Mama D’s birthday was on a Tuesday. Since it was a work day, I could not go over to her place. I was surprised when that evening, one of her daughters called to inform me she was in town. She was making plans for a birthday party for Mama and wanted me to invite as many people as I could.
Simeon jumped into action when I informed him of the birthday plans. We started thinking of contributing money to use an event center close to Mama’s house.
I don’t know how Mama got wind of our plans. She vehemently kicked against them. She said she didn’t want a party and pleaded with us not to use the event center.
But sixty years was no small feat for goodness sake.
We settled for a small party in Mama’s house. I placed calls to as many of Mama’s mentees that I could contact.
The eve to the celebration, I slept over at Simeon’s house. His wife, Ebun wanted us to take cookies and spring rolls along with us. She had already gotten bottles for zobo drink and each of the bottle had a paper with ‘Mama at 60’ wrapped around it.
It was a busy night. We didn’t finish making the snacks until about 4 a.m. I was I was so tired and didn’t know how I slept off on the sofa.
Few hours later, we got up to prepare for the party.
Ebun received a call while we were arranging the chilled zobo drinks into a big cooler. She stepped away from the dining area and entered the kitchen.
‘Mummy, please I am begging you in the name of God, I don’t need this stress.’ Ebun was saying. ‘Is it my fault that I don’t have a child yet? My mother-in-law does not even stress me out the way you do. Please, just stop.’ Ebun was saying.
She came out of the kitchen and stopped at the entrance, listening to the person at the other end.
‘Mummy!’ Ebun exclaimed and walked back into the kitchen. ‘We have gone to the hospital already. They’ve run different tests on me and my husband. Nothing is wrong with us. Our organs are perfectly fine.’ She paused. ‘I don’t have answers for that! For goodness sake, am I God? Mummy, please, don’t ask me about this again. Every time you call, this is all you talk about. You don’t even want to know how I’m faring.’
Ebun ended the call and returned to her space by the freezer. She pretended everything was fine but it was clear she was upset. Simeon came out of his room, his gaze fixed on his wife. It was obvious he’d heard part of the conversation. He came towards her and pulled her away from our work.
‘Yemisi, give us a few minutes. We’ll be back.’
I watched Simeon lead his wife into the bedroom. There was this tenderness about the way he held her and at moment I wished I had a guy in my life.
I had almost finished packing the drinks when the couple came out of the room, laughing as if nothing had happened. I was greatly relieved to see Ebun in her cheerful self again. This was a day of laughter and rejoicing for us. Our Mama had turned sixty.
‘I’m so sorry Yemisi. I got worked up by that call.’ Ebun said as she pushed the already filled cooler against the wall. ‘There is so much joy and peace when you pray in the spirit.’
Simeon lifted the lid of one of the cooler and pulled out a bottle of zobo. He opened it and drained it down his throat in one gulp. Ebun faced her husband.
‘How many bottles have you taken today?’
He flashed her a grin as he threw the empty bottle into a waste bin. ‘Just seven bottles.’
When he reached for another bottle, Ebun flew at him and blocked his hand from taking another one. He laughed and with his free hand pulled her away easily and then he lifted her and whirled her around like a small baby. She fluttered her legs, shouting to be put down. Simeon started singing a lullaby. I was laughing so hard. When he finally put her down, she punched him playfully on his stomach.
‘Is it because I am small that you think you can handle me the way you like?’ Ebun said, panting hard.
He made another attempt to lift her up again but she moved backwards. He winked at her and reached for another bottle
‘My wife, my wife.’ He said and moved towards the large tray of cookies. Ebun shouted and ran to stand in front of the tray. This time their struggle ended when he carried her to the bedroom. Whatever happened there I don’t know, but it took a whooping fifteen minutes before they returned to the living room. By this time, I was done packing the drinks and snacks.
Ebun apologized. ‘I’m so sorry Yemisi. I don’t know what entered our head this morning.’
I said it was fine. She had been stressed by the several trips to the market that week and it was good she had time to relax.
We got into Simeon’s car and drove to Mama D’s place. I was quiet and didn’t want to join in their conversation. Many thoughts kept running through my mind.
I wanted to get married. I craved the bonding Simeon and his wife had. Would I ever meet a man who’d love me selflessly? Was there such a man who’d be comfortable with my desire to work full-time in an outreach that paid stipends? Aren’t most men like Wale who aimed for boss ladies a.k.a career madams as wives?
