Thursday, January 18, 2018

PRISONERS OF HOPE, Chapter 4

by Nigerian writer Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu

CHAPTER FOUR

The news about the arrival of Levi reached Cornel, Mildred's lover.

Cornel immediately went to a supermarket and purchased a large quantity of beverages – Five Alive, Millo, Peak milk, big tins of glucose, and energy boosting foods. He brought them to Levi so that he would give his consent to the marriage of the daughter.

Mildred was not happy that Cornel had come to her father without informing her. She feared what her dad would say. She knew that nothing would make her father accept his gift, since my dad had earlier denounced him for marrying her.

Mildred looked at her dad, and her dad's eyes met hers, and she wept bitterly. 

"I did not ask him to come, Dad," Mildred purred. "I don't know who told him that you are back from the hospital. I only want to keep a distant relationship with him."

"Be quiet, my daughter," said Levi. "Neither a distant nor a close relationship do I permit you to keep with this bastard who has enriched himself by crooked means. I have made it clear that you are not a match to marry this man. As your father, nothing will make me bless your marriage with this man; our tradition is against any woman who disobeys her father's instructions. Such a woman must surely die unexpectedly. And therefore, I consider your relationship with Cornel null, unmatched," and Levi groaned.

It pained Cornel to hear Levi use the word "bastard" about him, though he endured this because of his love for Mildred. He pleaded to Levi to accept the gifts he brought for him, but Levi discarded them.

"Young man," said Levi, "you have done what no lover could do to his lover's father, but drinking your beverages will sap my little strength. However, your drinks are still yours. I ask you to pick them up from the table where you placed them. How may I accept gifts from someone who is not my certified son-in-law?"

Adanta and her children were silent while watching all the drama, though Adanta did not approve for Cornel to marry her daughter, since she had heard that smokers die young. She did not want her daughter to be a widow at an early age. She knew what she had endured in taking care of her husband's sickness. She used to warn Levi that smoking and the intake of snuff did not match his Christian life, but Levi would not listen to her.

Instead, he would ask her, "Where in the Scriptures is it written, 'thou shalt not smoke or snuff?’"

Now Levi was facing reality, and he would never advise his children to smoke nor to marry a smoker. This was the only cause of disagreement between Cornel and Levi; even after Cornel decided to quit smoking, Levi refused to bless him, because given the long duration during which Cornel was once a smoker, its harmful effects would soon manifest.

Mildred recalled what her dad said in the hospital about her relationship with Cornel. Though she loved Cornel, she could not bring herself to marry him without her father's consent. This subdued her.
 
Even when Cornel was reluctantly leaving the house, the situation did not permit her to utter a word. Instead, her face was downcast until she formed the handsome image of Cornel in her mind. She then raised her gaze and looked toward where Cornel had hissed like a big python in despondency.

Mildred thought about one absolute barrier that would never be overcome in her relationship with Cornel: the effect of drug addition. What really demoralized her in her love adventure with him was how much her father’s drug addiction had harmed her father. She did not want to pass through this terrible stress that her mother, Adanta, was undergoing, and she feared what a curse her father might lay on her; therefore, her love for Cornel began to dwindle. She remembered that Bianca was another lady who had also charmed his heart.

In tears, she groaned, "Let him go. He did not heed the preaching of the clergies. All that occupies his mind are flirtation and the pleasures of this world. He doesn't care for his spiritual growth. Let the spoiled spoil, and let the good be good, but what I know is that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I have seen a reason why my father does not want me to marry him, though he has money.” Mildred yelled, “Money is not everything. Despite the one million naira my mother paid as the hospital bill, my dad is not yet okay. What will make me marry someone whose life is shortened by drugs?"

Soon after, I came along with a member, Rodwell, to pray for Levi. As soon as she beheld the face of Rodwell, Adanta could not feel at ease anymore.

Levi did not know what had transpired between Rodwell and his wife. He thought his wife's uneasy attitude was occasioned by his own ill-health.

I ordered Adanta and Mildred to cover their heads with their head-ties. Adanta looked around herself and found a piece of her wrapper to cover her head, while Mildred used her white handkerchief to veil hers.

I prayed.

Levi felt the mighty power from above. He asked me to offer a prayer of forgiveness on his behalf. "Despite all the messages you delivered concerning abstaining from drugs, I did not put them into practice," Levi moaned, "I now bear the consequence of drug abuse. How I wish the Lord in His infinite mercy would forgive and heal me!"

I consoled him: "Our Lord is the God of impossibilities. He works in ways that surprise us. If He decides to show mercy on you, He will heal you. What the world considers impossible is what God sees as possible. Every giant storm in the world's eyes is very small before God. When a man co-operates with the God of impossibilities, he then operates in the realm of possibilities. Be patient and trust in the Lord. He will revive you."

Levi asked his wife, Adanta, to bring out what Dr. Smart had written to him about the date of his death. Before he could finish saying what he wanted to say, his speech was obstructed by a cough, persistently. As he coughed, thick blood oozed from his mouth, and he had no strength to talk.

What Levi did was to point with his right hand toward his chest, indicating that his chest was paining him. None of us was aware of that except Adanta and I, both of whom had been in the hospital with him. We were aware that when Levi coughed excessively, it caused him to experience chest pain.

