Archive | November 30, 2014

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 7)

As we entered my office I made a point of letting him know I only had a few minutes to spare as I was on my way home to rest and prepare for a vigil meeting when he drove in from Lagos. Fortunately, he understood and was as brief as possible. He had a series of crusades planned over a six month period in various parts of the country, with the first scheduled to hold in Akure in less than two months. The purpose was to plant churches in all the locations where the meetings would hold. He said he had already invited all the ministers who would be in attendance at the various meetings, but after he met me at pastor Preye’s church the Saturday before, he felt the Lord was urging him to invite me to participate in all the meetings. He had prayed about this and the Lord had confirmed that I was to minister and share a stage with him in all the meetings.

He concluded by saying, “I understand you are currently in high demand by a lot of ministries and that you probably already have other appointments scheduled for the period I am referring to but I know when the Lord speaks to me. He said you are to minister in all the meetings and whatever meeting clashes with this should be cancelled as it is your arrangement and not His.” He grinned as he finished, looking very pleased indeed.

If he didn’t look like the cat that got the cream, I would not have been so upset. The man was even more arrogant than I had thought he was.  He was also very annoying and my dislike for him seemed to be on the increase with each time we met.

“Thank you, reverend.” I said, trying to remain calm although I did not smile, as far as I was concerned, there was nothing to smile about. “I will pray about this and get back to you.”

He shrugged his shoulders and rose to his feet. “By all means, do.” He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card which he stretched towards me. “I am certain of what I have told you. I hear when God speaks to me.”

“So do I.” I snapped and snatched the card from him.

He was not perturbed by my bad manners; as a matter of fact he totally ignored it and maintained his cool and of course, his smile. “In that case, I look forward to ministering with you.” He opened the door and turned back to look at me one more time before walking out. “I shall take my leave now.”

“About time.” I muttered under my breath as he shut the door behind him. I threw the card in my top drawer and left my office fuming.

I did not like the man; he had embarrassed me and sent me out of the house of God over seven years ago. If aunty Bose had not come after me I do not know what would have become of me that night and where I would be today. If, like him, aunty Bose failed to extend the love of God to me, where would I be today? I probably would have left the church and stayed out for ever, and then he wouldn’t know me, let alone invite me to minister with him at his crusade. How dare he come to my office and tell me he hears from God? If he did, he would not have sent me out of the church. Was it God who asked him to send me out of the church? No, it wasn’t; it was not an act of love and so I was certain it was not an act of God because God is love. He was used by the devil that night and it was high time he went on his knees and repented. Until he had done that, he had no business coming to my office to talk to me about God. As I drove home, I banged my hands on the steering wheel several times in anger and hot tears streamed down my cheeks. “Lord, this is not fair! I will work with anyone you want me to work with for the advancement of your kingdom, but not him. Send him far away from me, I never want to set eyes on him again.” I cried but the Lord did not answer me that day, He was silent.

My ministration that night was a complete failure, no one noticed anything but I knew the spirit of God did not work through me like before and I knew why. I looked peaceful on the outside but I was not peaceful on the inside. I was in turmoil, emotionally and mentally. I was angry with the reverend, angry with myself and yes, I was angry with God. Why did He want me to work with the reverend? He had blessed him spiritually and financially in spite of how badly he had treated me, was that not enough? Why did I have to work with him? I did not want to work with him or have anything to do with him. I did not like him and I was angry he was making progress.

I did not pray about reverend’s church planting meetings; I did not have to because I already knew that God wanted me to minister with him and that made me angrier because I did not want to do anything with the man. His attitude irritated me and the less I saw of him the better for me and my peace and sanity. Over the next five weeks, I carried on with my daily tasks and tried to put reverend Femi out of my mind, but one week to the event I finally got myself to pick the phone and call him. I had to minister in his meetings so I might as well let him know; and the earlier the meetings started, the earlier they would come to an end and I could put a wide gap between us and get on with my life. Hopefully, I wouldn’t see him in the future. He sounded very happy to hear from me and probably would have spent some time exchanging pleasantries except that I cut him short.