Festus. I’d hoped something would work out between us. I had this picture of me and Festus in the exact form of Simeon and Ebun. Simeon was a corporate guy, Festus was a tech guy. Ebun was changing the narrative for girls and leading them to Christ, I was also pursuing a similar path.
But Festus…Oh my hope had been crushed. That guy was just one desperate brother looking for a christian sister to hook up with. I wasn’t that kind of woman. I was not going to fall for a man who merely saw me as a marital goal.
God, if I’m not asking for too much, please send this brother my way soon.
Maybe, I’d meet him at Mama D’s birthday ceremony, I thought. With God all things are possible abi?
‘Yemisi,’ Ebun called out. I pushed the romantic thoughts aside and gave her my attention. She pointed at a supermarket in front of us. ‘We want to get presents for Mama.’
I remembered I didn’t have any gift for Mama. ‘I want to get something for her too.’
There was no space in the car park at the supermarket. Simeon drove some miles away and parked in front of a church. We strolled in and got our purchases. Ebun bought a travel leather homemade scrapbook, Simeon an expensive antique mug cup and I a wool throw.
As we got close to the car, I started telling the couple the story of how I met Mama when a hungry-looking man with unkempt hair dressed in a faded white shirt and dirty jean hurried towards us.
‘Please help me with any money you have. My brother is on the hospital bed and the doctor said if we don’t produce money for the surgery, he will die. Please I beg you in the name of the Lord, help me.’
Ebun pulled out two five hundred naira notes from her purse to give the man. Simeon looked hard at him. ‘You always have one tale to tell. Last time, you said the money for your transport fare was not complete. Another time, it was your sister that had an accident.’
I know this face.
I know him.’ I muttered.
The man took the money from Ebun and bounced away gaily as if he had just received a million dollar. He stopped and turned in our direction, waving at us.
Who was I seeing? This couldn’t be possible.
This could not be Wale.
Simeon folded his hand and was staring at the man. ‘Whenever I come around this place and this man approach me for money, I always sense something very dark about him. He speaks intelligently and it makes me wonder where things went wrong for him.
The man laughed and rubbed his finger over the tip of his tongue and started to count the money. He tucked the notes into his back pocket and went to a fair skin lady standing beside a Benz.
I still couldn’t take away my gaze from him. The lady shushed him and waved him away with a look of disgust on her face. He scratched his head and scanned around for the next person he’d approach.
This can’t be Wale. It cannot be him, I thought.
We were about getting into the car when Simeon slammed the door shut and turned in the direction of the man who was now sitting on a bench, staring at the moving traffic.
‘Why do I perceive his name is Wale and God would have me get him out of here?’
I broke down in tears. If Simeon had not been sensitive to the Holy Spirit, I would never had believed it was Wale I was seeing in rags. This picture of Wale messed with the confident man I dated few years ago.
Simeon and Ebun glanced at me, puzzled.
‘Wale.’ I said, pointing at him. ‘That’s his name. Simeon, please help him.’
Simeon’s eyes widened. ‘You know him.’
I dried my eyes quickly when I saw he was walking towards in our direction, absentmindedly tearing at a loaf of bread.
‘My ex. I told you about him.’
‘Oh my God!’ Ebun exclaimed.
Simeon smiled. ‘I just heard what I’m supposed to say to him. He is coming with us.’
Simeon went to him, looking him straight in the face as he spoke. My heart broke for Wale. What would have happened to him? I remember that Lizzy, one of the ladies in the church had sworn to deal with him. Had she really meant it? What happened to the plans to travel out of the country? The marriage didn’t hold? What for goodness sake happened to the Pastor of Pure Heavens Assembly?
Simeon returned with Wale. I had no doubt it was my ex. He frowned and stared hard at me.
‘Yemisi!’ Wale said and ran into my arms.
Wale stank. He reeked of urine and of an odour that almost choked me. Instead of pushing him away, I patted his head gently. When he raised his head, there were tears in his eyes. Simeon opened the passenger door.
‘Wale, come with us. We are going somewhere to have a good time.’
Ebun flashed him a broad grin. ‘We have lots of food and drinks. You will eat as much as you want.’
Wale’s eyes brightened at the mention of food. He appeared starved and I hoped he caught the bait.
He looked from me to Simeon and to Ebun, shook his head and began to walk away.
‘Wale, please.’ I pleaded again.
He turned towards us again. He shook his head. ‘I don’t belong in your circle again. I’m far gone.’
Simeon frowned. ‘Wale, Get into the car now!’
Ebun and I glanced at her husband in surprise. As if controlled by a remote button, Wale tottered into the car.