Adanta got her purse and searched for the drugs that Dr. Smart gave to her. She gave her husband a morphine-based pain-killer as instructed by the doctor, to relieve chest pain whenever Levi coughed out phlegm with blood, part of the chemotherapy which might prolong his life.

Levi managed to drink the drugs with a wry face. His wife comforted him with soft words full of encouragement and reassurance. Such an encouragement could easily heal a broken heart.

"Take heart, no one drinks medicines happily. The only aim of drinking them is to make it through sickness and to keep the body healthy. Be patient. All will be well," Adanta reassured.

"Do you think that I can continue to live by drugs?" Levi asked. "Is it not written in the Scriptures that man must not live by bread alone, but by the word of God. The word of God gives life, and by faith the righteous will live.” Then Levi affirmed, “I still have the feeling that one day all my pains and sorrow shall be over."

"May your faith heal you," I prayed.

Fabian and Mildred added, "Amen."

"Brother Levi," I said, "now that you are undergoing pains and grief, you need to confess your sins before the Lord, so that He will show you his mercy. At this time of pain, you only need Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul. If not, after this, your perishable flesh is destroyed, your soul will likewise rest in hellfire. Brother Levi, imagine that what is killing you now is the sin of drug addiction. No one could think that you would continue to smoke or talk of snuffing. You appear innocent, but now your secret sin has exposed you to the core. As Moses told Israelites, ‘Your sin shall find you out.’”

He continued, “How will people feel to hear that an elder of Saint Philip Church is dying of lung cancer as a result of drug addiction? In our church doctrine, this heinous sin attracts suspension, but looking at your situation, to suspend you is to hand you over to Satan. If only you can reconcile yourself with God within this limited time the medical experts have predicted you have left, you can win your soul back from Satan. However, the church has forgiven you and has requested you to come to church to deliver your last sermon here on Earth before you join your ancestors. As you do it, may the Lord be with you."

Mildred and Fabian wept, seeing that in my spiritual inclination I had confirmed the impending doom of their father, as predicted by the doctors.

All hope was lost.

Their crying voices echoed to very distant places, and people that heard them thought that Levi had finally given up his ghost. Adanta moved straightaway to her room, weeping. She wept not only for the sickness of her husband, but also for the breach of trust which she had committed to try to save his life, and even so, death was certainly encroaching upon him. She feared about the moral purity that she had forfeited with Rodwell. She lived in the debris of her guilt, and she knelt there, praying for God to forgive her.

Mildred and Fabian were moved by the intense groaning sound of anguish in their mother's room, yet none dared open Adianta’s door to console her. Instead, they committed the whole matter to the hands of God.

"I believe that there is nothing that prayers cannot do," said Mildred.

"If Job was restored even after passing through a rigorous series of trials, what about our dad, wouldn't God resuscitate him?” Fabian asked.

"God is able to heal him, though the medical experts have spoken of a day of his death. Are they God?" Mildred asked.

"They are not," Fabian replied.

Levi rested in his bed, meditating on God's word. He had decided to forget about the thought of his death, but it wasn't easy.

Mildred moved towards him and said, "Dad, never you think about anything else; a time like this demands a total commitment to God. Remember the soft and comforting words of Job, ‘As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last, He will stand upon the Earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh, I will see God, Whom I will see for myself, and Whom my own eyes will behold, not another.’ Wouldn't you learn a lesson from Job? After the period of Job's trials, he was revived. God did not forsake him. I think, at this time, God is closer to your situation. You should think this: is there anything too difficult for God?"

Mildred said this to her father, who nodded his head, affirming the consoling words of his daughter.

Some words damage souls. Some words uplift spiritual beings.

Levi then thought that my words and the advice of the doctors had ruined his soul.


He groaned, "But your words, my daughter, have healed the wounds in my lungs. Even if I die now, I still have people who will mourn for me, but I appeal to you, all my lovely children and wife, that whenever my journey begins, none should cry for me. I believe I will see my Maker, though people have concluded that I will not make Heaven since I am dying of drug addiction."

***

This touching novella, by Nigerian writer Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, via his firm, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. 


It will be serialized in this blog over the next several weeks.

Friday, January 12, 2018

PRISONERS OF HOPE, Chapter 3

by Fortune Emerence Chinemerem Nwaiwu

Chapter Three

A few days later, I returned to the hospital to ask Dr. Smart if there was nothing he could do to sustain Levi's life. As I entered the hospital, my mind whispered to me to follow the route to the patients' zone.

As I walked along, I heard a groaning sound. I then looked up to decipher the exact place where the groaner was. Suddenly, I saw her lying in her sick bed, moaning as she breathed.

I was told that she had been in such a state for long. I was grieved, and wanted to pray for her before other patients cut in. 

She spoke to me: "Man of God, we recognized you as the only one who visits us here always. Ever remember us in your prayers, since no one asks about us, neither friends nor relatives. We are always reminded that our sins are the cause of our sickness and suffering. We have, though, learnt a lesson out of it, as this ordeal prepares our souls to accept Christ, drawing us nearer to God. 

"Such is our greatest gain, because after our bodies have decomposed, we shall see our God in His glorious kingdom. We have no reason for doubting, nor questioning him, nor thwarting what he has designed to be our fate.

“Here, we not only bear the pains of our sickness, but also the pains occasioned by the doctors. At times, they don't feel sympathy for us; instead, they take their injection needles and insert them into our arteries and buttocks. 