“I will minister at your church planting crusades over the next six months.” I went straight to the point.

I half expected him to make some sarcastic statement like, I told you so, but I was surprised. He simply said, “I will ask my PA to call you now and arrange logistics for you and your team. See you in Akure next week.” That was it, he hung up. I didn’t know if his attitude was better than I expected or worse but I did know that I still disliked the man.

Over the next six months, we shared the same stage at crusades held in different parts of the country, and when the meetings were over, we slept in the same hotels; however, we saw little of each other. His PA was responsible for everything I required so I didn’t have to have any contact with him. I should have been thrilled but I wasn’t. I thought it was very rude of him not to honour me with his presence, especially during dinner. In spite of my dislike of him, in the six months that followed, I grew to respect him and I also understood why he was greatly admired by all who knew him. He was not only highly anointed, he was also highly organised and disciplined. These traits were reflected in everything around him. His meetings started and finished on time and every programme was properly scheduled and timed from start of the service to finish. He did not spend time with other ministers in the hotel between each service but stayed locked up in his hotel room where he communed with the Lord and when he emerged after hours, the result was evident for all to see. I saw thousands come forward to give their lives to Christ because of the working of miracles and healings that they experienced. I certainly learnt a lot just by observing him and how he worked. Finally, it was time to return to Ibadan where I had invitations to minister already lined up by reason of what God had done through me during the six month church planting meetings with Reverend Femi. Before I left Ijebode where the final crusade was held, he sent for me so he could speak into my life. As I entered his hotel room where he was waiting for me in the company of his PA and the vice president of his ministry, the Lord said to me very clearly, “kneel before my servant.” So I did; I wasn’t ecstatic but the Lord had spoken.

He placed his hand on my head and before he opened his mouth, I was instantly slain in the Spirit and fell at his feet. He reached out and picked me up. As I knelt again at his feet, he said to me. “You have served God faithfully in this ministry the last six months. If I be a man of God, a miracle is coming your way within 48 hours.” I did not doubt him, I knew by now that although I did not like him, God worked through him and spoke through him.

I had no idea what the miracle was but I knew if Reverend Femi said it, then a miracle was certainly on the way. The miracle did come within 48 hours and it was a miracle I desperately needed. I travelled that day to Ibadan and the following day which was Sunday, I was ministering in a church in a special evening healing service. I had spent time in reverend Femi’s presence for six months and I could tell from the way I ministered that evening that the anointing on his life had rubbed off on me. I did not know why, after all I did not like the man. Anyway, it didn’t matter why, what mattered was that the anointing upon my life had increased. A lot of things happened in that meeting that had never happened anywhere I had ministered before. I felt God’s hand on my life like never before and I knew the only reason I did not raise the dead in that meeting was because there was none present.

Just as the service was coming to a close, a young woman dying of cancer was brought in on a stretcher. Her family members heard about the healing service and decided to bring her to Ibadan for God’s healing touch, since the doctor’s had sent her home from the hospital to die. I had finished ministering and was escorted out of the church auditorium to the church office when the host pastor informed me that I was required to pray for the dying woman. I went with him to the reception area where the woman and her family members were waiting for me. As I entered the room, I suddenly gasped in shock and stopped in my tracks. It was eight years since I left home and sickness had ravaged her body but I could recognise Nike instantly. As I looked in dismay at my sister’s almost lifeless body which lay on the stretcher on the ground, I heard a male voice exclaim, “Omolara! Is it really you?” I knew that voice as I knew my own but could it really be the person I thought it was? Very slowly, I tore my eyes away from Nike who appeared to be in a lot of pain, and raised my head to look in the direction the voice had come from and just as I had suspected, there was my father, whom I had not seen in about ten years and standing beside him was my immediate elder sister, Tola.

