Thursday, 28 January 2016

This Christian Race: A Memoir (Episode Four)

Greetings again my kith and kin, friends and fans. Welcome to Episode 4 of the weekly serialised memoir, ‘This Christian Race'. For a whole quarter I will be running thirteen episodes of it. Feel free to read, share, like and comment as the interesting novella reads on. Thank you and I love you.

Episode Four – Three Days without Food?
Now, it remained breaking the inertia to approach Pastor Tunji to give me a chance at interpreting for him. There were inertias like that in the past that I never succeeded in breaking.
The prominent and most recent was addressing the school fellowship even as a prefect. Well, I was not one of the main prefects. It was a second-class one. And come to think of it. Prefecture should be in the area of one's strength. This one was in the area of my dread. I was made the class prefect of the most notorious class in the school, JSS3. I wouldn't deceive you, I only went to the class once not to address the class but to assess my fear. They were unruly. The average class member was taller and more muscular than I. And in their eyes I saw readiness to slight and disobey constituted authority. These ones would damn the consequences and would not fear the repercussions. I couldn’t help sounding like the ten pessimistic spies that brought evil report of the Canaanland. Fear firmly confirmed, I chose the path of a figure-head prefectship. I saw to it that their path and my path never crossed for once in all my one year prefect misadventure. I loved my life so dearly.
Now, back to this fellowship reluctance. We usually drew roster of who would coordinate the weekly school fellowship among us the Christian seniors. I was sure I could speak good English. But the perfection my mind was looking for made my heart not so sure-footed as to standing before this student audience. 
‘What if I mistakenly fire lexical bullets or even throw grammatical bombs?’ ‘Will these auxiliary verbs not end up being my albatross! Which is correct: I shall come, I should come, I will come, I would come, I must come, I can come, I may come? These things are so confusing! Students will pick on my mistakes!’
I started dodging my turns. Everything, both the serious and not-too-serious, sublime and ridiculous, deliberate and spontaneous, mattered enough at my turn for me to ask another person to stand in for me. Turn in, turn out, they kept on standing in for me. I had hoped I would garner confidence over time and one day find myself standing before the students to deliver a most powerful message. But that hope never saw the light of the day. This complex held my tongue so tied that I wasted the one year opportunity of making input or impact in the spiritual life of these students. Not even once did I break the inertia. Lord, have mercy!
Here is another inertia festering.
Since I have started talking about inertia, permit me to jump the ship of inertia past to inertia future so that I can scoop to the full my frustrations with inertia. I will later come back to this inertia present and how it was broken.
It was in the maturing years of my faith in Christ. The journey was from Sagamu to Abeokuta in a commercial bus. I had the nudge, nay the pressing, to preach the Gospel to the passengers. I made a mess of it. No thanks to Mr. Inertia. I would want to open my mouth, but fear would almost immediately slap it shut. Fear of what? That the passengers would beat me up or shout me down? That they would not listen to me or give their life to Jesus? That the message may not be interesting or I may get stuck midway not knowing what more to say? That the driver may start the car tape or some passengers may start some annoying conversation to antagonise or distract me? I don't know. I don’t know what I was afraid of. Simply, it was fear of the unknown. And that was the tool inertia used to hold me dumb when I should be found speaking for my Lord.
It was getting more and more embarrassing. I was feeling more and more guilty. Minutes ticked further and further away. And the bus covered more and more distance. I needed to act fast. I devised a method. I sighted one of the roadside palm trees afar off and decided that immediately the bus get to that part of the road I would suddenly open my mouth and speak, damning fear and all its siblings. Perfect plan. Well laid out. In no time the bus got there. Quickly, I opened my mouth. Alas, no voice came out. Fear was faster, it had caught up with me again. No problem, I would be faster this time around. I picked another palm tree target. Now better prepared to open my mouth immediately we touched the finish line of my target. We breasted the tape as expected, I more quickly opened my mouth! Yes, the voice was coming, from the inside! Hallelujah! It would soon come out:
That was all I could say, nay, utter, and my mouth immediately stopped and shuttered its intention. This fear was a good sprinter. It had outrun and overrun me again. I tried again and again but it never got better than that. I watched with a heavy heart as passengers disembarked at Abeokuta deprived of the message I had been sent to deliver to them. Blood, pints of blood on my neck! Lord, have mercy.
Welcome back on board Inertia Present. God helped me with this inertia of approaching Pastor Tunji. It never festered for long. Pastor Tunji was an approachable person. Has he not been coming to the dormitory to chat with us of his own volition. Somehow, I hinted him of my intention and he welcomed it. We worked the arrangement. And thank God Sister Tope was not all that a free person. She was in school in Abeokuta. So, her interpretation for Pastor was not a regular business. I had the opportunity clearly laid on a red carpet. I didn’t waste it. In a little time, I became Pastor Tunji’s official interpreter.
Being that close to the word of God greatly helped my spiritual life. To be a very good and proficient interpreter, you need to be close to your Bible. One of the reasons is obvious, the Pastor and his congregation will appreciate it best if you can give it to them phrase for phrase, and word for word, offhand, from the Bible translation of the language you are interpreting to. More often than not, the language was Yoruba in my own case. But, Pastor’s frequent code-switching made me to prepare as well in English, beforehand, in order not to be caught napping. So, having common and favourite Bible verses, both English and Yoruba, in my memory became a necessity and not an option. Gradually, and by the help of the Holy Spirit, the verses started moving from my head to my heart. And I grew in leaps and bounds.
Another aspect of being a pastor's boy that gave me an edge was being privy to people’s discussions with Pastor. That is, those discussions that might not require exclusive privacy with Pastor. I made good use of these other discussions that could accommodate pastor’s apprentice.
For example, a brother came to see Pastor. I could remember him vividly: Brother Wale, now Pastor Wale. As we were seeing him off, he and Pastor brought up a matter very strange to me. They talked about three-day marathon fasting. Three-day marathon fasting? They talked about it freely that suggested to me they had freely engaged in it. I looked at them as if they were from another planet. I’ve never heard of that before. I couldn’t hide my bewilderment.
‘Three days without food?! And one will not die?’
Honestly, I saw it as a suicide mission. They smiled at me and tried to explain. But that explanation never ‘entered into my head'. Considering my background, you should not expect anything different.

See you next week for episode 5 – Ojere, Here I Come?

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