African Women Chronicles: Lara (Chapter 9)

As I got off the phone, I remembered the Lord had instructed me to ask Reverend Femi to place a seal on Nike’s healing. I looked at the time; it was about 12:30am and I winced, what would he think of me calling him at this time? Then I quickly shrugged it off. What did I care? I dialled his number and like aunty Bose he answered immediately.
“I have been waiting for your call Lara. How are you?” his voice sounded deeper and huskier than I remembered. However, I didn’t care for that I was more concerned with his manners. Why did he not say hello first? This was no way to answer the phone, I thought. And why for goodness sake did he always have to be such a know it all? He asked to know how I was; well I would tell him how I was.
Irritated at your lack of manners and your know it all, that’s how I am. I said in my head and then asked for mercy when the Lord rebuked me the same instant. I may not like him, but he was God’s servant.
“What do you mean, you were waiting for my call?” I asked, just a tiny little bit curious.
“What I mean is the Lord told me you would call. And I have been waiting.” He explained. “I was going to start praying but I decided to wait until I hear from you.”
I was really amazed and I wondered when I would get to the level where God told me everything.
“He seems to tell you everything.” I said, feeling slightly jealous.
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” He quoted scriptures.
“Amos chapter three verse seven.” I said quickly without thinking.
“Show off.” He responded.
That caught me off guard and really cracked me up so I laughed and he joined in. “Hey that is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.” I protested still laughing and he seemed to agree because his laughter intensified. It was the first time we had shared a joke and laughed together. I enjoyed the moment, more than I thought possible. Perhaps if I didn’t have that initial bad experience with him, we would have been good friends. We both seemed to share a lot of things in common and during the six months I ministered with him in his crusades, I was sometimes in awe how we worked together, like a perfect team. But because I had a bad experience I couldn’t shake off, I kept him at a distance.
I finally stopped laughing and told him why I called. I shouldn’t have bothered though, because he already knew and planned to be in Ibadan very early in the morning and then return to Lagos to face his tasks for the day. I appreciated it and told him as much. Just before he hung up, he said. “When I come over in the morning, I would like to have a word with you privately. Please create the time and place for this, as it is important.” And he was gone.
I frowned and wondered what he wanted to talk about this time; was it another church planting crusade? I shrugged and finally got out of the car. It was now time to go and face my family. I walked to the front door and rang the bell as I couldn’t be asked to start searching my bag for my keys. My house maid would be up as she usually waited for me to get home before she went to bed. No matter how late I returned I was always sure the gate man would be there to open the gate and my maid would be there to open the front door. True to form, she was there and opened the door in record time.
“Welcome, ma.” She greeted, taking my hand bag from me as she stepped aside to let me enter the brightly lit living room. As I expected, everyone was waiting for me; my father, Tola, the strange man and Nike. Nike was now sitting up in a chair propped by some cushions. She looked a lot better than she looked when I saw her a few hours before. As I stood before them I wasn’t sure what to say. My sisters looked at me then at each other and bowed their heads. My father, however, stood to his feet, and walked towards me with his hands stretched out wide. I closed the gap between us and embraced him. We held onto each other for what seemed like an eternity, neither of us speaking and then he drew back and held me at arm’s length so he could look at me properly.
“Is this really you, Omolara, my daughter?” he asked.
I smiled and nodded. “Yes, daddy, it is me.” And he embraced me again. This second embrace was longer, and then held me once again at arm’s length.
“You are now a big woman, my daughter. I thank God for your life. Your mother would have been very happy to see you working for the Lord.”
As he mentioned my mum, the tears came to my eyes and as soon as he noticed it he drew me into his arms once again and held me as I wept silently.
“I am sorry, Lara, for everything that you have gone through, which I could have prevented but didn’t. I am sorry. I should have stayed here and been a father to you. I am sorry that I went away, please forgive me.”
I didn’t speak but I nodded my head to indicate all was forgiven. Then my sisters summoned courage to approach me. My head was still buried in dad’s shoulder so I did not know when they came closer but Nike reached out to place a hand on my head and I looked up and saw them. Tola had an arm around Nike’s waist to support her but I was really pleased to see Nike on her feet. The Lord had said the symptoms would disappear and I believed Him. They did not speak but as I looked at them, I saw there was no more hate; all that remained was sorrow and regret. I pulled away from dad and put my arms around both of them and then dad put his arms around all three of us and for the first time in my life I heard my father weep.
It was a long night, and there was a lot of catching up to do as so much had happened in the last eight years. After I left home, Tola and Nike had plenty of financial problems as they had not heard from dad, who unknown to them had run into problems in the United Kingdom and had been arrested and jailed. Nike finished her degree programme in the University of Lagos and gradually went into prostitution as she was unable to secure a job. She also moved from home leaving Tola alone to fend for herself. Tola remained at home and began to sell the furniture in the house in a bid to raise money to cater for her needs. When she left the university and there was no job in sight, she married a young man she had met while in her final year, as he had a job and would be able to provide for her. He was the man who had accompanied them and whom I did not recognise. They had been married for six years and still had no child, as she had never become pregnant, not even once. Nike soon became ill and unable to continue with her work as a prostitute. She was taken to the hospital where she was discovered to have leukaemia. This was three years ago and since then she had been in and out of hospital. Tola and her husband supported her with the little money they could spare and so did her friends. Dad was released from jail only the year before and immediately returned to Nigeria only to find the house deserted. With the help of neighbours he was able to trace Tola to her husband’s house where he learnt of Nike’s illness and my disappearance. He had returned empty handed and needed money so he sold the house in Lagos and was able to offset Nike’s hospital bills. But he now had no home so Tola and her husband accommodated him in their home. They said they tried to look for me but I seemed to have disappeared without trace and no family member or friend could say anything about my where about. Then when Nike was sent home from hospital to die they were advised to take her to church for healing and they began to visit every crusade they heard about until they came to Ibadan because someone said evangelist Lara was mightily used of God and if she prayed, Nike would be healed. As they journeyed from Lagos, they had no idea that the Evangelist Lara they were going to see was the same Lara who had walked away from home eight years before.
