FREELY – Discovering!

Several weeks went by. The Etims settled back to normalcy – car in and out of Chinedu’s, a couple of trips into interior villages for evangelism, school runs, and meeting sundry needs of a hungry congregation.

On national television, during the ten o’clock evening news Kent religiously listened to, one day, an item caught his attention. The Revive the World headquarters was in the news. Everyone had gone to sleep as usual, and he sat forward, listening in disbelief to a gory tale of, as the reporter put it, “battle for the throne.”

Archbishop Nelson apparently did not leave a tidy house behind. His wife, Bishop Jumi Nelson wanted the younger son in Lagos to take over the affairs of the church, while Pastor Adeola Nelson Jnr believed he was the rightful heir.

“It is assumed the first son of Archbishop Nelson was sent off to England to head the churches in Europe so he would not be in a position to take over after his father.” The reporter faced her camera with a clear view of the 200,000-seater magnificent church auditorium behind her. “I spoke to an usher who is close to the family, and he states categorically that the Archbishop did indeed name a successor, but the family has succeeded in getting rid of the humble man of God. How, he refused to say, and pleaded anonymity.”

Kent breathed. “Brother Julius?”

“No one in the offices of the Archbishop or the church agreed to grant an interview, or speak to me. But this story is developing. From the world headquarters of Revive the World Ministries, I am…”

Kent slumped back. His heart thudded. To be sincere, he had not had any peace about this matter. One question remained – why was he named as the successor? Unlike him, he had not discussed anything with any of his friends in ministry. He felt ashamed somewhat. He was an “old school” preacher. Many of the strategies of the ministry these days confused him. As a missionary, the souls in the villages were the only ones he knew about. Women in trousers continued to complicate his philosophy though his children told him all the time he was no longer relevant if he continued to think that way.

So why would God choose him, an educated illiterate, laid back to say the least? What lesson was God trying to teach him. He recalled the story in Acts about Peter being asked to eat unclean animals in a trance. Was God trying to break his rigid philosophies? He went to bed with a heavy heart, and after several minutes of praying, slept. It seemed the right thing not to tell Annie about the news item.

The following day, he came home from the church office to find Annie with a visitor, the wife of a pastor-friend. Mrs. Okere talked with a high-strung voice laced with anxiety. Kent ignored the women after exchanging pleasantries. But shortly afterward, Annie joined him in their bedroom.

“She’s gone.”

It wasn’t in his habit to ask what Annie discussed with her visitors, but this seemed a bit weird. Mrs. Okere hardly ever visited.

“What was she so excited about?”

“They saw us on the news.” Annie sighed. “And then she accused me I didn’t tell her what was going on. Then she asked why we haven’t gone to take up the position.”

“Ah.”

Annie clasped her hands over her heart. “My fear is that our names were mentioned. The usher who took us to the airport granted an interview to one private investigator. It is all over the news. I’m surprised no one called you.”

Kent couldn’t confess he saw a similar story on the news. “Some people called me.” He looked at his wife. “I told them we were praying about it, God forgive me.”

“Heh! What is this?” She stamped her feet. “Do you know the brothers have threatened to kill each other? The mother wants the younger one. What kind of mother?”

“We cannot judge her, Anietie!”

“Hmm.” She scratched her head. “The church will scatter if we don’t go. Soon too.”

Kent gasped. “Go back?”

“Or what can we do? Will we leave them to kill each other and the church of God to scatter?”

“The news is all over.”

“Those reporters will soon find us. That is what Mrs. Okere said. She is so sure.”

Kent sat down. “We have to go back then. This is not the publicity I want in my life, but it seems this matter will just not go away quietly.”

“Do you have enough money for flight?”

The widening of his eyes shut her up.

 

FREELY – Embracing!

The Etims had to pick an airport taxi from the Port Harcourt (PH) airport to a place where they could get public transportation back home.

