she return "to make his light shine."
Just one verse each day.
Her name is Eseosa, which means “gift of God.” She’s Nigerian, but has lived for many years in Italy, where she got married and started a family. Then, God entered powerfully into her daily life, and an incredible project was born: she returned to her native Nigeria, torn by wars and corruption, and is setting up a “House for God” where she welcomes and gives a future to abandoned children.
To my insistent questions on how she thinks, plans, and carries out this mission, she answers: “Faith above all.”
Dear Eseosa, you contacted us at Aleteia to let us know about your solidarity project in Nigeria. Can you tell us who you are?
I am a very private person and I would never have thought to expose myself in public, so what concerns my private life is not important. The thing to know is that faith has led me to set up a center to help children in Africa.
Speaking of faith, how did you become Catholic?
I was born in Nigeria, in a strange family: my grandfather was an Anglican priest, but my grandmother did not even go to church. I would say, however, that growing up in a Christian family environment made my mother a woman of faith. The Catholic Church has always fascinated me, ever since I was 15 and was sent to a Catholic school for a year. I felt very much at home. I would have liked to stay there.
Once I arrived in Italy, I got married and I started going to church with my mother-in-law, 16 years ago. After a few months, I began to sing in the choir of my parish, in Crenna di Gallarate. So I’m Catholic by choice, and I received adult baptism. I have a beautiful family in Italy, a faith that has filled my life with meaning.
Why cast this serenity to the wind and return to Africa?
I received a spiritual call; this is the truth. If I tell you what happened, I risk sounding like a crazy person, but it’s the truth. God insisted, showing me in a dream a possibility to be made a reality. At first, I didn’t give it any importance. One thing I can share about this message that God sent me was that I had to go back to Africa “to make his light shine.” The dream came back several times, but I rejected it because it asked me for a commitment in Nigeria that I couldn’t handle. I started to get insomnia and I couldn’t sleep anymore. Then I confided in my husband, to see if I was being influenced by an excess of spiritual involvement.
Later, let’s say about 5 years ago, I brought it up with my parish priest, thinking that he would tell me I was crazy. Instead, after listening to me, he began to move. He organized a parish collection of clothes and appliances to send to Africa. So I found myself involved in this work, and then I said to God: “Your will be done.” From that moment, I started sleeping again without problems.
Tell us more about what this work has started.
At first it started as a collection of clothes and other small objects to bring to Africa. Half of the material was sold to raise funds, and the other half was for me to distribute to those in need. I let myself be guided by God at this stage, and I have always felt him close to me. Everything started in the city where I was born and where my relatives still live, Benin City. I set out and I looked for those in need, regardless of culture or religion. In the city of Lagos, I visited the poorest villages, which were mainly Muslim, and I gave clothes to many families. In my city, I went to the hospital where the children are born and brought a gift to the new mothers that could help them get by. I asked for nothing, only that they would pray by saying: “God, thank you.”
Over time, I came to see a serious problem that afflicts Nigeria: the orphans.
Last year, I found myself helping two children, ages 8 and 9, who had been raped. The story of the 9-year-old girl is emblematic: she was an orphan and was sent to live in Abuja with an uncle’s family. One day they sent her to buy some things and during the journey she was raped. After this, the girl was rejected by her uncle’s family, because in Nigeria the victim is considered guilty of rape. It is believed that the female has within herself a demon that forces a man to rape her. This is the Nigerian reality; people are enslaved to these damaging superstitions.
We are far from Nigeria. We have sad images of people from Nigeria, terrible news of the Boko Haram massacres. Can you give us a brief overview of your country?
Nigeria covers a vast territory full of different religions, cultures, traditions. There are more than 200 languages spoken and every city has its own dialect. The only way to communicate is in pidgin English (a simplified version). One thing I can say with certainty is that it is a very corrupt country, and this is a tremendous plague that depends on the people’s ignorance. I’ll give you an egregious example.
Young people who want to enter university must take a paid entrance exam. The total money paid last year for this examination amounted to 36 billion euros, and it all disappeared. That is, instead of ending up in the university’s bank account, it was divvied up illegitimately. What justification was given for such a shortfall? Official sources said that a giant snake ate all the money; and the people believed it without batting an eye. Voodoo and other evil superstitions are very deeply rooted among the people, even today.
There are other things that baffle me: there is a great lack of faith in young people compared to when I was born, and a lot of school absenteeism. It has triggered a wrong way of thinking, so people get the idea of running away to Libya and then coming to Italy. Once it was considered bad to have a daughter, but now it’s the opposite, because it is the female who can make more money by coming to Europe.
Yet now, in this great, wounded, and complicated nation, there is the little seed of light you have planted. You built a house, right?
There is an office in Nigeria that is supposed to take care of the orphans, but it doesn’t really do its duty. Along with the employees of this office, I’ve been to see the streets where children live and sleep, abandoned. It’s heartbreaking. As soon as they see a woman they say, “Take me, mother!” And you would like to take them all. It is not possible; to start with, I managed to take five.
So yes, I built a house that is not an orphanage; I wanted to call it a “Home for God” because he helped me to set it up. I started doing the paperwork and the foundations of the building from scratch. I found myself with a strength that I did not think I had; and of course, some friends and relatives also gave me a hand. I would like this place to be a focal point of help for the children’s future, not just a roof where they can eat, drink, and sleep. I also bought some land that could be planted to allow us to have a self-sufficient economy and support ourselves on our own. Thank you for allowing me to tell my story and thank you for any help you want to give to my foundation, which is called Unchangeable God of Mercy and Grace Foundation.