Nigerian singer and worship minister Rosemary Tony-Ayoko shares a detailed testimony about her life, music, career and ministry. This is one inspiring read, which will not only challenge but bless you.
This time 12years ago while in my final year at Benson Idahosa University, I made a prayer to God for Him to show me, speak to me or something if indeed He wanted me doing this for Him, because I could not understand why everyone around me harassed and told me they believed I could and that I was meant to do this, meanwhile I never even saw myself going that way(for some of you that don’t know, I danced more in school cos I joined a Christian dance group… I was a hot stepper you know…wink, lol).
Did I love to sing? Yeah, but I had gotten to a point that I was giving up on singing, I just wanted to focus on writing my final exams, get my degree in Economics, serve my country, get me a great job (bank or oil company preferably), get myself a masters degree, get married to my prince charming, have children and then watch myself climb the career ladder… lol.
But unknown to me, God had it all figured out, He sometimes will wait for us to get to that point we will sincerely seek His face. And so on the night of 8th April, 2004 I made that simple and sincere prayer and said “Lord if indeed You want me to do this, pls reveal it to me” then I went to bed. And then something happened…
…Then I saw myself in a dream having a conversation with GOD, He was standing right next to me but I didn’t see His face (…for there shall no man see me and live… Exo 33:20b). And then He showed me a large crowd of great and talented music ministers both local and international (I remember seeing prominent Nigerian gospel ministers as well as some in America), when I mean a large crowd, I mean really large.
The amazing thing was that they were all on a train but it was a massive train without a covering so I could see the the number of people all on that train all heading towards the same direction, kind of all were going to the same final stop.
I was supposed to be in the midst of this crowd, remember God and I were standing together and talking cos He was the one showing me that I belonged there, but I was kind of lost in this great crowd. Then I said to God “I can’t see myself in the midst of this people” and He said to me pointing towards the crowd “Look again”.
Then God opened my eyes and I saw myself in the midst of this large crowd of music ministers but I looked different from everyone there. From where I stood talking with God, I saw myself with a white spot on the right side of my face, and then He said to me “I have marked you out, you’ve been spotted out” His voice kept re-echoing as He left me standing there and then I woke up.
I checked my time this was about past 5am early hours of 9th April, 2004. I ask God questions a lot, I was trying to figure out what He had just shown me and then while I was praying and asking Him for a clearer understanding, this was what He said to me “I have called you into the worship ministry, and that even in the midst of other anointed music ministers, when you stand before my people, my presence will back you up because you are distinct and different”. If you notice in the words He spoke to me He was precise about the ministry He was preparing me for(so now you all know why I just love to worship).
Was I supposed to be excited after this dream? I really can’t remember what my reaction was and sincerely speaking I had to continue singing, in fact that day I had a ministration in the church I attended in Benin.
It was Easter Friday, and I had reluctantly accepted to solo the song the choir was singing the night before during our last rehearsal because that was what pushed me to making that sincere prayer I had earlier talked about. The presence of God was overwhelming during that service that I remember clearly.
But we know ourselves, sometimes when God speaks to us like that, we always think it will happen immediately, I guess it was after the move of the Holy Spirit that day during service, I got a bit excited about THE CALL, I never knew God had other plans for this life.
Prophesies came to confirm what God had shown and told me so I got really excited. The first year passed(youth service), nothing, second year(had started working) , nothing, now like Peter after the crucifixion, I went back fishing, I just faced my work and yeah got my masters degree in Public and International Affairs from Unilag, got married to one of God’s choicest sons and then two handsome dudes.
But for every other encounter I had with God during these years, It didn’t dawn on me that He was preparing me for such a time as this. David was anointed king at a young age- yes, but that anointing did not take him away from still going back to tend his father’s sheep. Joseph had his dreams too but it did not prevent his brothers from selling him into slavery, then thrown into prison for an offense he didn’t commit.
Years passed and He was still preparing me and waiting for me, Rosemary on another hand proved stubborn too and in fact gave God conditions if I had to do this work. But God is a very patient God and knows how to bring us back on track where we seek Him and encounter Him in such a way that your life will never remain the same again.
While still struggling despite all the things He had shown and spoken to me, sent people at various times to tell me about it, I was still busy doing my own things even after an out of body experience. I was ill and on the day I was discharged from the hospital, I passed on but He gave me a second chance to live.