At ten o’clock, a middle-aged man who introduced himself as Bro. Julius, an usher, had picked them up from the hotel and taken them to the Lagos airport. He handed Pastor Kent a thick envelope, and explained their tickets were enclosed. Inside were two economy tickets, and ten-thousand-naira cash. Thankfully, it was enough to get them home.

Inside the rickety bus from PH to Aba, Annie raised the matter. Just the day before they had been treated like royalty. Why would the shabby treatment follow?

“We will discuss it when we get home, Annie.” Kent moaned. “I’ve been thinking about it too.”

The children were excited to see them. Annie chatted continuously for almost an hour, describing everything she saw and tasted.

Edidiong frowned. “So why did you come back?”

“Hmm, my dear. They don’t want us. As soon as we said we couldn’t stay, all the special treatment ended.”

The teenager threw up his hands. “Ah, these my parents like to suffer.”

Chioma prepared “gari” and set the meal before them with vegetable soup. Annie thanked her.

Chioma curtseyed. “Mummy, I’m going to my shop. Since you’re here.”

Edidiong growled. “Thank God.”

Chioma slapped the back of his head and everyone laughed. The boy, who towered over the young woman, stood and gestured a return slap.

Annie shouted. “Come on sit down. Don’t you have respect?”

“He’s a goat.” Eno rolled her eyes. “Goat.”

“Don’t mind him, Mummy. One day I will beat him up.” Chioma laughed. She picked her bag. “Bye ma. Bye sir.”

The family cheered after her.

“So, Mum.” Eno sat forward. “Why did you leave?”

Pastor Kent knew the children were more averted to their mother, but this was the time to explain things the way he saw it.

“Our foundation in Christ is different. We realized this was not what God wanted for us at this time.”

Ima, the middle Etim girl, shrugged. “So why did you go at all?”

Annie sighed. “Well, those two men who came yesterday showed us a letter that your daddy had been named the…”

Kent raised his hand. “They expected us to come and take a particular position they believed we would be interested in. But as I said, we were not trained like that. Their ways are different from ours. We thank God for where we are now.”

His tone left no room for questions. The children looked at their mother who nodded. She knew they would bombard her to complete the statement she started, but that couldn’t happen with their father seated.

He stood though. “I need to get to the cybercafé.”

Annie gasped. “You’ve hardly touched your food.”

“I will eat when I return.”

He left unceremoniously and the children rained their mother with questions.

She started her response with: “Don’t let your father know I said anything.” The dam flowed unheeded afterward.

Pastor Annie and her children, from their own understanding, analyzed the situation, but none ever guessed there could be a conspiracy anywhere.

When Kent returned from the café several hours later, he had a healthy meal, spent time with his family, and retired.

Annie turned in after making sure the children had all done their nightly chores and the house was secured. She couldn’t wait to hear Kent’s findings.

“What did you see on the internet?”

“Of course, the whole Google was filled with news about the archbishop.” Kent heaved a heavy sigh. “I spent all of two hours reading about him. The church is much bigger than I thought. They are in every continent of the world.”

Annie clapped. “Such a big church.”

“Yes. And they are very rich. They purchased a private jet for the archbishop a week before he died. To be delivered in two months’ time.” Kent looked at his wife. “I keep wondering why he named me. How did he know me?”

“What about the wife? And the children?”

“I saw her too. She looks old, though. I thought they were much younger.”

“Old? Like how old? That means they must have big children.”

“Two boys and a girl. All are married. There was a picture with all of them, and their spouses.”

Annie gasped. “Those two boys will just kill you. Where are you coming from?”

“The older one is a pastor in Europe. The younger is a pastor in Lagos. Even the daughter’s husband is a pastor in Abuja.” Kent closed his eyes. “I can’t get past this. It’s like a dream.”

“What killed the man?”

“Slept and didn’t wake up. I didn’t see any autopsy report.”

Annie slid under the thin cover of a flat mattress. “Well, maybe God just wanted to open our eyes to what is happening that side of His kingdom. I wish them luck. Senior pastor of Rev no be our portion.”

