15 FREELY 2 – PAROCHIAL

Two options came to Pastor Kent’s mind. First, to take his wife back to Mama Jumi’s house and confront her. Second, to take her home to his family, and his former pastor. He’d been a part of many gatherings where deliverance was done for people under a spell or demonic attack. It puzzled him his wife could be affected by this kind of attack though.

On one ground, Annie was a strong praying woman, and how could she be thrown into such a hole, struck down without a fight. On the other hand, were the leadership of the Revive the World Ministries fetish? What did this attack mean?

Questions no one could answer.

Pastor Kent took a decision. He called his secretary, Pastor Funke the following morning and had her book first class tickets for his family. He wanted a direct flight to Uyo, and arrangements for accommodation and transportation.

He did not tell her, or anyone how long he would be gone, or for what reason. He didn’t want Funke or any of the ministers from the church on the trip either.

“We are going to Uyo tomorrow morning,” he announced during the family devotion. “I have begun a fast for your mother, and I also want to take her away from here.” He sighed. “I don’t think she slept last night.” He covered his face, and sobbed, and everyone joined in.

My family may have been through rough times when we had nothing to eat or a place to sleep but nothing like this ever happened. My mind played evil tricks on me. Why would this attack be on our family when it seemed God had finally answered our many financial needs?

I sniffed. “We are all fasting with you, Daddy.”

Mama Pepper moaned around the house but no one offered any explanation for our sadness. Since Mum rarely showed up around the house, the staff didn’t think anything of it.

The following morning, we all arrived at the airport on time for the flight. A surprise visitor came to see us off. Favour’s wife, Lara. I held my mum’s hand tight when she approached us as we came out of the vehicle at the airport.

Festus brought down our luggage and got a trolley. I would have assisted him but I flanked Mum with Dad, ready for whatever Lara had to say.

Her voice was clipped, her expression blank. “We heard you were leaving. I thought I’d meet you here, and ask why. Since no one seemed to know.”

Dad’s voice broke. “Who’s we?”

“My husband and I. But pride prevented him from coming.”

Kent Etim, the seasoned man of God, who seemed to be experiencing a whole new life, narrowed his eyes, and uttered words I had never heard from him before.

“Lara, leave before I curse you.”

He didn’t wait for her response. He gripped his wife’s other hand, and we walked into the airport.

Dad may have his reasons for being angry, but those words were a battle rant. He had just told the people he led he was going to fight back. We didn’t yet know who or why Mum was deaf and dumb, but Dad wasn’t ready to give anything to chance.

The trip to Uyo was smooth and we arrived on time. We were checked into a five-star hotel, and then Dad, Mum, and me made the trip to see his mother.

Anyone would think this was archaic but Dad believed there were questions about his birth he needed to know. All his life, he’d been told his father died when he was a child, and his family didn’t want anything to do with him. It was acceptable. With the new discovery about the late Archbishop Nelson though, he needed answers.

Then he wanted his deliverance team to pray for Mum. And most important, he needed his mentor to give him direction. He had jumped into a deep pool he never imagined existed. God had to start speaking, and now!

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/

Advertisements

14 FREELY 2 – FUNDAMENTAL

No one offered any explanation for Mum going deaf and dumb. At the meeting, the late archbishop’s wife joked about calling her a rival, and offered us entertainment. She virtually joked about everything from Mum’s refusal to say a word, to our refusal to eat or drink anything.

Chioma and I were confused to say the least. We stared dumbfounded and answered questions posed to us. The former first lady then told Mum she was solidly behind her, and would do anything to make sure we fulfilled God’s purpose for our lives. She prayed for us, and dismissed us.

What about Pastor Anietie Etim who did not mutter a word throughout the meeting?

When we got into the car, I shook my mother. “Why are you not saying anything?”

Mum turned to me, and I died inside. The look in her eyes was blank. She could be anywhere in the world. I burst into tears. Chioma trembled and sobbed. Festus asked what was wrong, and Chioma told him.