I also shared my story, and as I did, it occurred to me just how far God had brought me. I had walked out of my house with only the dress I had on, my bathroom slippers and mum’s Bible because Nike would not let me take anything else with me. Today, I lived in a four bedroom duplex house complete with a two bedroom boy’s quarter, and it was mine, bought and paid for. Although, I still drove the minivan aunty Bose and uncle Dapo gave me, I could afford to drive any car I wanted. I had paid office staff and paid domestic staff. God had been good to me, and they all agreed that this was true. Then my father asked me to pray for the family as I happened to be the only one who had made progress after mum’s death. He felt certain that the rest of them were suffering as a result of the way they had treated me. He said if they had known I was a big woman of God they would have dealt with me better. I prayed for them, from the depth of my heart; I asked for a release of God’s blessings upon all their lives, a release of their finances, a release of children, and a release of spouses for Nike and my dad. Mum had been dead twelve years, it was time dad re-married. He needed a woman to take care of him. After the prayers, I thanked the stranger, who I now knew was Tola’s husband, but informed him that my father and Nike would not be returning to his house. They would remain in Ibadan with me while I arranged to buy dad another house in Lagos to replace the one he had sold. Then I mentioned that Reverend Femi was coming to put a seal on Nike’s healing as God had instructed. As I did, I looked at my wristwatch and noticed it was already 6.00am. I brought the conversation to an abrupt end and went upstairs to take a bath and change my clothes. Reverend Femi would arrive any minute and I did not want him to meet me looking unkempt. I was right, because just as I finished doing my make-up, the maid knocked on the door and informed me that reverend was downstairs.
As I entered the living room, I noticed it was empty, apparently as soon I left my family members also retired to the bedrooms to get some sleep. Reverend Femi was standing in the middle of the room with both hands buried deep inside his trouser pockets. He looked very handsome in the navy blue three piece suit, I had to admit. As I entered, he turned to look at me, and for some reason I was slightly nervous and self-conscious.
“Good morning, reverend.” I greeted as I reached out to shake hands with him. “Do you get any sleep at all?” I asked for want of something to say really, because I already knew the answer to that question. After observing him for six months, I knew the man probably slept no more than four hours, if he slept at all.
He smiled and shrugged. “I try.” He responded. “You look like you didn’t sleep at all.”
“I didn’t” I admitted and as I saw his brow raised, I explained briefly about my family reunion without giving too much detail.
“Your sister is the one I am here to pray for.” It was a statement not a question but I nodded my head all the same.
“So where is she?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure myself but my maid told me which room she’d assigned to Nike and Tola so I led reverend there. He hung back for a few minutes while I went in and advised them to make themselves decent. Then I opened the door and ushered reverend in. The man never ceased to amaze me. I thought he would pray a long prayer but it was over in less than one minute. If I didn’t know how God used him I would have had my doubts but because I knew and had witnessed things happen when we ministered together, I knew it was done. Nike was on her way to a full recovery. Then as reverend got up from the edge of the bed, Nike stretched out a hand to him possibly in appreciation but as he took it and held it in both his hands, my brows met in a frown between my eyes. I instantly called myself to order though; it was an innocent gesture although for a moment it looked like the reverend might be interested in Nike and I didn’t like that. I wasn’t interested in the reverend myself because I still could not get over what he had done to me eight years ago therefore I couldn’t understand why it bothered me that he would like Nike, or that she would like him. Their ages were close; reverend was probably only a year older than Nike, and besides I had just prayed for God to give Nike a husband, but for whatever reason I did not want that husband to be Reverend Femi. He smiled at her, patted her hand and got off the bed. As he turned to me and took me by the elbow, I smiled, like the cat that ate the canary.
“You and I need to talk, now.” He whispered in my ear as we walked out of the room. My sisters were watching me; I could feel their eyes literally boring holes in my back. No doubt they envied me, and why not? I had the attention of a handsome, rich, and heavily anointed man of God. What could be better? Apart from going to heaven when one died?
“Oh, yes, you did mention that on the phone. How could I forget?” I tried to sound excited for the benefit of my sisters.
As we walked downstairs to the living room, I felt very pleased with myself. But I did not understand why. Surely, there was no competition between Nike and I and certainly not one over Reverend Femi. As we stepped in to the room, he shut the door behind him and I noticed that he was suddenly uncomfortable. The man I knew was always composed and very sure of himself. But not right now, he was far from composed. He buried his hands deep inside his pocket and as he turned to face me I noticed he was chewing his bottom lip. Now, I was really concerned and would have opened my mouth to ask if he was okay but then, he spoke up and threw me off balance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.