Somewhere in Olorisa Oko, in a distinguished, plastered, unpainted house, without fence, without a gate; in an isolated street this lonely, hot night, with fluttering lights and blaring, competitive sounds of many generators in the neighbourhood, I slipped into my prayer room, slight ventilated and hauntingly dark; put on my short, removed my shirt, locked the door behind me and began to pray about many unfulfilled hopes. I had assumed a prayer position that said, unless you do it tonight, I would not let you go. I prayed about ministry. Our small church is broke. I have been pastoring there for four years now and no time has the economy been as biting as it currently is. We are not project minded. We invest in members, attend to their needs and ensure that the welfare of church members gulps, as much if not in, equal measure and passion as it is our attitude to preaching the gospel.
But we are really broke now.
We are still trying to raise money for several members. Mama Sisi’s daughter, for example, is currently in the hospital. She was trying to cross the road to get to school this morning but got knocked down by a micra driver who, like every average Nigerian driver, treated the zebra crossing with ignorant disdain. She is in the hospital. She needs surgery. There is also baba Debo, a widower, who lost his son, Debo, only two months ago and has been struggling with setting himself up in his vulcanizing business. He needs money. I can’t forget the church secretary’s only child who, after five years of failed attempt to secure university admission, is currently on the brink of losing that admission because of inability to pay twenty-five thousand naira acceptance fee. I don’t even have to mention Bukky whose dream wedding is now better imagined than expected. The list is endless. I know God cares, but it was important to let Him know this and many more were getting to me. Tonight wasn’t the time to tell him about my own fees at the seminary this year. Tonight wasn’t the time to ask if it was time to propose to Asake. Tonight wasn’t about laying my pains before him. For little do my members know that I am human too, that I also need help.
But I prayed and prayed and prayed. Then a knock. I was quiet. Then another knock. I struggled between rising up to open my door and the continued need to pour my heart to God. But then I am a pastor. What if that was a member in distress, in need of help, of counsel or whatever? I sighed. I left the room, went to the small sitting room, and called out, “Who is there?”
“Pastor, this is Sade.” The voice replied. Ah! Sister Sade? At to eight? Why the night time again? What is she looking for? Multiple thoughts agitated my mind. After giving a promissory assurance of my return, I rushed to my room, put on my trouser and my shirt, lit the lantern and opened the door. I led her in and asked her to sit down. Immediately she sat down, she began to cry. It happened all too suddenly that I had to adjust my senses to the reality on ground. This wasn’t some Mount Zion Drama Ministry moment in my sitting room. “Is everything alright, Sister Sade?” I managed to ask. She responded with a higher pitched voice of her tears. She nodded negatively, suggesting that all wasn’t well. I assured her that God is in control, that there is nothing too hard to for Him to do, that no matter what is going on she has to say it, so we can find a way around what the hurt might be. The starting point is the point of openness….blah, blah, blah.
“Pastor, I….I…..am pregnant.” She whispered through her sobs. I wasn’t sure I heard her right and so I said, “I didn’t get that.” She stared blankly at me and repeated, “Pastor, I am pregnant. Two months now.” She picked her words now so that the weight of each word can settle on my pretentious ear defects and find a way to where it will sting – my heart.
“Ah! Jesu.” I shouted. It wasn’t her confession that inspired the emotional outburst, it was hearing that within the context of the realities I was already dealing with tonight. I almost cried myself. Sister Sade’s narrative is a little complicated.
On a night like tonight, two months ago, Sister Sade had visited me around past seven. On her way home, she was raped by some boys who had formed the habit of smoking in a bush close by. Though the police had raided the place the next day, arrested the boys, and those guilty had confessed, the news had spread so quickly that it had produced a stigma that had left her friendless. Even in church, parents had warned their children to avoid her like a plague. I was her only friend. Beyond the fact that I understood her struggles then, I am her pastor. I didn’t have a choice. Her pregnancy is the product of the rape two months ago. She can’t deal with the stigma any further. She won’t even be able to take care of the child. Sister Sade lives alone, struggling to make ends meet. Being the only child of her aged parents, who live in Iseyin, her lean purse had more than a mouth to feed. She was teaching in one of those primary school where teachers are paid five thousand naira per month, and equally threatened with sack when the schools default in paying on time. They have found the government handy for excuses in delayed allowances. Most of the pupil’s parents have not been paid. They owe school fees, therefore it was difficult to pay them. It is the complicated reality of the Nigerian state at the moment.
“Pastor, I want to abort. Please, assure me that I can.” She had gripped my legs now, sobbing afresh, and pleadingly hoping for assurances I am not sure I can give. I bowed my head, my mind filled with so many thoughts. For right here, in that her hour of need, in that room, tonight, where my heart had tearfully sought answers for God’s people, in the young mind of a pastor navigating his way through ministry, I am confronted with another situation that wants to leave me torn between my faith and my humanity, between my convictions and needful pragmatism.