I resigned from Pavilion Travel Agency.
The night before that happened, I couldn’t sleep until 4a.m. The head of Zion Teens had called earlier with a very depressing news.
‘Yemisi, we are happy that you have decided to serve with us but I must let you know that until you are done with the stipulated trainings and workshops, you’ll only be paid a stipend of ten thousand naira monthly. Again, Zion Teens is a new project of the Zion Mission and while the headquarters will be giving us the support they can, we’ll be handling the financial expenses to a large extent. As a team, we’ll have to trust God for funds for all our outreaches.’
I panicked at first. Training was for three months and another three months for probation before I became a full-fledged member? How do I survive with ten thousand naira?
My fear dissipated when I calculated my savings.
Two million naira.
That was more than enough to hold me for a while. If I managed the money well, I might still have enough to last me even when the drills were over.
As I knelt beside my bed to pray before going to bed, I heard a voice
Send one million naira to Hope for Girls and forward another one million to Andrew for Zion Teens.
What did I just hear?
I stopped praying and sat on my bed, puzzled.
This cannot be God. How can God ask me to take that kind of money and give it out? Am I Father Christmas? If I removed that huge sum, how much would be left in my account?
I paced the room, muttering words to myself.
God cannot ask me to do this, I concluded. For goodness sake, I just sent almost a million naira home for dad’s treatment and another fifty thousand naira to my sister, Yewande?
Tears burned my eyes as I lay on that bed. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I was restless. No matter how much I tried to argue with what I’d heard, I knew it was what God wanted me to do.
If I took out the two million naira from my account, I’d just have three hundred and seventy thousand naira left. Since I had decided to resign abruptly, I had to pay in lieu of notice. That means three hundred thousand naira had to be returned to the office. I’d be left with seventy thousand naira. My brother was getting married and I’d promised to send the balance of forty thousand naira as my contribution for the wedding.
How was I going to survive three months on ten thousand naira monthly? How do I even tell my parents that I was leaving a paid job for a ministerial assignment?
Now you understand why I was restless all night. When I woke up and dressed up for my last day at work, I reassured myself that God would take care of my needs. It worked for a few minutes, but when I stepped out of the house, worry and anxiety consumed my heart again.
I couldn’t even change my mind because I’d look stupid to my colleagues. I had already informed Mabel and the HR about my decision to resign. Almost everyone in the office knew I was leaving. There was no turning back.
‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Jide asked as I sat in his office that morning.
I nodded. ‘Yes, Jide. I want to pursue what I have been called to do.’
‘That’s good.’ He leaned forward. ‘You can still stay in the family house for as long as you want. Although my parents will be coming in for a wedding next month, they’ll just be at the house for a week before returning to the US.’
I long to stay in Jide’s family house until my training in November. Andrew had sent me the schedule for the three months training; long stretches of prayers, bible studies, trips to communities, in house facilitations, online teens coaching courses, participation in the organizing of teen camp meetings, brainstorming on creative ideas with the secondary school educators of the ministry… the list was endless.
When I told Mama D about my decision to resign, she instructed that I pack all my belongings and come over to her house immediately. The thought of staying four months in Mama’s house didn’t settle well with me. I craved my quiet space at Jide’s family house. It was my safe haven. I loved that I could cook when I wanted and on days when I didn’t feel like, I’d get snacks and drinks.
All that would change once I move into Mama’s house. Since Mama’s birthday, some of the mentees had stayed back. There were now three ladies and five brothers and I was supposed to share a room with the ladies. No privacy.
‘Thank you.’ I said to Jide. ‘But I’ll be moving to my mentor’s house tomorrow.’
He clapped his hands. ‘Okay, if you say so.’
Back in my office, I saw a wrapped gift on the side of my table with an inscription on it.
‘From the advertising and Marketing department.’
I was shocked. I mean, they had barely rolled with me since the incident with Taiwo. Why were they doing this?
They gathered around my table and I stared from one person to another, speechless. My heart was already dampened. This was my last day here. I picked up the wrapped package.
‘Thank you so much.’ I said.
Simeon was not in when I was ready to leave. I gave a last wave to my colleagues and walked out of Pavilion.
