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.”