Another Sunday service (2)
Kunle Sanya strolled into the church auditorium after Sunday school and settled in the pastor’s seat. The three years he’s spent pastoring this small church in North Eastern Nigeria had been the most rewarding and fulfilling years of his life.
This was not because the church had experienced a growth spurt like Faith Tabernacle did when he had taken over. In fact, membership had probably dropped, with some members dying in terrorist attacks and others fleeing to safer areas.
But the forty-something church members left, the ones who had nowhere to run to, gave his life meaning. He loved them dearly, and was a friend and confidant to every single one of them. He counseled them, helping them to deal with the horrors they had faced.
However, they also inspired him & strengthened his faith. Because even though they were a people who had been battered by life, by the unending violence around them, they had never lost their faith. People like Musa Lawal whose wife and children had been killed 7 months before in a bomb blast in a neighboring city where they had gone to visit family.
This city was supposed to be safer than the one where they lived but Musa had felt responsible for their and guilty because he couldn’t make the trip, and had escaped dying with them Kunle had been counseling him and helping him deal with all of it and Musa seemed to be slowly, but surely getting his life back together.
Kunle smiled as he saw Musa, Ahmed and John walk into the church building. John was carrying in his arms his six months old baby, Mary, who had fallen asleep in his arms. The 3 men were laughing and talking excitedly and waved as they saw Kunle sitting on the podium.
John was a deacon in the church. He was one of the few church members whose business and family had been virtually untouched by the terrorist attacks. So he had taken in some less-privileged church members into his home and was a benefactor to many other.
The third man, Ahmed, hadn’t had it so easy. His market stall was destroyed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) the previous year. The JTF was an aggregation of the various security agencies of the country and its role was to restore civil order in Northern Nigeria.
Instead, the people feared the JTF almost as much as the terrorists because they were as deadly. They looted, tortured, maimed, raped and killed innocent citizens. They looted half the stalls in the market, including Ahmed’s, and burned them to the ground. Their reason for this was that the market people were harboring terrorists. It was a false accusation, but the people had no one to tell their woes to, and tried to pick up the pieces of their life.
Ahmed had taken to hawking his wares in a wheel barrow, and he was actually making enough for his family to live on, with some left over. He had told Kunle the week before that his savings for a new market stall would soon be complete and Kunle was glad things were finally looking up for him.
As the 3 men and the sleeping baby settled into a pew at the front of the church, Kunle saw a very thin, disheveled looking girl in oversized clothes walk slowly into the church and he felt a twinge of sadness. She had a dazed look about her, as if she did not now where she was.
Her name was Aminat and she and her twin sister Azeezat lived in John, the deacon’s house. Their mother had died in childbirth and their father had been a very wealthy man. He’d been killed 6 months before in a car bomb. After his death, his family took over his properties and sent the girls away with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Aminat had become very bitter, angry at the hard hand she had been dealt by fate. Kunle constantly counseled her and tried to help her overcome her bitterness but it did not seem like he was making any headway.
She had obviously come into the church building immediately after her Sunday school class ended without bothering to socialize like she would have in the old days before her father was killed.
He wished she was as strong as her sister who had taken all that had happened to them in stride, and did not allow herself become a victim of circumstances. She was probably still outside the church socializing like she had no care in the world.
Kunle smiled at Aminat as she sat next to the three men and the sleeping baby, and she managed a small smile back at him. He picked up the microphone to announce to everyone still outside socializing to come in so the main service could start.
As he tapped the microphone to see if it was working, he saw a man run into the church through one of the side doors, straight to the front where Kunle, Aminat, John, Ahmed, Musa and little Mary were. He shouted something in Arabic and there was a deafening noise.
The next morning, the newspaper headlines read “Suicide bomber kills 6 inside Redeemed church”.