“Ah, this is not normal.”

I ran to Dad when we returned and told him what had happened. He couldn’t understand either. He asked many questions we had no answers to. Why could Mum not talk? She was fine up until the woman walked in and summoned her to the seat. What did it mean?

Pastor Kent called all of the household, and formed a circle around Mum. We prayed and prayed but my mother did not utter a word. The unspoken suspicion hung in the air like the fart of a skunk. Had Pastor Annie been jazzed by her “rival”? Was it remotely possible for such a thing to happen in our midst?

After an hour of prayer with no result, Annie simply stared into space and could have been a mannequin, Pastor Kent ended the session and dismissed all. The children left for their different rooms, and he led his wife into their bedroom.

Shortly afterward, Edidiong entered my room, where I knelt by the bed weeping. He had Pastor Funke’s purse with him.

“I think we should tell Dad about this.” His eyes were bloodshot. “It may have something to do with Mum’s strange behaviour.”

I agreed so we called the others and went to our parents’ bedroom. Dad was praying, as to be expected. He opened the door after the second round of knocking, and let us in.

Mum sat on the bed with her back propped against pillows, her eyes as bright as day.

“There’s something we need to tell you, Daddy,” I said, applying all my energy to not break down and cry. “Maybe we should have since.”

I explained all that had happened, and Edidiong showed him the purse. He stared at the piece of paper for what seemed like forever. At this point, I couldn’t hold my tears anymore. For the first time in my life, I saw my father fall on his knees, and weep. His hands trembled with the missing puzzle of his life, his father’s identity.

He drew us into the circle of his arms, and we cried together. For a moment, I lifted my head to see what Mum was doing.

She stared into space.

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/

13 FREELY 2 – CONSPIRATORIAL

Pastor Kent had been the subject of prejudice before, and he knew how to handle it. The crowd may be more sophisticated but resentment smelt the same whether wearing a perfume or not.

This time as well, my dad decided to handle the news of deceit and bias just the way he’d done before. He ignored it and focused on the work ahead.

Starting with his family.

Monday was workfree at the church, like most other churches we’d been a part of, and since it was holiday period, Dad decided to take a little more time during the family devotion to educate us about the new environment we found ourselves. He was careful not to mention anything about the bitterness against us, and it got me a little worried. My father never hid ministry matters from us.

“What department are you going to join in the church? I want to send your names to the necessary leaders.”

His demand caught us off guard. However, it wasn’t so out of place. In our previous churches, we all worked in the church. With only a few available and willing members anyway, it was a no-brainer but none of us had ever chosen only one unit to work in because of the obvious lack of numbers.

I spoke first. “I will work with the media. I like the church magazine.”

Dad jotted it down. “Good.” He arched his eyebrow at Chioma and Edidiong. “Yes?”

Chioma shrugged. “I can join the drama department.”

Dad nodded. “Okay. But I also want you to be Mum’s PA.”

“She already is,” Mum mumbled and Chioma smiled.

“Mum, what about you? I will prefer if you are in a department while you lead the women’s fellowship.”

I gasped. “Mama Jumi is the women’s leader.”

“Your Mum will take over from her.” Dad wrote something down and shared a general look around the room. “Ima, Idara and Freke are automatically in the children’s church. Edidiong?”

The boy grunted. “I don’t know.”

“Then I will choose on your behalf,” Dad said and scribbled. “You will join the choir, and play in the band.”

Mum shrugged. “I will join the choir too.”

Ahh grrr.”

Everyone ignored the sound of disapproval from Edidiong, and Dad spoke on. “I will send your names and numbers to the relevant leaders. They will send you text messages so you’ll know their meeting days.” He glanced at each of us. “I need you to be committed. It is easy to say there are many people in this church and disappear in the crowd. We won’t do the same. God help us in this journey.”