"Whether we moan or not does not concern them. If we are unable to open our mouths to drink drugs, our wretched bodies receive sound blows, and our mouths are opened by force.

“Even so, thereafter, we remain uncured. No one knows if we are being treated with the right drugs and vaccines or if our sickness has no cure. We are kept aside as soon-to-be-dying patients.

“Please intercede for us in your prayers, for the only source of our survival here after death is God. We also appeal to you to preach to the world that we have surrendered to Christ, and we have forgiven those who wronged us, for we don't know yet the day our journey will commence. We are now at the verge of crossing over to another realm of life. 

"Since no one cried for us as we are in pain now, we desire no sad farewell from anyone; no one should bother himself or herself to sacrifice a ram for us, for naked we come into the earth and with nothing we shall return home," thus she and the patients moaned.

I sighed as I listened to their pathetic story, and I felt sad for them. 

I really understood what they were passing through, because I had known someone like them before, though his own sickness was minor compared to theirs.

I remembered that on December 29, 2016, I was awakened in the night by my mother and told that my dad was lying down, sick.

"Peterson, come out now or you’ll hear sad news that your dad is dead," my mum wept. 

I thought that the sickness would be minor, a fever or a spiritual attack, since I was not told before that he was sick.

I moved to my dad's room and found him writhing in pain. I began to sing songs of praises to God and then of healing with my siblings.

We prayed.

Thereafter, we thought about where to take him. My mum referred us to his brother at Okpala, who could take us to a man who had cured him when he had been spiritually poisoned.

I entered my car immediately with my younger brother and we drove off. We saw my uncle, and told him about my dad's health. He took us to one Cherubim and Seraphim Church, not far from his house. 

As we entered, they asked us to wait because they were having fasting and prayers. So, we parked our car near the gate of the church, and stayed inside it because the harmattan wind was too severe. As we sat in the car, I told my brother that the priest would think that we came with gifts and money to give to him if he saw our car standing outside.

We laughed and discussed the matter, then stayed n the car for over three hours before the priest's servant called us in. We came out of the car and saw the man. We did not realize that he was blind before he told us, and in his infirmity, he served God faithfully.

I asked myself if such a blind man can serve God faithfully, what about people with healthy bodies?

My uncle told him about our mission, and the priest asked his servant to give us a bottle of alabaster oil, as my dad complained of stomach ache; the priest commanded us to allow no woman in her menstruation to touch it.

We returned home, and gave my dad a spoonful of the oil to drink, which he did. The only things the oil did was to disturb my dad's stomach and cause him to go for toilet, which he hadn't done for two days. 

After this, my dad told us that his sickness was a surgical case, that we should look for a gastroenterologist who would perform the surgery.

We did not take what he said seriously because we didn't know that he had a hernia. We kept quiet. My elder brother and I then went to a computer and logged onto the Internet to discover the symptoms of a hernia. What we saw was exactly what my dad was passing through.

We then consulted our bishop, a seller of medicines, a man who also gave people treatments. We told him about my dad's problem, and he said exactly what we saw in the Internet.

He then referred us to Odagwa, where he had been treated for the same problem. We left for Odagwa, where it was discovered that my dad had a dangerous, strangulated hernia.

Having been asked to buy tissues, a bucket, cups, and the things needed for the operation, we drove down to the Eketa market, where we bought all these supplies. while we were in the market, two of my church members saw me and my two brothers. They knew that something was wrong. I had tried to appear happy, but it wasn't so easy as my heart was so saddened.

"Sir Peterson,” Adanta yelled, together with her daughter Mildred, who came to the market with her mum to buy Christmas cloths, "Is anything the matter?”

They asked me this staring steadily at me.

"My dad is right now in the hospital for a surgical operation, and we have come to buy some necessary items," I answered.

I left them and then joined my brothers. We were in a hurry to meet up. We even thanked God that my damaged Nissan Almera was fixed by then. I had bought the car directly from the UK, and it was new, until enemies in the village damaged it to invoke a spoiling spirit on it. 

As I was converting the steering from the right-hand to the left-hand, many things were found to be damaged, the battery busted, the ignition system damaged, the car radio burnt. 

I thought that the auto mechanics were incompetent. I did not realize that what was happening to my car was a spiritual matter, later revealed to me by God through his prophets.

I said a series of prayers, and still my car was not in normal state. By then I had spent a lot of money. I challenged God, making a vow for God to work on my car, and yet I was not seeing any improvement, until I fulfilled my vow.

Now that my dad was sick, my repaired car could take me to wherever I wished to go. This convinced me that believers facing challenges with great assurances are all part of being “prisoners of hope.” So, due to my dad's prior sickness, I knew how painful it was for one to be sick.

Looking at the patients in the hospital, I comforted them with God's word, full of hope. I prayed for them.

I wanted to speak with Dr. Smart, but my mind whispered to me not to see him. I thought: you have achieved the very purpose God brought you here for; leave the doctor, and God will take care of Levi."

As I was leaving, a voice was raised indicating that God had harvested a soul in the hospital.

"Rapture has begun," I said, my mind was occupied by the fates of the patients.

My phone distracted me by ringing. I dipped my hand in my trousers pocket and brought it out.

It was Dr. Smart calling. "Hi, Reverend Peterson, I heard that you visited my hospital."

I did not know whether to give him a straight answer or not. I thought, maybe he would accuse me of killing the patient who had died immediately as I left the hospital.

