Click to read Episode 13
This is the diary of a Nigerian Christian Girl- Season 1 Episode 14
‘Have a seat.’ My new boss said.
When I sat down, he fixed his gaze on me and broke into a smile.
‘My name is Simeon. It’s good to finally meet you.’
I was puzzled. What was this man saying and why was he looking at me like that? Fear caught my throat. My eyes went to his finger and I relaxed when I saw a wedding band.
Simeon laughed. ‘Oh my God! You thought I wanted to toast you. I could see the relief in your eyes when you saw a wedding band on my finger.’
Embarrassed, I put up a defence. ‘I didn’t mean to do that. It’s just that-’
‘I understand.’ Simeon interrupted. ‘It’s okay to be careful. I have no intention of wooing you even though I know some married people do that, but you see, the reason people like us don’t cheat on our wives is far beyond our commitment and love for them. Our devotion is first to the Lord.’
My eyes widened. ‘You are a Christian?’
He smiled and leaned forward. ‘Let’s get to the reason I called you. Does the name, Abeo ring a bell?
Abeo. The name was familiar. I muttered the name under my breath as if by doing so, it would trigger a memory.
‘I have heard the name before but I-’ I remembered. When Mama D returned from omugwu in Kaduna, she’d spoken highly of one Abeo who visited her daughter’s family frequently. Mama wouldn’t stop talking about his large heart.
‘I heard my mentor talk about Abeo.’ I said. Could this be the man?
‘Mama D.’ we chorused and laughed at the same time. I almost wanted to scream for joy.
‘Oh my God! You know Mama D.’
He nodded his head. ‘Yes I do. She is such a wonderful woman. Her daughter and my wife are close buddies. When I informed her yesterday that we had moved from Kaduna and I mentioned kicking off work in my brother’s company, she told me you were here as a staff. This morning, I asked Mabel what department you were and she said you were right under my nose.’
I smiled. ‘This is interesting. So your other name is Abeo.’
‘Don’t call me that in the office. I prefer to stick with Simeon.’
Simeon pushed his chair backward and crossed one leg over the other.‘I heard what you did here last week. Mabel speaks so highly of you and it makes me happy when I meet one more believer who refuses to bow to the system of the world.’
Simeon was so easy to talk with. For over an hour we dabbled in and out of different topics. I didn’t know when I began to share my worries with him. He just sat there and listened. There was this connection I felt with him. This wasn’t romantic in any way. I just sensed he’d be instrumental to my discovery into the path God would have me take in a short while.
When I stopped talking, Simeon didn’t say anything. He seemed like a guy who weighed his thoughts before spilling them out.
‘Do you love what you are doing? Do you think this place is where you should be?’
I shrugged. How many times have I asked myself that question? ‘I enjoy it sometimes. At least, it pays my bills.’
‘Let me ask you this. If you were to be paid a hundred thousand naira monthly to do anything you choose, what would that be?’
My eyes lightened up. Only one thing came to my mind. ‘I’d be a teens coach. I’d love to lead teenagers into God’s plan for their lives.’
I talked about my experiences with my students at Cornerstone College. I told him about Dotun’s death and how I’d convinced myself that getting involved in the lives of teenagers was not God’s purpose for my life. I shared my escapades with Wale and the many regrets I had in the relationship.I also shared my recent burden to return to Cornerstone College. At a point, I stopped talking.
‘Are you a Pastor or a therapist? The way you listen, you make me want to talk more.’
Simeon laughed. ‘I am an associate Pastor. Although I don’t know if it has anything to do with that. My wife tells me I’m a great listener.’
I decided it was time to stop talking about myself. The last thing I wanted was to sound like a whining old hag. ‘Thank you for listening. I feel better. This week has been depressing, really.’
He passed me a paper towel and it was then I realized I’d been crying. Why do I keep embarrassing myself like this?
‘I’ll say two things quickly before I allow you return to work. One, you should go to Cornerstone College and see the principal. I’ll give you some hours off work. Just let me know when you are ready.’
I threw the rumpled wet towel into a refuse bin under the table. ‘I don’t even know what I’m going to do there. What will I say to him?’
