This touching novella, by Nigerian writer, the minister Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, via his firm, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. It is being serialized in this blog over several weeks.
Saturday, February 3, 2018
PRISONERS OF HOPE, Chapter Six Revised
Fabian remembered the early prophecy spoken concerning him that he would not succeed in his marriage unless his father blessed it. He then asked Bianca’s hand in marriage. Bianca, a pretty daughter of Rodwell, agreed to marry Fabian.
Fabian knew much about their tradition in terms of marriage. He was nineteen years old, and Bianca was a year older than he.
“Now that you’ve gladdened my heart, would your father be a party to our union? Fabian asked. “I am afraid he may not.”
“Don’t fuse negative thoughts into your feeble mind,” said Bianca, “my father will accept you as his son in-law. But since you have spent a lot of money for your father’s illness, would you be able to pay the huge amount of money for the bride price?”
“Would that be a bone of contention?” Fabian asked.
“No, you can negotiate with my father,” Bianca yelled.
Many suitors who came to marry Bianca had disappeared when they saw the marriage list and the bride price. This issue of high bride price had kept many women spinsters in this community. For any man who came to marry their daughter, the price of the dowry discouraged them not to marry her. But a member of the community can marry on credit when he had no money for the bride price.
Fabian was not ready for marriage, but due to his father’s deteriorating health and the prophecy spoken on him, he decided to force himself into early marriage in order to get the blessings from his father. What he needed to do was to negotiate with Rodwell, since for Fabian money for the dowry was not available.
Bianca was willing to marry Fabian, but she was afraid Fabian would not be willing and able wed her.
She came to me, asking that I persuade Fabian to marry her, "Man of God, do as you can to persuade Fabian to wed me. I have attended to people’s weddings, and I need them to come to my own wedding," Bianca sighed.
At this time, I told her, "Why must children of this generation consider wedding as the most creditable thing a man and a woman can ever do on the Earth, as if a wedding itself is righteousness. Marriage is paramount. Proper marriage is when a man has paid the bride price, then they may decide to celebrate it either in court or church or both."
As I was saying this, I was trying to make her understand marriage in reality. We noticed that Cornell was to marry her on credit, and he wished to do a formal, white wedding.
“What is the difference between paying a dowry without a white wedding and having a white wedding without payment of dowry?” I asked. “A man who has paid his wife's dowry can decide to go to church for God's blessings even though he has no money for wedding. This is perfectly right. A holy and righteous man who has found his better half and who gets her impregnated before the wedding is superior to a promiscuous woman who appears before the altar, like the most holy angel, in a veiled white wedding garment."
I let her know that Satan was using some family members to cause problems. A woman would appear during marriage counseling and state boldly that her husband was not able to satisfy her, and she was planning to divorce him. Such a woman was living only for pleasure and not for the glory of God; she's a dog, and virtuous men should run away from her.
It is good for a man to give his wife what she needs. This issue of unsatisfying husbands and wives had been Satan's tool to ruin most marriages. "But how do we distinguish wedded Christians from wedded pagans?" I asked. ‘A truthful wedded man could not divorce his wife on the basis that she was not satisfying him. He must maintain and believe the word of God which opposed divorce, while a wedded pagan could divorce his or her partner with no fear of God.”
As I spoke with Bianca, she understood me, and she pleaded that I should help to wed them despite that Fabian had not paid the bride price. I heard her, and I wanted to speak with her father, Rodwell, whom I first met in the shop of one Calabar woman as he was talking about his sexual encounter with Adanta.
When Bianca reported to her father that Fabian was asking her hand in marriage, Rodwell was pleased to hear about it, as the union with her daughter and Fabian would give him the chance of seducing Adanta again. He then asked Bianca to call Fabian for him. Bianca came back with Fabian before Rodwell.
“Young man, I sent for you based on what my amiable and pretty daughter told me," Rodwell said. “Will you kindly say before me what you told my pretty damsel?"
"Sir, your pretty daughter is one of the most gentle and well-behaved creatures on Earth, an irresistible charm to my eyes, so I ask you to grant her to me in marriage,” Fabian requested.
Rodwell moved into his inner room, He brought out the marriage list that the elders of the land had prepared. “Young man, are you ready now for the payment of bride price, despite that your father’s illness has eaten up your money, or do you want to marry on credit?" Rodwell asked.
“Yes, most honored man on the planet, I applied for credit until my cousin sent me some dollars. For now, I’m choked up. I need my dying father to bless my union before he dies,” Fabian groaned.
"It will be a shameful thing", said Rodwell, "if I give you my pretty daughter for marriage on credit. Well, I can bear the shame because I value your family, and I will be ready to sponsor the marriage."
