Hello folks. Welcome to the final episode of The Witness at The Pews. Writing this story has been most challenging for me because at some point I felt some of you did not catch the drift. I pray, however, that this final episode will find it’s expression. Please join me on twitter @ajoyosowande at12pm on Tuesday as we share lessons from this story using hashtag #WATP. Read. Learn. Share. And don’t forget to leave your comments.
It was a few minutes past 2am on this fateful Sunday morning, my sleep was cut short after just one hour by a knock on my door. Naturally, I guessed Aunty Francesca or one of the children was at the door, so I called for the door to be opened.
“It’s me Uncle Uche. Can I come in?”. I looked around the room wondering if there had been anything that could be of interest to Pastor Uche because he hardly ever entered my room.
The door opened with a slight creak, and Aunty Francesca peeped through the small open space.
“Your uncle would like to talk to you.” She was wondering if I was properly dressed while my mind roamed through my head looking for a good reason her husband would want to see me in the middle of a Sunday night. A part of my head suggested something was amiss, but the other part said a miracle is here.
“Sure Aunty. You are both welcome.” I responded seconds after noticing that my Aunty Francesca’s face was stained with tears.
The event of the next couple of minutes proved to me without a doubt that God answers even the most mundane of prayers. Pastor stood in the middle of the room and uttered only a few words.
“Jennifer, I have come to tell you as your uncle and Pastor that I am sorry if I have hurt you with my actions since you started living with us.” The confidence in his voice was an obvious contrast to the guilty expression on his face. He had an obvious struggle between his ego and his conscience but I understood quite perfectly.
The rest of the words he spoke got entangled in my reminiscences of the things I had witnessed as a member of his household and a member of the church. My mind flew to several members, including married women he had dealt with treacherously. Some marriages had suffered irreparable losses as a result of pastor’s uncontrollable libido.
“Why do I deserve this apology?” I realized my question was strange but I needed to know if the church deserved an apology as well.
“It’s not that you deserve the apology, your uncle has decided to apologize to all and sundry. He decided to start from his home.” Aunty Francesca stared at the floor.
Suddenly I realized the answer to my prayers that Pastor Isaiah be restored came with dire consequences. The consequence of a sin could be limited to the sinner and his God, but apology, especially to a church would most likely come with graver consequences.
“Is he going to apologize to the church?” I asked.
“I will stand and bear this shame with him. We realize the outcome of this choice is unknown.” Tears rolled down my aunty’s eyes as she spoke. I did not need to ask any further questions. Making such a choice definitely comes with untold agony and pain. If a man has agreed to go to the gallows by himself, the question of guilt must be relegated to the background. The big question was now where do we go from here?
My eyes became misty as Pastor Isaiah walked out of my room with aunty Francesca behind him , I found the strength to say something.
“Sir, as you battle for your soul, your family, and the church may you yet find God again.” There was no doubt that the man that stood before me was a great man of God, but he had been undone by his weaknesses.
Suddenly Pastor Isaiah stopped in his tracks and shouted.
“He will show you how far the East is from the West.” I prayed. I could not fight the tears that rolled down my eyes. Adrenaline rushed through my body, and I quavered realizing the privilege I had to live with this man of God for so many years and be a part of this story. When they left the room I knelt beside my bed , covered my head with a pillow and burst into uncontrollable tears. The fraility of my human nature was now bare before me, and I saw my life played before me like a film in the cinema. I have never been above mistakes. The last time I slept in my fiance’s house, we almost had sex. Didn’t Jesus say that I have sinned the moment I conceived the idea to sleep with a man I was not married to? I never told him I stole a kiss with Segun, my team leader last Friday while we waited for traffic on the island to subside. I cried and asked God to forgive me in my frailities.
Don’t wanna end up where you found me
And it echoes in my mind, Keeps me awake tonight
I know you cast my sins as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before you now , As though I’ve never sinned
But today I feel like I’m just One mistake away
From you leaving me this way
Jesus can you show me just how far the east is from the west
Cos I cant bear to see the man I’ve been
Rising up in me again
In the arms of your mercy I find rest
I sang the song by Casting Crown in tears, asking God to forgive me. I had prayed sincerely for Pastor Isaiah all these years, but now was the time to remind myself that I am scarcely any better than him.
I woke up the next morning on my knees. Not that I slept in that position knowingly but I will do that again for the joy of forgiveness.
The ride to church was most uneventful. The two children stared into open space without a word, and I began to wonder if they had been aware of the events of the night. Aunty Francesca kept wiping her face with her handkerchief, while I looked into Pastor Isaiah’s face through the rear view mirror. From where I sat behind, I could tell that he wished the ground will open and swallow him up.