I recalled what happened to me when one of my students in school told me that her mum was bedridden. I went with her to pray for her mother. It was after the prayer that the woman saw angels in white garments, and then became afraid. When I came to see her for the second time, the woman's behavior showed that she didn't like me to pray for her because of her religious beliefs and what she had seen the first day I had prayed for her.

The woman crawled like a tiny crab to another corner of the room, away from where I was praying.

As I opened my eyes a bit, I saw her looking at me disgustedly.

Bad religion has spoiled your mind, I thought. I left my prayer unfinished.

The woman’s daughter knew what was happening, and she apologized that her mum's church did not like prayers offered by a non-member.

This, I thought, may be the reason Dr. Smart was calling. "Yes, I was in your hospital some minutes ago, and I prayed for some of the patients who said they were soon-to-die patients," I replied.

"Please, let these patients be given the privilege to attend the service when Levi delivers his last words, as your church deems fit. As a Christian, I don't want the souls of dying patients to go to hell fire," the doctor yelled.

I replied, "Sure, I will be glad to see them. God bless you," and the call ended.


***

This touching novella, by Nigerian writer Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, via his firm, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. 

It will be serialized in this blog over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

RETIREMENT? NO, REFIREMENT! "Time"






Time is a double-edged sword, because, as we have said, when given opportunity, we may discover that what we have always lacked was never opportunity, but will and discipline.




Those That Can Help

You don’t know everything and sometimes maintaining the various areas of life can feel a little like spinning plates; neglect one for even a moment, and it may fall, even bringing others along with it. 

You cannot be a master of all trades;

Let’s say you have a dripping tap. You have two options:
1.   learn the craft of plumbing,
2.   look up a plumber in the yellow pages.

Now, perhaps you’re quite a hands-on type of individual, and enjoy the challenge and autonomy of fixing your own problems. Cut out the middleman, you think.

But good middlemen save you time. They know what they’re doing, and have a stake in your continued success. If you find advantage in the hands-on attitude, we salute you - but to others that need to stay focused, we might need some hired help.   

Do I need...?
Rationale
An accountant?






A personal trainer?






A life coach?



















Case Study: Rosie 



Rosie spent all most of her life in England before emigrating to Hong Kong along with her husband (once an athlete, he is now a competition judge) and three children.

She has found that she gets on well with the mentality of the island; the slightly chaotic hippie vibe is relaxing to her, and the expat population, much like her, enjoy creating things by hand to sell at flea markets which are held weekly on the island. 

The island itself provides plenty of interesting materials - leaves that can be pressed and hardened into new forms, plentiful papaya growing and falling into her garden and even pieces of wood discarded by the workmen can be chiselled into new shapes. As Rosie says: The art is already somewhere inside them waiting to get out.

This lifestyle, Rosie says, is not without its drawbacks. The workmanship of the housing, compared to the UK is poor, and the Pound doesn’t have the same power it once did. There are problems on the island, but she takes some enjoyment in becoming the centre of gossip.

She hasn’t been able to quit smoking quite yet, but it hasn’t slowed her down: she makes the best jam on the island; the kids are all off having their own adventures, and she can always go to the beach with Jane Austen if things get too hectic.



The Question:

Rosie’s life isn’t perfect, but does Rosie actually benefit from the things that she grumbles about? We all like to have a moan, and to gossip in our own ways.
How much imperfection do we need?

 




This is the continuation of a serialization of this new ebook on active retirement, by a Ugandan, Petero Wamala, and an American, Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., which ebook is available through amazon.com for $0.99: 












Saturday, January 6, 2018

PRISONERS OF HOPE, Ch. 1, 2

       
by Fortune Nwaiwu

CHAPTER ONE

I was mercilessly beaten, whipped severely with my belt stripped from my waist as I set out to preach the word of God for the recent cross-over night at Rumuozoche.

Everything I had was forcefully taken, except my Big Bible that revealed my identity to them, and yet there was no fear of God in them. I was left marooned in a lonely road, and then I whimpered like a forsaken bird in an uninhabited place.

My soul unconsciously groaned, “Where are you, Lord?”

Then I was reassured that God was with me, and that was why I was not shot dead.

My mind returned to the gun they pointed on me, disorganizing me, making me to moan, “You can take whatever thing I have, please, but spare my life.”

Thereafter, I was left with bruises, and I writhed in pain with no one to help.

“Well, such is life,” my soul yelled, and then what Paul said in the scripture, “If I tell you what I passed through in Antioch” resonated in my mind.

I stood up from where I was lying down. I walked towards my station with many thoughts in my mind, making me forget I had reached my station.

“Grief can distort a man's reasoning,” I uttered when I regained myself.

As I entered in the Church, I saw many members, both old and new faces, who had sat waiting for me to begin the cross-over service. I saw a pail of water, and then used it to wash myself.

“Today, I have washed away my sorrow and grief. I shall no longer be a victim of robbery again,” I prayed.

I came into the church, feeling nothing had happened to me, but one thing which I guessed might disturb my members was that I wore no belt and my blue shirt that was a bit dirty. My coat was battered with dust and sand when I was rolling on the ground as I was being beaten.

I maintained myself quietly. I did not want what happened to me to affect the 
program. After the program, I told my members what happened to me as I was coming. They wanted me to call down fire from above to consume the armed robbers. It was then I knew that these were radical Christians who would not cherish any illusion. Even as they wanted me to pray for those men to die, I told them we Christians were set apart from the others, that our prime duty was to pray for the good of our enemies.  

