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  By Jennifer N. Mbunabo

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

   

His voice was clear and sharp. Its resonance piercing me deeply, so much, that it lingered in my ears for long. He must be talking to me. The spirit must have revealed me to him. I incessantly accused myself.

“God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise!” Pastor David shrieked, stooping down the Alter and clamping the microphone. The congregation roused with excitement. The drummer in the choir beat the drum sporadically and the pianist fingered the keyboard in a long note. Some members stood and waved their white handkerchiefs and I heard the man behind me shouting “Ride on Pastor! You are saying the truth!”

 

Pastor David stood and whirled round the podium, he ran to the end of the Alter, back and forth. He stopped again and spoke so closely to the microphone. “I said, God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise!” The congregation went crazy with excitement.

“Calm down church, let me land.” He paused. “What did Jesus use to heal the blind man at the beautiful gate? Spit mixed with mud!”He ran down the podium and into the crowd. He signaled to the choir and started a song. “I said what did Jesus do to heal the blind man?”He pointed to the choir and they clung to their standing microphones. “Spit and mud!” they chorused. Pastor repeated the part of the song and they responded. There was a frenzy of excitement as the crowd sang along. After ten minutes of singing the pastor gestured everyone to sit. He climbed up to the Alter.

 

“In the book of 2 Kings 5, Elisha told Naaman to wash himself in that dirty river Jordan seven times so that he would be healed of leprosy. And what did he do after much grumbling?” He asked no one in particular, as the congregation did not respond. The sound of the piano played softly. He continued with a roar. “After he washed himself his leprosy was cured! Halleluyah!” Everybody chorused halleluyah and waved their hands in the air. Some women stood up and swerved from left to right before sitting down. The pastor continued. “The book of proverbs 5 verse 15 says, drink water from thy own cistern, flowing water from thy own well. Praise the lord!”. And the congregation chorused “halleluyah”.

 

My voice had become low. The young man sitting beside me nudged me and I looked up at him.

‘Brother, this is not how we do in this church oh!’He whispered.

I looked at him quizzically. What in the world is this man talking about. He held my hand and continued. “You must be a new member.”

I did not know if this was a question or statement of fact. I was stolid.

“Look we are never quiet in this church, this is not a cemetery. It is only in a cemetery that everywhere is quiet”. He was interrupted by an usher- a lady wearing a net see-through shifon top tucked underneath a bandage skirt. He nodded and placed his hand over his mouth. I shook my head and looked back at the usher. She smiled at me and I smiled back and my eyes narrowed down to her defined waistline and the rhythmic movement of her curved buttocks. I collected myself and listened to the pastor.

“You say you are a child of the father and you are running from one hospital to another, because of a small disease-even if it were a big one.” He stared intently and I felt he was trying to read me. He put his hand in his white laced trouser and screamed. “O ye of little faith!”

I swallowed hard. “There is nothing too big for the lord. The bible says drink water from their own cistern, flowing water from thy own well! And when you have a disease you are running up and down meanwhile the answer is within you.”

 

I thought of my uncle’s words in the past few days. This church is indeed real! I must change church. I was attending the church for the first time having been practically dragged here. Angela the usher that came to me a while ago disturbed me too much that I agreed merely because I had the intention of dating her. I felt that the closer I got to her, even though pretending I was interested in her church, the more she would follow me up as one of her new converts. I met her at the Pharmacy in June 12 shopping complex where I was dickering for ventolin, augumentin and predisolon tablets.

“Haba, all these for one person.” She said.

I blew my nose and turned my face in anger, only to let the anger slip away at the sight of her. I ran my eyes down her size and breathed hard. She had the most striking features ever.  ‘Yes I am asthmatic’I said bluntly.

