SOWING FOR THE LORD 2
The walk out of the office back to the car was a long one, one the bishop, prophet made reluctantly. Mrs. Obi had directed him to give his phone number to her secretary, that she would call him when she had the time. He liked finishing with a case before moving on to another.
If Mrs. Obi thought that he would sit around the phone waiting anxiously for her call then she was mistaken. He didn’t have that time. As a matter of fact he wasn’t even the one that had given his contact details to the woman’s secretary. It was his assistant. And she’d had to wait for a while before the snobbish secretary found the time to attend to her.
Who did that woman think she was to try to make a man of God wait on her secretary? Earlier when they walked into the outer office, the bishop had been forced to bank down the anger that rose in him when Margaret Obi’s secretary told him to sit and wait for the woman, even after he introduced himself.
The titles that preceded his name, titles that showed the number of mantles that God had laid on his shoulder were not even enough to cow the young lady into showing him the respect he deserved.
He knew these kind of people. People who had gotten so rich that their wealth made them to question the relevance of God in their lives. The woman thought she was doing him, she didn’t know that she was doing herself.
When he stepped out of the administrative building which housed Margaret’s office the prophet stood for a brief moment to survey the magnificence of the other buildings that lay in the compound before him. The cobbled compound was filled with kids, kids who were from rich families and learned in air conditioned classes under degree and masters holders who taught them with the latest electronic gadgets as teaching aids.
The school, Inner City High School, was one of the best schools in town. He was sure that the fees for a single kid here could see his four children through primary and secondary school.
Okongwu sighed and resumed his walk to the section of the compound made out for the parking of cars. Sister Ruth, his assistant trailed him silently, carrying her big bible close to her chest. Sometimes Bishop Okongwu wished he could convince her to shelve that big, fat thing in favor of a smaller Bible. The efficacy of the word was not in the size of one’s bible. Besides, big bibles belonged at home where they could be used for daily, in-depth studies of the word, and not here on her chest where they were blocking the things God had given her from the view of those who were willing to admire God’s handiwork. He himself usually read the bible from his Tecno tablet or the church projector while delivering the sermon on Sundays.
By the time the bishop unlocked the car doors she had already gone to the passenger side. So she got in at the same time he was stuffing his bulk into the driver seat.
“We are going to visit sister Emole next” he said.
This sister Emole’s place was the last place on earth he wanted to visit now. He knew that the moment he stepped foot into the woman’s house she would begin to complain about her many problems. Normally he would have just sent Sister Ruth and maybe two other sisters in the prayer band to the woman’s house. But he hadn’t because it wouldn’t have looked good. After all this sister Emole had sown a seed of twenty-five thousand naira just yesterday as a show of her thrust in God to heal her sick child.
“Did you hear what I said?” The Bishop Prophet asked his silent assistant.
“Yes prophet” sister Ruth said meekly and placed her bible on her laps. Those laps that were covered entirely by the gown she was wearing; a green gown that extended down to the ends of her calf. It was the shortest gown he had ever seen her in. Her other gowns went down to her ankles.
The bishop made a mental note to talk to her later about her horrible sense of dressing. There was a need for her to keep up with the times for goodness sake. That a lady headed the prayer band did not mean that she was not supposed to look good anymore. Were the children of God not supposed to show off his goodness in their lives? How could they do this if they couldn’t even wear fashionable clothes? Or if they preferred to walk about with ashy faces and unattractive mgbeke hairstyles when a good touch of Makeup was readily available to make the face glow and there were good wigs in the market to give dignity to their heads?
There was a time when Sister Ruth was the star worker of the House of Healing and Revelation Ministries. She had started out as the lead vocalist of the worship team courtesy of her sweet voice. Then in time, as a result of her zeal and dedication to prayer she had also become a strong member of the prayer band.
Sister Ruth was one of the few people who were there when Bishop Okongwu started his ministry but with time she gradually lost her relevance because she failed to do what others were doing. Sister Amaka who now led the worship team during the worship session every Sunday could not sing as well as she could. But she knew how to tush up so the bishop had had no other option but to give her the position. To compensate Sister Ruth he had given her the leadership of the prayer band.
And now they were here. It was times like this that made Okongwu believe that the little reshuffling he had done had been a divinely inspired one. Before he put the key in the ignition he turned to her with his most serious face and said “Sister, that woman needs serious intercessory prayers”
“Yes prophet, indeed”
Her eyes shined with an uncommon zeal. In that moment he realized that this woman would dive in front of a lorry if he asked her to. Touched by this recent discovery Bishop Okongwu continued: “She is suffering from the spirit that inflicted Thomas in the Bible”
“Doubt” she said with a sad smile on her face.
“Yes” he concurred. “We need to pray for her to realize that God has appointed us to save her from this ugly situation she has found herself in.”
The woman had to realize that God had appointed her to buy him a car, and she must buy it whether she liked it or not. But that part remained in the good bishop’s mind. There was no need to say it aloud.
“Indeed prophet, indeed”
Ruth was nodding like a lizard.