Kent nodded. “Me too.” He shifted closer to his beautiful wife. “For now, come and minister to the senior pastor of your soul.” He pressed her.

She slapped his hand and laughed. “You were on a very big bed yesterday, you didn’t remember that.”

“Ah, that bed was battlefront oh my dear.” He pulled her into his arms, and kissed her. “This is home.”

SuicideisReal

That guy that jumped off the bridge yesterday? That was me a few years ago. As a teenager I was desperately suicidal.

After a few failed attempts, I realised that living and suffering is much better than dying and leaving others to suffer.

I have conquered depression for good. No matter how bad things get, I will live to struggle another day.

The two most painful types of death are:

  1. When someone kills you
    2. When you kill yourself

It just feels like the time was not right. Makes it impossible for the family to get closure.

Depression is real…but the ability to overcome challenges in realer.

Keep you chin up. No matter how impossible the situation gets, there is always a solution and there is someone in a worse situation yet still seriously fighting to stay alive.

Sola Kuti – Facebook post of March 20, 2017

For this doctor, I guess the moon has gone dark.

I must lend my voice to this, because it hurts…

Let us stop being so judgmental of people, assuming they are alright. One of our problems as humans is that we refuse to face reality and accept the truth. The fact that someone drives a jeep, doesn’t make him/her immune to the same problems we all face. Maybe they face more.

I stick to my philosophy – live and let live. Stop putting people in a corner. We all have different definitions for “achieve.”

I may not have a car, doesn’t mean I disdain someone who does, and belittle their issues.

I don’t know what to say…Get help if you need it.

I learnt sometime ago, that it takes the same level of humility to give as it is to receive. Don’t be proud or shy to give or receive help…

I can’t even make sense right now…I hope someone got something.

MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

“Huh, I just wanted to ask a favour.”

I arched my eyebrow. Aaron had that look on his face and I dreaded what he could be thinking. I wasn’t going to do anything crazy like moving in with him. Though I doubted he would make such an unbecoming offer.

It was only a month since we started seeing each other, and I was still awkward, considering our history. Since our first date, he’d picked me from work every day, and some days like today, just took me home.

“I know you’ll probably say no.” He looked at me. “Hmm?”

“You haven’t said anything.” I chuckled. “At least ask.”

We were seated in his car outside my house, and I knew Salome and her shop crowd could see us clearly. Not that it was a secret I was dating Aaron, but it was just not the kind of publicity I appreciated.

He sighed. “Okay. My cook is going on leave, and I wanted to ask if you could come around.”

“Come around and…?”

“And cook for me.” The awkward silence. “Please.”

I laughed. “Is this the first time your cook would go on leave?”

He smiled. And what a sweet smile he had. “No.”

“So how do I come in the picture for crying out loud?”

He shrugged. “Well, usually, my mum’s cook comes over.”

“Great.”

He shook his head. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah.” I sighed. “Though Salome has a wedding. Huh. She’ll need me tomorrow.”

It’s amazing how I live for the next time I will see this my handsome prince from the past.

“Sunday then?”

Huh? I looked at him. He seemed defeated. This thing called relationship. Men could be so childish. It was true he’d been the more aggressive of the two of us. My mum told Salome and I in those days to follow the man who loved us more than we loved him. “He’ll never leave you,” she said.

Who could blame her? Salome’s father left Mum while still pregnant. Two years on, my father did likewise.

I touched him lightly. “Are you angry with me?”

He held my gaze and his eyes told the truth. “No.”

“When is your cook going?”

“Tomorrow.”

I gasped. “She should have—”

“He. My cook is a guy.”

“Didn’t he cook some food at least soups, you know.”

He looked away and chuckled. I pushed at his shoulder. “You were so sure I’ll say yes.”

“No. I hoped.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, you’ll starve tomorrow cos I’m not hanging Salome in the rain. Pick me after church on Sunday.

“Cool.” He pulled me closer and gave me a peck.

That was a first.