I felt some sort of pity for Mum because of the position she found herself, having to take over from a woman who had done nothing to reach out. Dad helped by calling the woman and he fixed an appointment for Mum.

“You and Chioma will follow me,” Mum told me later.

She was to meet with Mama Jumi Nelson three weeks later, a day before the women’s monthly meeting. The anticipation was deafening. The late archbishop’s wife was said to have travelled out of the country and would not return till a few days to the meeting. Meanwhile, we all settled into the routine. I found joy with the media team members, who immediately accepted me into their midst.

School would soon resume, and we went with Mum, Mama Pepper, and Chioma for heavy shopping like we’d never done before. This aspect of our new lives lifted everyone’s spirit. Dad had given Mum a debit card with seeming unlimited funds. She just swiped away. We got a new wardrobe too, something long overdue.

Juwon and I remained secret and I found myself getting so attached to him, and increasingly unable to hide it but things had to remain the same. When school reopened, it would be difficult to meet and so we focused on our underground love affair.

Mum’s meeting with Mama Jumi was at the woman’s house. We were allowed into a massive waiting area with gold and silver themes, and leather furniture. After a full hour, our host waltzed in flanked by Pastor Lara, Favour’s wife, and another woman I never met before.

Mama Jumi looked surreal in a flowing white silk gown with a train. She covered her head with a veil, and smiled all the time.

The women with her took two single seats beside the couch she sat on.

“Come and sit with me, my rival.”

She patted the seat beside her and Mum went to take it. What can I say, my mother didn’t say a word throughout the visit.

And not afterwards.

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/

12 FREELY 2 – DISCRETIONAL

The quarrel came to an abrupt end. When my parents got home, they were sober but reconciled. They spoke in hushed tones, and retired to their room without joining the family for dinner.

Confronted with an organized hostility wasn’t what anyone bargained for. Dad knew people would be attached to the late archbishop and his family. He expected some would leave, and perhaps withdraw their finances and services. But ministers gathering to pray against him was a spiritual attack.

Mum slumped on to the floor in the privacy of their bedroom. “What do you think we have to do?”

“Tread softly. Pray.”

“He gave you a list. Can I see it?”

Dad took a sheet of paper from his pocket, and gave her. “I didn’t even look at it.”

She studied it. “He put the positions they occupy in the church.” Her head bobbed up and down. “Twenty-two. Prayer Minister. Church accountant. Outreach. Huh.”

“Did he put his name?”

“No.” She narrowed her eyes. “He should have. He put the names of the others who came to the meeting today.”

“So we can assume they were twenty-three in all?”

“It’s his word.” She stared at the list. “Favour and his wife are there too. And your secretary, Funke.”

“Funke doesn’t count herself as a minister. She didn’t come for the meeting today, but she was in church.”

Mum shook her head. “Of course, she’s a minister. Her husband is the pastor in Port Harcourt. Who came to fetch us with Favour, the first time.”

Dad gasped. “No. Funke is not married.”

Mum smirked. “She is. One of the women who visited me mentioned it.”

“Funke told me she is not married, and does not have kids.”

“She lied.” Mum heaved a heavy sigh. “Ah, God. How did we get here? This is like what they call sweet-pain. The pain looks more than the sweet though.”

Dad took the list from her. “You’re getting emotional again. What has this got to do with sweet or pain?”

“We’re in the middle of the red sea.”

“And it has parted. We just need to tread with faith and caution.” He folded the paper, and put it in his pocket. “I will call these ministers and ask why they were not in church.”

“Including the first lady?”

Dad arched his eyebrow. “You are now the first lady, Mrs. Anietie Kent Etim. And yes, including the former first lady.”

“You will burn yourself. Can’t you see how dangerous these people are? This is not ministry. It is an oil well. You came to steal from them and they will fight you.”

Kentoroabasi Etim stared at the floor. His wife was right but he couldn’t admit it yet. The battle was going to be tough and long, and he would lose if he took a wrong step.