‘You will know when you get there.’ He paused. ‘Secondly, I think it’s time you meet my wife.’
I nodded. ‘I’d love to meet her.’
‘This week will be pretty busy for us. Our church convention starts tomorrow. Let’s see how next week goes.’
I thanked him and stood up to return to my office. When I got to the door, he called my name. I turned.
‘Yemisi,’ he repeated. ‘I understand you were not deliberate about Dotun but you cannot change what has happened. The boy is dead. Let the guilt go. You can’t bring him back but you can save thousands of teenagers from making an attempt at suicide. Your heavenly father loves you. He is waiting for you to respond to him.’
I thanked him again and stepped into my office. Tosin was sitting on her table flanked by her two fake friends. Yes, I call them fake. How can she have friends who won’t tell her the truth? They were glaring at me but I didn’t care.
Tosin stormed out of the office again with her friends, but this time she stopped at the entrance and turned in my direction.
‘All these church people that will be deceiving us. They are worse than we are. One day, your secrets will be exposed. You cannot sleep with clients but your boss is an exception. Nonsense!’ She hissed and left the office.
I was pissed. I wondered how long she’d last in Pavilion before Mabel kicked her out.
My heart pounded as I approached Cornerstone College. I was nervous and had to stop at the gate to catch my breath. Some students were standing with a teacher on the ground floor of the school building. Quickly I stepped away from the gate and decided to go through the back entrance.
This was the plan I had in mind. Get into the school compound through the back gate, pass the girls’ hostel, refectory and school hall and then take the back stairs to the principal’s office. After the meeting, I’d take the same route out of school before any of the students catches a glimpse of me.
The gateman, a middle aged dark man with brown teeth and buggy eyes, was leaning against the fence, holding a transistor radio. His eyes lit up when he saw me.
‘Aunty Yemisi!’ He shouted in excitement. ‘Na your face be this?’
‘Yes o. Oga Rafiu, how is everything?’
‘My sister, we dey where you leave us.’
‘I want to see the principal but I don’t want to go through the main gate. You know how these students can be sometimes. I don’t want to distract them from their lessons.’
He moved away from the fence and opened the gate for me. ‘Sure. You are still part of our family.’ He stared at my bag. ‘Nothing for the old man?’
I smiled and reached into my bag. I pulled out two thousand naira note and gave him. He raised his hands to the air, laughing. I waved at him and proceeded into the school.
I got close to the refectory and heard familiar voices.
I tip-toed towards the corridor of the refectory and hid against the wall. Thankfully, the place was quiet and none of the cooks were around. I peeped and saw three of my students sitting on a concrete slab that faced the entrance to the refectory. Textbooks were opened in front of them. Were they preparing for an exam?
Then I remembered SSCE and it hit me that in a couple of months, they’d be graduating from the school. How time flies. I looked ahead and saw more students scattered outside the school hall, reading. Some boys were sitting under a mango tree, bent over textbooks.
Oh God, I miss my students.
When I looked closely, I saw it was Phebe sitting on the slab with two other girls. They were reading out past multiple choice questions from a book. I heard Phebe ask a question on where Aerobic respiration takes place. The girls argued over the answer and when they couldn’t come to a conclusion, they rushed to the back page to check the answer.
How do I get to the principal’s office without attracting their attention? The truth was, I wanted to draw them into my arms and tell them how much I loved them, but then why should they believe my words? I wouldn’t be surprised if they ignored me. I had left the school without telling them. They had pleaded with me to come see them but I had turned down their offer. I had also failed to keep my promise that I wasn’t going to leave them until they all graduated.
A girl stepped out of the school hall and began to dance shaku shaku. I shook my head.
I wondered if her father still made her memorize five memory verses every day. Her friends were hailing her and the boys under the tree were now staring at her. Where for goodness sake had she learnt all these dance moves?
‘Miss Yemisi!’ Somebody screamed my name. My heart fainted. My hide-out had been discovered. I looked behind me to find a girl gaping at me, shocked. I stepped away from the refectory. Phebe and the two girls flew at me.
‘Miss Yemisi is here!’ One of the girls shouted to the others. Debby stopped dancing and ran towards me, followed by some of the girls. The boys also hurried in my direction. I saw students coming out of different corners, all charging at me.
