I reluctantly reached for my phone, it was ringing for the third time now cutting short my sleep. I pressed the receiver without checking to see who was calling.
“Good evening, Nnenna” a familiar voice came
“Good evening” I said sleepily.
“I have been trying to reach you. There is an emergency and it will require you to be at work tomorrow.”
Hearing about work tore my sleepy eyes wide open; that was when I realized it was my boss. I looked on the screen again to confirm, it was Mr Olakunle. I quickly apologized
“Good evening sir, sorry I was sleeping. Hope all is well sir?”
My mind quickly went to Fatima, was there any trouble at work? Did anyone find out what happened and report to my boss or did she tell him about her new faith? Many thoughts raced through my head and I cringed at the thought of a query or even firing. It was obvious I had overstepped my bounds.
“Yes, but we have a lot of tiding to do tomorrow and it may take all day. We will be having an emergency visit from our project partners, the Executive Director just called to inform me. They came into the country and decided to give us an unannounced visit by 9am on Monday, they want to see our records for monitoring and evaluation. You are aware that they are the funders of our project and we can’t afford to leave any loose ends. So we all will be in the office by 8am tomorrow so that we can finish up the monthly reports and our new project proposal.”
He was speaking very fast and I managed to I heave a sigh of relief. He continued:
“We have virtually done nothing about the budget and it’s going to take a lot of time; we need to finish it up and present it when they arrive. I don’t want late submission like we did in our last project, you know how long it took before it was approved and how it hindered us for months, I wouldn’t want a repetition of that. I am calling others to inform them as well and Fatima, the corp member volunteered to join us later in the day. Your lunch will be taken care of and I assure you, you will be duly compensated. Sorry for any inconveniences this may cause you.
“No problem sir, thank you sir.”
What more could an employee say to her boss who asked her to come to work by 8am on a Sunday morning. It was really inconveniencing and for a moment, I regretted picking his call. But what could I do? We were asked to always be ready and available for emergency situations like this and this was the first of its kind. I had planned to go to the church with Fatima, but now we will both be at work tomorrow. I felt sad that my schedule for the Sunday was screwed.
I called Fatima and she told me that Mr. Olakunle called to plead with her to come and help out if she was free. She knew he still assumed she wasn’t going to church but she declined, telling him that she had an appointment to keep by 8am and would be coming over to join us later at 12 noon.
Since she wasn’t a permanent staff and was working without pay, she wasn’t obligated to work in situations as this and only agreed to come on basis of respect and loyalty .
“I wish I was a corper like you o, so that nobody will be bossing me around like this” I teased
“See you, is it not you permanent staff that are chopping all the money, you have to do all the work too. So what do we do about the service? I really want to go”
I was about telling her to postpone coming to service till the next Sunday but I didn’t want to stiffile her desire. Just then, a thought ran into my mind.
“I will call Pastor Emeka now and explain to him. I will plead with him to come and pick you up on their way to church. If he agrees, you can go with them but you will have to prepare on time because he goes early with his family.”
“No problem, Inenna. Just let me know what he says, if it doesn’t work out then I will turn up at work by 8am.”
“Don’t worry, I don’t think he will object to this plan. I am sure they will be glad to have you and even bring you back afterwards. You will enjoy the service plus the Sunday rice that you will surely partake in.” I teased again.
I didn’t want to spoil Fatima’s joy on her first day at church. So I guaranteed her that she would have a great time.
We both laughed as I ended the call.
I called Pastor Emeka to inform him of the latest development and he agreed to pick her up. I was glad everything was working out fine despite the sudden interruption that almost wrecked my plans.
I reminded Fatima to prepare on time and promised to wake her up early. I couldn’t believe this day was finally here and she was going to church for the first time. I wished I was going to be there, sitting beside her and seeing the joy in her face, but I will be somewhere in the office, beholding tons of paper; all thanks to ‘our project funders’ for their unannounced visit.
We were drowning in our work as we flipped one paper after the other, made deliberations and edited reports upon reports. My workaholic boss didn’t notice it was way past midday even when I continuously drew his attention to that with my intermittent yawning. Luckily, Fatima walked in and that was when he checked the time and announced we were due for a lunch break.
She wasn’t looking as joyful as I expected, I tried to pick the message from her face but it was expressionless. I remembered that I couldn’t ask her about the service in the presence of other colleagues so I just greeted and she also replied coldly. I knew something wasn’t quite right. I feared that she didn’t go for the service again and wished we could talk.
Mr Olakunle thanked her for coming and invited her to join us for lunch but she declined saying she just finished eating before heading out. He gave her the monthly activity register to fill and crosscheck for errors as he headed out for the 15 minutes lunch break.
Mr Olakunle had booked for a plate of food and drink for each of us at the eatery behind our office. I waited for everyone to leave and begged Damilola, my colleague to help me secure my order.
“Fati, How was the service?” I asked in a low tone
“It was fine” she said. There was no excitement in her voice and it bothered me
“Did you enjoy it?” I was curious
“Well, it was ok”
“Tell me more, what happened?”
“Nothing much shaa, we had a good time but I didn’t like the way everyone was just looking at me, I guess it was because of the way I was dressed. Initially I felt strange and a bit uncomfortable but I blended in with time. Maybe my face was too new and unfamiliar.”
I knew that this wasn’t good, she sounded really disappointed.
“Ok, tell me the part of the service you didn’t enjoy and the part you enjoyed the most.”
“Emmmm… the singing was ok and lively. There was prayers, testimony and preaching. The Pastor preached on something about Deliverance form ancestral curses. He said our fore fathers sinned against God by worshipping idols and the punishment for their sin was on our head and the only way out was for him to conduct deliverance for us. He called on people to bring money to sow a seed to deliver them from the sins of their ancestors. I knew I must have been bound by my ancestors too so I quickly went to the altar and made a pledge for him to pray for my deliverance.”
“Oh My God!” I screamed
“What?” She asked
“Continue” I said, holding myself back
“Then what confused me was that after the deliverance, he said everyone must give every single dime they came to church with and anyone who didn’t would incure the wrath of God. He said it was a directive God gave him and we must all obey. I was really scared so I went and gave all the money I had on me. But I have been wondering, will God be angry with me or kill me if I don’t give all the money I came to church with?
“No” I was already distraught
“He even said that God had a way of sending a devourer to anyone who failed to give Him 10% of their earnings and their offerings too. I was really afraid of all the demands God was making and how he quickly punishes anyone at any slight deviation, it’s quite different from what you and Aunty Peace have been telling me about Him.”
I was completely speechless.
“If not that Pastor Emeka brought me back, I wouldn’t have had any transport fare. Right now, I have no dime on me”
“Heyaa… I am really sorry about that. But I hope they welcomed you as a first timer.” I tried changing the topic
“Yes, we were given meat pie and a drink as well as a pamphlet containing information about the church and one small book written by the pastor.”
“Thanks so much for going, we will talk about your question after work.” I mumbled.
Just then, the door opened slowly; Dami was the first to return:
“Nnenna, na so you like work reach? What happened naa, you didn’t come to eat again abi you are not hungry? I brought your food in a take away pack but in case you are not hungry, please tell me o, it will be good to have this kind of free food again as my dinner.”
I managed to force a smile as she handed me the nylon containing the food and a drink.
“Thank you Dami” I said shyly.