‘Yemisi, what’s wrong with you?’ Abigail asked as I arranged my stuff into my boxes. It was my last night at Jide’s family house. No matter how much she tried to cheer me up, it was just so hard to be excited.
‘I’m running out of cash Abigail. Very soon, my mum will call to ask for more money. Besides, I don’t like the fact that I’ll have to depend on Mama for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Right now, I’m fighting not to question if God really sent me to this.’
Abigail pulled me away from the box. ‘Where is your journal?’
I went to get it from my wardrobe and dropped it on the bed.
Abigail held the journal without opening it. ‘You see, when you notice that doubts are beginning to creep into your heart, learn to go through the instructions and promises God gave to you.’
I shook my head. ‘Imagine, I’m well aware of what you are saying. I know that the way to strengthen conviction is by praying over the things God has said. I just don’t know why I forgot.’
Abigail rubbed my shoulder. ‘I forget too. There were times I have taught boldly spiritual realities but when I came face with contradictions, it was you who helped me remember.’
I knelt with the journal opened in front of me and tears streamed down my face. Abigail knelt beside me. I prayed. I wept. I asked God for strength.
Now he that ministers seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.
Oh how 2 Corinthians nine verse ten always brought comfort to my heart since the day I knew God wanted me to leave Pavilion.
I laid on the floor and started laughing out loud. Abigail pulled me up and we danced round the room, singing at the top of our voices.
My phone rang. Festus.
‘Why is he calling me?’ I said to Abigail.
‘Pick the call and find out.’ She said.
When I did, Festus’ voice sounded low. He asked how I was doing. I told him I was fine. Then he said,
‘Yemisi, I know I’ve been a jerk. I am very sorry. I didn’t mean to be so forward like I did the last time. I was just too excited to meet you and lost control of my manners. Simeon spoke to me and I’ve repented. Please forgive me.’
I sighed. ‘I’m not holding anything against you Festus.’
‘Thank you very much.’ He paused. ‘Will you still give me another chance to at least get to know you? Just lunch please.’
For some reason I couldn’t explain, I felt at peace. ‘Fine, I’ll let you know when I’m free.’
‘I look forward to seeing you again.’
When I ended the call, I lay beside Abigail, staring at the ceiling.
‘He apologized.’ I said without looking at her. ‘He wants to have lunch with me.’
‘Hmmm…’ Abigail muttered.
Festus filled my thoughts that night. All I could think about was the ease marrying him would bring to my ministry. If we got married, I wouldn’t have to think about resources or money especially now that Simeon told me Festus had landed a huge partnership deal with a Chinese company.
This might just be God rewarding me for giving out the two million naira in my account. I smiled and scrolled through instagram to search for his picture.
I moved out of Jide’s house. This was a new phase of my life. I had been pushed out of my comfort zone and in a way, I felt the cold wind biting into my bones.
When the taxi pulled into Mama’s compound, one of Papa’s mentees was sitting in the veranda reading his bible. Wale was pacing the compound praying with another brother. I could hear laughter coming from the house. The mixture of the voices of prayer and laughter immediately brought a soothing relief to my heart.
The man at the veranda helped me with my boxes. Wale and his partner joined him too. When I got into the house, Ayomide was sitting in the living room talking with Papa D. Papa smiled and I went to greet him.
I went down on my knees. ‘Good evening Papa.’
‘My girl is here.’ Papa said, his hands patting my back gently. He glanced briefly at the men pulling my boxes towards the ladies room. ‘Some serious labour is about to commence.’
Ayomide folded his hand and crossed his leg over the arm of the sofa. He winked at me. I winked back.
‘Ayo will give you proper training of what ministry life entails.’
Ayomide laughed. ‘We’ve started the training sessions already. She has been a diligent student.’
I raised my hand in mock joy before turning to Papa. ‘Where is Mummy?’
‘Kitchen.’ Papa said.
I hurried to the kitchen. Kudirat, the househelp and another lady were plucking ewedu leaves. Mama was telling them a story and they were all staring at her with rapt attention. Wale was peeling oranges and I was surprised how he had quickly moved from his prayers to helping me with my boxes to peeling oranges in the kitchen.
