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Your pastor secretes holy milk.
That is the story being whispered by everyone in the church—choristers, ushers, and the women. They say he is God’s anointed. A man anointed by God must have all his body parts and fluid blessed, too. With just a wave of his hands, people fall in multitudes, and when he talks, the breeze ceases and the roof trembles. He orders a member of the church to command the crippled to rise, and the cripple rises and walks. He lays his fingers on the eyes of the blind, and the person sees. He touches a widow’s sick son, and the sickness evaporates. The widow receives holy milk from him, too, and that is not a problem because he is the anointed one. Who can say no to God’s anointed?
Your pastor secretes holy milk and that is why every Sunday, women who were barren come to give testimonies of what God has done for them.
‘If not for Pastor Samuel, there would be no baby suckling my breasts! Praise God!’
It happens every Sunday.
Now, every Thursday, a special prayer session is held for barren women and those who need special blessings from God. If a woman has been barren for long, she is asked to wait behind for special prayers; she has been found worthy by God—your pastor ministers to her in private.
You have been attending the church for four months—that is how long you have lived in this new city. Saving Grace, Incorporated is located in the heart of Lagos, the gigantic edifice a magnificent sight to behold. You are attracted to the church because of the aura that surrounds it. At your new office, everyone talks about it. Every young lady who loves fashion knows that the things in vogue are Blackberry Z10, Saving Grace, Inc., and pinging dresses, in that order. Your pastor is handsome, with comely facial features—a finely chiselled nose, clear white eyeballs enshrouded by long eyelashes, and full, sensuous lips. His broad shoulders fill out his designer suits, and when he does not wear a tie, his 22-carat gold neck chain sparkles in the reflection of the glass pulpit. Every lady in the city loves to sit in his church, listening to his melodic voice and basking in the intense stare from his glistening eyes as he surveys the faces he admires. His long fingers swipe his iPad’s screen as he preaches.
The first time you attended Saving Grace, Incorporated, you fell in love with your pastor. Not with carnal passion, but deep reverence, the kind one feels for spiritual leaders. But now, you cannot remove your eyes from his face, his suit, his shiny black shoes, and his iPad. You love the way he walks, with elegance and poise. In his church, your soul finally finds rest, like a hare thirsting for water. Your soul yearns for his words and his gaze as they linger on you the three times you go for offering before the end of the five-hour service.
Now, you dream of him on most nights. You see him standing before the congregation, holding his iPad, his left hand resting on the pulpit. In your dream, his face looks angelic, his black suit and white starched shirt sparkle like the robe of Jesus Christ. When he notices you, he drops the iPad, walks down the aisle to the pew you are seated in, and you stand as he bends to bring his lips to yours. Sometimes, you dream that after kissing him, he walks down the aisle with you, people clapping and singing:
Here comes the bride! Parararam!
Here comes the bride! Pararararam…!
When you wake, you don’t know whether to pray and bind the evil spirit that put the dreams into your sleep, or to thank God. Sometimes, you notice wetness beneath your night gown, and throughout the day, you lick your lips and savour his kisses. In your office, Zainab wonders why you are always in a daze; one moment, smiles tug at your mouth, and after a while, your lips contort in a worrisome pucker. She calls you the worrying-and-smiling-lady. You always talk about Saving Grace, Inc. in the office, telling everyone why they need to desert their own churches and embrace the God of the Saving Grace, Incorporated. You talk to them about Pastor Samuel; how angelic he is, how divine he is. You tell them that God has sent him to change and heal the world of all afflictions. You recount the number of lames that can walk because of him, the blinds that can see, and the insane that have been made sane. You tell them about Alhaji’s wife, a Muslim converted to Christianity who attends the Saving Grace church. How she donated a Murano jeep to Pastor Samuel and he invited her to a special prayer session and she conceived. You spoke about her testimony last Sunday and how she has promised God to sow a seed of a Lincoln Navigator when she delivers the baby. Zainab shakes her head, calling you Pastor Samuel’s messenger; sometimes, she calls you the public relations officer for Saving Grace, Incorporated.
