The following Sunday, Pastor Lara sent her driver to take the family to church. The driver probably knew what was going on because he drove to the back of the altar, and carried Kent’s Bible in.
The building was massive to say the least. A huge waiting area, furnished with leather visitor chairs was surrounded by offices. The family sat for a moment.
Kent spoke softly. “The service should start soon. If no one comes out, we will join the congregation.”
“Daddy,” Edidiong said. “I think we should go. I mean, we won’t sit on the altar with you before.”
Kent agreed and the children went out the door with Chioma. They missed all the action, and Annie had to later recant.
A few people milled about, and some took other seats in the waiting area. Lara walked in from the entrance and went straight to kneel before Kent.
“Daddy, good morning. Please bless me.”
Kent had never been accorded such respect. He would pray for anyone who came to him, and sometimes he’d be the one to ask them to kneel.
After a short prayer, Lara, still on her knees, clasped his hands. “They want to send me away. They want Favour to divorce me.”
Kent exclaimed. “No such thing will happen in Jesus’ name!”
“My husband hasn’t slept in the house since Wednesday you saw him. He reported me to Mama Jumi…”
Annie cut in before she could stop herself. “The Archbishop’s wife?”
“Yes. She’s like his biological mother besides me being one of her personal assistants.” Lara sobbed and her mascara seemed to run. “He does everything she says, and she doesn’t mind telling him to send me away.”
“You have no proof, Pastor Lara.” Kent cleared his throat. “And we must believe the best.”
Lara’s eyes widened. “In this church, you don’t believe the best. You watch your back.”
Kent sighed. “Okay, please stand, and go in to the service. We’ll be right behind you.” Kent pulled her up.
Lara lowered her voice. “They said if you come near the altar, they will disgrace you.” She shook her head. “No. Let me wait with you.”
“We’ll be fine…” Kent started to protest but one of the doors opened, and about eight men wearing dark suits, fast-walked out.
Lara straightened and the Etims knew why when Mama Jumi exited the room at a much slower pace, flanked by her eldest son and Favour. The trio stared at their trio but continued to walk toward what Kent believed to be the door to the main church.
“Let’s follow them,” Lara whispered.
Kent thought all of this was juvenile and Annie cringed but they stepped behind the train.
At the suspected door, Mama Jumi turned. Everyone stopped and did likewise.
“We will announce the new leader of the church today.” She fixed her gaze on Lara. “So you can stop all your drama, and behave like someone led of the Spirit of God, hmm? Lara, are you okay with that?”
She curtseyed. “Yes, Mummy.”
The former first lady’s eyes rested on Annie. “All those itching to take over what they believe is a gold mine can then step in and start to enjoy the treasures in the secret places.” She smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes. Favour and her son chuckled. And a few of the men around her snickered.
Kent noticed more people had fallen into step behind them. Several ladies moved with the group, carrying her handbag and shawl and items of clothing accessories.
“And my dear son can be a normal one again.” She continued. “And church headache will no longer be his problem.” She smiled at him. “You can now sleep well, and let someone else take your headache.”
Kent hoped the sarcastic speech will end. It didn’t.
“Can the new leader preach, and will he be able to take a message today? Or he needs to be given ample notice?”
Mama Jumi directed the question at Favour, who shrugged. “I have no idea, Mama. We found him in a village in the East.”
Kent shifted his weight from one foot to another. After four days locked in the study, he had no doubt, God will move on his behalf if he is allowed to minister to the people. Especially now, if these were the people he was going to preside over, he understood why Lara insisted he “show power.”
These were lions, and their mouths needed to be shut.
“Your treacherous wife hid him, right?” Mama Jumi squinted at Lara. “You.”
The culprit fell on her knees and to the surprise of the Etims, burst into tears.
“I’m sorry, Mama. I don’t know what came over me. Please, Mama. Why? Me of all people. After all you had done for me. Please forgive me.”
For a moment, Annie thought she joked but real tears poured down her cheeks. Her husband hissed and some of the other people in the group too. Kent wished he had the chance to say something but he feared his words at this moment would only heat up an already tense atmosphere.
He looked at the most powerful woman in the church. There was no hint of love or compassion in the hard eyes he saw. The woman had also refused to make eye contact with him.
“What does one do with a useless child before?” She turned to Favour. “Worship has started.”
Unceremoniously, someone opened the door, and they walked on to the large, and beautifully furnished and decorated altar area.