After this, something I had never seen during five years of my ministerial function in Rumuozoche began to be made manifest. Mr. Opurum Alili gave me some money to buy fuel, while my church secretary brought me one liter of fuel to put in my motorcycle, since I had not come by my car. The members were all giving God thanks not only that my motorcycle Mate 90 was not snatched from me but also that my life was spared.

I reminded them about my dream I had shared with them in the Sunday morning service before the cross-over night. In the dream, I drove a bus owned by someone else, and I had no driving license. I saw a police officer, and he asked to see my driving license, which I did not have. Since I was unable to provide the driving license, the police officer then flogged me with a small cane he held in his right hand.

As he flogged me, some persons who were begging the police officer to allow them to go, then asked the policeman, “Don't you know that he is a man of God?”

The policeman was very sorry for what he did. He pleaded with me to flog him seven strokes with the same small cane, which I did not. I forgave him.

As the dream was recounted, the members were able to recall the sermon, “Remember Your Identity as Christians,” which I preached to them in the morning service. My biblical reference was taken from 1 Peter 2:10, and 1 Corinthians 1:2.

“Today, it was as if I knew what was going to happen,” I said.

I waited for my brother to return from where he went to with my Kinco motorcycle. I was aware that he went to Umunka Igbodo to play music for them. Umunka villagers were celebrating the cross-over night.

As I waited, and he was not forthcoming, I decided to use the Mate 90 to go for the cross-over night program. When I reached Umuihe, my motorcycle quaked. It sounded like there was no fuel either in the carburetor or in the tank
.
“Aha, what a problem!” I groaned.

I applied my brake, and the motorcycle stopped rolling. I put on the light of a big torch I borrowed from my little cousin. I discovered that there was no fuel. I placed my mouth firmly on the little opening of the tank, and then released some air that flooded the remaining fuel inside the carburetor.

I then started the motorcycle. Once it reached the middle of my journey, it broke down again, and I did not know what to do again. Time was not on my side. I bent down to see if I could do what I did before that did get it started.
Nothing happened. The motorcycle did not make a sound. There was no fuel.

I looked up to heaven. “Lord, have You brought me out to suffer in the middle of the journey, where no one could be found for help?” I groaned.

I did not know that God was planning for me.

As I looked to my front, I saw a light, and I heard a sound of a Qualink motorcycle roaming towards where I was.

It was then that I knew that I was in a dangerous place.

“You, come here,” they commanded. “Bring everything you have, or I fuck you up with gun."

My body began to shake, and soon I found myself rolling in the sand, being beaten. By then, all that I had possessed been taken away from me, including the big torch I borrowed from my little cousin.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!' I moaned.

The armed robbers left me with my fuel-less motorcycle. I remained unconscious for some minutes. There was no one to rescue me.

When I told this terrible story to my members, they were all sad. I then remembered when I met a man with his rifle during the 2014- 2016 crisis in the land, when there were Dey Well and Dey Gbam. It was at that place I was beaten that I met this man as he hissed out from the bush like a python chased by a hunter.

I melted with fear, but the man saw me as a man of God and he allowed me to go. This happened on a Sunday morning when I was going to church. As I drove, I noticed that the road was lonely, and there was no way I could not go to church. I began to sing a hymn,

"Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand."

Two weeks later I heard that the man had been shot dead by his rivals. I wept for him. He did not harm me, and, I believed, God had intervened, as I made my plea through the hymn.

I declared that a priestly office was not what every man should desire because it was an office reserved for those who God called upon to function. “If you are called, no matter how little you may appear before kings and princes, you are exalted before them, by His grace,” I said.

After the cross-over night, I endured the pains and conducted the New Year Service before leaving for treatment. My message was, “Put off Your Old Sinful Nature.” I backed it up from Ephesians 4:22-25. My major emphasis was on the members shunning lies, stealing, sexual immorality, hatred, and all forms of ungodly manners, and instead embracing Christ as their personal Savior.

After my sermon, Mildred, a daughter of Levi, an elder in the church came to me privately, and was reduced to tears.

“Man of God," she moaned, 'how will I avoid sexual sin? As an unmarried girl, many men would come wanting me as their wife, and before they would pay the bride price, my back must have seen many winters.”

As a literary scholar, I knew what she meant by “seen many winters.” Her visit to me gave me another opportunity to deal with such a sexual sin.

What Paul said in Romans 12:1-2 came to me, “Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

As I was speaking with her, her responses indicated that she was receiving the Word of God, and I believed that was the time she denounced her sins. She began to study her Bible, and many changes happened in her life. Thereafter, I asked her about her parents and her brother Febian, because I did not see them in the church service.

Mildred then told me that her dad had been taken to a hospital. Though I knew that Levi was a lung cancer patient and had been taken to various clinical centers, no one had told me that his sickness had escalated. I took Mildred to the sanctuary, where we prayed together for her father's health. As I was praying, Mildred felt the anointing; I opened my eyes a little and saw where Mildred was rolling to and fro consecutively. It was then that Mildred received deliverance. I concluded the prayer, asking that God extend His gracious healing power to Levi, and his entire household.




CHAPTER TWO

As I entered the hospital, I saw Levi lying in his sick bed, writhing in pain. To him and everyone in the hospital, it was crystal clear that he would soon join his ancestors. He had been into several hospitals, and yet, there was no improvement.