 

‘Oh I am so sorry’. She said and lingered on till I bought my drugs. She did not come out preaching church to me. She started as a friend. I soon realized that we both attended the same lectures at the 500LT. Two weeks later, when she passed my hostel on her way to the lecture hall, she smiled at me. I called unto her in my heart and she replied with a dazzling set of arranged white teeth that I had never set my eyes on. Did she hear me? She sure could not have because my heart was not connected to a loudspeaker. Or maybe she was feeling me because we were meant to be together. The moment she smiled at me, I lost all sense of reasoning and I shouted” I love you Angelica”. That was the craziest thing I had done in my entire life. But I did not care. I would do this over and over again if fate would permit me. I usually saw her with Pastor Ben. She said he was her fellowship cell leader. I never really got to understand the relationship after the incident I had with him. I had one hell of a beating that day. I never knew   who told him what I did. He sure sent two hefty boys to mangle me, and I sustained injuries on my left arm and both legs which prevented me from attending lectures at school. As fate would have it, my Angelica came knocking on my door one early morning three days after the incident.

‘Joe, Joe’ she screamed for me. In my groaning my heart leapt for joy at the sound of her voice.

‘Yes, please come in’ I whispered. I knew she could not hear me but I just had to respond to my craving for her. She walked into my small cubicle all dressed in a pink turtle neck top with flower patterns and a blue skinny jeans on her curved hips. She was adorned with a pair of pink dropping earrings. She was simply amazing. I lay with my mouth wide open staring at this Nigerian goddess. Was she the daughter of a Greek goddess? Her skin shone like the morning sun, bright yet dull. What a contrast and a paradox. That was what she really was. She had the body of Delilah and the face of Genevieve, all in a sixteen year old. She walked towards me and touched my fore head with her well manicured hands, I was star struck, I felt she should stay glued to my side and never let go.

 

‘What is the matter? Why is your face swollen? Did you get yourself in a fight?’ She said this all in a rush and I did not know what to tell her. Do I tell her that her father figure Uncle Ben sent his area boys to beat me up because I expressed my feelings for her? No, that would be a stupid thing to do. It may drive my Angelica from me. So now what do I tell her?

‘Angi, some thieves attacked me on my way from school after my lectures, they wanted my phone and I was not ready to give it to them, so I fought with them’

‘That was a very foolish thing you did, you could have got yourself killed, all because of a phone. Anyway since I did not see you in class and I know you to be very punctual, I felt something must have gone wrong.’

Hearing these soft words spoken by her, made me long for her the more. I sure wanted her to be my girlfriend. She was so damn caring and sensitive. I didn’t know if this was the right time to say those words. Angelica, please make me a happy man and be my girl friend or just what? Suffer another beating.

‘Look I’ll go and get you some pain relievers, panadol and Ibrufin would do abi?”

I nodded. She then picked up her black woven bag, hurled it over her shoulder and left. I waited and waited for her to come back with the drugs but she never did. The following day she apologized for not coming and said she went on some errands for her Pastor. That was it!

 

After that incident I was more determined to find out who actually Pastor Ben was. Angela came to nudge me. She probably thought I was sleeping, but I was not. I closed my eyes to think of her. I jerked and saw her smile. I felt the hard stare of someone and I turned and saw Pastor Ben looking at me viciously. I smiled in return. I will get this girl even if I have to turn into a Pastor. After all, my neighbor who is in level one is already a Pastor. He laid hands supposedly on a sick patient and the person got healed instantly. Words got out on campus that he had the anointing and in a couple of weeks he was ordained a pastor of the cell meetings. I focused my attention back to the pulpit.

‘I said the answer is within you! Quiet everyone. I hear the lord. There is someone here who has been diagnosed with a terrible ailment- a terminal disease. You have taken drugs, gone to various hospitals. The lord said I should tell you to drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. You are here listening to the sound of my voice and you are wondering if I am talking to you. If you believe you are the one run down to the Alter and sow a mighty seed for the Lord!’

