By Veronica Nkwocha
Once he was fully immersed in his beliefs, saturated to the point where every pore oozed the sacredness of the truth of his faith, he emerged tall, strong and sure, propelled by a knowing of his place in the vastness of the universe and of the nature of the creator.
He bowed, before Him, he bowed his desires, his hopes and his essence and gifted to Him his tomorrows. As the music of the choir washed over him, he felt suffused with the warmth of the love of God and at the same time broken by the idea that the one who owned the heavens and the earth loved him, desired communion with him; valued him.
Abel lifted his head, from the back of the congregation he looked towards the light of the altar. The gold trimmings and fabrics lent a reflection of a splendour akin to heaven and at that moment, he yearned for the real thing. The lead singer had the voice of an angel and a face to match any heavenly being. He stared, mesmerised.
A crying baby by his side interrupted his worship, she wouldn’t stop despite the urgent pacifying by her mother. She wouldn’t stop no matter what her mother did or said.
“Omo mi. Precious, is ok, is ok,” she whispered, but still she carried on.
An usher walked up to her, his expression a stern rebuke. She stood with all her belongings and made to walk over Abel, her bag knocking his head and her shoes nearly piercing his foot. He forgave her. He smiled back at her horrified and apologetic expression.
In the quietness of the service, he knew a miracle had occurred, he had given his life to Christ. Once the altar call was made, he followed the motions just to confirm what he already knew. His eyes burned as he said the sinner’s prayer, his voice was loud and confident. There was something about him. He stood head and shoulders above most in the group who had come out to the front of the altar. His countenance caught the eye of the Pastor. As he laid hands on the new convert, he asked for his name. Abel. The Pastor began to prophecy.
He knew he would always remember that night. ‘To Him who sits on the Throne and unto the Lamb’. Every time he heard the song that had played softly in the background as the stars lit up the dark skies of the open air event, his mind would take him back to the near ecstasy of his conversion, urged on by the words spoken from the pulpit.
He remembered word for word the prophecy spoken over him shortly after the powerful message. He was special, set apart for a purpose. He would be rich, stupendously so, King Solomon-like; he must not forget to use all of himself, his substance for the Glory of God. He felt a tremor roll through him, an echo rolling like a restless river tumbling down a mountain. He was a bow and the Word of God gripped him firmly, the string of his heart quivered.
He smiled at the bit about his being rich as he pushed open the door a jaunty spring in his step. His beloved mother was sitting in the dim light of the sitting room waiting for him. Their palatial home enveloped him and drew him into its cosy interior. Built by a gifted forebear, the 1800s Brazilian-styled architecture stood as a testament to the famed prodigy in masonry.
“Mum, I had a most amazing experience, I stopped by a church service a week ago on my way home, very unusual for me but I’m glad I did. I wanted to come to terms with my experience before sharing it with you. Something happened to me that night, like I found the mind of God himself.”
“Oh,” she mumbled receiving his hug and staring into his eyes, an urgent question in hers. He settled in the chair next to her.
“I believe that it’s no coincidence that my inheritance from dad came through only a few months ago. I miss him so much,” he said, his voice breaking slightly.
“But, this is about my trust fund, I’m glad it’s mine to manage. Ten million pounds. I have been told that I must give a ten percent to God.”
“Who are these people and what are you on about?” she queried him.
“A church you said,” she continued. “Ask them for a list of charities they support, maybe you could choose a few that would most benefit from your generous gesture and we could discuss this further?”
She looked at her twenty eight year old successful barrister son. He had always done everything a parent would ask of a child. He was always top of his class and gave them minimal problems in the typically difficult transition through his teenage years. A gregarious, fun loving child; that he was an extrovert was apparent from when he was very young. She remembered how difficult it had been for her to send him as was the family’s tradition to the elite private boarding schools he had attended abroad from his formative years. It had instilled a discipline and returned a man with a broad outlook. Their only child. His father came from a line of old-moneyed Palm and Cocoa exporters, they had diversified to real estate and owned vast stretches some of which they had ceded to the new post-colonial government at very tidy sums in the early sixties.
“I’ve already made up my mind mum. I intend to invest a million pounds in a hospital specialising in Maternal and Paediatric care. I’m so excited for the project. I’ve started consultations and we look forward to completing the whole thing in a couple of years and then we’ll hand it over to the community. I’m tying up the rest in real estate and other carefully thought out investments and hope to build on it for my future children.”
She sighed, and pondered his words. She looked deep into his eyes and saw the earnestness with which he held the idea, she could see that it came from his heart. They had always spoken about the difficult circumstances the general populace had found themselves from an unresponsive government. She made up her mind, she would support him. She trusted his judgement on a lot of issues, tried and tested over the years; he had never been one to be frivolous.
“Wise choice son. God bless you. Your care for people will not be forgotten, well done,” she said patting his hands affectionately.
He was in his office the following day when his secretary ushered in the gentleman who had been assigned to help him along in his new faith. He could see from his countenance that he wasn’t pleased but he couldn’t put his finger on it at first. Their conversation turned from a mutual respect and quiet acceptance to arguments in minutes. His companion left the office in exasperation.
He sat at his desk for a time deep in thought. His companion had told him categorically, explaining to him by referring him to verses in the holy book that he would be stealing from God if he didn’t hand over the one million pounds to church. The hospital just wouldn’t cut the compulsory requirement of his new faith. He could find another million to fund the project but he must pass on a cheque of an equivalent amount to God via the church.
His mother was dressed and sitting on one of the trio of cane chairs at the patio when he came down on Sunday morning. He was surprised to see her. She usually had a lie in bogged down with her medication for a heart condition. Her fragile health was the reason he had insisted she move in temporarily with him from her own home.
“Son, I’ve been waiting down here, aren’t we going to your new church. And why are you still in your PJs?” she asked.
“Sadly mum, it’s either the hospital or the church, here I am.”
“I converted one million pounds to Naira and thought to myself it’s well over two hundred and fifty million naira and I just couldn’t do it, sorry God. I’m kind of obsessed with the hospital right now and would rather see the project through to the end.”
They sat in silence. A song drifted with the winds, sweeping through the gaps and rustling the palm tree towering over them at the edge of the patio, its fronds caressing the walls. The song was familiar probably from a church nearby. He closed his eyes and let it wash over him. The whispers in the breeze startled him, draping him in a sense of deja vu.
An unending refrain of ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb; be blessing and glory and honour forever…’ looped over itself and their words collected themselves in his heart, into a poutpouri of petals coloured in every shade of a hunger so deep he could smell their fragrance, lingering, tugging at his heart’s string. Luring him, to that realm where he had first felt his very soul knit to that of his creator.