I met him in the General Teaching Hospital. I discovered from my observations that Levi was afraid to be in the hospital, as he saw many patients dying like fowls suffering from a bird flu.

Seeing that most of the sick persons around him had died, he pleaded that his children should take him home, “I can't continue to hear the crying of heart-broken fellows who have lost their loved ones day-after-day,” Levi groaned in pain. “It will be better for me to breathe my last in my home than in any other place.”

I wept heartily as I saw Levi in such a condition. I groaned, “Levi, may the Lord be with you.”

My mind gently whispered to me; immediately Levi wrinkled his face, and scratched his wretched skins with his right hand, seeming to ask me that if God is with him, why must he suffer all this terrible sickness?

This I thought, but I did not know if it was really what Levi was having in mind but could not say it out.

Levi's excruciating pain and grief made me to forget about taking my treatment for the beating I received from those irresponsible armed robbers. I then began to pray for the sick ones in the hospital. I wept as I saw many of them with no hope of survival.

“The harvest is great, but laborers are few,” I commented.

There were some of them who were given food through their nostrils, and those breathing through oxygen tubes or masks. As I was praying, I was also preaching to them for repentance.

There was one lady who did not allow me to pray for her. She said her church did not allow a non-member to pray for them. This lady was on oxygen until her friends visited her. As her friends were consoling her, one of them did not know that he placed his legs on the pipe that had been supplying her air. Even though the lady wrote a desperate note to the young man to remove his legs from the pipe, he did not read it, and the lady gradually ebbed away.

Straightaway, a loud cry was heard. This loud cry could melt and break weary hearts. I looked at Adanta, Levi's wife, and then realized that her mind had flown to a far distance.

We were there when Dr. Smart and his nurses carried the poor lady away. 

“When death is beginning to take away one's neighbor, one should get ready to die, because he must be the next to die,” Adanta moaned as she looked at Levi's face.

When I thought about the young lady who had just died, I thought about the fate of so-called Christians with different beliefs that could not let them come into oneness, togetherness, and loving one another.

“How can a Christian abhor a fellow Christian and claim that he is perfect? It goes against our religion,” I said.

Levi had remained in the hospital for three months, but there was no money to give to Dr. Smart to buy drugs needed to sustain Levi's life. Before Levi fell sick, he had helped his cousin, Dominic, whose parents died when he was two years old leaving him orphan, to obtain a visa to travel to America. This help had made Levi bankrupt, hoping that Dominic would repay all the expenses Levi made when Dominic got settled in America.

Adanta had left with no money to care for her husband. She had gone to many places to borrow money despite the little amount the church was able to provide for her. No one could lend her money.

“If you are broke, and all the loved ones fail to help you out from your terrible situation, hell fire is close to your destination', Adanta moaned.

I thought about what she said. She was right, because some problems were like hell fire, from which only God could come to the rescue.

“If difficult situations receive no solutions, they are capable of drowning a soul into the pit of hell,” I said.

Adanta, hoping to receive help from her husband's kinsman, Rodwell, who worked in a Shell, was disappointed.

“Unless you allow me to uncover your feet, I can't release my hard-earned money to help your disgusting husband,” Rodwell yelled. “How do you expect me to act like an uncircumcised Christian?”

“Help me and your brother. He is dying in the hospital,” Adanta pleaded.

This atrocity, having Adanta give her body to Rodwell, was as evil as one sleeping with a dog. Instead of begging people again for help, Adanta then resorted to selling some of her husband's property in order to get one million naira to deposit for the treatment of her husband. She sold three pieces of flat Samsung plasma televisions, two refrigerators, a generator, and a car – a Nissan Almera SE. All her sales did not amount to one million naira, and yet she needed more, #500,000.00.

Thereafter, Adanta returned to the hospital, and she saw that her husband's health was rapidly deteriorating. She wept bitterly. Many thoughts came into her mind to ensure that her husband was revived.

“I need to do something for my husband to live,” she declared, “whatever it may cost me. I’d rather risk my life than to stay idle while my husband ebbs away.”

Adanta's mind roamed in solitude because her husband's illness had gotten worse. It devastated her. She then went to ask Rodwell for a favour. Adanta met him in his sitting room, where he was watching a television.

She stooped down in tears to beg Mr. Rodwell for favor, “Please help me and your brother who has been battered by illness. You know that lung cancer is an acute disease that causes death, and the treatment requires a lot of money which I cannot afford to provide."

Adanta sighed, “Whatever he might have done to you, I appeal to you for forgiveness. Please, I don't want to be a widow now, for I have no one to look after me.”

Mr. Rodwell allowed Adanta to express all her woes, and then asked her, “Madam, can you recall what I told you last?” Rodwell queried, “If it is not by the reason of what we discussed few days ago that you came here, you better leave my house. Have you made up of your mind?”

Adanta in tears nodded her head for approval, and Mr. Rodwell opened his chamber and took Adanta in. Later, Adanta came out with the sum of #500,000.00. Though she could be happy that she had completely gotten the amount the doctor asked her to provide, such happiness was sullied by the guilt about what she had done to get the money. She had betrayed her marriage vow.

