-Conflicted Destiny

Must Read: Conflicted Destiny… Part 4

If You Missed The Part 3, Read It Here

My father traveled from Owerri Nkworji to other towns, searching for a church that practiced what it preached. He couldn’t find what he was looking for, claiming that in virtually all the churches he had visited, the pastors’ and members’ attitudes did not reflect what they preached. Rather, their doctrines seemed to suggest a “do as I say and not as I do” approach.

While he searched for a church, he took various jobs and saved more money. The secret society started to torment him. Somehow they knew that he was about to abandon them, and they were determined not to let him go. On several occasions they would invade his dreams, and many nights he was attacked by roaches, snakes, dogs, and all kinds of animals.

Sometimes he would be beaten in his dreams and wake up with bruises on his body. At other times the members of his secret society would magically transport him to their secret house to kill him, but my father always managed to escape by muttering some powerful words that he had picked up on his quest for a true church: “The Blood of Jesus.”

After a while, my father thought it wise to start his trading business again. Though he still smoked and people were still afraid of him, he was making a tremendous effort to turn his life around for good, and his behavior and attitude got better every day. He began making trips to a town in the northeastern part of Nigeria called Abakeleke (Abakaliki), where he purchased food products to sell. He stored his goods in a room at his mother’s house, and began selling them at all the local markets. He would walk for many hours from village to village, town to town, selling his products. Though his trade was moving quite well, he was not, by any stretch of the imagination, getting rich.

As he continued in his quest to find a true Christian church, he also made a promise to himself that if he ever found one, he would definitely pick his bride from there as well. His determination to become a Christian was reinforced by a serious accident he was involved in while riding back from market on a bus. The journey was progressing smoothly until an unusual human-like figure suddenly appeared in the center of the road. The driver, who was speeding, had no time to think. He immediately swerved right, lost control of the vehicle, and crashed into a stream. Some of the bus passengers were injured, and five died on the spot, but my father didn’t sustain even a scratch. But he felt responsible because he believed the accident was orchestrated by the secret society. They were hell-bent on torturing, tormenting, and possibly killing him.

One day after selling his products, he decided to take a long walk to a village called Amaegbu, where he met a gentleman called Emmanuel. Emmanuel talked about Christianity and religious beliefs, and gave my father a Bible as he was leaving. My father read it from Genesis to Revelation trying to find meaning and, perhaps, salvation. Though he failed to understand the true importance of Jesus Christ, he found great value in the Bible. He concluded that the Catholic and Protestant churches he had visited were hypocrites, and did not teach the Bible correctly. However, he remained hopeful that one day he would find a true church with a sound doctrine.

My father continued to visit Amaegbu, and he and Emmanuel became good friends. Realizing that my father was deeply interested in religion, Emmanuel compiled a number of sermons he had received from Faith Tabernacle Congregation, an American church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During one visit, he handed a sermon to my father, who noticed the Philadelphia address. Suddenly, my father remembered that in the Revelation, chapter three, verses seven to thirteen of the Bible, John the Apostle had a positive assessment of a church of Philadelphia. He concluded that these churches were one and the same.

Early the next morning, my father told Emmanuel that he would like them to establish a branch of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Owerri Nkworji. Emmanuel replied that he already started the church in Amaegbu, with services being held at his house and the congregation mostly consisting of Emmanuel’s family. My father immediately requested to become a member.

After my father joined the Faith Tabernacle church, his behavior began to improve dramatically. People noticed the change and were amazed. Many who knew of my father’s reputation decided that if he could change, so could they, inspiring many to join the church. The doctrine of Faith Tabernacle forbade smoking, drinking, worshipping false gods (idolatry), adultery, fornication, disrespect, and so on. Members were not allowed to associate with nonbelievers, and all non-Faith Tabernacle members were considered nonbelievers. Faith Tabernacle members could not marry from other denominations, were strictly monogamous, and believed in divine healing. They did not use medication to cure diseases and did not go to the hospital when they were sick.

My father and some of the new converts were baptized, and my father became one of the founding members of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Owerri Nkworji. He worked hard to get more converts from his family. He had more than ten people from his extended family join the church, and was eventually appointed a deacon.

Gradually, the congregation of the church increased, and the issue of marriage became more important to my father. His search for a suitable wife eventually took him to Orji Uratta Town, where he met my mother, Grace Ewurum, born September 29, 1948. She was the last daughter of Eunice Ewurum, daughter of Igwe Ewurum, traditional ruler of Orji Uratta Kingdom.

King Ewurum was a wise and great man of his time. He had fought and won many inter-tribal battles, confiscating and annexing the territories of his enemies, and taking prisoners of war as his slaves. He was also very prosperous. He had many wives and concubines, and a lot of cattle, goats, pigs, and other animals. My grandmother, Eunice, was the second daughter of the king’s first wife. When Eunice got married, she moved with her husband to Uzoagbo Village. Much later, the king converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet from Faith Tabernacle of Philadelphia, meeting with a local Faith Tabernacle pastor, and being baptized. To show his generosity and gratitude, the king built a church in his compound for the benefit of his family and subjects, and a station pastor was appointed by Faith Tabernacle headquarters to head the new church. The king, along with his wives, children, and grandchildren, worshipped at the new church. The name of the church became Faith Tabernacle Congregation of Orji Uratta, and it still bears this name to this day. As a result of his newfound faith, the king turned over the crown to his younger brother and dedicated his life to the church.

