So I learnt a new meaning for confronting issues when my father sent a message to Pastor Funke, his secretary.
“I want all the pastors to have a prayer retreat in Uyo. I am here already. Anyone who can’t make it must write to take excuse or give reason for not being there.”
Her reaction was expected. “This is too sudden, sir. People work.”
“I know. But I must also follow instructions as I hear it. It’s a worldwide retreat. Get the logistics unit to set the plan in motion.”
He fixed the date so everyone had only ten days.
I don’t know what my father was thinking. It was near-impossible. We had churches in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and other parts of Africa. All pastors must come for a retreat or they cease to be pastors? It was the most ludicrous thing we had ever heard.
Mum and I sat down and discussed at length.
“I’m not sure Daddy is doing the right thing,” I said. “Mum, you have to talk to him. The notice is too short. I worked on the computer with him. There are more than five hundred pastors.”
Mum didn’t say a word for a long time. “I don’t understand it myself,” she finally said. “He didn’t even discuss with me. I only heard him talk about it on the phone when he was telling his secretary.”
“He’s been treating you like eggshells since yesterday when you got delivered.”
And I was right. I didn’t imagine Pastor Kentoroabasi Etim would be so careful around his wife. They had been through so much together though this experience was a first. Still, he repeated several times he didn’t want her to get hurt “after all she had been through because of him.” It seemed he wasn’t being rational as it were.
In the evening of the second night, he announced we all move to Uyo and he was starting an eight-day fast at his mentor’s church. He told us we would stay in the five-star hotel, and I’d have to do some work for him.
Mama was not happy to see us leave, but like every time we visited, she rolled a small amount of money and pushed into our hands. Dad gave her ten times more, which was ironic, but my grandmother never failed to give us those parting gifts.
We checked into our rooms at the hotel, and Dad left ahead of the general retreat. I looked at the work he wanted me to do. It was enormous. So much, two brothers from our Port Harcourt church travelled over to assist. There were mounts of paperwork, and spreadsheets. Each morning we would use a small conference room in the hotel to create files and folders. One of the men, Mr. Obi, who came to assist me bought a printer on Dad’s instruction.
We printed loads of contracts and agreements, MOUs, and letters. Dad wanted to have the nomenclature and demographies of each church properly defined: the name of the pastor, ministers, leaders and elders, account facts, number of members broken down to men, women, and children, attendance, tithe-payers and so on. It was a back-breaking job.
At the end though, we felt proud. Revive the World International Ministries had five hundred and sixty-two churches in eighty countries. Income ran into multi-millions in naira every month, and hundreds of thousands in foreign currencies. The asset of the church seemed incredible, it left me thinking, is this church into evangelism or investment. They owned business in virtually every industry but the most lucrative was real estate.
I couldn’t wait to show Daddy what we had accomplished. The men returned to Port Harcourt after a week, and as instructed, we put the documents for each church in a large envelope.
To my understanding, Dad wanted the pastors to have them, and also follow the example of the way he had organized the records. Back in our former mission, Dad always talked about being ready for the auditors. Unfortunately, none ever came.
The pastors’ and ministers’ retreat in Uyo lasted three days with the participants fasting throughout. Only water and glucose was provided at the venue, Pastor Kent’s former pastor’s church. All the comfort many of these pastors knew were not provided.
A few who seemed to know how to talk walked up to Pastor Annie, and made “proposals” on how to run the retreat next time. A couple suggested the retreat was moved to a hotel where it would be easier and more conducive to pray.
It was a most awkward kind of meeting. On the first day, Pastor Kent announced that any pastor absent would lose their churches to the assistant pastor, and if both were absent, a pastor would be sent to replace them. Unlike other retreats and meetings, no guest ministers attended except for the man Kent had always seen as his father in ministry. To everyone’s surprise, the old man led prayer and worship throughout all the sessions. He didn’t preach a word.
If anyone wanted to grow in spiritual stamina, this was the meeting for it. Men and women lay in the open church hall on mattresses Kent had rented from a boarding school in town. Some of these pastors had not fasted in one year, and now had to stretch it.
On the third day, a caterer prepared pap and moi-moi. The pastors prayed and broke their fast, and thence began the final session of the retreat, rollcall and business meeting.
Pastor Kent’s opening statement after taking attendance, and handing over the envelopes as he did was, “Men and Women of God, if you have an envelope in your hand, it means your church is now yours, and no longer under Revive the World International Ministries.”
The audience went wild.
Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/