The two choristers, Sister Mabel and Sister Edidiong sat on the brown leather sofa in the senior pastor’s office which had an exaggerated air of opulence.
The evening fellowship had ended forty five minutes earlier but pastor Dele had asked them to wait behind while he addressed the other church workers.
Mabel, lead singer of the church’s youth choir obviously on familiar terrain sashayed to the table top fridge from where she extricated two canned coca cola drinks. Her white body hugging blouse and above-the-knee velvet skirt accentuates her curves. A black head scarf secures her Brazilian weaves in place.
She passes one to Edidiong who deftly opens it to gulp down. Mabel returns to her seat and starts to flip her choir songbook as she sips her drink.
‘So what do you think Papa will advise?’, Edidiong enquires from her friend.
‘I can’t say, but I don’t think he will be happy that you are considering marrying a man who isn’t our church member.’
‘But he is a believer, Mabel…and he is very ready to settle down as soon as possible.’
‘Come on, Edidiong, don’t tell me that. We both know your man Desmond, so please go slow on the “he is a believer” story line. After all, you both are sleeping together.’
The girls break out in a giggle. Mabel lets out a cough to clear her throat.
They are startled by the sound of the door as it opens to let in the senior pastor.
‘Good evening, Papa’, the girls salute in unison.
He drops his King James Bible on the polished mahogany table and drops into the leather swivel chair. He beckons to the two ladies to sit in the chairs on the other side of the table.
‘So, sister Mabel…sister Edidiong, what is the matter?’
The girls exchange glances. The older of the two opens up the discussion which lasts for about five minutes.
A few minutes of silence pass as the man of God broods over the information. The whirl of the standing fan and the subdued volume from the TV fills in the gap.
‘Now tell me sister Edidiong, what does Desmond do for a living?’
‘Papa, he is a banker.’
‘Which church does he attend?’
‘For how long have you been seeing him?’
There is palpable silence before Edidiong offers an answer.
‘Papa…we’ve been dating for three months now.’
Pastor Dele lets out a knowing smile. ‘Has he slept with you?’
Another bout of silence greets the meeting for a couple of minutes before she bleats out in the affirmative.
Pastor dele turns his attention to Sister Mabel. ‘So as the church’s youth leader and deputy head of the choir, you knew this all along?’
The accomplice tries feebly to stage a defense that whimpers as soon as their shepherd’s voice raises a notch to betray suppressed anger.
Not only had Mabel hidden the sinful affair of one of his respected and devoted member but she had not tried to discourage her friend from having a relationship with a non-member of their congregation.
Was she now an enemy within? A silent rebel of his ministry? Were there no brothers in the church that she could have convinced her friend to consider for marriage? How was Edidiong sure that he was the right man for her? What sort of believers would indulge in fornication?
The session lasts a full forty five minutes as the pastor admonishes his misguided daughters.
‘Well, sister Edidiong….I will not give you an answer now. Let us pray about it. If it is the will of God, we will know. Let us see after Sunday service.’
He dismisses the ladies with a short prayer for a safe journey home.
Just as they reach the door, he calls back Mabel. Edidiong steps out and gently closes the door.
Mabel walks back into the center of the office.
‘I want to see you tomorrow evening. Hope you don’t have any engagements because you seem to be dodging me these days.’
‘It is not so, Papa….just that I have been busy.’
Pastor Dele gets up from his seat and perches on his table. He tries unsuccessfully to hide his rising manhood as he drags down the front of his pair of trousers. Deftly, he drags Mabel close to him, resting a hand on her firm behind.
‘I must see you tomorrow. Just make time for me….at least an hour,’ he begs in a whisper.
Mable feigns some hesitation before shrugging. She raises her eyes to steal a momentary glance at her pastor.
‘Where…and what time?’
‘Same place. 8:00 p.m.’
‘I won’t stay long…’
‘You won’t have to… I’ll be waiting.’
He draws her close and plants a long kiss. As she struggles to wriggle away, he slaps her bottom before she reaches the door. They both giggle.
‘Eight, right?’, her hand on the door knob.
‘On the dot! Don’t keep me waiting.’
She blows him a kiss before ducking out .He blows one back at the receding luscious figure.
Reverend Ibukun salutes his spiritual son as the younger clergy man takes his seat opposite him on the posh settee in his expansive living room. A large portrait of the illustration of the Lord’s Supper covers the wall behind the leather three-sitter he reclines in. An open bottle of Remy Martins and a half filled wine glass sit on the glazed center table.
‘How is the ministry, my boy?’
‘We give God the glory, Papa!’
‘Please join me…’ The General overseer of Christian Believers Heavenly Ministries stands up to retrieve another wine glass from the minibar. He picks up the bottle, three quarters full, and drops both items on the side table beside his guest.
Pastor Dele offers his thanks and helps himself to a large serving of the alcoholic beverage.