“Good night.” I got out of his car before he got more ideas.

I calculated what to wear on Sunday. Something protective.

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/rose-flower-nature-floral-romance-402093/

My book, BASIS FOR LOVE is free. Read about how Aaron and Shirley first met. Simply fill in the feedback form to get your copy. Caution – you will be added to my mailing list, lol.

Thank you!

 

FREELY – Sickening!

Continuous hard-knocking woke Pastors Kent and Annie the following morning. They had overslept!

She jumped and checked the time on her phone. 9a.m! She had even forgotten to send a message to Eno the previous night, and she saw her daughter had sent a text. As Kent jumped too, and got into his clothing, she replied Eno.

He went to get the door, and let Pastor Favour and another man into the formal room. Two ladies followed with large baskets of food, and Kent’s stomach growled. He remembered he hadn’t eaten since breakfast the previous day.

“Good morning, Pastor,” Kent said.

Pastor Favour smirked. “Good morning, Pastor Bassey. I see you had a good night.”

He smiled. “The air-conditioning feels like winter.”

The ladies cleared the table and reset it. After which they quietly left.

“Indeed.” Favour looked at the man with him. “Victor, this is Pastor Bassey.”

“Huh, the name is Kentoroabasi Etim. You can just call me Pastor Kent.” He nodded at Victor. “Good morning, sir.”

“Where is your wife?”

Kent narrowed his eyes. The Victor could have at least muttered a greeting. His arrogant stance put Kent off. He wore jewellery like they were on an advertorial on him, neck chain, bracelets, an ear stud, and at least five rings. His hair was cut in a subtle Mohawk. He couldn’t be more than thirty years old.

“My wife. She’s in the room.”

Favour arched an eyebrow. “Maybe you should ask her to join us briefly.”

“I can’t actually. She’s getting ready.” Kent looked at both men. “After breakfast we plan to return to Aba. We’ll be back with our children next week.”

Pastor Favour cackled. “That’s not how things will work out, Pastor Kent.” He looked at Victor. “Do you want to tell him?”

Victor snickered. “Sure—”

“We need return tickets for this morning, Pastor Favour. Whatever Victor plans to discuss can be done when we return.” He stood. “Now I need to get ready as well.” He walked toward the bedroom door. “Come back at 10. Thanks.” He entered the bedroom and closed the door.

Annie had gone into the bathroom. Kent took several deep breaths. Probably that was someone else. He felt sick to his stomach. What had come over him? Why would he make such a plan? Annie would be mad. What was he going to tell her he did?

He took out a simple kaftan from his overnight bag and laid it on the bed.

“Honey!” Annie shouted. “Are you there?”

Kent straightened. “Yes.” He walked into the bathroom and found his wife neck-deep in a bubble bath. “What is going on here?”

The bathroom was all white marble, four times the size of any Kent had seen before. A large Jacuzzi was at one side, while a shower cubicle was at another. What looked like a steamer was in the cubicle. The bidet and toilet bowl were to another side. On both sides of the entrance were mirrors, cupboards, and drawers.

“This is heaven, man of God.” Annie giggled. “Come and join me.”

He laughed and entered the warm bubble. “Ah, life is good.”

“Are you sure we will leave this place?”

“Woman of God! Beware of the cares of this world.” He groaned. “This feels good, oh.”

After the sweet experience, they sat at the table set for them. It was another feast of local and continental dishes.

“If I continue to eat like this, I won’t be able to pray,” Annie said.

“God will help us.”

“Help us how? This time tomorrow, we’ll be back from dream land.” She giggled. “Eno will nearly die when I tell her what we saw.”

Kent swallowed. He needed to let Annie know what he had done. But how?

He cleared his throat. “Pastor Favour came this morning.”

“Oh, when?”

“The knocking. He came with the ladies who brought breakfast.”

Annie heaved. “Well, so he knows we’re leaving this morning?”

Kent knew his wife. She could blow hot and cold in one breath. He calculated his words carefully, and explained the meeting with Favour and Victor. She was done with her breakfast, and for a moment, simply stared.

