Written By: Lizzy Oyebola Oyekunle
I turned the ignition key and frowned slightly as my hand held the door lever.
“What am I doing here?” I asked myself.
I looked at the beautiful environment and the great edifice of the church where my dad was the presiding pastor- Holiness Assemblies International.
He had been troubling me over five years to go to church. Even after I disowned him as a father, he wouldn’t stop sending me messages- “Let God find you” it would mostly say.
I knew I would never yield to such plea- nothing called church would I allow in my life!
However, I was in the compound of my dad’s church. Why? Probably the demon my dad said was inside of me was ready to deal with him, huh?
I chuckled silently as I walked towards the entrance. The service had obviously ended but I could hear some voices in the church.
I peeped through one of the windows slit and saw that it was a meeting for pastors. My mum was the only woman seated- I hadn’t seen them all in five years!
“Just go back to your car and drive away” the angel in me said
“Enter and show yourself. Show them who you are” the demon in me said.
I smiled at the demonic me and entered. I wanted to see who would dare me! Who would chase me away!
I blew the chewing gum in my mouth till it formed a big bubble. When it normalized, I chewed desperately to at least reduce the smell of alcohol that I reeked of.
“Saviour, like a Shepherd lead us” I heard a keyboard sound from upstairs. I looked around to find out who was playing it.
“Tessy!” I heard a familiar call me far in front of the altar- it was a familiar voice.
It was the voice that used to precede slaps and knocks and kicks- my dad’s voice!
I grimaced and started ‘bouncing’ to the gathering, chewing the gum noisily. It would be nice for the pastors to see what their leader’s daughter looked like.
I saluted my dad like a soldier would and took my place beside him, standing mockingly. Scanning the gathering for my mum’s face, I winked at her.
I blew the gum again and when it became normal, I crushed it down with every muscle in me.
All eyes was on me, speechlessly. Even the keyboard had stopped playing. There was a pindrop silence but for my rebellious chewing.
The heads of many of the pastors was bowed, some looked at me pitifully, running their eyes all over me.
I sure looked completely crazy!
I was wearing a fully multicoloured wig; I had some blue contact lenses on; my face was heavily made up with the sides artistically contoured. The lipstick I had on was glossy and full that ten other ladies could share comfortably if necessary.
Talking of the blouse I was wearing, it was a very small crop top, revealing my firm tummy and navel.
My eyelashes was long enough, they were sweeping the top of my nose!
I was wearing a faded torn baggy jeans knickers and the imported shoes I was wearing was not only so tall, they also had small tyres underneath them.
To kill it all, I was wearing a nose ring and a stud on my tongue.
I could tell that the inside of my father was boiling like he should descend on me and tear me to pieces.
“Hey everyone!” I called out sharply so they could reduce the intensity with which they stared and also destroy the annoying silence.
I was definitely not expecting them to reply my hello. It was more of an insult that a salutation.
“Hi” They all replied anyways, like I was the Master of Ceremony they’d been waiting for.
I looked at my dad and he had tears inside of his eyes. His face broke into a sweet smile when his eyes greeted mine.
I was shocked.
“My pastors, meet my beloved daughter, Tessy” He introduced me, wrapping his arm round my shoulders lovingly I almost ran mad!.
It was the first time ever!
“We are delighted to meet you!” Some said.
“Welcome daughter” Some said.
“You sure are beautiful!” Some also said and I was bewildered.
It wasn’t what I was expecting at all!
The pure innocent vocalist five years ago was obviously in their presence, all changed, shouldn’t they start arguing and ask my father to step down, huh?
My dad pulled out a chair for me. He signalled for me to sit and I obeyed, feeling so miserable.
“Seeing my daughter in church after so long years is a testimony. Praise the Lord!” He screamed excitedly.
“Halleluyah!” They replied too, very loudly, in cooperation.
I started feeling so uncomfortable. My face became so hot and my fixed eyelashes became a burden.
“I love you Tessy!” Came my mum’s voice. Tears climbed down her face as she blew me a kiss from afar. I nodded sheepishly and arched my brows wondering what was happening.
“You are welcome to church after a long time dear” Pastor Ilemaye said with a large smile.