Eunice was converted after the birth of her third child. She started attending the same church at Uzoagba upon hearing that her father and family had converted. After observing how well behaved the members were, she became convinced that the church was indeed exceptional and later became a full member of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation of Uzoagbo. Her husband, Nzeh, followed in her footsteps and became a member of the church as well. As time went on, Eunice and Nzeh had two more daughters, who were born in accordance with rules and practices of the church. Upon the birth of my mother, Grace, Nzeh became very ill. His relatives recommended that he seek healing from local witch doctors. However, Eunice and Nzeh refused because the suggestion ran contrary to the doctrine of their church, which believed only in divine healing. Nzeh died after the protracted illness, leaving Eunice with their young children.

When Nzeh’s death was announced in the village, those who went to sympathize with the bereaved family started rumors that Eunice had killed her husband. She was accused of being a witch. At the time, Nzeh’s relatives did not know the doctrine of their church and could not understand why Eunice had not sought medical attention for her husband. According to the custom of the village, Eunice had to sleep in a room with the body of the deceased for three nights.

During the burial ceremony, gloom and doom prevailed as the sky turned dark and thunderstorms followed, with powerful winds that razed many houses. A powerful whirlwind followed a path through the village, circling it twice and stopping at Nzeh’s compound. Lightning touched ground several times, killing many animals. Rain continued unabated. The villagers believed that this destructive weather implied that the gods were furious and that Nzeh’s death was not natural. Nzeh’s kindred ordered the grieving Eunice to vacate her husband’s premises with her children. She pleaded with them, but they were determined not to show her any mercy. While she was still packing her things, her husband’s relatives entered the house and threw her belongings out into the heavy rain. She was not allowed to take anything that belonged to her husband, not even his traditional wedding ring.

Eunice clung to her younger daughter, Grace, while the other children surrounded her, confused and tormented. They sat in the rain and cried for hours, and no one in the village came to their aid. As they left the village, some of the women started singing, calling Eunice a witch. Some people stoned her and ridiculed the departing family. With pain in her heart, Eunice left with her children for the outskirts of Uzoagbo Village.

For a year, Eunice engaged in subsistence farming to sustain her family. One day all her children became seriously ill. She prayed and did her best to care for them, but their condition worsened. She eventually took them to the Faith Tabernacle pastor of the Uzoagbo branch, who, after praying for them, received a divine revelation that they needed to return to Orji Uratta.

They were given a warm welcome by the king, a one-room house located by the famous Nkwo-Orji market, and given some land so Eunice could farm and take care of her children. Days after returning to Orji, Eunice’s children got well and were enrolled in primary school. Eunice made sure that her children were brought up to be God-fearing. She taught them the values and beliefs of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation. Eunice bought a sewing machine and started teaching herself to sew. She decided to change the last names of her children to that of her father.

As years went by, the membership of Faith Tabernacle Congregation of Orji Uratta increased tremendously. A large number of Orji inhabitants, and the surrounding villages and towns, were attending the church. Eunice never wavered in her dedication to the church and her faith. She and her children continued to play a prominent role in the church, cleaning and maintaining the church building.

When my father’s search for a suitable wife took him to Orji Uratta, he attended the Sunday service there. He was pleased with the sermon and how the church members had seemed to respond positively to the preaching. He thought that this congregation could possibly be where he would find his wife. However, he had to follow the Faith Tabernacle marriage procedures. Typically, when a man wanted to marry from the church, he would reveal his intention to the pastor. The pastor and the prospective suitor would take the matter to God, after which the pastor would find a suitable time to address the issue to the unmarried females in the church. The pastor wouldn’t tell them that a man was looking to marry one of them; instead, he would make an announcement requesting that all single females wait behind after the service. Everyone knew what such announcements meant. This “meeting” would give the suitor the opportunity to observe the ladies from a distance, and after he had made up his mind on one, the ladies would be asked to leave, at which point the suitor would have a second opportunity to get a closer look at the ladies as they filed out.

The following Sunday, my father returned to Orji and made his intentions known to the station pastor, and the single young women, including Grace—and Mercy, her sister—were asked to stay after the service. After the regular process, my father identified Grace as the one that he would like to marry. The pastor informed her that my father wanted her hand in marriage, and my father and Grace were left alone to talk in private. Grace told him that she had already fallen in love with him when she had noticed him at the church the previous Sunday. My father was very relieved to have things turn out this way. The two agreed on a day that my father and his family would go to Eunice and King Ewurum to officially request Grace’s hand in marriage.

The morning after my father’s successful meeting with his future wife, he returned to his village to inform his kindred of the news. He could not contain his excitement. Nwanyi Burunnu immediately invited the elders of the clan, as tradition demanded, to let them know that her son had found someone he wanted to marry. My father recounted the news to the elders and requested that they, with other members of his family, accompany him to Orji Uratta so he could officially ask for Grace’s hand in marriage. Everyone was pleased and a date was set for their journey to Orji.

Nwanyi Burunnu was even more delighted about her son getting married than he was himself; she had been waiting for this moment for a long time. Finally, her son would give her some grandchildren. By this time her daughter, Comfort, had already married Godwin, younger brother of the reigning world Welterweight boxing champion, Joystick Tiger, but she still wanted more grandchildren, especially from my father.

To Be Continued…

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