 

No sooner had he finished than men and women jostled down to kneel and drop squeezed naira notes and some in envelopes, others stood up and gave glory-their hands outstretched to the ceiling. Angela came to my side, hushing me with her hand. I could read her lips saying ‘go and sow seed’. I shook my head. I felt it was not a matter of sowing seed. It was a matter of drinking from my own well. The past weeks had been hell for me. During the morning and evening devotion my uncle had continuously told me to drink my urine to cure my asthma and he had constantly backed his sermon with the story of Naaman. That was why I felt the pastor was talking to me. This is the church I thought. My uncle must really be a man of God. From now on I must truly revere him. I had the gumption of drinking my urine first thing the following morning. But on second thought, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  

 

When the service was over, Angela asked me how I enjoyed it, I told her of my newest revelation about the church being the church for me.

‘Yes, Brother Joe, there are churches and there are churches! This is where the anointing is.’ I did not understand all she meant. But what I was certain about was that I wanted the anointing to be on my head so that Angela and I could share the word together and locked in each other’s arm go to the school hostels evangelizing for the lord. Her hands brushed mine and just then Pastor Ben came towards us.

‘Is this the new soul won to Christ?’He asked. He was pretending not to know me, after sending thugs to beat me up. From all that I had gathered he was a final year medical student.

 

‘Yes’ Angela giggled. ‘His soul is on fire, burning for the lord.’

I nodded to my burning desire for her. Pastor Ben shook my hands feebly and after a light hug from Angela they both left after insisting I come for the week day service at sports complex. I nodded my head grumpily and assured her I was going to come. I looked forward to every meeting with Angela. She had introduced me to everyone in her cell group and I was later assigned to work with her. Day by day we would enter the hostel to preach, I would stand afar off and she would pull me and I would refuse to go. In the buses I would chorus ‘amen’ and ‘halleluyah’ whenever she finished preaching. I guess this became a cause for concern to her- the fact that I appeared guilty of being a sinner unable to forgive myself and preach. I followed her to a leadership meeting on Tuesday evening at the hall 2 common room. And Pastor David’s words strung my ear again. There were no drum rolls to emphasize the efficacy of his words because the meeting was held in the female common room and students were reading in the next room. It was a female hostel.

 

He spoke quietly ‘The bible says that you are a new creature in Christ, old things have passed away and behold all things have become new.’ Angela touched my lap in that reassuring manner. I was distracted. Most of the time I felt she had feelings or love for me, aside the brotherly love she clings to, especially with the way she gives me that penetrating look and that unholy hug pressing the contours of her body on me. I shook myself back to reality.

‘How can you be a Christian and you are scared of casting out demons?’He stopped and searching our faces. He paused, walked around and swung his hand into his pocket, brought out a white handkerchief and wiped the sweat that had glistened to his forehead.

‘Open your bible to Luke 10 verse 19, ‘Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” He closed the bible and kept it on a desk. ‘O ye of little faith, how can you tell the world that you are a Christian when you are afraid to manifest your power. Did you not see Paul and Peter casting out devils, healing the sick and praying for people! I beg you my brethren, have faith in God!’He concluded the meeting by praying a vigorous prayer and admonishing us to do something for the lord. After the meeting, Angela held my hands and prayed that I would be an instrument for God. I want to be an instrument for you, I almost said aloud. It worried me that she did not revere me like Pastor Ben, she always rattled on about how Pastor Ben laid hands on the sick and they recovered. She also reminded me of an incident in the female hostel. She said a mad man had entered the hostel and all the girls were screaming and nobody could touch the man, but that a senior, female pastor sent for pastor Ben and when he came he just as little as lifted a finger at the mad man, murmuring inaudible words which I believe to be speaking in tongues and the mad man fell on the floor sobbing. That was when the Porters carried him out. Pastor Ben’s fame grew from that very day. I noticed her eyes sparkled whenever she spoke of him and I wondered if her eyes dwindled away when she mentioned me. Angela left me that evening after the usual unholy hug and I strolled to the popcorn stand. I purposed in my heart that I would make her proud of me. I was going to outdo Pastor Ben. And for the first time since I started her church I knelt down in my room and said a real prayer. I even kabashed much to my surprise. I did not know if my longing for that manifested it or if I was really baptized with the Holy Ghost. I prayed for an opportunity so that I would manifest that I have the mind of Christ. As serendipity would have it, the moment came that very night. I was in the love gutter as it was commonly called in the University of Benin – a dry gutter opposite the hall two female hostel where students sat comfortably only at night. I was sitting there when I heard shouts and screams. My bosom friend Daniel ran towards me shrieking in laughter.

