Pastor Saul Bottomsup paused for effect, intermittently wiping his sweaty brow with his personalised sea blue linen handkerchief that matched his shirt and colour co-ordinated with his tie and tailor-made suit very well. He was impressed with himself, for a moment briefly forgetting he was on the podium and made a mental note to tell his wife, thank you for trying. Clasping the microphone tightly he rested a little, hands on hips and continued, “brothers and sisters, you have sinned in the eyes of the Lord”.
“Right on, tell it like it is, brother,” echoed members of the choir standing right behind Pastor Saul Bottomsup. Certain congregation members like Mrs Fakeit shifted their gaze focusing on the character playing the piano, who had worn under the choir robe a bright orange suit with lime green crocodile shoes, that seemed out of place. Others murmured “amen” and continued fanning themselves with folded hymn sheets, some slept saliva curdling to the corners of open mouths.
“You need to repent, your sins,” pacing back and forth on stage Pastor Saul Bottomsup was in the spirit now.
“Yes Lord, I hear you” murmured members of the congregation.
“He needs to take control now, you hear me, take control, let the spirit fill you.”
“Let the sprit fill you” echoed the choir breaking into song.
“lifted, I am lifted,
I am lifted by the lord,
out of sin and sorrow,
into the presence of the lord.”
The accompanying soloist gave the signal and the singing came to an abrupt halt.
“Oh, oh, the lord is on his way now. I say, get up! You hear me now, rise for He is here with a message.” Pastor Saul Bottomsup had always liked the praise and worship bit of the Sunday service. He really cherished being able to get his congregation into the spirit. His move to Abuja had not been easy. He had become a pastor only when he could not get employment in his chosen career as an engineer. Becoming a Pastor was rather straight forward for him. He already had the gift of the gab. He could sell anything, but he didn’t want to work in marketing, he wanted to be an engineer. Rather simple this desire but somehow he was not getting the opportunity to do that. Things had been quiet hard but there was light at the end of the tunnel. Pastor Saul Bottomsup struck upon the idea to start a church after watching Trinity Broadcast Network one day. He thought he could do better than the person he was watching on TBN television station. On that day he was watching Pastor Deya from Kenya. He had chanced on TBN just by accident after he had been kicked out of his cousin Emeka’s place. He ended up squatting with a friend that had DSTV and other luxuries of hard work, including plenty of uncooked and cooked food and a practical working car for the dusty Abuja roads.
His initial foray into pastoral care had been so difficult he had deliberated on so many things including what the new Pentecostal church should be called. He eventually settled on the name Mountain of Wisdom and Love a church for single men and women looking for the perfect partner, borrowed the pamphlet of another church and copied word for word what they claimed to do, and also how the service should be run. Saul, as he was called then, before he took with the lord started visiting several churches a week in order to get a grasp of what they all preached. He liked the sermons of Pastors Odukoya and Ashimolowo so he attended their services more. Borrowed the DVDs from his friends and watched what they had to say. He was a fast learner and before he knew it he was writing his sermons and talking the talk. He did not have time for theological school. He did not have money to pay for it and he knew deep down that you could call the church anything “monkey and me”, people will still come and pray. This was a fact in Abuja.
Now, Pastor Saul Bottomsup was vertically challenged and in order to compensate for his lack of height his new found wealth allowed him to have the soles of his shoes enhanced by an additional two inches. So, this often gave his appearance a somewhat titled view, as if he was tip toeing or standing on his toes leaning forward. His nose was too broad for current tastes and certainly did not compliment his otherwise refined facial features and melon-yellow complexion. Pastor Saul Bottomsup compensated with his not exactly good looks by dressing and smelling well. He believed a lot in perfumes for men and therefore was always heavily scented.
His mind was drifting and to stay focused Pastor Saul Bottomsup started speaking in tongues “hmmm, shaba daba cuba laba, hmm.” His congregation raised their eyebrows eyeing him silently. For some who came to hear what this new Pastor had to say, it was all a bit too much for them. But, they listened anyway. When Pastor Saul Bottomsup opened his eyes just a little bit and realised that his congregation had become rather too quiet he knew that speaking in tongues was not for this group of conservative worshippers. But he was still gripped by the spirit. “Yes lord, I am here, give me your message”.
“There is someone here, yes Lord, there is someone, someone looking for that special man in her life.” Half the ladies in the hall stood up shouting “I claim him in Jesus name. He’s mine” waving their right hands in the air, “Praise the Lord, he’s answered my prayers” even Mrs Fakeit, she stood up too. She was in several other intimate relationships but that’s not the point. She was looking for a new one, one with a giving heart and extra deep pocket. Superstition being ingrained she did not want to miss any opportunity for blessings of a new man in her life.
Mrs Fakeit was an ample cinnamon-coloured Lagosian with equal amount of breasts to match. She had extra long legs and arms, and therefore was very tall. Tiny baby-like hairs covered her fore arms and legs, and drew a lot of admirers who liked to stroke the hairs. Mrs Fakeit just liked being stroked all over. Simple really. Her deliberate demeanour was that of a conservative prissy missy, though in reality she had a reputation as a serial heartbreaker and an efficient gold digger. She loved her lifestyle in Abuja. She wore very fitted ankra blouses with matching skirts and had a trick of sewing her blouses low enough to warrant that extra special attention from uninvited men. She always sat in the second row and every Sunday, provided Pastor Saul Bottomsup with a free view of what her secret assets looked like. They wobbled like jelly. On this Sunday, Pastor Saul Bottomsup was too preoccupied by them jiggling about and from time to time smiled in her direction. He was losing concentration. Her outfit was too bright for him.
Pastor Saul Bottomsup continued “His message is simple, give your life completely to God, for He is the new man in your life”. He looked at the puzzled expressions of those standing and knew he had a winning theme.