You convince Zainab to follow you to church and she agrees. You are dressed in your new jeans trousers, the one that Zainab’s brother who lives in London bought for you. He thinks that by sending you gifts from London, he will get you to marry him. You wonder why men do not realise it when women do not like them. You enter the church and heads turn and stare, men gulp saliva, and you are sure that other ladies are weighing your worth with their eyes, checking out your jeans, shirt, and the brown jacket you are wearing. You are sure that your perfume is wafting into their nostrils. You sit with Zainab as she looks around the large church, admiring the chandeliers hanging elegantly from the ceiling, the tall white air-conditioners in all corners of the auditorium, and the large projector-screen on the wall which Pastor Samuel uses to teach prosperity and success.
The church is not full yet, but Pastor Samuel climbs onto the altar, checks on the microphone, and places his iPad on the pulpit. He looks up and scans the congregation. His eyes connect with yours and he beckons to you.
‘Me?’ you whisper as if talking to Zainab.
He says, ‘Yes, you. Come!’
You walk elegantly to the altar, conscious of your gait. You are aware of the hundreds of eyes that trail the movement of your buttocks.
‘Can you please help the ladies over there with the curtain?’
‘No problem, sir.’ Your mouth quivers; his eyes lock with yours. You look down and your gaze descends to his well-polished shoes. His cologne wafts into your nostrils—you try to identify the designer perfume he is wearing and the name of the designer of the suit. You stare at the curly hairs on the back of his palm.
You turn to go and he says, ‘Excuse me!’
‘Sir?’ You turn.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Yes, Pastor. I am fine, thank you.’
‘Please see me after service.’
You move to the side of the altar where some young ladies are having difficulties drawing the drapes. As you lift the first curtain into a bunch and tie it in a knot, a beautiful lady who is average in height walks out from the vestry and sits at the end of the altar. She is Mummy Ada, the pastor’s wife. You gape at her – her head-tie, her long skirt, her blouse, and her beautiful make-up. You are jealous as you imagine her in bed with your pastor.
After service, you walk to the back of the church with Zainab; there are a lot of young girls waiting to see Pastor Samuel. There are some rich men and women, too. Your pastor is standing with his wife. She shakes hands with everyone who comes close to her husband and talks briefly with them. When people give brown paper envelopes to your pastor, she collects them and smiles. Sometimes, your pastor steps aside shortly to discuss with someone who has come to see him and then re-joins his wife.
So when it is your turn, he says to his wife,
‘Excuse me, Sugar.’
He takes your hand and steps some feet away from his wife.
‘My name is Pastor Samuel. I am the Senior Pastor here.’
His alluring eyes search your face and you are shy. So you look away, and say, ‘My name is Blessing.’
He smiles. ‘You have a nice name. What do you do?’
‘I am a call centre attendant for MTN. I am new in Lagos.’
‘You have a nice job. How long have you been in this city?’
‘Four months, sir.’
‘I hope you are enjoying Lagos. But this city corrupts good girls, so I am glad that you are always in the church. I see you here every Sunday.’
‘Oh, Pastor. Out of your congregation of over one thousand, you manage to notice me?’
‘Yes, of course—’
‘You wanted to see me, sir?’ you ask, because you are conscious of his wife, who must be wondering what he was discussing with you. Your body is hot inside already, and you cannot remove your eyes from his long fingers, clutching his iPad.
‘What do you do every Wednesday? We hold special prayer sessions for young people. Perhaps you may like to come?’
‘I would be delighted. I have been meaning to come for some time.’
‘So see you next Wednesday. And dress just the way you look today: exquisite,’ he whispers.
He walks back to his wife. You turn and say, ‘Good bye, Mummy’ to his wife, and she approaches you. You wonder what she wants with you.
‘I love your shirt,’ she says.