I was relieved when I discovered that according to the church calendar Pastor was not scheduled to preach that morning. Pastor T, the head of church administration took the podium immediately after the praise and worship session, and almost as soon as he started preaching a group of Deacons and some church members headed towards Pastor Isaiah shouting.
“We need to know the truth!”
Pastor T’s call for order was ignored as this group of men gathered around the Pastor asking for answers. They blocked out the head of protocol and his crew.
“This is mutiny!” I said to myself weighing the options as I looked across the hall into the eyes of people seated in the congregation, most of whom were now standing and stretching their necks to catch a piece of the action that was taking place at the altar. My friend, Emeka, who was the head of the Camera crew abandoned his camera and ran towards the crowd. In a few minutes, he wrestled his way through the mob with the protocol team leader while they struggled to keep hands away from Pastor Uche. I walked quietly down hall watching as these men pulled at Pastor Uches’s clothes and his hands.
The hall was soon filled with the chant of rebellion and hatred. “We want answers. We want answers!”
I located Aunty Francesca in the crowd and saw her holding on tight to her husband shouting energetically.
“Leave him alone. Leave him alone. He is first of all my husband…” The noise drowned most of her words.
Emeka, in his diplomatic manner told the people that Pastor will speak, if only they gave him some space. His statement caught everyone’s attention, and He signaled to Pastor T, who took the opportunity to ask that everyone returned to their respective seats. Legs shuffled, and murmurings filled the church as people made their way to their seats.
Pastor Uche walked up to the pulpit a few minutes later with his microphone strapped to his ears and hanging from his mouth. My fears were founded when I heard his voice through the speakers.
“I have often preached forgiveness on this pulpit; repentance, and restitution where there is a need.”
Aunty Francesca joined him shortly after he started and stood beside him while he spoke for about ten minutes about the Angela Spiff episodes in the newspapers until he finally found the courage to say what some feared to hear from their invincible Pastor, and some wanted to hear in order to stand as judges.
“I am sorry I messed up several times. I know I have disappointed many of you. Please forgive me.” He said with his arms resting on the lectern while his hands shook.
The silence that ensued was broken by one of the Deacons who stood up and called for the resignation of Pastor Uche Isaiah. Pastor Uche stood his ground saying he was the one given the vision to run the church and that anyone who believed he could no longer be their Pastor was free to leave the church.
The church erupted into what seemed like a market place of countless merchants. Some men surged down the aisle towards the pulpit while protocol members and Pastors surrounded Pastor Uche. Most members of the choir packed their bibles and walked out, and a service that started with a full auditorium was reduced to less than half in a few minutes. People took their leave one after the other, and I ran after a friend of mine who was on her way out.
“Tade, tade..” I called out to her breathlessly.
“What? Is it because he is your uncle? The whole choir had been disbanded even before this service. We had all decided to leave for another church. Do you know how many girls he slept with in the choir alone?”
“I don’t know, but I have an idea how many guys you have fornicated with in this church.” I quipped wryly.
Tade’s face wrinkled up as she stole a glance at me.
“What happened to the God of second chances the choir sings about all the time?” I asked. Tade stopped to seat on the flower bed outside, and took a long look at me. The world around us stood still for a few seconds.
“I am not asking you to stay in the church, but make sure you are leaving out of a conviction not out of unforgiveness or bitterness.” I held my friend by the hands.
“He should not have announced in church. I would feel better if I never knew the truth.”
Apparently people were leaving the church for different reasons. People like Tade would have defended their Pastor, and not the truth. The revelation of the truth by the actor himself stings them to the marrow, it continues to burn inside them and instead of allowing the dross of their own imperfections burn to ashes, they move on to the next church like vagabonds. Some other persons decided to leave because they believed they were too holy to behold iniquity.
I saw men pushing their wives into the cars and screeching out of the compound, and one of them was my former Head of Department at the University; a man who was notorious for keeping a couch in his office where he deflowered young freshers on campus.
The service came to an abrupt end when news filtered in that our house was on fire. The rest of the story brings us to the emergency room where I stand watching the lifeless body of Ifeanyi in Pastor’s hands.
“God. Pleaaase…pleaaaase.” Pastor cries on his knees. The healing anointing that had raised dead people on several occasions had dissipated into helpless tears.
“Please Lord, it is enough. Let your rage pass.” I plead with God.
Without doubt, sin has untold consequences but from now I am quick to remember the words of Jesus “let him who has no sin cast the first stone”. I have learnt to judge my sins and leave the stones for Jesus.
“ Jesus , please show me how far the east is from the west.”
Don’t forget to join me @ajoyosowande 12pm on teusday using the hashtag #TWAP : lessons from The Witness at The Pew.