Ovie was in the car with Pastor Allen. He usually sat by the driver but his boss had asked him to sit beside him as he opened the door for him to get into the car that evening. Unbuttoning his powder blue blazer, he arranged the dailies so that Pastor Allen could reach for them if he so desired. He wondered why the man was so moody. The day had gone well; a number of staff had come in with good reports on the progress of their branches and a member had even wired a huge sum of money into the pastor’s account just to show appreciation for his mentorship.
“Why isn’t this man ever excited about anything? If I were the one, I would have been smiling like I am high on something.”
Pastor Allen cleared his throat as they pulled out of the parking lot of the impressive grounds they currently rented for their church services. He beckoned on Ovie to lean closer till he was sure the driver would not overhear their conversation.
“Why are you not married, Ovie?” he asked.
The young man was taken aback. He gaped at his pastor of eight years who he had lovingly served even when there was no money to pay him a salary. Undoing his tie to buy himself time, he wondered what the right answer was to the question.
Ovie visited Revelation Christian Assembly fellowship in his university campus for the first time on the Sunday that Pastor Allen was invited to preach. He had been invited by a fellow fresher who he had been asking out for months with no positive results. She told him that P.A. (as they called him), was the founder of the fellowship, who had graduated and begun a branch in Lagos that was just a few members strong. Ovie was uninterested in the members jumping up and down, cheering as though their favourite football team had just scored. All he cared about was (a) the end of the service when refreshments would be served as his love interest had promised and (b) the walk home when he would mesmerize her with the poem he had composed the night before by the waning light of his rechargeable lamp while other students pored over their books.
Pastor Allen turned out to be a very captivating speaker, using vivid imagery and simple words to pass across an evocative message. Ovie found he was unable to focus on his “soon-to-be-girlfriend’s” titillating backside which initially haunted him as she weaved up and down the aisles, ushering in guests. He began to wonder if the man was using some sort of magic potion or had hypnotic powers. Suddenly, he felt as if he was being addressed personally.
“There is somebody here; you came in to get the attention of a sister but today, the Holy Spirit is arresting you. Like Saul of Tarsus, you are under an assignment. Come to the front of the hall and surrender your life to Christ,” he heard the pastor bellow.
Ovie cast a furtive glance about him. All heads were bowed. No one was watching him.
“That girl must have reported me! Is it that serious? Hian! She could have just told me she wasn’t interested. These people want to use me to promote their brand…”
The pastor kept calling for people to come to the front for healing, salvation and so on but, Ovie sat tight. He even crossed his legs so no wind would blow him off his seat. It was common knowledge that Pentecostals were not to be trusted. They believed in signs and wonders and often went to great lengths to procure them.
Just before Pastor Allen took his seat, he looked into the congregation and uttered a chilling prophecy.
“If you are the one I gave that word for, see me after the service. God has called you and if you reject the call, you will be swimming upstream.”
Ovie shuddered in his seat but sat tight. By the time the jellof rice and chicken were served, his mouth was too dry for him to enjoy it. He rose, stony-faced, and headed for the exit, walking briskly. Buchi who had invited him sashayed over with a smile to thank him for coming but he brushed her off. She stepped back, shocked. He dashed out as if his trousers were on fire.
Two months later, he went over to Buchi’s room, apologized for avoiding her since the service and asked for Pastor Allen’s phone number. It had been a turbulent two months. First, he was mistaken for a member of a dreaded cult by rival cult members and beaten to nearly an inch of his life. It was his phone which rang and interrupted them; inadvertently saving his life. One of them had snatched the phone to smash it when he noticed his name on the wall paper. That was how they dispersed like spilled milk.
Shortly after he was discharged from the hospital, he was told that a lecturer was heard boasting that he would deal with him. When he responded to the man’s summons, he accused him of going after a girl who he was also interested in and warned him to stay away or face the consequences. Ovie kept explaining that he did not know the girl in question but to no avail.
The third incident that made him realize that he was up against more than he could handle was the theft of his school fees. He was on his way to the bank to pay it after withdrawing it from his own account. The money was hidden in the sole of his shoes, within his sock. Out of the blues, a group of three young men armed with pistols stopped the bus he was on. They robbed all the occupants of their valuables but no one was asked to take off their shoes. He had already surrendered his phone and the money in his breast pocket when they asked him to take off his shoes. Carefully, he took them off, making sure they did not see the bulge under his foot.
“Take off those socks!” one of them barked.
“Huh?” he asked, as though partially deaf.
“I say pull off the socks! You dey mad?”
He took them off, praying that their eyes would be blinded to his money.
“What is that?” one of them shouted.
They snatched the money from his trembling hands and descended on him. Ovie felt the kicks, the punches, the blows, but he knew no pain. He had retreated into another realm, where there was no pain or sorrow.
“Lord,” he prayed. “If you let me live, I will serve you all my days. Spare me for my mother’s sake.”
I will endeavor to post twice a week so you don’t lose touch with the story. Thanks for reading.
Cheers, Dr. N