Mrs Fakeit listening carefully, slowly bent her knees and slid into the chair. It was not the message she was expecting to hear and eyed Pastor Saul Bottomsup in disgust. He was clearly wasting her time, this would be the last time she came here for service, what nonsense. He does not know what he is talking about. The choir hummed quietly.
“Repent from your sins, by living a sin free life”.
“Claim that new man, by worshipping at His alter every day.”
“Yes Lord, we are ready to hear your word” and with this final word before the offering Pastor Saul Bottomsup sat down and the choir jumped into a hearty renedition in Igbo.
“madu nile nasi ebube,
ebube Jehovah maramma,
madu nile nasi ebube,
ebube Jehovah maramma,
everybody testifies you are good,
you are good Jehovah you are good,
everybody testifies you are good,
you are good Jehovah you are good” .
For those who liked dancing this was the ideal time. The drummer drummed joyfully. The soloist sang heartily. The choir backed cheerfully, all of them dancing on stage followed by the congregation dancing in the pews. Saul Bottomsup watched the ushers slowly getting themselves together for the offering through half closed eyes. They had the little brown looking straw bowls and had spaced themselves out according to numbers of pews. So each usher took a bay made up of seven pews. Very simple really. Life is not that hard when you can think of ways of making money.
So, as the congregation recited the song again “madu nile nasi ebube, ebube jehovah maramma” Pastor Saul Bottomsup got up and walked towards the microphone adjusting his tailor-made suit while grabbing the microphone tightly. He always got nervous at this stage. “As we begin the offering, let us pray” the organist accompanied him with music.
“Blood of Jesus!!”
The congregation screamed back “cover us” a smile creeping and touching the faces of many of them. Yes they came to church, but they still believed that evil spirits could do and undo. Therefore working with the adage it is better to be safe by being covered in the blood of Jesus than not to be covered at all. Get it? It is a wholly Nigerian thing, for there are witches, wizards and anything that flies and there was probably a belief in it.
As he had never been to theological school and did not know really how to pray, Pastor Saul Bottomsup, prayed as he would pray at home “God, you see, we are here now to ask you for some small favour. Some of us do not have it, o. While others have too much of it, o. Grant us our wishes. We are begging you, you hear”.
“As we make this offering, those that have too much money, bless them and give them more.”
“Amen, Amen o” echoed the congregation.
“Those that do not have, please give them more and let it be bountiful.”
Mrs Fakeit was really impressed with his prayers she had actually stood up and started waving her right hand clutching her bible tightly in her left hand shouting “I claim it in Jesus name” over and over again. Maybe she had misjudged him.
Addressing the congregation now, Pastor Saul Bottomsup said, “my people” speaking as you would at a political rally, “bring out that thing in your wallet” he paused “bring it out, so that we can pray over it!”. He rested his elbows on the bible stand.
Mrs Fakeit and the rest of the congregation all dipped their hands in their respective purses, wallets included and brought out various sizes of bundles of monies to be given in the offering. Pastor Saul Bottomsup, then said “hold the money up high. Let me see it. Speak to the money by repeating after me”. The ushers were all waiting. The congregation did not know what to expect. Miracles are happening.
“Money, you have caused me such pain, I do not need you now.”
Congregation, “you have caused me such pain, I do not need you now.”
Mrs Fakeit added, “money, I really need you now” to her prayers, thinking this Pastor is confused. Who does not want money?
“Anything standing in the way of making more money, I bind and reject you in the name of almighty Jesus.”
Congregation, “…standing in the way of making more money, I bind and reject you in the name of almighty Jesus.”
Mrs Fakeit added, “I bind and reject you in this lifetime and money come quickly” to her prayers.
To the ushers, he said “ushers, are you ready for the collection” and to the congregation he said “money, I hand you over to the church for safe keeping.”
The organist and soloist had a slow number going on in the background. Not too loud to disrupt the Pastor’s short prayer. Ushers as if on autopilot, went from pew to pew with their little straw baskets collecting the offerings.
Mrs Fakeit had moved from her pew in the front to the back of the church were she observed the collection proceedings with a little annoyance. Since she had been coming to the church she had observed the changes in the kind of people that attended the second service and noticed that the second service also produced the biggest offerings for the church. The crème de la crème of Abuja’s hip society came for the second service, they where attracted by the time church started 10am. She was still mulling over this when it struck her like lightning. All she needed was an opportunity.
As the ushers filled their straw offering bowls they emptied the cash into a rather large Luis Vuitton carry-on bag whose presence was not lost on Mrs Fakeit, but certainly on the congregation. The brand new Luis Vuitton bag was placed first, at the foot of the standing podium and as it filled to capacity was zipped shut by the head usher and wheeled to the back of the church on the signal of Pastor Saul Bottomsup. The signal was a rather simple one, he merely wiped his forehead with his blue linen handkerchief. He was smiling and evidently joyous at the thought of so much Naira. He was sure he had seen a few Pound Sterling & Dollar notes amongst the congregation when he had asked them to raise the money up high. He knew he was onto a winner. This was a brilliant business.
Mrs Fakeit very calmly and in the presence of everyone, for the church was full that Sunday, and the ushers where around attached her right palm to the leather handle of the Luis Vuitton carry-on and strolled out of the church to her awaiting cinnamon coloured Honda CRV jeep. You see, she was so beautifully dressed with equally matching silver jewellery that a woman of such elegance clutching her bible tightly, leaving the church early was not an uncommon sight. She was beating the end of service rush to leave. Pastor Saul Bottomsup did not see her leave. But instinctively knew she had taken his money for he did not see it as the church’s money, yet. It was his money, after all, had he not worked hard for it. He’d been beaten by the oldest cons of all time, greed.