8 FREELY – Inspiring!

Like a Noah and the Ark, the Etims packed up, and left Aba. They sold whatever they could and gave out the rest to church members. The news had made it a bit easier. The senior pastor over their mission called to encourage the family, and prayed for them. He didn’t understand it either but believed God was able to do anything for anyone.

There was no need to receive send-forth gifts because where the family was going was grand. Annie reminded the children to get rid of all their shabby clothes. Congregants moved in and out of the house the day before the family left, barely a week after the news broke.

Because their sold goods were worth near nothing, Kent borrowed money from several friends to hire a bus to move their personal effects to Lagos, promising to pay back as soon as a week’s time. It was an emotional farewell.

Kent’s assistant, Pastor Ekwu wept like a child. “I must visit you in Lagos, Pastor Kent.”

He patted his back. “Of course, you will, Pastor Ekwu. I don’t know what the policies of the church are, but I will incorporate heavy donations to missions. Especially ours.”

His words triggered something new in Pastor Kent. Indeed, the lifestyle of the missionaries was beyond deplorable. While these pastors in big cities wore expensive clothes, and lived like kings, people like Ekwu would borrow money almost every term to pay school fees for his two children.

Kent could recall several nights when his family would soak “garri” with salt for dinner. There simply wasn’t enough money to do anything. His leader suffered near as much as he did, so who could he blame?

A light burst free at the back of his head, and one reason for going to Lagos became clear – to help fund the mission field. God rejected the Nelson boys, and traveled all the way east of Nigeria to find him. It was for a purpose. This revelation inspired him more than anything else.

He hated to be judgmental but for two brothers to threaten to kill each other over something meant to be a life of sacrifice and service? Those boys did not see anything called ministry. They saw a private jet, and enough money to live anyway they wished. If the ministry would progress, those boys couldn’t be in charge. They reminded him of Eli’s sons.

“No, Pastor Ekwu, you are never going to be abandoned.”

The suitcases, newly bought, loaded in the 18-seater bus in the early hours of the day, the family boarded amidst tears and excitement. The children’s friends told them to visit again. Some pastors including Okere paced to and fro, twisting their faces as they spoke a prayer language no one understood, grunting and groaning intermittently. The whole street was awake, and cheering the great but simple man who had lived in their midst for five blissful years.

“Driver, we will stop at the salon, please.” Annie called out as the driver pulled into the bastardized road off the house.

Kent looked at her. “What for?”

His wife avoided his gaze. “Chioma.”

He arched an eyebrow. “That’s true. She didn’t even come to the house to help with last minute packing.”

Annie busied herself on her phone. “She’s coming with us.”

Six people chorused. “To where?”

Annie gasped. “To Lagos. You people think I will move into some big house without someone to—to—”

“To gossip with!” Edidiong shook his head. “No, Mum. She’s not coming. God forbid.”

Kent lowered his voice. “You didn’t tell me about this.”

“Of course, I did. You were too busy to listen to anything I said.”

The driver pressed his horn. “Is it this salon?”

Annie looked outside. “Yes.”

Chioma stood by the entrance of the small salon with two big bags, and a raffia one. Edidiong groaned and muttered.

Eno snapped. “Edidiong, behave yourself.”

“What is she coming for? Mum just likes to complicate things for everyone.” He hissed. “I don’t like her, simple.”

Chioma rolled her eyes at him. “I know how to get you.”

The driver piled her bags on the rest, and within minutes, they were back on the road.

Kent said softly. “Eno, please pray for us.”

After the prayers for safety and security throughout the journey, Chioma removed a bag she’d brought into the vehicle with her, with packaged food and drinks, and handed out a meal to each occupant.

They gave thanks individually and dug into the food. No one made any chatter. It was as much a time for bonding, as well as sober reflections.

This wasn’t the first time the family would pack up and leave a town or village. It was however, the first time they would be moving to something extremely different from the life they had ever lived.

It was a long trip from Aba to Lagos by road. The 600-kilometre distance took double the time due to some bad patches along the way. But the family kept themselves busy. Chioma, a fantastic cook, had prepared an assortment and several times handed out packs to the passengers from the breakfast meal of yam and egg sauce to a proper lunch, and puff-puff, fried meat and chin-chin in between.

Edidiong grudgingly agreed taking her along wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Kent also broke his silence and cold attitude toward his wife. The rebuke for not informing him she had such plans would wait till another time.