I sat beside Wale, my thoughts torn in different directions. I was scared a little and confused too.
When Simeon turned on the car stereo and played Sinach’s ‘I know who I am’, Wale became restless. His fingers began to twitch and he shifted restlessly in his seat. My heart pounded so hard and different images attacked my mind. Wale was acting like he was under a demonic influence. What if he made an attempt to strangulate me?
‘I want to come down, please. I don’t want to go with you again!’ He shouted.
He tried opening the door with so much force but he couldn’t.
Simeon didn’t respond. Wale banged on the car window so hard I thought he’d break it. I’d never been afraid like that in my life. His eyes were blood shot and when he glared at me, I almost peed in my panties. I started praying in tongues, fear almost ripping my heart out.
Ebun was so calm and that made me jealous. Wale began to clap his hands and sing.
I see darkness everywhere.
I see darkness everywhere
I see darkness everywhere.
Ebun turned to him. ‘No, what you see is light. The light of Christ shines upon you.’
He looked around the car as if in search of the light Ebun was talking about and then he fell quiet. Thankfully, the traffic had eased up. I couldn’t wait to get to Mama’s place.
A hand touched me. I jumped. Wale was smiling broadly.
‘I scared you?’ He said.
I was panting so fast I couldn’t respond immediately. He turned his attention away from me and began to hum slowly.
‘I’m hungry.’ He announced.
Ebun gave him her food warmer containing the rice and plantain we prepared that morning. He ate with his bare hand even when Ebun offered him a spoon. I sat there watching him, my heart full of compassion for him. He caught me staring at him. I quickly took my eyes away and stared out the window.
Four hours in that car with Wale seemed like forever. Finally, we got to Mama D’s house. I jumped out of the car and went straight to the trunk for the cooler of zobo. I wanted to get as far away from this ‘stranger’ as fast as possible.
Mama D’s house was packed full with people. The living room had been rearranged to accommodate more chairs. I knew most of the people present although there were few unfamiliar faces.
‘Yemisi is here!’ One of Mama’s mentees, Bimbo, shouted and rushed to help me with the heavy cooler. Together, we carried the cooler into the kitchen and dropped it on the kitchen table.
I hugged her. ‘Bimbo, it’s been ages. You just forgot about us in Lagos. How is Abeokuta?’
She grinned. ‘Abeokuta is fine. I’m so happy to be here. I have missed you.’
Bimbo had not changed. She was still short and plump with ‘yam’ legs. I loved to see her smile because then I get to see her cute gap tooth. The last time I saw Bimbo was four years ago when Mama organized a weekend retreat for some of her mentees.
‘I’m getting married next month.’ She announced, fluttering the bright silver ring on her fourth finger.
‘Your ring is lovely.’
Some ladies came in with more coolers. Abigail followed behind with a large metal can of cookies. She waited until Bimbo and the other ladies left the kitchen before turning to me.
‘Who did I just see in the living room?’ She said, her eyes full of surprise.
She opened her mouth. ‘What happened to him? Why is he looking so…horrible?’
Somebody screamed. Abigail and I rushed out of the kitchen to see what had happened. Wale was on the floor rolling from one side to the other.
‘He is under an attack.’ Abigail whispered to me and moved closer to him.
Wale stood up and vomited right at the center of the living room. Some of the mess splashed on Papa D’s trouser. Two men led him quickly towards a sink at the side of the living room but already he had left a pool of puke behind. On the floor were worms mixed with blood and a white foamy substance.
The men led him back to Papa who placed his hand on him and began to pray for him. Mama was also standing by Abigail’s mother, muttering words of prayer.
‘I break every hold of the devil over your life. You are set free in the name of Jesus! Every voice that is not of God is silenced right now.’
Wale went on his knees and cried loudly. He reached for Papa D’s feet and placed his face on it. The people gathered in the living room began to sing in unison.
That wonderful name, Jesus
That wonderful name, Jesus
That wonderful name, Jesus
There is no other name I know.
Somebody grabbed my waist. I turned to see Adesuwa trembling beside me.
‘Miss Yemisi, I’m scared.’
Quickly, I pulled her away from the scene and took her into the guest room. She was still trembling. I held her close.
‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ She said when I led her gently to the bed. ‘Miss Yemisi, I think I have seen his face before. Has he come to to pick you up from Cornerstone College?’
I nodded. ‘You are right.’
‘Why is he like this? Is he not a christian?’
I sat close to her. ‘Adesuwa, I have not seen Wale in two years. I don’t know what he opened himself up to that gave room for the devil to deal with him this way.’