“You are in the right place” Pastor Loveth said too, clapping loudly. Others joined him excitedly.
I gasped in amazement.
“Are they mad?” I muttered to myself, feeling so weak, goosebumps all over my body.
“We love you!” Like five of the pastors chorused together and I started sweating under nose.
I swallowed severally and my face heated up the more.
“Is something the matter?” My dad asked as I reached for the water bottle in front of him. I gulped it down my throat.
“I am feeling hot in my throat but I am feeling cold. I feel so naked. I feel so uncomfortable.” I said helplessly.
My mum rushed to my side and wrapped a lovely, well scented pink shawl round me. She hugged me first and pecked me thereafter.
“It’s normal to feel naked when you’re not covered dear. Its a normal feeling. It means you are okay my dear.” She said and I scanned the whole gathering.
I wanted to read what was on their faces but they all looked calm and sad.
“All feels weird” I said and jumped up.
Everyone fixed their eyes on me.
“Won’t you guys judge me? Why are you all looking sad and calm when your pastor’s child is like this? Aren’t you going to judge me?” I asked in a shaky voice.
Just then, the keyboardist resumed playing the best song I loved to play on the keyboard when I was child- ‘I’ve wandered far away from home. Lord, I’m coming home!’
I looked up, tracing the sound to the lobby upstairs. I couldn’t mistaken the person even if it was only his backview I could see- Andrew, my only brother!
I sighed and faced the mute gathering again.
“I can’t give my life to Jesus even if I feel miserable this way. I have to continue this way to at least endure life and thereafter get my judgment when I die!”
“But it shouldn’t be that way” Pastor Idris said and I chuckled doubtfully.
“Guess my dad hasn’t told you about me. I am a clubber, virtually all clubs in Lagos have had me. I have to drink a carton of alcohol before I get intoxicated. Yeah, that’s how bad of a drinker I am! I date older men, governors, politicians generally and even Alhajis…” I paused for effects and they nodded, giving me an ‘Anything else?’ look.
I looked at my dad and his eyes were very red though he still wore a faded smile.
“I’ve killed over four babies, yeah, abortion and the one that won’t be aborted, I sold for two hundred and fifty thousand naira immediately it was born. Yeah, that cheap!” I said again and my mum started sobbing at that.
There was silence for like a minute.
“Well, I was a drunkard and a drug addict. I became crazy from this habit that I landed in a psychiatric hospital for more than 10years before the Gospel reached me and I got delivered. I am enjoying the Most High God now!” Pastor Agbaje, my dad’s assisting pastor said and my eyes widened.
“Issalie! You?!” I muttered to myself. He looked too holy to have that kind of a past.
“The wife of my youth and I had a fight. In that duel, I hit her head with a bottle and well, we lost her. I was convicted and tried. For twenty years, I was in jail, labouring and toiling. When the Lord found me, He picked me, cleansed me and found me usable for Himself” Pastor Mike, the central choirmaster said too. I swallowed hard!
“What about me?” my mum asked and I turned to look at her. She was sobbing lightly.
“I had numerous abortions too for many men till I lost my womb. I was told I would never have a child again and started prostitution. The day my favorite customer died on top of me due to a heart attack and I was going to be sued, I ran to a riverside and was finding the deepest area so I could sink in there and die when Life found me! He found me! He forgave me, gave me a loving man and two wonderful children contrary to the health reports.” My mum said and my eyes widened.
It would never have crossed my mind, even in my wildest dream!
“The church isn’t full of people with perfect pasts but of people with a Reason for today and bright hope for tomorrow!” My dad said and my lips quivered as I fell to the ground, sitting there, dumb!
“Abraham was a fearful liar; Moses was an angry murderer; David was a ‘porn-watcher’ and a murderer; Paul was a murderer too, very religious yet persecuting! Rahab was a prostitute; Mary Magdalene had many demons: Jacob was a deceiver and so on and so forth my dear, yet God found them, washed them and used them!” Pastor Abraham, our neighbor of ten years said to me, tears falling down his face.
“You do not need to be perfect before God can save you! Doctors do not need healthy people visiting their hospitals. Only the sick needs a doctor!” Another pastor said.
