The following testimony was sent to us from Jamilla, a songwriter in Kenya. She attended the first UA Songwriting retreat in Nairobi, Kenya.
The reflection I see looking back at me in the mirror reminds me of my identity in Christ. It reminds me of 1 Peter 1:18-19 (Amp.) which says:
For you know that you were not redeemed from your useless [spiritually unproductive] way of life inherited [by tradition] from your forefathers with perishable things like silver and gold, but [you were actually purchased] with precious blood, like that of a [sacrificial] lamb unblemished and spotless, the priceless blood of Christ.
For me, Jesus not only made the ultimate sacrifice that one time on the cross, but He also daily reminds me of my value and worth – two things found only in Him and never in anything or anyone else.
I truly began to understand spiritual growth just the other day – 2015 to be exact – so this is the year that I’d say marked the proper beginning of my journey walking with God. Two years later in 2017, I found myself plugging into the first United Adoration (UA) songwriting retreat to be held in Nairobi, Kenya.
At the time, I was depressed and weighed down heavily by bitterness and resentment that had built up over years, so much so that I had become a different person. I could not recognise myself at all and was simply a shadow of my former self; an identity I tried in futility to identity with. By then, I had mastered the art of withdrawing from people; interaction was a challenge and it required a lot of effort. One way I dealt with my reality was distracting myself from it by participating in activities that drew my interest, or that simply made me taste the slightest bit of honest happiness; so the idea of writing and music together is what got me to register for the retreat.
It was a three day retreat. In my head that meant three day sof being trained on songwriting skills, so I expected to attend, learn and leave. Well, it turned out to be nothing like I’d expected and looking back now, I’m glad it was what it was: a life-changing experience.
On the first day, I found myself in a room with, well, strangers, and I made it my goal to go through the whole thing without having to interact with any of them, you know, the same way you’d attend an event and just leave at the end like you weren’t even there. I smiled when I had to and spent the rest of the time trying hard to keep to myself, so during creative time, I opted to write on my own. The thought alone of joining a group was too much to bear because it meant relating with people, engaging them, opening up…that kind of thing. I was not about to do that.
I wrote a song. It was a sad one though and it wasn’t about God. Instead it was about me expressing my pain to God. I didn’t know how to write songs of praise and worship because the only thing I knew was what I was dealing with. However much I tried to make room for the Holy Spirit during the prayer sessions or whisper little prayers to God on my own, there was no connection because my focus was not on God; it was on my struggle and that was the barrier that prevented me from hearing God.
So there I was with my melancholic song. I had already decided not to share it. All the while, the UA team was going ‘round the room checking on everyone and helping out anyway they could. So one Sabrina Utz comes my way and I’m thinking, “oh no.”
She somehow managed to get me talking and no matter how much I tried to make her leave, she stayed on and even decided to help me with the song.
Now that I think about it, I believe God sent her my way. You see, throughout the retreat, the importance of prayer and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit is very much emphasized and so by the time the team is going ‘round checking one everyone, their spirits are awake and paying attention to the move of God. The UA retreats are not just about teaching people to write songs or writing a bunch of songs and recording them and then moving on with life. They are about encouraging the local Church to write local songs to sing in united adoration of our one true God and King and using that as an opportunity to create a conducive environment for the Holy Spirit to play His role; to do His work – and I got to experience it firsthand.
Sabrina prayed for me and prayed over my heart and even for the things and people in my life. It stopped being about the song and started benign about what God can do for me and how He’s willing to heal me if only I allow Him to – by simply letting go over everything I had been holding on to and trusting Him with all of it and with myself. That was just one day.
I remember walking in on the second day and there was Rev. Justin Clifton welcoming everyone with the biggest, warmest smile you can imagine and I instantly felt I was welcome, even with all my baggage, there was a place for me there, you know? I looked forward to every session and smiled, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I had a reason to. The Holy Spirit had started working on my heart immediately in the prayer made the previous day. I was already experiencing the difference.
The next time the team went ‘round, it was Rev. Dave Frincke who prayed for me and I was able to pray for myself, too. We had all come together to pray a couple of times so the atmosphere was saturated with prayer and I saw the difference that it makes. I learnt the value of simple, straightforward and honest prayer and the joy in simple conversation with God.
I got the courage to share the song I had written and to receive constructive feedback on it. A year later, at the second UA retreat held in Nairobi, I wrote a song to God, about GOd, seeking God – because a year later I was not the same person who struggled with depression or who was weighed down by resentment or bitterness. No; I had found my identity in Christ, I had cultivated an active Word life and prayer life and I had begun to receive the healing that God had been waiting to release all along.
Looking back, I see how God used the retreat and the UA team to reach out to me and lead me to the restoration I so badly needed. I’m grateful that to date, they continually allow God to use them to be a blessing to others for His glory. To Rev. Dave, I thank God that you are instinctively sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I pray that you will always be found at the centre of God’s will in all that you do. To Rev. Justin, I thank God for blessing you with a warmth that brings such great comfort to the people God brings your way. I pray that your home will always be filled with the joy of the Lord. To Sabrina, I thank God for the friend I have in you. I pray that you will always have a friend in Him. In Jesus Name, Amen.