She looked at me confused. ‘I don’t understand what you are saying.’
I sat gently beside her, praying for wisdom to explain this truth to her. ‘Listen, when a man becomes born-again, he receives the perfect nature of God in his spirit. 1 Peter 1 verse 23 says, that nature is incorruptible. It is perfect and in oneness with our spirit. It is the nature of Christ. However a man who has received this nature still possesses an unrenewed mind. It is his responsibility to reprogram that mind so that it can reflect the character of his true nature. If he doesn’t, he’ll become an easy target for the operations of the devil in his life.’
Adesuwa nodded slowly. ‘Renewing the mind means I must spent time with the word regularly right?’
‘Yes. A person is not properly renewing his mind if he is vibrant with communion with God one month and ignores it the next. As he keeps his gaze on his right standing with God, he’ll draw strength to stand against the flesh.’
Adesuwa closed her eyes and opened them. ‘I don’t want to ever lose the hunger for my heavenly father. I don’t want to sin against God too.’
I smiled. I had one more thing to say. ‘Adesuwa, you can’t stand against sin by trying not to sin or calling into account the sins we are battling with.’
‘Yes! Aunty Abigail said something like that. She said, the more we consistently focus on what the word says about our nature, the more disengaged we’ll be towards sin. In fact, it is impossible to be yielded to the Holy Spirit and live in the flesh.’
I slapped her a hi five. ‘Good! You are really learning a lot.’
Adesuwa sighs. ‘I hope Uncle Wale will be fine.’
‘I believe so. He has a father who loves him dearly. He’ll be delivered from the grip of the devil.’
Adesuwa hesitated. ‘Are you saying, it was not God who sent the devil to punish him?’
I shook my head. ‘No. God does not punish his children with evil. You know why? God has no capacity to do evil. He does not also collaborate with Satan to punish us when we err. That would go against his nature. God is love and he is good always. The devil is the author of evil. God will not force his son to stay with any instruction he gives. When he steps out, he walks right into the enemy’s camp. My bumping into Wale today was the Father’s way of rescuing his son. Wale will be restored.’
‘Amen.’ Adesuwa muttered.
From the living room, we heard loud voices chanting the Happy birthday song. ‘
‘Do you want to rest a little?’ I asked.
She shook her head and stretched out her hand. ‘I’m fine. I feel much better.’
I pulled her up and together we walked out of the bedroom.
In the living room, the mess had been cleaned up but I couldn’t find Wale anywhere. I figured he would have retreated to the men’s room to shower and change his clothes.
The celebration went well. Prayers were said for Mama. Ladies who had been mentored shared testimonies of how Mama had greatly affected their lives.
Camera lights from phones blinked from all corners. Drinks and small chops were passed around. There was so much laughter and more people kept pouring in.
‘Please, can I have a can of malt?’ Someone said from behind me. I was holding a pack of malt cans, scanning the room to see those who had not been served.
I pulled out a can and was about giving it to the person who had asked when my eyes caught the face.
He smiled and took the drink from my hand. ‘Yemisi.’
‘Oh! I didn’t know you were around. You came in today?’
He nodded and popped the can open. ‘This morning.’
‘I’m very sure you’ll be running off again.’ I said.
He shook his head. ‘Not this time. I’m here for a retreat. I’ve been on the mission field since the first day in January and I figured I needed some time off before setting out to work again. I’ll be around here for a while.’ He looked towards the dining table. ‘Who is that girl?’
I followed his eyes. Adesuwa was sitting at a corner away from others, pressing her phone. ‘She is one of my teenage girls.’
He looked away from her and brought his gaze back to me. I held my breath and released it slowly.
‘Can I have a chat with her?’
He smiled. ‘I’ll talk to you later.’
I watched Ayomide grab a chair and move over to where Adesuwa was sitting. She recoiled at first but when he started talking, she relaxed and even laughed at something he said. I went back into the kitchen to help and when I returned to the sitting room, I was surprised to see Ayomide still talking with Adesuwa. The girl didn’t even notice when I walked past her. She was so engrossed in the discussion with him.
Adesuwa had been munching cake since the celebration began. There was a large piece on a plate in front of her. I went to her.
‘Adesuwa, after this piece, no more cakes. You’ve eaten enough.’
She frowned and pretended to cry. ‘Miss Yemisi, please.’
‘Miss Yemisi, it’s just cake.’ Ayomide said, looking at me with pleading eyes. ‘It’s…cake.’ He repeated.
