Sido street, Warri was not usually busy except on Sundays and sometimes on Wednesdays. There were not many residents living on the street since it was mostly overtaken by the businesses of The Redemption Church. The church was strategically located at the middle of the street occupying six buildings as place for worship and ten other buildings for offices, meeting venues and other activities of the church. It was rumoured that the name of the street was going to be changed to Redemption Church street since it already had a Redemption Church Bus-stop. Some church members had even began to refered it so.
The church had successfully bought eleven of those buildlings from different landlords at an amount the owners could not refuse. Landlords in Warri always pray for churches to be their tenants. It was good business doing business with churches. The remaining five buildings were on fifteen years lease but there was every indication that the church will eventually own it. It was obvious that the management of the church were determined to take over the street, but gradually. They had about fifty staff serving the over ten thousand worshippers that gathered every Sunday. Being a staff of the Redemption Church was like working in a bank. From the way the staff looked and the kind of cars they drove, it was evident that they were well paid, or so it seemed to outsiders.
As a rule to be a church staff, one had to be a graduate and not just anyone who had passed through the four walls of a university. A polytechnic graduate was given the post of just an office assistant and anyone will have better chances if they have a masters qualification or schooled abroad. Abroad, just anywhere outside the shores of Nigeria. Becoming a resident pastor or to be recommended to preach on a Sunday at the Headquarters, one had to have schooled abroad, worked in a renowned institution and has good bank account with which to support the ministry if or when necessary.
Each building bought by the church had a running business, from selling household items to barbing and hairdressing saloons. It was widely known that Redemption Church was a very wealthy church judging by the amount of tithes and offerings collected every Sunday but members wondered why Daddy, the Senior Pastor encouraged church business even when the prices of those items were not different from the general market.
One of those buildings was called The Message Shop. The building had a major place in front where various religious books were sold. It probably had over a million books and four staff. Other rooms in the building were used for selling audio and video CDs of Daddy and some pastors of the church. Yet, in this same building was an office where anointed weapons, special olive oil and handkerchief were sold. Daddy usually takes three days in every month to go to the mountain, confinement, where he was said to go and pray on the handkerchiefs and oil before they were displayed for sale. The members believed that those handkerchiefs or oil could even raise the dead.
Only The Message Shop was busy on days when there was no service. Exotic cars would queue waiting to buy the anointed weapons.
Deacon Peterman Osagie had been the head of The Message Shop for five years and served the church for over ten years. He felt he deserved more than just being the head of a bookshop when most of the people with whom he started church have been ordained as full time pastors and earning better salaries. Some even now have their own churches. He dare not complain, not only to offend Daddy but he was afraid he might offend God.
In the last two years, he had fasted everyday and prayed for hours believing that one day Daddy would elevate him to a better position or at least give him an official car like they did to some long serving members. Yet Peterman believed that it was God’s will for him to remain poor, afterall not everyone was rich in the Bible.
Two young men stepped into the shop interrupting his meditation, one wanted to buy Daddy’s latest book and a pack of the anointed handkerchief while the other was very familiar. The familiar one had a striking handsomeness, tall, broad-squared shoulders, sparkling smiles and graceful strides. He had a very smooth face decorated with beautiful large brown eyes and a straight nose.
He was Peterman’s son Ovie, and they have been arguing in the last week how the church had been cheating him on what the son thought was his right.
“Dad, my point is we, you and I deserve more than this. Granted that you are not a graduate but you went to a technical college, attended bible college for two years and have faithfully served this church for over ten years”. He looked around to be sure no one was paying attention to them even though he really didn’t care.
“Son, I have told you several times to let this matter rest and let God handle it…” He spoke in whisper with clenched teeth. “Is this why you walked out of the meeting? Fighting for me?”
He almost regretted that the dumb young man was his son. How did he raise such foolish being? He was afraid to mutter the questions to his hearing.
“Dad, I am not going to keep quiet like you and watch people who do not work half as hard as you reap where they have not sown.” He was furious and fighting hard to keep his calm.
“Keep quiet! What do you know about reward when it has to do with the work of God? You did the most unreasonable thing and you expect me to applaud you? What exactly is wrong with you?” He ran his hands through his head and constrained himself not to spit on the younger version of him in disgust.
It was November when the weather is mostly cool even when the sun is up but he was uncomfortably hot. Quickly, perspiration gathered at the bottom of his lower lip. His stomach churned around the left side and he felt like he may need to use the rest room. How did Ovie get into the politics of the church? Where did he go wrong in nurturing him? Politics outside the church was far safer, not in the church. He had always avoided it.
“Son, you don’t walk out in such kind of meetings…” He was starting to calm. He sat by his side and patted him slightly on his shoulders. In many ways they look alike. If not because he was older they would be taken for a twin. “…not because you want to prove that you respect the committee or that you are right but because of God…or don’t you have regard for God anymore?” He pulled him closer and smelt his breathe. He smelt exactly like his mother, the woman he married when he was a boy and died before he became a man. “…that’s not reasonable…you will go back to that committee and apologize for your inglorious behavior… for my sake and the integrity of this family.”
“Inglorious? Dad, you describe my actions as inglorious?” Ovie could not hide his surprise at the words his father chose to describe his reaction to the committee meeting but he decided to ignore it. “They told me I can’t be a pastor until after another two years. What would you have done if you were me? I have served as a Sunday school teacher for three years, a bible study leader for two years, youth leader for two years. Being a volunteer in many capacities. What else do they want?” He was trying hard not to scream as he searched the dictionary in his mind for the meaning of the word. Inglorious. His anger was as fresh as though he had just been offended. He wouldn’t dare speak to him rashly; this older man was his father, friend and role model. He deserved more respect he wouldn’t give to any other person.
“I just don’t care…what I mean is that you shouldn’t have walked out of the committee…you just walked out on God, that’s what it means if you don’t know.” He didn’t want to be hard on him but he was convinced the boy shouldn’t have done what he did. Ovie was not the boy he used to be, he has become a grown man, with a mind of his own.
“Dad…” he heaved a false sigh of relief. There was no need arguing with the old man, he would never understand the motive of his actions. “I will do like you said… I’m sorry for my… I’ll apologize to…” he swallowed the rest of the sentence. Any more word would mean more arguments.
“Besides, you need to get a proper job. You are a university graduate…I mean a good job and stop expecting the church to give you one.” Getting a job outside the church was something Ovie never liked to discuss. He avoided the subject like it irritated him.
“It’s easy being a pastor and that is what I want to be.” He had left the univerisity 12 years ago and had never really worked anywhere apart from the church. He was the best graduating student during his time but he had always had his eyes on earning from the church.
Peterman Osagie had always known that Ovie was a stubborn boy but he loved him dearly. He was his only child and everything else that mattered to him apart from God. He only wished the boy was as soft-hearted as him.