African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 6)

The entire congregation remained standing for the next ten minutes and listened with rapt attention as he not only brought a word of greeting our way but brought the service to a close by releasing a prophetic blessing on all present. I had to admit as I watched him that he was heavily anointed by God. He spoke only for a few minutes and a woman suddenly got out of the wheel chair and walked and there was an eruption all over the auditorium which seemed to go on forever until he called for silence with one raised hand. As I saw the ease with which the miracle was performed in those few minutes, when he wasn’t even ministering, I longed for the same level of anointing. What I had was nowhere close to what this man carried. He exuded the very presence of God; I knew this because when he walked past me only moments ago I felt the presence of God pass by with him. It was really awesome and as he spoke and brought the service to a close, I tried to pay attention, but I could not as I was filled with anger. The man was pompous and arrogant, and he cared for no one. He did not know what it was to show the love of God to others, he did not even have the love of God, so how could God possibly use him to such degree?

As soon as the service came to an end, all ministers present walked out in a single line through the back door into the reception area of the church office where we were expected to pray together and give thanks to God for the successful completion of the conference. He stopped to let me go before him and as he did, our eyes met, and he smiled, but I didn’t return it with one of my own, as a matter of fact, his smile infuriated me even more. Then as if that was not enough, when we entered the church office to pray, he reached out and took my hand in his, holding it in a firm grasp all through the prayer. Oh, it was really too much. It took all of my will power not to pull my hand out of his. As you can probably imagine, my heart was not in the prayer as I wanted it to be over quickly so I could get my hand back from the pompous reverend. As the prayer ended, my “Amen” must have been the loudest as I was relieved to have my hand back and I pulled it away quickly and put some distance between us to avoid conversation of any sort.

A light refreshment had been served but I did not want anything; for some reason I wanted to get away quickly, but no such luck. My host pastor grabbed me by the arm and steered me towards Reverend Dr Femi in a bid to introduce him to me. She obviously had a lot of respect for him; she went on and on about the mighty things God was doing through him, as though I had not already witnessed some of it earlier, to my displeasure. From what she said, I gathered he had raised a few more dead people since the last time I saw him in Abeokuta. I was not surprised, if the presence of God I felt when he walked past me earlier was anything to go by, raising the dead would be a piece of cake.

“Lara, I want to formally introduce, my mentor, Reverend Dr Femi Oloruntobi. Reverend Femi, this is Evangelist Lara. She has only recently been ordained an Evangelist to the nations but God has been using her mightily for years, ever since she was at the University of Ibadan.”

Our eyes met and held for a few seconds as he stretched his hand to shake mine, I noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding band on his other hand. I thought it was a bit odd, he was certainly in his early thirties, as the first time I saw him in Abeokuta seven years before this time he had been in his mid-twenties. I felt at his age he should be married, at least to reduce sexual temptation from women within and outside the body of Christ. I shrugged the thought off as it was none of my business, perhaps he was too busy healing the sick and raising the dead to find a wife. He smiled at me and this time I smiled back because pastor Preye was watching and I didn’t want her to suspect that I was not a fan of the famous reverend. He seemed very glad that I smiled on this occasion and his smile deepened. He was quite good looking; I noticed this for the first time and had to admit to myself.

“Hello Lara, how are you and how is the ministry? It is always a pleasure to meet a woman on fire for the Lord.”

I was going to say, “Really, what about a woman who is stinking in the house of the Lord?” However I refrained from doing that as it would have been so out of place.

Instead I said, “I am fine, and so is the ministry. Thank you for asking and it is a pleasure to meet you too.”

I realised as the words left my mouth that I had told a lie; it was not a pleasure to meet him at all. Oh, I felt really awful and wanted to get away from the man as quickly as I could but I had to get my hand back first and he was still holding on to it and did not look like he would release it anytime soon so I deliberately lowered my head, looked down at our hands and then raised my head to lock eyes with his. He got the message and finally released my hand, although very slowly. None of this was lost on pastor Preye who was grinning ear to ear as I turned to look at her.