One day as I walked through one street, I noticed that many people especially strangers lived in that area. I came to one shop owned by a Calabar woman. I saw Rodwell, though I did not know it to be he, as I was newly posted to the place. I overheard him talking to the Calabar woman and few people around there that he had in the matter of an amorous deed eaten deeply to the fabric of Adanta's ass. This statement wounded my soul, and I knew that it had tarnished the reputation of Adanta as a lay reader in the church.

I confronted him, “Brother, do you know that that woman you mentioned as she passed by is a man's wife? Why must you make a mockery of her?”

“Gentleman or man of God,” Rodwell called me, “I don't know what to call you, but it seems that you are a man of God: that woman betrayed her marriage vow, which every church preaches against.”

I understood what he meant, but I also asked him to ask for forgiveness. As I walked away, I remembered that if the church heard about this, Adanta would be suspended. How will this be when no one caught them red-handed apart from Rodwell, who committed the crime with her? I asked myself.

Either Rodwell was assassinating Adanta's character or he was saying the truth in a disdainful manner. All these thoughts weighed me down emotionally. I discarded the thought, pending when someone else would report officially that Adanta had sold her marriage right.

I then returned to the hospital to see how Levi was faring. I saw Adanta sitting beside her husband in the sick bed, tears rolled down her cheeks; many patients in the hospital who saw her thought that she was grieved because of her husband's sickness. That thought wasn't the case. Adanta's mind soared like an eagle in the sky reminiscing what she did with her body before she was able to deposit the money the doctor requested for Levi's treatment. Looking at Adanta, it was clear that her body and soul had been disengaged. She felt alone, like no one was around watching all that was happening to her. She did not even notice my presence in the hospital.

I realized Adanta's agony of mind was not only caused by the husband's sickness, but also by the betrayal of her wedding vows. The guilt of sin was tormenting her. Though without telling anyone what she did, I knew that she was pleading to God for forgiveness.

At this time, I remembered what a non-Christian said about why he chose not to be a Christian. He said he did not like the attitude of so-called Christians towards dying persons. He gave as his example that a Christian would undergo plastic surgery and the transplanting of kidney to a dying man even if it was God's will for the person to die. I also reasoned with him to some extent. But I told him that God's will must always be done, even if after all assistance rendered and the patient still died, that was God's will.

“God's will means doing good even if the good turns to negative consequences,” I maintained.

As soon as I remembered what Adanta did, the thought of that atheist flashed in mind. "Really, a strong Christian is known at hard times, when a tempest strikes, trials come and troubles rise like a raging sea,” I stated.
I then turned to Adanta and yelled, “Adanta, may the Lord of peace see you through.”

Adanta turned her face, and said, “Amen,” as she saw me.

She later bent her face to the floor, in tears, and groaned, “Please, remember me in your prayers.”

“Take heart. I always do,” I responded.

After some minutes, Levi suddenly woke up from sleep. He coughed out phlegm and blood, breathing faster than before. Adanta raised a sad voice, calling the doctor. The doctor rushed like surging water, along with his nurses. He saw Levi writhing in pain and persistently coughing.

The doctor became annoyed; he had warned Levi before to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and snorting snuff. No one knew that Levi came to the hospital with some packets of cigarettes and a big box full of snuff. No one would know that he smoked or snuffed. I was not aware; he had never worshiped with me during the three months since I came to this place.

I had heard from members that Levi wasn't a serious church member. When they said he was not, I did not believe them because some churches are fond of saying that each time a member was not healthy and needed their assistance. They even wanted to persuade me that if Levi died, it was none of the church’s business to bury him. All of them deserted him.

I became a lonely voice consoling Levi and his family. The little money I gave to him in the name of the church for his treatment was from my pocket. So, I did everything that would make him know that the church and God loved him. For me to hear from the doctor warning Levi to stop smoking and from others confirming that Levi was not a repented soul, I was determined that I must try my best to preach for him, and God would help to win his soul to Christ.

Whenever Levi wanted to defecate, he would stay long in the toilet, and lighted up his cigarette, and smoke, and then snorted his snuff in his nostrils. He did it secretly, and Adanta thought that this sickness would make her husband stop smoking and drinking.

Now the sickness had badly affected his lungs. “Levi, why must you harm yourself by being addicted to smoking?” The doctor queried, “Don't you know that snuff contains chemical elements that cause cancers? Intake of snuff can result to several forms of cancers including esophageal cancers, oral cancers and pancreatic cancers, and would in fact cause a high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. You have been diagnosed of lung cancer, and you refuse to quit from smoking and snorting of snuff. Have you seen what you have caused yourself now? It was what you did few hours now that resulted to this cough, and now dark thick blood is flooding from your nostrils,” Dr. Smart said and grimaced.

Levi was speechless, as the nurses used a small white towel soaked with warmth water to clean his nose and body.

Adanta pleaded with the doctor to help save her husband. "Sir, do whatever you can to save his life, for his life is entrusted to you. Since we have known most of the causes of his ailment, we can strive to make out a solution to his problems," Adanta moaned.

 "Madam," Dr. Smart called, "Your husband is suffering from drug addiction which has resulted to lung cancer, and now it has ruined most of his delicate parts of his body system. You can see the phlegm of blood he coughed out," the doctor said, and he saw that Adanta had been reduced to tears.

Dr. Smart then brought a stethoscope to measure the respiratory movements of Levi's chest and abdomen. After a careful scrutiny, he shook his head, believing that Levi would not live long. Yet this was what he must keep Adanta from knowing, it being not medically advisable for doctors to tell patients with appalling and deteriorating health that they would die. Doctors are enjoined to say a few words that would assure them that they would be well again.