His present car, a bright green Mercedes Benz was no longer what it used to be when he bought it newly. The Air conditioner was no more functional and the floor was sinking closer to the ground. Then there were other mysterious problems, known only to the motor mechanics which chose to appear one after the other on a seasonal basis, like a cycle of ogbanje, causing him to lose a lot of money to the greedy mechanics.
He pushed the key into the ignition and turned it. The car coughed and spluttered into life. Soon Bishop Prophet A. A. Okongwu thought soon.
Margaret closed the office for the day soon after the Bishop, Prophet left. She drove to her elder sister’s place to see the woman’s sick child. It was something she was reluctant to do because her sister was a particularly difficult woman to deal with and she was not in a good mood that afternoon.
Since she was impatient to get the visit over with her foot was never far from the accelerator pedal as she drove. People who entered her car for the first time were always surprised at how fast she drove. They never failed to comment that she was unlike her husband Fred who was a cautious man and was given to navigating the streets carefully.
He was dead now, sent to the great beyond by an over speeding trailer which had sought out his Pathfinder Jeep despite the fact that he was driving cautiously as usual and keeping to his own lane. Since then Margaret had lived life the way she saw fit, killing the spirit of caution repeatedly every time it reared its head to stop her from doing whatever she wanted to do.
As she navigated her way down the streets that snaked across the city, she drove in a hurry, daring whatever trailer that wanted to come for her to come.
She thought of him; her gullible Fred. Had Fred still been alive he wouldn’t have allowed her to send the ‘man of God’ away from her office in the unceremonious manner she had. If he had been around when he came he would have insisted that they should at least give the man something, even if it was not a land or a car. That was why he was the one they had always visited when he was alive.
She had been known as his stingy wife, the one who wanted to pack all of his money for their unborn generation to eat and didn’t want any other person to have a taste of it. Money that she had labored with him to make.
Margaret smiled sadly and stepped slightly on the brakes. The speed of the car reduced as she drew near to the back of a slow lorry. It was one of those old ones that crawled slower than a tortoise and also made Margaret to curse the existence of single lane roads.
She still remembered the look of shock that would be on Fred’s face when she made fun of the latest pastor that had met him to finagle some money from him in the name of sowing a seed for God, or contributing to the growth of the ministry, or whenever he talked about some weird program going on at the church for which the local reverend had asked for financial support.
These projects never saw the light of the day. The most glaring one was the matter of the church manse for which he had donated a whooping half a million naira, anonymously of course. But since that time the building had remained in the foundation stage, despite his donation and that of the other rich members of the church. Yet Fred continued to give whenever they asked for it. Whenever she got mad and asked him why, he said it was important to give, that whatever was done with the money was between the cleric and God.
Well now, he was no longer here. She was in charge now and was not going to give out money for which the recipient could not be held accountable.
When she got to her sister’s place the time was 3:40 pm. She got down from the car and was assaulted by the profuse greetings of the women who were gossiping in the verandah outside. The house was one of the buildings Fred had left her at his demise. Just as he had when he was alive, she treated the tenants well and was considerate in fixing the amount they paid for the rooms they lived in. So whenever she came around they always greeted her like their lives depended on it.
It was in this building that her elder sister lived with her dead beat husband and her children, rent-free.
Just that morning, Margaret had heard that the woman’s last child, Ifenyinwa, was sick. Knowing her sister she decided to move in as soon as she could and intervene. Her sister was just like her husband, one of the cautious people who lived their lives according to the whims and caprices of the men of the white collar and huge bibles, so that they would not move in the direction not sanctioned by God.
The only thing was that she was worse than Fred. Where Fred would consider how much he had in the account and the many things he needed money for and did his best to negotiate with God so he could pay his servants a fair amount that would not impair his finances, Margaret’s sister was one of those who would give everything they had as soon as the man of God asked for it.
Margaret knew that rather than rush the sick kid to the hospital, the first thing her sister would do was to run to the church and drop the last amount in her hand as a seed and then hope on God for a miracle. Well, Ifenyinwa was Margaret’s favourite niece so she was not going to allow her sister to play that kind of rough play with her.
Wondering who had parked a car in front of the house, in her favorite parking spot, she greeted back the gossiping women as warmly as she could and walked into the house. All it would take to lose their goodwill and have them call her stingy, like her sister, was to increase the rent their husbands paid to what landlords in the area collected for houses that were not even as neat as this one.
The building was a one storied tenement building with one half of the top floor given over to her sister’s family. This was three rooms, plus the toilet and the bathroom downstairs that were exclusively for their use. These different from the ones used by the other tenants in the building. Margaret took her time to get to the staircase, surveying the house as she went to be sure that everything was fine.
When she finally got upstairs and knocked on the living room door it was opened by the squeaky woman who had screamed in her office just about half an hour ago. Her puzzlement deepened when she saw the beefy man with the countless titles sitting in one of the sofas in the room with a cold bottled water in his fleshy hand. Ifenyinwa was sitting with her mother on the sofa opposite him.
When the Bishop, prophet looked up and saw her, his face was creased by a smile.
“Ah, Mrs. Obi” he said “We meet again. I believe God directed your steps so that we’d meet here in your sister’s abode”
“I came to see my niece” Margaret said icily.
Written by Samuel Ifeanyi Gaius