Some of the girls started crying. The boys stood there, mesmerized. They were all talking at the same time.
‘Miss Yemisi, you just left us without a word.’
‘You promised to be with us till we graduate.’
‘Miss Yemisi, we miss you.’
I had to hold myself from crying in front of my students. Oh how I loved them.
Dotun’s best friend stood aloof with his hands folded. He didn’t look cheerful at all and it made me wonder if he had healed from the loss of his friend. I looked from one face to the other. Only two students were missing from the bunch. Dotun and Adesuwa.
‘I miss you and I’m sorry for disappearing like that.’ I said. My chest was tight with emotions
‘How’s Adesuwa?’ One of the boys asked. The others were looking at me, waiting for a response.
‘She is doing fine.’
Somebody whispered something to Phebe and she ran towards the school hall. It was time to go see the Principal.
They pleaded with me to give them a few minutes. I saw Phebe running towards us, holding three large greeting card. She handed me the cards.
‘Please tell Adesuwa that we love her.’ Phebe said.
In front of the card was boldly written,
Because we love and cherish you.
When I opened one of the cards, I saw on the top, ‘CLASS OF 2014’
All over the cards were handwritten notes by Adesuwa’s classmates.
Adesuwa, don’t ever give up, you hear me! I love you and I miss you. Phebe.
Tell our little princess that were all waiting to receive her. (Yeah, you are going to have a girl. The boys don’t think so. We made a bet. lol. Toyin.
You are dear to our hearts. John
Do you know I’ve had a crush on you since JSS 1? You are an amazing girl. I miss you. Emmanuel
You will be fine. Your baby will be fine. We love you. Yomi.
Do you still chew your fingernails…hehehe…I still remember how I slapped your finger off your mouth. You chased me round the class that day. Baby girl, I miss you. Sandra.
I just learnt a new dance step. I wish you could see it. I love you Adesuwa. Debby.
I stopped reading because my eyes were blurred with tears. When I raised my head, a tear trickled down my face.
‘This is beautiful. I’ll make sure she reads this.’ I looked at the cards again. ‘But how were you planning to get this across to her? You didn’t know I was coming.’
‘We just filled the cards yesterday after our meeting with the principal.’ Phebe answered. ‘They’ve been in my school bag since then. I knew somehow we’d get her to read it.’
‘Miss Yemisi,’ Debby called. ‘Will you attend our valedictory service?’
I wouldn’t miss it for anything. ‘Sure. Now go prepare for your exam.’
They didn’t want to leave and some of the girls kept holding on to my waist until I was finally able to whisk myself away. I was crying as I walked away from them. By now you should know I cry a lot. Anyway, I got to the front of the Principal’s office and pulled myself together.
‘Who am I seeing free of charge like this?’ The principal said as I entered his office. There was nothing in his expression to show that he was upset with me. He gave me a side hug and led me to a chair.
‘This is wonderful. I’m so happy to see you.’
I clasped my hands in front of me. ‘I’m very sorry the way I left, I should have informed you or waited till the end of the term.’
‘It’s okay. That boy’s death must have shaken you so badly. You look really good.’
I bowed slightly. ‘Thank you sir.’
‘What happened to your phone number? I tried it several times.’
‘I changed it.’
He sighed. ‘You just didn’t want to have anything to do with us.’
‘That’s not the case. A lot was going on at that time. I’m really sorry sir.’
‘It’s okay.’ He paused. ‘So what can we do for you or did you stop by to pay us a visit? ‘cos I heard you now work in one of those big firms.’
Lord, what am I supposed to say? Why am I really here?
Immediately, a picture flashed across my mind. It was quick and very clear. I was sitting with my students in Desuite event center and we were eating and chatting. It was a very relaxed atmosphere but I noticed it changed to a more serious meeting. Some of them began to cry. Others pleaded with me to help them. I saw a date too. 28th July.
I knew exactly what I was supposed to say.
‘Sir, I want to request for a hangout session with my students on the 28th July at the Desuite event center. This is their final year and after they graduate, I may never see some of them again. I perceive God would have me reach out to them this last time.’
