His name is Olu. He’s from Nigeria.
I met him by the elevator at work. He looked confused. He was wondering how to get to the travel clinic. It was his third day in Canada. He was a refugee. I called J-M and he came for dinner that night.
He told us about his wife and kids, how he was looking to secure a better home for them. He was worried about the upheaval in his village and the proximity of Boko Haram. He was determined to find a fitting place to live.
He was placed a homeless shelter here in Toronto, where he was confronted with drugs, violence, prostitution, sickness, within the few days he’d been in Canada. He said living at the shelter was not conducive to his peace of mind. He stayed the night.
He showed us how much stipend he was receiving. He showed us the list of low-income housing options given to him by his assigned social worker, which was more than his stipend. He said he would barter. We laughed and told him things worked differently in Canada than in West Africa. He stayed the weekend.
Although he knew no one in Canada, he told us about his Nigerian church, which had a branch in Toronto that he planned to visit. He told us he loved to serve in the church. They were having their big convention that weekend – he’d looked it up on the internet. He said they would be up all night praying. We drove him and he said he’d find his way back because the bus system was simple and straightforward. We stayed.
If we didn’t remember that we’d just driven five minutes down the road, we would have believed that we were in the centre of Nigeria based on the people, the clothes and style of worship. Africa in our backyard! Olu made instant friendships, he knew he would. He hoped to be ushering at church the next week.
He moved from the homeless shelter to an immigration shelter, thanks to our friend who knew the system better than us and had good advice. Wouldn’t we have loved for him to stay? We were moving too.
He soon found a room to rent. It turns out people do barter in Canada.
We spoke less frequently as he made progress on his task list and started to build his life in Canada. He paid us a surprise visit at church, dressed in a suit. He’d found furniture.
Today he texted me on Whatsapp. “I just moved to my new basement apartment. I give God all the glory. Got my SIN and work permit too today. Testimony isn’t it?”
Olu has a new picture on his Whatsapp profile.
“Olu, is that you and our new Prime Minister?”
“Our meeting was ordained by God,” he said. He had no agenda to be “dining with kings,” it was just God introducing him to people in the area.
He told Justin he wishes for a good job and to be a good citizen.
Olu isn’t the type to over-disclose, no matter how many questions I ask. I only know pieces of his story and even that is enough to be amazed at his perspective, his resilience, and his determination, which has the effect of extinguishing any complaints or negativity that could ever be tempted to rise to my lips. He never asks for anything but advice. He never feels sorry for himself even when he was deposited in a homeless shelter without enough money to meet his needs. He never complains, even though he’s apart from his family in a strange land. In fact, he says he feels so blessed and, my goodness, I believe him.
He operates as if he and God have a deal to work in each other’s favour. Yes, Olu, it is a testimony!
He must have absolutely made Justin’s day.