As soon as they saw the sign post, “Goodbye from Ogun state,” Annie broke into songs of praise. The family took it up.

The Revive the World international headquarters was about a kilometre on the outskirts of Lagos. It had gotten dark, and if not for the street lights, and well-illuminated buildings, the beauty of the edifices on the premises would have been lost. The children sat up and glared.

Kent directed the driver to the hotel. This was it. They were here. He told the children to wait in the car with Annie, and walked into the grand hotel. After what seemed like forever, and he didn’t return, his wife went inside too.

She found him leaning against the marble reception desk. No one was in sight.

“What is happening?”

Kent frowned. “They said there is no booking.”

“Aha? No booking? Didn’t you speak with Pastor Favour?”

“He wasn’t picking my calls, so I sent him a message we’re coming.” He took his phone and walked toward the entrance, dialing.

Annie gasped. “This man has finished us.”

 

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TUESDAY ROSE BUSHES – STALKER

Intro…

What started as a silly bet turns to a race for survival…

I have never written a full thriller before, but I want to challenge myself. Of course, you will have your dose of romance (can’t do without it, lol.)

So I want us to do some stuff on this story together. Let’s profile the characters together.

For the next few Tuesdays, I’d please crave your indulgence to vote on who the antagonist and protagonist will be…what city should they live in…what jobs should they have? ETC.

I will post the options, and we will vote.

Do you agree? Vote now.

Thank you! I’m giddy with excitement. This will be fun.

 

… continues next week…

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/night-stalker-person-scary-hide-423704/

MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

Sunday was hot, outside and in Aaron’s three-bedroom apartment in Ikoyi. He was jittery, and dropped stuff a couple of times. He made me nervous too. The apartment was in a six-story block of thirty similar condos. I could imagine what he paid as rent.

Inside was neat, and designed in cool colours, shades of blues and greys. It was clean like professionally done.

Aaron stood close behind me and I felt the heat from his body. “Shirley.”

I moved forward. “Your place is nice.”

“It needs a woman.”

I breathed. “Your kitchen needs me. Where is it?”

He took his time, and I dared not turn to him. “This way.” He walked down a corridor. “Let me show you the house.”

I wanted to get angry. Turn this to a fight, and challenge him for tricking me over. But I also recognized a man-in-heat. Wisdom was profitable to direct. Aaron would not force me. But I would not let him lure me either.

The rooms were nice, beds made, I made a comment.

“Do you have people living with you?”

“Friends come around sometimes. My housekeeper comes every day except Sunday.”

Ah, I thought. I should have been here yesterday. But no, it would have betrayed Salome. She needed me to stay in her salon while she went for the wedding job.

“Do you like it?”

We stood in the middle of his bedroom. The king-size bed loomed ahead of us, made with white sheets and covers. Dark blue blinds were drawn and my feet seemed to sink in the white rug beneath me. The room was cool, which accentuated the sweat trickling down my back.

The room was beautifully designed, with an artwork, and a huge TV set, bigger than any I’d seen before, refrigerator too.

“It’s very nice.”

I felt his hands on my shoulders, and his breath fanned my neck. “You are so beautiful, Shirley. You tempt me beyond reason. I want you.”

I took several deep breaths as I tried to concentrate on what he was doing. His hands fell limp on my hips, and he took small bites off the exposed part of my neck, which my turtle neck failed to cover.

I should have known this would happen.

The cliché phrase, we can’t, came to my lips but I refused to utter them. Aaron knew. He planned this. No words would stop what he had in mind. I reacted like a warrior. I stepped out of his embrace as brisk as I could and walked to the door.

“Would I need to do some shopping?” I said breathlessly.

I didn’t wait for his response. He hadn’t shown me the kitchen so I had to find it. Poor guy. He didn’t come after me, and I thank God for that. In answer to my question, I didn’t need to go shopping. His deep freezer was stocked, and so was his pantry. I loved well-equipped kitchens, and this was most definitely one. The size wasn’t exceptional, but again, it looked professionally designed and arranged.

I took out ingredients for melon soup, and vegetable soup. Oh crap, I didn’t ask what he’d like, but it was too late to do so. I rolled up my long sleeves, took off my high heels, and got to work.

I was half-way through when I heard his shaky voice behind me.

“Marry me, Shirley.”

 

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 – 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.