“I want to tell you what happened with Pastor Sade. The one in charge of the property.”

She hadn’t told him about her visit because they got into the fight. After she related the incident, he nodded.

“Like I said, you need to be careful. If someone wants to come and check out the house, let them.”

“But someone I don’t know? She will enter our bedroom, see the things we have? No. This is my house.”

It was no use arguing. The situation at hand threw every one of us under the bus. With only a week in this new environment, Dad had not even started the work of leading such a big church. There would be challenges and now he had to deal with a conspiracy from within his cabinet.

“Do you trust the brother who reported this thing? The choir minister?”

Dad took his time to answer. Then with a low, gruff voice, he said, “I don’t.”

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/

11 FREELY 2 – DIMENSIONAL

That first week of our lives shaped everything else till we realized, looking back, we had started all on the wrong footing.

Pastor Kentoroabasi Etim, the new head of Revive the World Ministries wanted to do things right. His family believed he prayed about his new assignment, and took it serious, but unfortunately, this assignment wasn’t one with an orientation program. There was no probationary time to settle in. He had to land on his feet from the first day, and hit the ground running.

By Sunday morning, the tension between my parents was so thick, they were not even talking to each other, the first time I would experience such a thing in my seventeen years of existence.

Daddy climbed the pulpit and preached a moving message, which was nothing new. Perhaps it was me, and my siblings, but church seemed a little lean. Besides, half of the ministers were not in church. The wife of the late archbishop wasn’t and Dad had not been told of her whereabouts. The first pastor we met, Pastor Favour and his wife, were not in attendance either.

After service, Dad called a meeting with all the ministers in church. Mum wanted to carry over the aggression from home and thank God, I got wind of it before we left.

“How will you ever settle down here if you boycott ministers’ meetings, Mum?”

She shrugged in her stubborn way. “I don’t care. It’s your father’s church. Let him run it. He doesn’t care anymore.”

I shook my head. “Don’t let’s start what we can’t finish. If you shut yourself out now, others will start to shut you out too. You have to establish your presence.”

Mum smiled. “I’ve taught you well, this child.”

“I’m serious. Anything happens now, we will all suffer in the end.”

I pushed her toward Daddy’s office, the venue of the meeting.

She winked. “Don’t worry, I will give you a full report, madam journalism.”

“Good.” I clapped. “Now, go.”

The meeting was a long one and lasted over six hours. Kentoro shared the word of God from scriptures, encouraging the ministers about their responsibility toward the people of God.

“They are the sheep. We are to feed them. If this church goes down, it will not be Kentoroabasi God will punish. It will be you and me. Some hundred strokes, some sixty, some thirty.” He smiled. “And when the blessing of faithfulness, sowing and reaping comes, you and I will enjoy. Hundreds, sixties, and thirties.”

After the strategy meeting, several ministers waited to thank him, and to commit their loyalty to God and to him.

A young man, Pastor Praise, who led the music ministry, waited till everyone had left. He wanted to have private conference with Kent. Since Pastor Annie was there as well, he spoke to both of them.

Praise joined the church ten years earlier as a teenager, with his parents. Since then, he had been in the youth choir, and later the main choir. From the way he sang and led the music, one could conclude he had passion for what he did.

“Sir, I wanted to see you today, even if you didn’t call this meeting,” Praise said. “During the week, I got invited to a meeting in church. It was a prayer meeting by a few ministers. All the ministers not in church today, plus a few of us here attended.”

Kent smiled. “Thank God for that.”

Praise smirked. “Not so fast, sir. That meeting wasn’t in the dimension you expected. We, who attended, are not supposed to come to church today. In fact, another meeting was fixed today. I missed it.”

Annie gasped. “I thought it was a prayer meeting for the church.”

“Yes, ma. We prayed for the will of God to be done. We prayed for the current head of the church, and whoever else orchestrated this evil change, to die by fire.”

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/