‘Omo mi ti de o.’ Mama exclaimed, dancing as I approached her. She pulled me into her arms, patted my back a little hard, shook my shoulders and hugged me again.
She looked from me to the other lady. ‘I think it’s time I leave this kitchen for you ladies. Someone should prepare the stew for tomorrow’s rice. Another person should prepare the ewedu. When you are done, make the eguisi for tonight. Kudirat, come and get something for me at the junction.’
She left the kitchen with Kudirat and we got to work. You won’t believe Wale didn’t leave the kitchen. I believe he was deliberately peeling the oranges slowly just so he could remain there. How long does it take to peel twenty oranges?
Even when we finished preparing the stew and eguisi and the other lady left, he was still there with the knife, stealing glances at me.
Ayomide entered the kitchen and went into an inner room that served as the store. He brought out a pack of semovita and half-filled a large pot with water. As he placed the pot on the gas cooker, two ladies entered the kitchen, carrying a large tray of smoked fish.
‘Ayo, the best semovita maker. He has a Ph.D in preparing semovita without lumps.’ One of the ladies said after they had dropped the tray in the store.
The second lady turned to me. ‘Pounded yam too. If you see the yam Ayo pounded for us last week. It was smooth and perfect.’
Ayomide bowed playfully, turning his head from one side to another. ‘Merci beacoup. Thank you.’
I faced him. ‘I thought you were ajebutter. Why are you acting like one pako child?’
Ayo giggled as he poured a little quantity of the semolina into a bowl. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’
The ladies left and I was left alone with him. I helped with the food warmers and the small transparent nylon bags.
‘How does it feel leaving your job?’ Ayo said as he stirred the uncooked meal vigorously.
I let out a deep sigh. ‘Happy. Nervous. Hopeful. Curious.’
He glanced at me. ‘Soon, all of those feelings will emerge into one. Satisfaction.’
Kudirat came into the kitchen and it was then I noticed that Wale had been leaning on the kitchen table, staring at me. Sincerely, I had completely forgotten he was in the kitchen.
‘Yemisi, please can I have a word with you?’ Wale said.
I was not sure I wanted to talk. ‘Now?’
He shrugged. ‘If you are not busy, yeah.’
Ayo winked at me. ‘You can go. Kudirat will help me with whatever I need.’
Mama’s eyes followed us as we walked out of the house. Wale suggested we sit in the open space shaded by a large blue umbrella. It was a beautiful place to relax on a cool evening. I remembered how several times, Papa and Mama had lunch with the mentees and sometimes bible study.
I pulled out a beautifully made bamboo chair and sat down. I waited for Wale to start the conversation. There was so much I wanted to know. What happened to him? Why did he end up in the streets? What had gone wrong?
‘I’m sorry for the way I treated you. You deserved better.’ Wale started.
I shrugged. ‘It’s fine Wale. Let’s leave all that in the past. But I’m curious, what happened to you?’
Wale turned his face away. I could see he was in so much pain. He brought his gaze to rest on me. ‘You don’t know this. Apart from the money I took from you, I borrowed more to keep the church going. I wanted it to be top notch. I wanted my church to be a class of its own. But I couldn’t pay my debts and one morning I was arrested and taken to the police station.’
He continued. ‘Those men beat the hell out of me. I told them I didn’t have any money. I tried to seek help from Victoria. She didn’t pick my call.’
Victoria. That name was familiar.
I remembered who Victoria was. ‘That was the lady you were seeing while we were still together? The one you wanted to travel overseas with.’
‘You knew about it. That was why you left.’ He rubbed his hand over his face and let out a deep breath. ‘I feel so ashamed of myself.’
‘Go on, Wale. I’m listening.’
‘I was so frustrated. I tried her line several times, she still didn’t answer me. Thirty minutes later, she sent me a text message saying I was a fraudster. Obviously she heard all that happened. Yemisi, I had no one. I was too ashamed to call Jide. All my church people disappeared. Even the leaders of the church that I thought would have my back didn’t show up. I had no ministry, no money, nothing. Then Lizzy came to my rescue.’