“You don’t throw a dirty plate away because it is dirty. You take it to the sink, make soapy water, immerse the plate in it and scrub it clean with a sponge. You rinse it, place in a rack to get dry and then use it to serve your food!” Pastor Abraham said again.
I had started weeping. I had definitely heard those words before. What touched me wasn’t the words, it was the love I could feel! The passion from their faces and explanations!
It had always been judgment and condemnation when I was an adolescent. I was surprised to feel the love and even see it!
“Incredible!” I muttered silently.
The day before, I was totally knocked out, drunk in a club and the next day, I was on the floor, a weak, convicted sinner with a beacon of hope!
“Just as I am without one plea but that Thy Blood was shed for me…” A wonderful baritone voice started and I looked up, in front of me stood Andrew, he had transformed into an handsome young man!
Hot tears tumbled down my face as he sang on with so beautiful a smile on his face!
He was someone I persecuted much before leaving home. He was born again so he was the favorite of my parents. I broke his laptop, tore his best blazers to pieces, broke some teeth of his keyboard and wrote bad stuffs of untrue things about him on Facebook before running out of the house because I envied him.
He was before me singing happily and even smiling joyfully!
I felt so miserable and burst out into another round of hot tears.
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden. I will give you rest!” Pastor Ezekiel started, while Andrew sang on softly at the background.
It felt like a recital, all for me!
“Come, let’s reason together saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” My former youth leader read out to me with naked love in his eyes that connected to my spirit so much. I cried the more!
“…oh Lamb of God, I come, I come!” Andrew rounded off, left the mic on a table and ran back to my side. He hugged me tightly and cried profusely.
“Welcome home. The Lord’s happy. Welcome home!” He cried on. I couldn’t hold my grief inside anymore. Like a balloon, it burst on my inside and I felt really deflated.
Something was different!
“Have mercy oh Lord, have mercy…” I started singing, still in a tight embrace with my weeping brother.
All the pastors went on their knees also and joined me in the song.
I couldn’t tell what led me to the church in the first place. I had sworn never to see my dad again after he had cut my hair because I dyed it pink.
Not their words convicted me, no! It was the incredible love!
The father in whose face I had spat before; the mother that had pleaded with me severally to change, to the extent she became sick when I left home; the brother who I had most of his favorite stuffs destroyed because of hate and envy; pastors whose church became a ridicule because their presiding pastor’s daughter had gone wayward, writing negative things on the internet about them!
Some of them even told me about their pasts unashamedly!
I felt the love!
I felt the love deeply in my bones!
It was very different from the love I felt in the club houses and in the arms of the papas I’d dated.
It was the love that had so much potency that it evacuated all my inside, making me feel empty!
I felt so empty that I wanted the people to tell me more about the Jesus!
“I want more of You. I want more of You, Jesus. The more I know You, is the more I want to know You, Jesus, more of You!” I sung out with such zeal and passion holding my chest with my two hands so my quaking heart wouldn’t fall out!
Light shone in my eyes down into my chest, it exploded in there and holding my chest tighter, I wept, with a kind of more peaceful sorrow!
Incredible love of Christ and His people who truly believe!
I am sure you have learnt a lesson or two from this story dear Christian:
1. Let the Love of Christ dwell richly in you so much that it affects people that come in contact with you.
2. Someone close to you only needs to hear your salvation story, share it today!
3. Jesus can save the vilest of all sinners!
4. That relative of yours isn’t lost forever, continue to pray for such.
5. ? (Fill in the rest.)
Come to Jesus today friends. He loves you and will never cast you away!
Send me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share anything with me or you want me to lead you to Christ.
Come as you are!
Say this prayer if you want to give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER OF SALVATION:
Just as I am without one plea, I come because I am aware that Your blood can make the vilest sinner clean!
I am convicted seriously of the sins of …..and….and …..(mention all of them eg. Lying, stealing, fornicating, adultery, abortion, masturbation etc.) Forgive me oh Lord.
Give me the gift of salvation oh Lord that I may join in the joy of Your people.
Help me experience the incredible love from You.
I believe that I now belong to the household of faith.
For in Christ’s Name have I prayed, Amen.