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.
"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.
"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 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 thought that the sickness would be minor, a fever or a spiritual attack, since I was not told before that he was sick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They asked me this staring steadily at me.
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.
"Rapture has begun," I said, my mind was occupied by the fates of the patients.
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.
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.
It will be serialized in this blog over the next several weeks.