When we saw the doctor shaking his head, we knew that Levi would not survive the sickness. Tears streamed down our cheeks, and we wailed. Mildred and Fabian, who just arrived in the hospital to see their dad, from a little distance sighted us wailing, and then they began to weep as well, thinking that Levi had finally died.

This was what other nearby patients thought about as they heard our wailing voices, and so, they began to say farewell to Levi. "No one prays for death to come, but now it is quite obvious that we are the next to die," said the patients, "every day we hear people crying and weeping for the loss of their loved ones. At times, we begin to ask ourselves whether our sickness is incurable, or doctors are not able to save lives. Now the poor man has died, and gone to where there is no sorrow nor pains. Adieu, and we shall soon meet again if the medicine and vaccine of the doctors fail to revive us. We have determined to die, but death is not forthcoming; that is why we are still living, and so we are prisoners of hope. We hope for death or life. The news that people await to hear from us is we come out from this place either alive or dead. We are the prisoners of hope, abandoned by the living, but not forsaken by God, rejected by the living, but chosen by God to preach the gospel of grief to those who have never known pain nor sorrow.”

While Fabian sat in intense grief at the right side of his father, his younger sister, Mildred, sat by the left with her eyes heavily saddened. The grief in their hearts could not allow them to utter a word. Apparently, they believed that their dad would not survive the sickness, even as they gazed steadily at him.

Levi coughed again, and Adanta brought an empty bucket so Levi could spit the phlegm into. It was not quite long before she threw out what Levi coughed.

I then called Fabian's attention for my revelation for him. I told him that despite the health challenges of his father, he should get a woman for his father to bless his wedlock; if not, his life would be miserable. Adanta glued her gaze on me, and then remembered the earlier prophecy spoken on Fabian by a priest about what I just said. The priest had ministered in the church for many years before I came. And now the same prophecy had re-occurred.

At this time, Fabian's curiosity was set ablaze, and he had an internal crisis within his mind.

Levi looked at him and saw that Fabian was no longer at ease. He mustered his strength, and then began to talk to his children. I was listening, too, and his children thought that he was making his last speech. "You know that I am the only child of my parents, and God has blessed me by giving you to me," said Levi, "if I join my ancestors, let peace continue to reign in my family. Mildred, my daughter, I warn you for the last time to disengage yourself from that sociopath -- that young man with personality disorder, who drinks, and smokes, who lacks the sense of moral responsibility and who has asked your hand in marriage. Though he may be rich, driving cars, and might have built many mansions, they are not what it takes to be a good husband. A smoker does not make a good husband. Those who produced cigarettes say, ‘smokers are liable to die young.’ I was surprised to see one medical doctor here smoking, but they keep telling people that smoking of marijuana, India hemp or intake of hard drugs is harmful to the body. Since I came in to this hospital, I have been smoking with him, but I'm the only person dying of it. Now, O, you Mildred, I wouldn't be happy to see you marry that man, because I don't want you to be a widow in your early age. Fabian, do what you can to untangle the man's love from your sister."

Levi coughed, and dark, thick blood flowed out of his throat, which he spat into the bucket kept beside him. Dr. Smart gave Fabian a sign, and Fabian followed him to his office. He told Fabian about the apparent condition of his father, and then with deep sorrow in the heart, he said they would not continue to keep Levi in the hospital; the cancer had eaten up his lungs.

"Young man, your father has but ten days to live," said Dr. Smart. "As a family friend, I've tried my best to ensure your father is revived, but to my greatest surprise, the sickness has gone beyond medical remedy. My advice for you is to carry back your father home, and take him to his local church for the church to pray for him after confessing his sins.”

"Sir, is there no other thing to do to save his life?" Fabian cried.

"What I told you is the best thing your father can do to regain his life in heaven. Let him confess his sins and repent. God will restore his life. Sickness reminds man the impending doom of death, and draws man closer to his Creator. It is a preparatory stage to cross to another realm of life. He who fails to repent in his sick bed has failed to secure a place in heaven," Dr. Smart advised.

We waited until Fabian came back. I looked at him, and got a bit of the details about how Levi would be discharged. I then asked Fabian to hire a taxi to carry his dad.

Fabian and Mildred hired a taxi to convey their father back home. When the taxi driver saw Levi lying down, he retorted that his car was not an ambulance that carried dead bodies. To him Levi was already dead, and he was about to leave before Adanta knelt down, pleading to him that her husband was not yet dead. She cried for mercy until the taxi driver agreed to carry Levi.

Before leaving the hospital, Levi lamented, "I know it will be like this. When a sick man leaves from a hospital uncured, it means he should go home and die in peace. All hope is not lost, for my spirit whispers to me that I will not die by this sickness. Even if I die, I have the hope of seeing my God though the journey bear me too far, and I will cross the gate to see He Who judges fairly".
I held Levi by the hands, with the help of Fabian. We walked a route where other patients would not see us, though they would feel our absence when they heard no more of our voices and weeping. Levi entered the taxi, and the car zoomed off.

Dr. Smart wept bitterly for his friend, Levi. He began to put Levi's odds and ends into his shoes, then shook his head.

***


[This touching short story, by Nigerian writer Fortune Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, douglas@tingandi.com, through his company, http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com.