‘Lizzy has always been there for you.’ I said, smiling remembering how I thought she was obsessed about him.
Wale looked down. ‘Lizzy. I regret the day I met her. I wish I refused the invitation to minister at her school fellowship where we first had a conversation. She paid my debts. I don’t know how she got the money to pay my debts. I knew I would never be free from her.’
I considered what he said for a moment. ‘Maybe she loves you, or what do you think?’
Wale began to unbutton his shirt. At first, I was scared he was having a relapse. I sat straight, ready to run if he tried anything funny but then a part of me was calm. He removed the shirt to reveal a white singlet. He pulled off the singlet.
I gasped when I saw marks covering different parts of his body. It was as if someone had patiently used a hot knife to create patterned lines on his back. There were deep scars covering his chest. I covered my mouth and tears began to pour down my face.
‘Stop crying Yemisi,’ Wale said and wrapped his palm around my fingers. ‘I brought this upon myself. I was chasing shadows. I learnt the hard way.’
‘Are you saying she did this to you?’
Wale nodded. ‘Somebody must have been praying for me. I am very sure of that. I should be dead by now but God’s mercy rescued me. Every night, Lizzy tortured me. I saw her in my dreams, she sent men to deal with me right in our bedroom, we had sex when she wanted it and I dared not refuse it. When I wake up bleeding, she’d tend to my wounds like a good nurse and remind me I brought it on myself. Oh that lady almost killed me.’
I tried to picture Lizzy doing all of the things he had said. The girl had seemed so young and naïve. I had thought she was just a mentee crushing on her mentor. I remember the angry look she gave me the day we accompanied Wale for a ministration. I also remember sitting beside her at Pure Heaven Assembly and reading the screenshots that proved Wale was seeing Victoria.
‘What about your apartment? I remember there was one you took me to see after one of the Sunday services.’
Wale shook his head. ‘She didn’t allow me go back there. Not like I had anything left there anyway. My furniture, freezer, kitchen utensils, almost all my belongings had gone into the payment of my debt.’
‘Wale you’ve gone through a lot.’ I said, my heart full of compassion for him.
‘God rescued me.’ Wale said, his eyes brimmed with tears. ‘I remember one afternoon, I sat on the floor crying to God to deliver me from the bondage, and just then, the entrance door opened. Initially, I thought Lizzy was back until I heard a voice say, ‘Go away from here as fast as you can!’ I ran away and didn’t look back. But she had already messed with my head. I was hearing voices. I was seeing men in dark hoods chasing me. It was crazy.’
‘We have a Father.’ I said quietly.
Wale blocked his eyes with his clenched fist but I knew he was crying. When he raised his head, tears glittered his eyes. ‘I don’t know why God will love me this much.’ He hesitated. ‘I’m here to learn. I told Papa D already that I would submit to him and do whatever he says. I’m ready to do things right.’
Wale went on his knees before I had the chance of stopping him. ‘I’m sorry Yemisi. I’m really sorry.’
I pulled him back up and held his chin. We gazed into each other’s eyes and I had one resolve within me. I was going to be there for him. Wale was different now. I was going to prove that I was not a fair-weathered Christian woman. This would be a new beginning for us.
‘Will you forgive me Yemisi?’
‘I have forgiven you already. I don’t have anything against you anymore.’
Wale hesitated. ‘Do you think I’m still worth a second chance?’
I didn’t expect the question to come out so fast. I folded my hands. ‘Wale, I-’
‘You can take as much time as you want to pray about this. I have not given you what you deserve. If I get another chance to make things right, I’ll treat you like the woman you are. I really love you Yemisi.’
One of the guys in the house interrupted our deep moment. Dinner had been served and Mama wanted both of us to come into the house. We told him we’d joining them soon.
‘I’ll pray about it.’ I said to Wale when the man left.
‘Thank you very much.’ Wale said.
I had two men to pray about. Wale. Festus. Who would God lead me to choose? It was clear that Wale had changed. I’d seen how he submitted to Papa’s instructions.
