Learning from the life of a ‘Mother in Israel’

A review of Comfort of the Apostle: A testimony of faith in the Undying Father.

Comfort of the Apostle, a 116-page  book is a semi-autobiography of Comfort Sonaiya, wife of late Apostle John Sofile Sonaiya of the Ebute Metta assembly of the Faith Tabernacle (now Apostolic Church of Nigeria), written by Comfort Mobolaji Sonaiya (herself) and Emmanuel Babafunsho Sonaiya (her son).

Published posthumously, the book seems to present a practical faith of a woman, Comfort Sonaiya, who fully depended on God for healing, direction and guidance, and for provision after going into widowhood in 1953 when the children were still young. The book presents a narrative of how faith can transform a grassroots believer into a person with global relevance. The faith displayed by Mama, who raised her children with very limited economic resources, was contagious upon her children, as well as her associates.

Having been through marital hassles twice, the title, Comfort of the Apostle, was chosen because of the comfort Mama gave her third and last husband, Apostle John Sofile Sonaiya, who just lost his wife before meeting Comfort. It eventually turned out that Comfort was not only a source of comfort to the apostle but also a dependable and faithful co-labourer in the work of God. The book’s subtitle, A testimony of Faith in the Undying Father, captures a moral that reflects throughout the text, namely having faith in the Father God that can never die, even when all fathers die.

Written in two parts of eight chapters, chapters one to six detail Mama’s story in her words, while chapters seven and eight narrate her mission work. This hybridised narrative style is compelling as it combines a self-account and a witness account of a lifetime. It is also commendable that the authors ensured that every Yoruba word in the text gets their appropriate diacritic marks. The explanatory notes provided at the end of each chapter not only serve to fill in gaps in Mama’s relay of events, but also further and deepen the narrative.

Titled Origins and Early Life, chapter one gives the reader an insight into the Islamic family background Mama had, what led to her mother’s conversion of faith when her father still continued to practise Islam, her birth and Islamic christening, her early school life, how Mama took ill and had to stop schooling, her healing through prayers, her re-christening with the name Comfort, her return to school, her mother’s persistence in the Christian faith despite her father’s threat to get Mama back to Qur’anic school, and her choice of her father’s friend, a polygamist man, as husband.

In chapter two, Marriages and The Lessons Learnt From Them details marital sufferings Mama went through for making a wrong choice, vis-à-vis, marrying a polygamist. With the suffering ranging from a lot of privation, misery, hunger, thirst to loss of her children to death, the authors deploy the chapter as a timely counsel to everyone on the lookout for a spouse to be patient and to pray for God’s will.

Chapters three, Conversion and Spiritual Growth and four, Apostle John Sofile Sonaiya are contiguous as they show Mama’s turning from the wrong to the right. Her conversion signifies her coming to the Saviour with all her heavy yoke, while getting married to Apostle Sonaiya is a metaphor for the rest she found. Again, these chapters exemplify the truth that knowing and growing in God are believers’ inroads to their desires, even when they don’t consciously request for such desires in prayers. It then goes without saying that her Mama did not only become the comfort of the Apostle, her surrender also made her a comfort to herself.

With the demise of her sorely missed husband, chapters five, The Travails of Widowhood and six, Miraculous Provisions and Healing, address her 34-year wandering in widowhood and how God arose at different times to meet her needs so much that she was able to pay rent, settle her children’s school bills, feed and clothe them without borrowing or incurring any debt. It is with these chapters that the subtitle of this book gets well expounded.

Whereas chapter seven, Christian Witness and Ministry chronicles Mama’s Christian fellowship and ministry of prayers, counselling, faith, healing, miracles and teachings to neighbours and Mafoluku village, chapter eight, Source of Inner Strength, details the attributes that kept her forging ahead despite her challenges – gratitude to God for salvation, love for the Bible, and her prayer life – the attributes which she incidentally shared with her last husband, Apostle Sonaiya.

With the book now on sale, one quick lesson a reader, especially mothers, would glean from late Comfort Sonaiya’s story is, “If I do not have money to give you, will I be too lazy to pray for you?”

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