‘A little wine for the belly…so says the Holy book’, The Reverend chuckles as he takes his seat once again.
‘So tell me, how is the preparation for your end of month Holy Ghost programme?’
‘Papa, we are trying. It is just that funds are in short supply to publicize the event on air as we should. We are trusting God that your name as the senior guest minister will help bring many people throughout the three days event.’
‘Of course, my son. You know I am anointed with the grace to attract multitudes.’
Pastor Dele shakes his head in agreement.
‘Good! And I hope you are packaging a big honorarium for my appearance. Yopu know I don’t honour any kind of invitation.’
Pastor Dele affirms that he knows enough to make a gratifying offering.
‘You should be expecting over four hundred people in attendance, I believe.’ The Reverend postulates.
‘Ha, Papa…it is our prayer. You know that as we enter the ‘ember’ months so many churches will be having programmes. We will be lucky if at least two hundred people attend.’
Reverend Ibukun shakes his head in astonishment.
‘You mean to tell me that your ministry hasn’t grown beyond the level I saw when I last visited?’
Dele shrugs as if to buttress his desperation.
‘My son, you need to step up. You have been in this business for over three years now. You can’t be struggling with only a paltry number of members because that is what will affect attendance of your crusades and outreach programmes.’
‘Papa, we are trying. It is just that with all these stiff competition around, it is very hard to keep my members, not to mention winning new ones.’
The reverend lets off a laugh. He gulps the last shot of his drink before standing up to address his visitor.
‘Dele, you need to grow up. I would have thought you would have known how to increase your church membership by now.’
‘How else can I grow my ministry other than to hold these kinds of programmes frequently?
Reverend Ibukun gives him a long stare.
‘So you mean you don’t know you have to sow seeds? Don’t you know that you are supposed to be doing sacrificial offerings from time to time?’
Dele stares back, obviously embarrassed by the interrogation from the senior clergy man.
‘Now let me tell you, Dele…this ministry thing has some deep secrets to it. It doesn’t just stop at shouting on the pulpit and laying hands. You need to pay your dues if you want your church to grow.’
Ibukun refills his glass and proceeds to educate his now troubled guest on the secret formula to becoming a successful ‘man of God’.
There are some powerful prophets who own prayer houses where people seeking supernatural powers visit to offer sacrifices and conduct religious rituals. Many of the renowned men of God who are busy performing miracles and hosting large congregation of worshippers visit them to get power.’
‘Papa, what type of rituals?’
‘It depends on what you want. If you want to do miracles like healing the cripple, making the blind see or the deaf to hear, they will charge you high. Sometimes the prophets may demand for human sacrifice.’
Dele stands up abruptly.
The older man tries to calm down his guest by placing his index finger on his lips.
He goes ahead to express his disappointment at the realization that Dele was just getting to know what was obviously an open secret.
Didn’t he know that these new generation pastors were into one diabolic scheme or the other? Didn’t he know that most of them were occultists who participated in rituals in the dead of night whilst men slept? Did he think that all the miracles and deliverances performed by these ‘men of God’ were truly divine? Did he think all the large crowd that thronged to some of these ‘houses of God’ was a response to the call for repentance?
‘My son, church business is serious business. You need to ‘cook’ yourself if you want to play in the big league. Remember what the holy book says about the kingdom of God suffering violence? Only those with big hearts can do some of the things required.’
Pastor Dele slowly sits down and grabs his untouched glass of wine. He swallows the liquor in one gulp and gently returns the empty glass to the side table.
‘Papa, is that what you recommend? Is that how you acquired your spiritual powers?’
‘My son, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun and that a man should not be too righteous. Be as wise as a serpent.’
The Reverend stands up to signal that the discussion was coming to an end.
‘I will come for your programme as promised but that will be my last. A lion sires a lion. If I am your spiritual father, then you better follow the path I tread.’
‘My daughter, please sit down.’
Pastor Dele points to one of the leather chairs on the opposite of his office table. He closes the daily devotional he was reading to attend to his visitor.
Edidiong takes her sit and whispers her thanks.
The clergyman gets up and retrieves two canned drinks from the fridge. He drops one on the table in front of Edidiong and returns to his seat.
‘So tell me, sister Edidiong, how come you didn’t see any of our church brothers as a choice for marriage? Or are you trying to say none of my sons in the ministry meets your standard for a husband?’
‘Papa, it isn’t like that. Desmond just happened to have won my heart. Besides, none of my church brothers approached all these while.’
‘Of course, how would they approach you when you always keep a straight face like an army sergeant? You don’t try to relax in their company and that scares men.’
‘But Papa, am I supposed to ingratiate myself to attract suitors? That would be unbefitting of a lady.’
Pastor Dele lets out a laugh.
‘So you want to decamp to another church and reduce the number of beautiful girls in this my ministry? I will not allow it.’