She looked from Ayomide to me. ‘Exactly, I don’t know when I’ll eat delicious cake like this again.’
‘Abi?’ Ayomide said, ‘Let’s enjoy while it last.’
I opened my mouth to say something to Ayo but I shut my mouth.
He winked at me and turned to Adesuwa ‘On a serious note, no more cake after this.’
Adesuwa frowned. ‘I thought you had my back.’
He reclined in his seat. ‘Somebody cannot play with you again. No more cakes so eat this piece very slowly.’
She cried. ‘Uncle Ayo, it’s not fair.’
I laughed and walked away from them. I looked around for any sign of Wale. I still didn’t see him.
It was almost eight p.m by the time we finished tidying the living room. After everyone retired to bed, I dished out fried rice and two laps of fried turkey and went to the dining table. Ayomide was there nibbling at cookies.
‘What a day.’ I said, pulling out a chair and settling into it. .
‘Thank God I didn’t miss it.’ he rubbed his stomach. ‘I can’t remember when last I ate this much.’
I laughed. We ate in silence.
‘Mum said you work with a Travel Agency.’ Ayomide said.
I nodded. ‘Yes. But I’ll be resigning soon.’
He stopped eating and looked at me. ‘Why?’
I’m volunteering with Zion Teens full-time. I can’t work and still go through series of training required to join the ministry. I didn’t know Zion Mission had such strict procedures but I’m ready for it. I just know that’s where God will have me serve.’
He stared at me and said nothing. Ayomide threw the last cookie into his mouth.
‘I remember the first time God began to speak to me about Zion Missions. I had completed my medical training in the US, stayed back for my residency and had no plans of returning to Nigeria. I had a job too. Mehn, I struggled.’
I giggled. ‘That’s exactly the way I feel right now. It’s very comfortable at Pavilion. Good salary. Great ambience. Awesome boss. I almost doubted if God wanted me to leave.’
I plunged my fork into the turkey and tore out a small part. ‘So how did you step out?’
He smiled. ‘I was restless. I mean very restless. The instruction to return to Nigeria was very clear. It was disturbing because God didn’t say exactly what I was supposed to do when I returned. The only instruction was for me to come home. I told my parents. They didn’t even debate my decision. It was as if God had reached them first. Anyway, I packed my things and came home. Two weeks after I arrived Nigeria, I went to see my mentor.’
‘You’ve known Papa D for a while?’ I asked.
‘Oh yes! I got born-again in JSS 2. Papa was my physics teacher then. We’ve come a long way.’
Ayomide folded his hands. ‘I can never forget the day I was kneeling in the living room after I got back into the country and I saw a vision of myself and a team driving into a particular village in a bus filled with medical supplies. Immediately, the Lord told me that I would meet someone the following day and I would work with him on my new assignment.’
I was enjoying the discussion, my food forgotten. I didn’t want Ayo to stop talking.
Ayomide continued ‘The next day, the founder of Zion Missions visited Papa D. He started talking about plans to start a medical outreach as a sub division of the ministry. That day, I was helping Mama in the kitchen when I heard him say that. I just started laughing.’
I wiped my palms on a serviette. ‘Don’t you miss the days before you joined the mission? I mean you were in the United States.’
He asked me to pass him a bottle of water from a pack close to where I was sitting. I did.
‘I know it seem so hard to believe but I don’t. I am very happy with my work here. I am content with God’s plans for my life.
We talked at length. I told him about some of the things God was saying to me. He shared some of the instructions he had received. There was this unexplainable drive for God about Ayomide that just stirred in me a determination to do God’s will. I told him about the school fellowship and my proposed meeting with some of my students. He gave me some ideas on what to do and then he folded his hand and said,
‘Yemisi, take that meeting seriously. Get on your knees and spend time praying about it. Hear what God wants you to say to those students. Trust me, whether it will be a success or not depends on your intentionality about it. I sense strongly it will be the beginning of a new life for some of those students.’
I let out a deep breath. ‘Amen.’
‘Two of my friends are here with me for the retreat. One of them is from the Zion Medical Outreach. The other works with Ebun at the Zion Girls. We’ll be glad to help in any way possible. If you need people to stretch in prayers with you or to help with preparation, just let me know.’
Just few hours of conversing with this brother and I felt so rejuvenated. Why had I not met Ayo earlier?
As I stood up to take my plate to the kitchen, I saw Wale standing at the entrance to the men’s room. When our eyes met, he moved away and went back into the room.
Click to read Episode 17