The principal smiled. ‘You’ve always had a heart for teenagers.’ He reached for the calendar hung at the corner of his office. ‘Great! They would have completed their exams by then. I’ll bring it up at the next PTA meeting.’
Did I just say I was going to host my students on the 28th July? Where did that come from? How was I supposed to get the funds for a place like Desuite Event Center?
‘Yemisi, there is something I’d love you to think about.’ My principal said.
I looked at my principal, praying he would not ask me to return to Cornerstone College as a teacher.
‘You have a lot to offer these students. Some of them don’t even know their left from their right. Depression is ravaging their lives. Just yesterday, I heard that one of our former students was almost killed in a cult attack. There is so much you can do here Yemisi.’
He continued. ‘Back when I taught in a school in the north, we had a student fellowship we called the Fellowship of Christian Students. FCS. It is scattered all around many secondary schools in the North. I remember the corps member who coordinated the fellowship in my school, oh my God! That brother carried power. There was one student who was a terror in the school. When God arrested his heart, he became a radical evangelist. Yemisi, you can start a weekly meeting here and spread it to other schools in Lagos.’
My heart jumped in excitement. It was as if the principal was saying something I already nursed in my heart even though I’d never given voice to it. I told the principal I would pray about it.
On my way back to Pavilion Travel Agency, ideas kept pouring into my head. I brought out a notepad and scribbled down the ideas. By the time I got to the office, I had drafted the activities for the meeting, ideas for summer camp, bible study topics and ice-breakers.
Oh God, I am so excited, please make me calm.
This was worse than a sugar rush. Throughout that week, I could hardly concentrate on my work. Simeon laughed and said,
‘You are leaving Pavilion soon.’
I didn’t argue with him when he said that. It was clear my days were almost over at Pavilion. Every night when I returned home, I’d open the journal in front of me and pray intensely. Papa D had taught me one of the greatest principles in life.
‘Never rush into any venture out of sheer excitement. No matter how much you are bursting with joy over an idea or ministerial assignment, birth it first in prayers for two reasons. One, to identify divine timing and two, to receive instructions on the next step God would have you take regarding it.’
The more I stayed in prayers, the stronger the conviction that I had been called to set teenagers towards the light.
Help me Lord. I will not disappoint you. By your grace at work in me, I will finish my course. Lord, I am ready.
Simeon’s wife is so small. I felt like I could lift her with one hand and suspend her in the air for at least two minutes without my hand feeling any pain. Her playfulness was on another level too.
After she welcomed me to their beautiful home with a cup of apple juice and cookies, she went to her husband and sat on his laps.
‘Baby, sit down on the sofa.’ Simeon said, pointing to the space beside him.
She shook her head and jumped up and down on his laps. ‘This is my special cushion. I’m fine here.’
I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched them. One of Simeon’s friends, Festus, was laughing but his gaze was fixed on me. When I met his stare, he turned his face away. When Simeon’s wife finally got up, her husband pinned her down.
‘Where are you going to?’ He asked.
‘I want to sit down.’ she responded.
‘Sit where? Few minutes ago you were jumping up and down my laps. Is it not comfortable again? You are going nowhere.’
She tried to get away. Simeon pulled her to him and held tightly to her waist. She struggled, flipping her legs in an attempt to get away.
‘Baby, you are embarrassing me before our visitor.’ She said and tried to wrench free. Simeon released her. She looked at him with bone face and pinched him. Before he’d grab her, she’d scuttled away to the back of the sofa.
Simeon looked at me. ‘Yemisi, sorry. Sometimes, she doesn’t know when to play and when to be serious. That’s my wife, Ebun.’
Ebun giggled and came to sit beside me. What surprised me was the way she switched so quickly to a serious mood. She talked about her involvement with teenagers in the north and showed me pictures of the ladies who had not just been won to Christ but had returned to school. Some of them were as young as twelve years and with children. I was amazed. Her intellect was in no way comparable to her size.