He understood the feeling. This royal treatment was tempting. They had never eaten food so good, or slept in a bed so comforting. If this was a dream, they didn’t want to wake up from it. But there was a reality. Kent felt the hostility from Favour and knew what it meant. These people were just fulfilling all righteousness by bringing them here. They were not wanted.

Annie heaved a heavy sigh. “Well, I guess you have done well,” she said. “We just won’t have to come back here. It’s even better.” She shrugged. “They will expect us to come back, but we won’t.”

“What if they come again to fetch us?”

“These people? They won’t.” Annie snickered. “You think they will not have people who want to take over from the Archbishop? See this other church the bishop died and his wife quickly took over. Hmm.” She threw her hands up. “With this kind of wealth? Does he not have a wife, and children?”

“In fact, I thought of it. When we get back to Aba, I will go to the cybercafé, and search him out on the internet.”

FREELY – Thickening!

One would expect Pastor Kent and Annie to have a feast of the abundance laid out for them. Instead the couple stood listless in the middle of their penthouse bedroom, with a sour taste in their mouths.

Perhaps a better knowledge of who they were would help understand the lack of enthusiasm. Pastor Kent grew up in his home town of Etinan in Akwa Ibom state. Annie was a house maid in Uyo for years and was blessed to have been sent to school by her boss.

The couple had met in church where Kent served as a minister. He had a university degree and after marriage, despite their sparse resources, had gotten her into school as well. Both went into full time ministry after she graduated.

“Are you still hungry?”

Annie gasped at her husband’s question. “Ah, food? How?” She tested the king-size mattress. “If we sleep on this one, will we wake up in the morning?” She giggled. Then sobbed. “How did these people know you?”

“I don’t know.” Kent sat on the edge of the bed. “Pastor Favour said you directed them to Chinedu’s shop.”

“What would I have done?” She clasped her hand over her mouth. “I don’t know what to think.”

“We just have to wait till morning and see what will happen.” Kent took a deep breath. “So much wealth…”

Annie sat beside him. “But tell me, they just came and told you to come with them? And you followed?”

Kent shrugged. “I had no reason not to. They showed me a letter.”

“Letter? What did it say?”

“The board of the church asked me to come here with my wife. They said Archbishop died and named me as his successor.”

“But that can be a fake letter.” Annie heaved a heavy sigh. “I hope we are not in trouble.”

Kent pulled out a letter from his pocket. “Trouble? How?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

He stretched the letter to her. Instead of taking it, she took his wrist, and placed his hand on her chest. Her heart thudded.

“These people are different from us. They don’t think like us. Look at the clothes they wear. See the number of cars at the airport.” She moaned. “Even look at the pastors who came for us.”

Kent drew his hand away and stood. “What are you trying to say, Anietie? Did we make a mistake to come here?”

“Yes,” she said forcefully. “We should never have come.”

He threw his hands in the air. “Is that not a little late?”

“We can leave on our own in the morning.”

Kent growled. “Do you have transport money back?”

“I do.” She snapped. “Let’s go back to our church and our children. These people mean no good for us. How can that Archbishop pick you among all the many pastors he has all over the world?” She stood before him and raised her voice. “What are you not telling me, Kentoroabasi Etim?”

Kent raised his voice to match hers. “What am I supposed to tell you? Why didn’t you ask all these questions when they came to the house!” He bent at the waist. “God sees my heart, I don’t know what is going on here. And if you want us to return in the morning, we will.”

“Yes, yes let us return. We don’t belong here,” she said.

He fell on his knees, and then on his side. The carpet on the floor was nearly as thick and soft as the bed. Kent could sleep on it all night and feel no pain.

Annie stood over him for a while and then returned to sit on the bed.

“You know, Anietie,” Kent said softly. “I had the dream again. Where I am being chased by an invisible spirit, and when I reach the edge of the cliff, it stops chasing me and tells me to jump into the mighty ocean below.”