One of the weekends I came over to Mama’s house, Papa had organized an evening fellowship in the compound. A pastor had invited Wale to minister at the youth fellowship of his church. Wale had been excited but Papa had said No. It was not time for him to take preaching engagements. There was still some more work to be done. I was surprised to see how well he took Papa’s refusal. Immediately, he called the Pastor and rejected the invitation.
As we walked back in, Wale held my hand, smiling.
‘You are a blessed woman. With you, a man has rest of mind.’
I didn’t respond but those words made my heart soar. ‘Thank you Wale.’
Could God be asking me to get back with Wale? What about Festus. That man knew what God had called me to do and he seemed ready to support me. He had a thriving business and I would not have to think about money to pursue my passions.
God, I need clarity.
Mum came to Lagos to see Yewande. I was so happy that I left my online class and rushed over to Yewande’s place. When I got there, my sister and my mother were sitting in the living room looking gloomy.
‘Yemisi, so you know the way to my house.’ My sister said sarcastically.
It’d been a long time I came to my sister’s place but at least we’d been talking on the phone.
‘Ma binu. I have been so busy.’ I said and went to greet my mother. She answered coldly and I wondered what was wrong.
Mum faced my sister. ‘You must go to Benin to meet him.’
Yewande looked at her defiantly. ‘I am not going anywhere mummy! I am not going!’
I looked from my mother to my sister. ‘What’s going on?’
Yewande was clearly upset. ‘My husband got a job in Benin.’
I smiled. ‘That’s so beautiful. Finally, he has a stable job.’
‘Fara bale and hear the rest of the news!’ My mother shouted aloud, her eyes fixed on Yewande. ‘Tell her everything!’
Whatever was getting my mother this angry had to be serious.
Yewande looked at me. ‘When I asked when he was coming to take us. He said, he wasn’t.’
‘What!’ I looked at her shocked. ‘Why?’
‘He lives with his boss. Let me put it out plainly. He is rendering home services to his boss in her bedroom.’
‘Home service? What’s that?’
‘Are you really asking me that?’ She rolled her eyes at me. ‘Have you heard of sugar mummy before?’
Yewande was in tears. ‘What do you call a man who has an arranged sexual relationship with a woman outside of his wife? For the woman I know she is called mistress. What-’ Yewande stopped talking and covered her face.
My mother was on her feet. ‘Go to Benin and confront that man! You can’t just sit down here and watch your marriage die! Fight for this marriage!’
‘How am I supposed to do that mum? I don’t even know where he is in Benin. Am I supposed to just take a bus down there and ask every stranger on the street if they know where to find my husband?’
My mother kept quiet and stared at the TV screen. I pulled my sister to her feet.
‘Mum, we’ll be back.’ I looked around the living room. ‘Where are the kids?’
‘They are playing at the neigbour’s house. I don’t want them to see me like this.’ Yewande said, breaking into more tears.
As we walked into the room, Mum called me back.
‘Ehen, now that Wale is out of the picture, what man is on ground?’
‘Mummy!’ My sister and I chorused.
She stretched out on the sofa. ‘Keep shouting ‘mummy’. Just know that time has gone Yemisi.’ She stood up. ‘Let me go and get my grandchildren.’
Yewande hissed and pulled me into the bedroom. She turned to me.
‘Don’t even let anybody put pressure on you! It’s not worth it. It is you who will live with this man. They won’t be there when things turn sour.’
We sat on the floor with our back against the wall. We were comfortable with the silence.
Yewande broke it. ‘You were right. I should have listened to you. If I had agreed to sell soft drinks and snacks, maybe I’ll still have a home. It’s my fault.’
‘Don’t say that!’ I exclaimed. ‘It’s not enough reason for him to be a sex slave to his boss.’
Yewande shook her head, tears streaming from her eyes. ‘Every night I sleep, I imagine my husband in bed with that woman and-‘ she stopped to hold back more tears. ‘It’d have been better if I didn’t know he was sleeping with her. He said he would leave once he gets another job.’
I waited for her to continue. ‘I just got a place in a primary school. The pay is small but it’s something. I don’t want any of his filthy money. ’
She burst into tears again. I drew her into my arms. I cried with her.
click to read Episode 18
I apologize for not posting this episode on Monday.
Read: Dear Bisola.