‘O boy come see something o!’ He bent down.

‘Wetin be that? be serious guy!’ I stood up.

‘One girl jus throw way her cloth, say she wan die.’

‘Where?’ I jumped out of the gutter.

He pointed to the roof of Hall one female hostel, which was behind, on my extreme left. I looked and truly there was a figure with arms outstretched. I ran to the hostel, there was a crowd. A slim girl on a bra and pant was laughing hysterically and saying something about dying. I inquired about what happened and was told that she was reading in the reading room and all of a sudden started laughing and taking off her clothes, one after the other. I asked if anybody had gone up to help her. They said some guys tried but she overpowered them, but that they had sent for a certain pastor that specialized in the cases of mad people.

 

What! Not again, not again, not Pastor Ben, I won’t allow him to take this chance away from me. Who knows this may be the only chance I got. I quickly pushed through the crowd and entered the hostel. I jumped over a fleet of stairs and over the flyover. I was on the roof, exactly near the mad girl. I looked at her body, she had a round tempting backside and I remembered Omotola in Nollywood. I shook my head, I cannot be lusting after a girl I want to cast out demon from. I remembered the words of Pastor David. ‘The righteous are as bold as a lion!’Yes I am righteous, as a believer and also bold. I started to rehearse and chant. ‘God has not given me the spirit of fear, I shall say to this mountain, be moved and cast into the sea. How can you be a Christian and be scared of casting out demons!’ I was fully charged now. I heard some footsteps, I heard the crowd cheering and I was happy. Yes the crowd is cheering me, they know I’m the man. The footsteps persisted and I turned, only to see Pastor Ben. No way, I cannot allow him to take my glory. So I rushed forward. I heard his footsteps stop. I was glad. This is my show, come on baby. The mad girl charged and whirled around so fast to face me, her breasts bounced at her turn. I quickly focused my attention on her face. Her eyes blazed with fire.         

 

‘Leave me alone!’ She seemed to say, her voice was husky, more like five men were speaking through her at the same time.

‘I command you in the name of our lord to get out of her, in Jesus name’ I said. She laughed. And I summoned courage to say it again,

Then she said, ‘Paul I know, Peter I know, Pastor Ben I know, but who are you?’ 

Before I recollected myself, I felt a loud bang on my face and I dropped to the floor, I saw stars. She proceeded towards me. I crawled back in retreat. My eyes had shrunk back inside and I was gravely afraid. This mad girl may kill me. She brought out her cat claws. I shut my eyes and suddenly I heard that familiar voice.

 

‘I command you to leave now, you mammon spirit!’ It was Pastor Ben’s voice and immediately to my surprise this mad girl fell face flat to the floor and did not move. Pastor Ben slid past me and winked. Did he just wink at me? Did he just say mammon spirit? This did not look like the work of mammon or money. It looked like the work of Pastor Ben. I quickly ran out of the hostel amidst the sympathy I received. I went to my room and took out the olive oil that was stashed away, given to me by my uncle. He called it the devil’s destroyer. I opened it, downed some drops and rubbed my swollen cheek. And I hoped it destroyed whatever spirit that had been imbued in me.

 

 

 

BY

    JENNIFER N. MBUNABO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Soul: A Short Story by Jennifer N. Mbunabo

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