‘Please Papa…you know I can’t leave without your blessings.’
The man of God leaves his seat and perches on the side of the table, closing the distance between the two of them. He tilts forward to place his right hand on her shoulder and speaks in a low tone.
‘Sister Edidiong, if you want me to accept releasing you then promise me that you will do one thing ….for me.’
She raises her eyes to meet his lustful stare.
‘What, Papa?’ Her voice trembles.
‘Meet me at the Tempest by 8:00 tonight.’
‘Tempest, the hotel?’
Pastor Dele nods. He brushes her quivering lips softly with his hand as if to cast a spell on her.
Edidiong shifts her head backwards to dodge the gesture.
‘Come on, Edidiong. Be a big girl.’
‘But Pastor Dele it doesn’t look right. Why should you invite me to a hotel? If people see us what would we say?’
‘Nobody will see us. You will meet me there and we will leave separately.’
‘What will Mabel, my friend say if she finds out?’
‘Sister Mabel? So you know…’
There is a deafening silence for a few seconds before Dele regains his composure.
‘Don’t worry about your friend. She won’t know…unless you want to tell her. Or would you?’
Edidiong slowly gets up from her seat and brushes him aside as she picks up her bag.
‘No, I won’t. And I also won’t meet you at any hotel.’
Although startled at her sudden boldness Dele tries once more to cow her into submission.
‘Well, if that is how you want it, you can leave here knowing that you don’t have my blessings. And you won’t have the support of this church if you go ahead with your marriage plans.’
‘You are not God, Pastor Dele…’
She storms towards the door and reaches for the knob to open.
‘And you are not a saint, my dear…so get out!’
Edidiong slams the door as she exits the church office.
‘Did you bring along any of her belongings?’
Reverend Ibukun asks his spiritual son as they alight from the back seat of his Toyota Highlander SUV. Pastor Dele nods his head, clearly nonplussed at the turn of events.
Here he was with a man he revered and looked up to, second only to his Lord and Saviour, now taking him to the den of lions, leading him in the path of unrighteousness and damnation. Here was his ‘father in the Lord’ dragging him to the shrine of the cultic priests of Ika, custodians of dark powers and mysticism.
The one hour trip to the interior village had felt like forever as the younger clergyman ran several thoughts through his mind. There was surely much to think about when a man contemplates between having to serve God or mammon, or both.
‘Relax, my boy. There is no need to fear. It is not like you will be given human flesh to eat.’
The Reverend had spent the last 60 minutes reassuring his protégé that the assignment he was about to take was very important to grow his career as a minister of the Gospel.
The ritual was only going to last for two hours; an hour of prayers and incantations, thirty minutes for taking the oath of secrecy and brotherhood, thirty minutes to conduct the blood sacrifice.
Tucked in the black cellophane bag he had carried along were some of Mabel’s personal effects which he had coaxed her to leaving with him after their tryst a couple of nights ago at the Tempest.
As instructed by his spiritual father, he had insisted on having intercourse with his lead chorister while she was seeing her menses. Playfully, he had cajoled her to drop off the soiled sanitary pad in the hotel room’s disposal bin as she undressed to take a shower. While in the bathtub together, he had suggested that they take turns to shave their pubic hairs. With the stealth of a man on an evil mission, he had gathered a pinch of her soft, curly locks and wrapped it in the discarded foil of the bathing soap as he watched the bath water drain away.
With Mabel’s passport photo as the last of the three items required for the spiritual exercise secured in the inner pocket of his deep blue suit, Pastor Dele strolls beside the Reverend, head bowed like sheep being led to slaughter as they walk into the expansive compound of the Chief priest of the Ika shrine .
‘Papa, what would they use for the sacrifice?’
‘Not to worry, my son. Just as the good Lord provided a ram for Father Abraham at the slaughter slab, I had bought two live goats which will be used for the ritual; one will be killed here and the blood used to take the oath while you will take the second one and bury it alive in the middle of your chapel tonight.’
‘Bury a goat in my church?’
‘Pastor Dele….’, the older clergy man turns to face his rather frightened associate and continues in a menacing voice, ‘…we have gotten to the point of no return. You either do as you are told or you will not leave this place alive.’
Both men walk through the door held open by a middle aged man in a white robe with bare feet. He shuts the door and leads them into the waiting room where six men dressed in red cloaks and donning black miters sit in in a semi-circle around a polished mahogany table adorned with paraphernalia of their offices.
About The Author
Victor Idem is a creative writer who enjoys writing short stories and hosting writing competitions.
He has written several plays and novellas, two of which have had massive reviews namely 'A night bus to Aba' and 'Portrait of Papa Kante' currently published on okadabooks.com.
He manages an online blog, www.africanstorytellers.blogspot.com and can be followed via Facebook/African Story Tellers and @AfricStoryTell