“This is just the edge of that cliff, my husband.” She closed her eyes. “If we stay, you’re jumping into the great ocean.”

 

Somewhere else on the one-thousand-hectare Rev the World campground, three men and two women watched the couple, and listened to their conversation.

FREELY – Plotting!

Pastor Favour left the couple as soon as they were let into the penthouse of the Revive Towers, and drove his 2015 Nissan Armada to Archbishop’s house. Mama Nelson and a few others waited for him. She had insisted they had a meeting tonight no matter what time it was.

He let himself into the private room Mama entertained her guests in. He wasn’t a stranger in this home, as much as he wasn’t family. His wife, Lara, sat on the brown Italian leather couch, while Mama swayed gently in her antique cane rocking chair. She wore a white lace robe, the only outfit kind she’d worn since Archbishop died a week earlier.

Two men sat on single couches in the room. One of them was the Nelsons’ first son, 32-year old Adeola Jnr. The other was Mama’s private lawyer, Barr. Victor.

“Mama.” Favour bent slightly and took the space beside his wife. “They are at the towers.”

Mama sighed. “Thank you.” She looked at Victor. “Over to you.”

“How do they look?” Adeola said.

Favour shrugged. “Shocking.”

Lara frowned. “What do you mean?”

“First, I found them at some outback in Aba. They live in a part-mud, part-cement house.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what Archbishop was thinking.”

Lara gasped. “They must be so laid back.”

“To say the least. He’s young, though. May be in his early forties.”

Mama hissed. Victor sat forward. “We don’t have any problem then. If he is laid back as you say, he will definitely take a settlement.” Victor waved a bejewelled hand. “A house anywhere in the country and a couple of a hundred thousand in any currency.”

Lara lowered her voice. “Do you think they will take it?”

“I don’t know, Lara. If they were eager about this, I would have said, yes, sure. They gave nothing away. They were not suspicious or excited. He didn’t seem surprised, or confused.”

Mama pressed her lips together. “You mean you just told them to come, and they did? No questions?”

“Basically.” He snickered. “The wife though. She’s something.” He scratched his head and chuckled.

Adeola arched an eyebrow. “Something. How do you mean?”

“She pretended or should I say, lied to us about the house. She sent us off to some place and didn’t disclose she was his wife.”

Lara blinked. “Why would she do that?”

“I have no idea.” Favour chuckled again. “She doesn’t fit him at all. She strikes you as someone who wants to do something, say something but she’s constrained.”

Mama rolled her eyes. “All pastors’ wives are constrained.”

Adeola clapped. “So what’s the game plan? What next?”

“Since he’s here, we will make the offer to him. With what I know now, it’s better to talk to him when his wife is there.” Victor rubbed his hands together. “A woman like that is hungry.”

Adeola growled. “Probably greedy too.”

“Every man or woman has a price. No matter how greedy, we can match their demand,” Victor said.

“Do you think we should let them meet the church before we make the offer?” Mama said. “If they see the crowd, won’t they want to stay?”

“I think what we should be more concerned about is Daddy’s clauses in that wretched will of his,” Adeola said. “What options he left for the—man.”

All eyes turned on Victor. He sniffed. “What Archbishop said won’t matter when this man accepts what we have for him.”

Adeola shook his head. “There were several clauses. I won’t overlook them at all.”

“Yes, there are clauses but if we didn’t find the man, or he refused to come over, then the clauses are mere alphabets,” Victor said.

“So if he rejects the offer, we can just make him disappear.”

Mama’s words held a deeper meaning but everyone acted like it didn’t.

“We can listen for now, and have an idea of what they’re up to.” Favour stood, and flipped on a projector at a corner of the room.

The plain white wall space above a 60” TV lit up and Pastor Kent and Annie came into view. The screen split into four to show other parts of the penthouse. The audience watched mutedly the man named in the Archbishop Nelson’s will to take over a multi-million dollar evangelistic ministry.

Each viewer had a different thought.