‘Thank you, Ma.’
You tell her your name, and she asks if you can come to their house on Tuesday and help her prepare some food for some of her business partners who will be visiting.
‘I will be delighted to help, Ma,’ you say. It is an opportunity to meet with the pastor again. By then, your heart is thudding like your mother’s pestle against the mortar.
‘Give me your number and I will text you our address. Thank you.’
You give her your mobile phone number and leave with Zainab.
‘Blessing! What were you discussing with that man?’
‘He is not a man. He is the Pastor,’ you snap at her.
‘And the Pastor is not a man?’
‘He is, but you shouldn’t have said that man. You should have said “what were you discussing with the pastor?” Haba!’
Zainab laughs aloud. ‘Okay, now tell me, what were you discussing with your Pastor?’
‘Nothing. He thanked me for helping out in the church with the curtains. He said I should always come for the Wednesday prayer sessions for young people.’
Zainab is quiet for a while. When you get to the road and stand waiting for your taxi, she speaks. ‘Okay o. So Blessing, will you attend the Wednesday prayer session?’
‘Oh, yes, and you must come with me. Won’t you?’
She says nothing. The taxi drops you at your house, which is not very far from the church, and leaves with Zainab. As you unlock your door, you get a text message from her. It says: Be careful with Pastor Samuel.
That Sunday, you prepare ofeakwu and play Asa’s ‘The Way I Feel’ several times in your self-contained, one-room-and-parlour apartment. You cannot sleep that afternoon, because his image has fogged your head like smoke.
Every Wednesday, you attend the prayer session and he sees you. You are sure because his eyes connect with yours as he preaches. It has been over two months since he talked with you, and you have not missed the Wednesday prayers. In town, people still talk about Pastor Samuel; they mention the number of girls that have had abortions for him and how they cannot talk because he pays them off. You convince yourself that it is not true. If it was true, he would have approached you again after the first time you talked with him, or on one of the several visits you’ve paid his wife.
Each time you visit Zainab, you talk nonstop about Pastor Samuel, and she retells a tale she heard in a hair salon about his escapades with women. She tells you that sometimes, he uses his connection to get visas for his female friends and fly them to London or Canada or Romania for a day or two, on his short holidays or meetings which the church finances. At night while you pray, you ask God to forgive Zainab and all the people gossiping with your pastor’s name.
It is another Wednesday and you are surprised that your pastor has asked one of his junior pastors to call you. You meet at the back of the church, and he is talking and going to his car at the same time. When he gets to his car, he stops.
‘You really are a child of God. I see that you have found a special place in His heart already.’
‘Why do you say so?’
‘The Holy Ghost has ministered to me about you. You are always at the church, on Sundays and on Wednesdays. I like that. That is faith at work. And most times, you help out in arranging things in the church. I am pleased with you. You are doing God’s work, and He has His blessings in folds reserved for you.’
‘Thank you, Pastor.’
He unlocks his car. ‘Now tell me, what troubles your heart? Yesterday, I saw you in my dreams, the fourth time since the last time we talked.’
You raise your head in astonishment and stare at his handsome face. His eyes sparkle; you look at the sprouts of hair on his chin.
‘I see you in my dreams, too, sir.’
He looks surprised. He asks you to enter the car. You hurriedly do so, turning to look around to ensure that no one sees you as you go into the Pastor’s car. As soon as you settle into the cosy leather seat of the BMW, he places his hairy hand on your thigh and you shiver. You recall the stories you’ve heard about his blessed hands. The images of those times he’s placed his palm on the blind and their eyes opened rushes into your head and you swallow saliva.
‘You see me in your dreams?’
‘Yes, Pastor… but I don’t mean it that way—’
‘Not to worry, my dear sister Blessing.’ He turns his face to you. ‘God is talking to you. God is telling you to open your heart for the blessings that have been blocked from you for years by the kingdom of the wicked ones.’