‘Presently, I work with the Zion Missions.’ She continued. ‘Under this mission, we have the Zion Medical Outreach, Hope for children, Zion advocacy, Zion Girls, Zion Teenage Outreach and also Zion Outreach to Brothels. Each of these sub-divisions have their own mission and vision. I worked with the Zion Girls before moving to the Hope for children.’
‘Zion Medical Outreach sounds familiar.’ I said, trying to remember where I had heard the name.
‘It should.’ Simeon responded. ‘Papa D mentors the head of the Zion Medical Outreach.’
Ebun nodded her head. ‘Yeah. Ayomide. Such a wonderful brother. ’
Ayo. Zion Medical Outreach.
My mind went back to the last time I left Pure Heavens Assembly for my mentors’ church. The service had closed and by the time I got to their house, I met the team from the Zion Medical Outreach. Papa D had introduced Ayomide as their leader. This was indeed a small world.
Ebun continued. ‘Zion Teenage outreach is our latest sub-division and we’ve been trusting God for men who’d serve in that capacity. There is so much we want to explore in that area. Our goal is to have sound knowledgeable teen coaches and workers who will teach and disciple teenagers. We look forward to having summer camps, Holy Ghost meetings, Teens summit.’
‘This is great!’ Festus said, speaking for the first time since I got there. ‘When we stand before God, all the wealth we have acquired will be useless. It is the souls we have brought to the Lord that’ll count.’
I turned to him, smiling. ‘Exactly! I’m excited already.’
I shared some of the ideas I’d been nursing for days. I was more than convinced that this was what God wanted me to do. I remembered sharing some of the ideas with Papa D. He’d smiled so broadly it was clear he was in agreement with my plans.
‘Wow!’ Ebun exclaimed after I showed her a folder on my phone full of ideas. ‘This is amazing. I’ll connect you with the team head in Osogbo. You can pray more to know if God will have you serve with us. In a couple of months, the Zion Teenage Outreach Team will be having a prayer retreat at Ede to seek God’s mind and also to strategize.’
‘I’ll pray.’ I said. ‘Thank you for fanning this fire. ’
Ebun smiled. ‘Secondly, there is an online course you might want to take. It’s not free but it’s affordable. It’s a basic and advance course on teen coaching.’
‘Please text me the link to the website.’ I said. This was just overwhelming. Just a week ago, I felt God nudging my heart to find courses on teen coaching and psychology. Just see the way God was working things out for me.
If there was anything I learnt since my restoration, it was, there was no point fretting over anything. As long as I was yielded to the Holy Spirit, everything I needed for each season of my life would be revealed to me. I had no business worrying over what I didn’t know yet. All I needed to do was stay submitted to God.
The online courses Ebun introduced me to had objectives that detailed everything my heart yearned for. I almost screamed aloud as I scrolled down the website.
‘I told you that your days in Pavilion Travel Agency are over.’ Simeon said.
Festus looked at me. ‘Wait a minute. You mean you work in Simeon’s office?’
I nodded my head, laughing. Festus would think I was laughing at what he said. How I wished he could see how my heart jumped for joy.
‘What department are you?’ He asked.
‘Advertising and Marketing.’ I said.
His eyes widened. ‘Wow! You really need to leave that place and face this.’
I caught Festus staring at me again while we had lunch. He didn’t talk much while we ate but I noticed he observed my every move and that kind of made me feel awkward. I was not surprised after I left and Simeon called to say Festus wanted my number. I said it was fine.
Festus called me almost immediately. ‘Hey Yemisi. This is Festus. We met at Simeon’s house.’
I laughed. ‘Of course, I remember.’
‘Will you have lunch with me tomorrow afternoon? I just want to know you more. Just lunch.’
I sighed. I’d have to check my spirit on this one. ‘Sunday won’t be feasible. Possibly, one of the days in the week.’
‘Oh that’s fine.’
‘But wait, I’m not promising yet. I’ll have to get back to you.’
He chuckled. ‘Yes, I know. You’ll have to check your spirit. Is this guy a beast? Is he a wolf in sheep clothing?’
I chuckled. ‘Like I said, I’ll get back to you.’
‘Thank you Yemisi. I look forward to a favourable response.’
When I ended the call, I stared out the window of the taxi.
God, is he the one?
Click to read Episode 15