Hi everyone. This is welcoming you guys to my latest story on thepassionchronicles. Please Read. Learn and Share, and be sure to read the next episode same time next week.
“Ifeanyi…Ifeanyi…Ifeanyi…!” My Pastor grabs the lifeless body of his ten year old son, who has just been certified dead by the doctors at Holy Cross Clinic. He screams helplessly visibly shaken by the events of the past weeks.
I can see the agony on Pastor’s face; his tee-shirt is soaked in sweat, and his hands shake so vigorously that the boy’s body vibrates visibly in his hands. His face twitches uncontrollably, and his body writhes in pain. Watching from the door to the theatre where I stand I cannot hold the tears back from my eyes.
“It is enough Lord! It is enough already!!” My words are now audacious. I know I am speaking to God, but the incidents I have witnessed have shaken me to my marrow. In just two weeks I have seen grass from grace. Everything is gone. Everything! Right now, Mama is in what used to be the church parsonage rummaging through the remains of the building razed down by a mysterious fire two nights ago.
“If you will not have mercy, Please stop this rage.” He is listening, I know. He is God. Ever present in all situations; but will he answer? I sincerely pray this will be the final onslaught. After today I will not need to be reminded that the Almighty God is a mighty and terrible God. I am more than a witness at the pew. I was there at the beginning, but before I leave at another beginning, you must hear my story.
After my Aunt Francesca got married to Pastor Uche Isaiah, I was sent by my grandparents to live with them to assist with raising their kids and in turn, they were to send me to the University. Today, I am a graduate of Economics and I work with an investment bank here in Lagos. I am not only indebted to Pastor Uche and his family for all the assistance rendered, I am also very grateful to God for the lessons of many years that I will never forget.
At the time I started living with The Isaiah’s, Pastor Uche had just started a Pentecostal church in the heart of Ikeja. I remember a funny picture we took at the altar on his thirty second birthday at our first church auditorium which was on the ground floor of a three storey building opposite Alade Market. I wore a red hat that Aunty Francesca passed down to me, and it was slanted over my face from the right side. My red gown was visibly below my knees, not because I planned it so, but because it was handed down by my Aunt who was not quite a five footer. Pastor Uche spotted a double-breasted black blazer with gold buttons, a white polo shirt, brown chinos and a pair of brown brogues to match. He used to tell us in church that he was dressed for the top.
At seventeen, my aunty and Pastor gave me a chore which I had to attend to every Monday morning before leaving for my extra-mural classes where I was taking lessons for entrance examinations into the University. I made it to the university only four years after, but that’s a story for another day. My chore was to leave the house immediately after devotion at 6am on Monday mornings, and head to the church for a thorough cleaning before Pastor resumed work at 10am. He was a full-time Pastor who studied accounting; those days men of God usually abandoned their respectable vocations to serve God.
On this fateful Monday morning in the month of June, 1998 I boarded a bus from Ketu bus stop going to Ojota, which was just a few minutes drive without the Monday-morning traffic jams in Lagos. Usually I would alight at Ojota bus stop and take a commercial motorcycle or if you like okada that will drop me off right in front of the church. It was a routine I was used to, but surprisingly on this day I woke up in the bus an hour and a half later when the bus conductor shouted at me to pay my balance as the other passengers in the bus alighted. Startled by his request, I looked around me and realized I was in “Isale- Eko”. The bus was meandering slowly through one of the narrow streets with bad bumpy roads while some area boys hopped around and some stood at what was supposed to be bus stops with wraps of lit Indian hemp in their mouths. Scared stiff, I hissed at the bus conductor and stuck a new hundred naira note in his palms. Immediately I jumped down from the bus I kept moving; I knew I was easy prey to the area boys around, so I could not afford to ask any questions about my exact coordinates. In Lagos you keep moving or you get nicked. I clutched my handbag under my armpit and walked with a straight face and tightened fists in preparation for the worst eventuality. My lips muttered prayers like “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I shall fear no evil…for though art with me…thy rod …and thy staff”…
After a few meters of power walking, I realized I was in more trouble than just finding myself in the midst of urchins in Lagos. The church had not been cleaned, and it was very likely Pastor Uche will arrive there to find his office in the same state he left it the previous day. I was in no mood for messages on Excellence from Pastor Uche, so I decided to hop on the next okada in sight to be taken all the way back to Ikeja. Forgetting to negotiate the cost of my fare I shouted “Ikeja” into the ears of the rider. He sped through the streets and over the bridges, while my million braids blew wildly in the air. The putrid smell of stale water from the water bodies made me sick but I felt more terrible when I realized it was already 9.30am.
The rider halted with loud screeches from the wheels of his motorbike, and I jumped off immediately handing him a two-hundred naira note before disappearing into the compound which housed the three storey building of where The Pentecost Church was the ground floor. My racing breath stopped when I realized the door was still locked. It was obvious Pastor had not resumed at work that morning. Looking behind me to confirm it was not his Honda Accord that was parked across the street, I grabbed the bunch of keys and fumbled with the keyhole. I had to open the door quietly so as not to announce my tardiness to the officers in the chambers above us since some of them were well acquainted with Pastor Uche.
Once inside, I opened the door wide and walked through the hall, which would have been a sitting room in the 1970s when the house was built. There were three rooms in the flat beyond the terrazoed hall; the first was the finance office where money was counted after services, while the second room was used as the Children’s church. I walked past these two on the right and walked straight to the most important room which was Pastor Uche’s office. Standing in front of it I leaned back to look through the passageway that led to the hall way to confirm that Pastor had not yet arrived.
With the coast clear, I slid the key inside the lock effortlessly and turned the knob. In one push I was inside the room, and the sight that welcomed me glued my feet to the ground as my mouths opened in shock.
My name Jennifer Asemota, .