You open your mouth to speak, but he removes his hand and starts the car and drives out of the church slowly. You unconsciously stretch your skirt to better cover your lap.
When the car eases into the Lagos traffic, he says, ‘Sister Blessing. You are beautiful, you know that?’
‘Thank you, Pastor.’
‘Oh, Blessing. Why don’t you call me Samuel? Always, call me Samuel. That is what my friends call me. Or are you not my friend?’
‘I am your friend, Pastor.’
‘Samuel,’ you respond.
Both of you laugh.
You find yourself giving him the directions to your house, and when the car stops in front of your residence, he says to you, ‘What food have you cooked?’
‘Pastor, I have vegetable soup in my fridge—’
‘I am famished!’
He alights from the car, and you find yourself walking into the building and opening the door of your apartment for him. Once inside, he grabs you swiftly to your surprise and kisses you so tenderly on the lips.
‘Pastor,’ you moan as his lips cover yours.
The room is very dark as you have not touched the switch. His hands are on your waist, moving down to your large buttocks. He presses himself so tight against you and suffocates you with his kisses so tender and warm. You hit him on the shoulder lightly as you call, ‘Pastor… Pastor…’
He lowers you on the rug and lies on top of you. His hand finds their way down your shirt and he undoes your buttons. He kisses your right breast and takes your nipple into his mouth. You moan.
‘Oh, God… Oh, God…’ you call, and even though it is very dark, you see an angel on your roof. You are sure.
When you see the angel, you close your eyes and kiss your pastor back fervently. You relish his lips as you moan unconsciously, and then he unbuckles his belt. He unhooks your brassiere.
‘Pastor, no!’ you call as the image of his wife, who is your friend, runs into your mind. You use your two hands to cover your breasts, and his two hands are on the floor as he hovers over you. The smell of his cologne is strong in your nostrils. He smells good.
‘Pastor…this is a sin,’ you stutter.
‘Who said so? What do you know about the bible?’
‘Yes. There are a lot of portions of the bible that were deleted to brainwash Christians. Haven’t you heard the story before?’
He laughs a little quietly.
‘Don’t you know about Emperor Constantine and what he did with the bible and Christianity?’
‘I don’t know, Pastor.’
‘Now listen to me, I am your pastor. I cannot lead you into sin or into what will lead you to eternal condemnation. No, we are about to make love, the greatest gift God gave to mankind. Through love, the world is replenished. Why do you think God made sex the sweetest thing on Earth? And we are His children and He loves us. Do you think God would deny mankind that pleasure?’
You hesitate. ‘No, Pastor,’ your voice cracks. ‘But it is meant for married people.’
‘That definition was given by humans. Who knows God’s heart? No one, the Bible tells us. How do we know that God did not sanction it? Was it not man that wrote the Bible? I cannot deceive you—’
‘What about your wife, sir?’
‘My wife? Some people have found favour in the sight of the Lord; you, my wife, and a few others. And—’
‘Do you have sex with others?’
‘Blessing, I am a Pastor. When I mean finding favour, I mean God’s blessings. I pray for people and they receive blessings. I lay my hands on them. If I like you, I lay my hands on you. My wife is a very successful woman because I don’t just lay my hands on her, we make love. And each time I see you in my dreams, God tells me to reach out to you. This last one, I saw us making love, and I knew you needed His blessings, especially as you need to make a choice of a good husband and to know whether that guy in London is the best husband for you.’
You tremble. You wonder how he came to know about Zainab’s brother.
‘How did you know, sir?’
He kisses your lips again. ‘Do you doubt God?’
‘Then, allow this holy milk to quench your thirst for blessings.’
His lips find your neck. Tears trickle down your cheeks. Your heart swells; your muscles contract as blood rushes to your brain. You are filled with desire and lust and fear but some inexplicable happiness envelops all of that. You wonder if you should stop because a part of you tells you that you are committing a huge sin, but you are in love with him. You hold him tighter and moan.
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