“Pastor Preye, I really need to be on my way. I am ministering in a church in Warri, first thing tomorrow Sunday morning. I need to leave now so I can arrive early and get some rest.”

“You are right. Let’s talk in my office briefly before you leave.” She said.

As we turned to go to her office, she turned to look at Reverend Femi, “Please excuse me sir.” She said. “I will be back soon.”

“I will be waiting, ma.” He spoke to pastor Preye but his eyes were on me. I was very uncomfortable as I felt he could tell everything that was going on inside my heart. His presence made me uneasy and the earlier I got away from him the better for me. “It was nice to meet you, Lara, I have no doubt we will meet again in the future.”

“Not If I have anything to do with it, we won’t.” I wanted to say but instead I smiled and said, “Good bye, reverend.” And I walked away.

My meeting with pastor Preye was a very brief one, lasting about fifteen minutes and I was in my minivan, which was driven by a member of my team who served me in the capacity of a driver. I had started driving but he drove me when I travelled out of Ibadan as I did not feel confident driving outside Ibadan. As we made our way out of Port Harcourt and towards Warri, I tried to put all thoughts of Reverend Femi out of my mind. I did not like him very much, this I knew and I was slightly angered and possibly jealous that he was used by God. I was not only angry that he was still used by God, I was also angry that he had increased and not decreased since I had seen him in Abeokuta. He had increased spiritually, the anointing had definitely increased, he certainly exuded the presence of God, even I could testify to this although I did not like him. I felt God’s presence around him so I knew God was with him and that bothered me. How could God be with a man who had no compassion? I just didn’t get it. And as if that was not enough, he had certainly increased financially too, I could tell from his clothes, and shoes, the perfume and the wristwatch. It was a far cry from how he’d dressed when I had seen him that first time in Abeokuta. It wasn’t right, I grumbled. A man like him who did not have the love of God in his heart should not prosper, but I could not deny that he had. When I arrived in Warri, I forced thoughts of him out of mind, as I got settled in my hotel and prepared for my ministration the following morning.

If I thought I had seen the last of Reverend Femi, I was greatly mistaken. The following week, surprise, surprise, he was in my office in Ibadan to see me. It was a Friday afternoon and I was preparing to leave the office to go home and rest as I had an invitation to minister at a vigil service later that night.  When he arrived, without any forewarning, I was already out of the office building and putting my things in the back seat of the minivan. Suddenly, a black Mercedes E class pulled up next to my van and he got out of the driver’s seat. I could not believe my eyes. I would have thought that a man at his level would make an appointment before driving all the way from Lagos where he was based, but clearly I was wrong. He had no appointment to see me, as a matter of fact, until he showed up, I had no idea he knew where to find me, although I was not surprised that he had found me. He could have got information about me from pastor Preye as she held him in very high esteem. However, what amazed me was that he did not call to say he would be visiting, he just showed up. And he had driven all the way from Lagos.

“Hello, Lara.” He looked happy to see me but the feeling wasn’t mutual. “It is great to see you again.” He walked over to the where I stood by the minivan and shook hands with me.

“Good afternoon reverend. What brings you to my office?” I got straight to the point as I did not have time to waste.

“I came to see you.” He appeared unperturbed by my apparent lack of interest in his visit.

I raised a brow. “Really? Regarding what?” I could hardly wait to hear it? If he had driven all the way from Lagos to see me and without any notice he was coming, it must be really important.

“I have a proposal for you.” He said. “Can we talk inside?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Sure.” Whatever had brought him all the way from Lagos must be important so I wanted to hear it.

I locked my car and led him back inside my office so we could talk. My staff members were surprised to see me back inside and even more so when they saw who I was with. I noticed they exchanged looks but none said a word as I walked past them into my office with my visitor on my tail.