PORT OF SPAIN –– As Lilla Roberts celebrated her 104th birthday yesterday with family, friends and parishioners at her church, she credited her long life to God.
A devout church-goer, Lilla chose to mark her milestone with a ceremony at the Mt Bethel Independence Baptist Church Jacob Settlement in Santa Flora. MP for the area, Nicole Oliverre and Siparia Regional Corporation chairman Dr Glenn Ramdharsingh were also present to celebrate with Lilla.
A mother of five, grandmother of 20 and great-grandmother of 23, Lilla can still walk without a cane, feed herself, use the washroom on her own and suffers from no major ailments. In an interview with the media, she said she never expected to live to 104.“I am very happy to celebrate today, I never thought I would live to 104 years,” she said. “Jesus is the reason, if any problems confront me, I call on him, I go down to my knees and prayer, I lie on my bed and read the bible.”
Lilla did not have an easy youth as she recalled having problems with her husband after they had been married for 13 years without having any children. But God would answer her prayers and at age 35, she gave birth to her first child and had the other four “one after the other.After we live together for about 13 to 14 years and we never had children and he was getting kind of displeased like he want to separate and then I got down in prayer and I said God I want to settle myself, help me and God answer my prayer.”
She said she believes she faced hardships early on in life because she was not devoted to God. “I don’t know if it is because after we get married and wasn’t having children, I never used to praise God and that is why I went down to the pitch [ground].” But at 70, Lilla was saved at a crusade at “Scrappy church” now known as the Revelation Life Centre of Agapito Trace, Santa Flora.
In 2008, she joined the Mt Bethel church and has been a full-pledged member since. Asked about her views on crime, Lilla said she feels the epidemic sweeping the country has no cure.“I don’t know what to say about crime, to me crime doesn’t have a cure- it have too much crime. In my days crime happened once or twice a year but looking at what is going on now, with so much crime, I feel it has no cure.”
Her birthday wish was simply to praise God and when asked how many more years she wanted to live, she said, “I don’t want to go no more but I still have to wait on God to take me.” Addressing the churchgoers, Oliverre said Lilla was just one of eight centenarians living in her constituency. In light of this, Oliverre has begun a project to meet and interview all eight and eventually honour all of them.
She said speaking to Lilla was like reliving history. “Everyone here appreciates the fact that you can talk to someone who can tell you what life was like when we gained Independence, when the war was over, it’s so good to hear about it instead of having to read about in a book,” Oliverre said.