I knew it was another opportunity for me to just accept to do HIS work, but for where? this naughty little child of God still had her own hidden agenda
And so God for the umpteenth time had asked me to resign, I gave him some conditions which He fulfilled (always faithful even when we are unfaithful). I remember one Sunday in September 2014 just after service, one of our Ministers in church walked up to me and said God asked him to tell me “Amongst many you have been chosen”.
At this point I was not particularly excited at all because I was beginning to see that God was really serious about this, (reminds me of the story of the rich young man, when Jesus told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor and come follow Him) but unlike the rich man that walked away sorrowful and we never heard anything about him again in the bible, Rosemary with a depressed but sincere heart, went back to God and asked, “I said Lord how will this be or happen” and then He led me to Luke 1:35… The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee… hmmmmm. I begged for more time and in fact was specific as regards the month in 2015 I was going to quit, my ever loving heavenly Father allowed me.
Now the time for me to quit was fast approaching and I could see it was almost here, but this child still had her own plans.
Then the last straw that broke the Carmel’s back. In the month of May, the pressure from God was becoming too much, I was practically haunted (we watch movies right? and we see the way a spirit will haunt the person that killed it). I became super depressed, I was really uncomfortable going to work but still managed, I was struggling and almost losing my mind, I would cry at any little chance I was all alone.
There was a day I was alone in my room and the pressure was so much that I shouted loud “God I have heard, I will but please give me more time”. The firm I worked with on another hand just helped God hasten His plans in the month of May, meanwhile I still had some months to go.
A few people had just been handpicked for salary increase and I happened to be one of them, I got excited about the extra box then I thought to myself ” let me just work till the end of the year and then quit”. At this point, I literally heard God tell me ” See yourself “, He was done waiting for me, quit that job now”.
He seized my peace, I wasn’t myself, I was almost going crazy, I even feared I had high blood pressure because I was so depressed and was always thinking, I was not taking care of myself anymore because it looked like there was nothing to live for but for each time I had any opportunity to sing while alone or in church, I found fulfillment doing it.
It was then I knew God was really serious about this. I had just received my first salary increase at the end of May, 2015, on the 4th of June, I could not take the pressure anymore, I begged my husband to please let me quit (for the singles reading this, allow God choose your spouse, you can never go wrong with God).
My hubby had also noticed how moody and depressed I had been lately, the moment he gave me the go ahead to drop my letter, I felt a burden leave me, I became as light as a feather, oh my God I felt like a bird that had just been set free from a cage. I spoke to my boss and few days later dropped my resignation letter (I could not even work till the month I planned to).
My inner peace and joy was restored and for the very first time that line “in YOU I find my peace” in my first single “Dwelling Place” made complete sense to me… Psm 51:12- restore unto me the joy of thy salvation… Everyone in the office noticed the glow on my face, I was so graceful in my steps, and shakara resumed again oh as I was counting down to leave…lol.
It didn’t end there, like every human I had my questions (why me?), fears (what if I fail and never succeed) , doubts (Rosemary are you sure God called you to do this?) etc. Trust me now as usual, I went back to God and gave some fresh conditions and I said “okay I have accepted to do this but on three conditions (am sure God would have been like…Smh(shaking my head)…lol.
- Like Moses in Exo 33:15-16, YOUR PRESENCE must never leave me, yes I have the tendency to stray away from your presence, but please bring me back to the place I belong. I love a particular hyme where d writer wrote “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, but here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above”.
- There isn’t any point doing this and lives are not blessed, as you promised on the 9th April, 2004, please keep your promise and back every ministration up with your presence, but first EMPTY ME OF ME, help me pay THE PRICE, (staying power in HIS presence, let go of distractions and stay with HIM.
- Keep me FOCUSED- Heb 12:2 – looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… I don’t want to be anyone else, but I want to do exactly what You want me to do(if you recall God was specific about the call). Like Peter that took his eyes off Jesus and started sinking, I didn’t want that at all.
On the day I resigned, 15th July 2015, two amazing things happened, early hours of that morning, God cut a covenant with me and later that day too Jesus showed Himself to me(first encounter with God the Father at the very beginning and now God the Son), and I will say that from that moment, the passion to do this for God came alive.
Then the journey to finding and knowing the person of the Holy Spirit in a deeper level started. And as we both started this journey, for every question, fears and doubts I had, the Holy Spirit gave me comforting and soothing responses to them all.
A few days later after my resignation while I was in His presence and sincerely asking to know Him better, born out of a heart that is still learning to die daily to the flesh, and that just wants to LOVE HIM He inspired this song “YOU” -Phil 3:10- That I may know HIM (YOU)…