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.

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