Cornell was not happy when he heard that Fabian wanted to marry Bianca. He saw Levi and his son, Fabian, as traitors for having refused him Mildred. "As long as I live, Fabian will not live to marry Bianca, since his father refused me permission to marry his daughter,” Cornell swore.
Cornell was quite eager to ruin the union of Fabian and Bianca. He planned how to keep the marriage from taking place.
Levi went inside his room, ransacked his wardrobe searching for where he had packed his Indian hemps and cigarettes,. He suddenly came across some bottles, including some brand-new ones that had not been consumed. He then packed them all and carried them towards his veranda.
Fabian saw him and straightaway moved to relieve him from such chores.
Fabian knew the pains his father was passing through; he understood the reason his father was trying to get rid of those materials, but he stayed silent, knowing too well that soon his father would die. He concluded that the benefits of getting rid of those cigarettes now was for him to come closer to God, to repent, and for God to forgive him, because he must surely reap what he had sown, the effects of drug abuse.
Fabian gave his father encouraging words that can pierce the soul, "Dad I understand what you are passing through now, but I assure you to put all your trust in God, because He is bigger than your problems. Just seek His face now. He is a merciful God. I know He will forgive you."
Levi sat down and deeply pondered what his son had said; afterwards, he thanked him and also advised him, "Fabian, my beloved son, thank you for your words of encouragement; it is good to obey God. I know I am faulty, but I pray for Him to accept my soul."
Adanta, upon entering the compound with thoughts running through her mind, saw her husband beside the heap of liquor bottles and packets of cigarettes and snuff. She wondered why such refuse items were kept aside, though seeing that I was there, she then believed that perhaps Levi was surrendering his life to Christ, shunning his old sinful nature. We had thought that the aim of Levi’s shunning smoking and drinking was only for his health, but now we realized that he forsook all this for Christ's sake.
Levi lighted a fire to burn the heap of rejected drugs. He took the bottles of alcohol and threw them into a deep pit. He called Fabian, and the two of them walked towards the coconut tree at the frontage of his house.
"Fabian," Levi grumbled, "if I die, make sure I'm buried here, beneath this tree."
"You have told me this before," Fabian replied. At this time, Fabian understood that his dad was suffering from memory loss, too.
"My son, I have thrown away all the drugs and bottles of alcohol so that you will not say when I die that I only leave bottles of whisky for you. As fathers leave inheritances for their children, the only inheritance I'm leaving with you is the word of God, tie it on your neck to wherever you wish to go. The word of God is a strong weapon, just as the name of God being a strong tower, the righteous run to it for refuge," Levi moaned.
A few minutes later, while I sat in front of Levi, I looked into his eyes and discovered that he was deeply sorrowful. Tears streamed down his cheeks, as he thought about his life.
"Soon I will die and leave my family behind,” Levi groaned.
I felt for him as he became conscious about his impending doom. This was what we human beings never thought about; all we thought was how to be rich, acquiring wealth, and then we forgot our lives after we leave the Earth. I had seen a man who had acquired wealth but had no son. Who would inherit his wealth and property? Not only that, what about a wealthy man with children whose hearts were far from God? We tended to forget that a wise servant would rule the foolish son of a rich man.
"Why must one live under a curse?" I asked as I steadily fixed my eyes on Levi, "accumulation of wealth unjustly is a curse, and whoever hoards national cakes, embezzling the nation's money lives under a curse."
Levi looked at me with a tired face; he remembered what he did when he was working in Coderabian Bank. I did not know why I was saying all these things until I asked Levi if he was a civil servant before, and he nodded his head, and then he muttered, "I was once a banker."
"Then what stopped you from working?" I asked, steadily fixing my gaze on him before he could open his poor mouth to talk to me.
"Sir Peterson, it's a long story," Levi yelled. "I was an accountant in the Coderabian Bank, and my salary was very meager. My boss did not want to pay me based on my qualifications, until I had a chance to defraud him and the bank, and then I escaped to where no one could find me. That was how I lost my job. I used the money to build my house and buy a car. I donated some huge amount of money to the Saint Philip's Church with the thought that God would be pleased and forgive me. Now all the things I acquired from defrauding the bank have vanished. My car and property have been sold in the course of my health. Please, Man of God, pray for me because sometimes my conscience blames me, whispering to me that what I did was evil. I don't know if it is responsible for my sickness because I drank and smoked a lot when I took possession of the defrauded money."
I told him that God could never be bribed for anything. If our hearts are not made right with God, no amount of our offering would please him. "Thou prisoner of hope, may God forgive you and untie the curses your boss laid on you for your fraudulent acts," I prayed, seeing that Levi had repented.
Thereafter, I set out to go. As I reached to a motor-pack, I saw a man calling me "Sir Peterson." I did not know him, and his bushy hair stamped him as a bad man. I didn't want to respond to him. I remembered what I experienced when I was teaching in a private school under NDDC at Water-Land.
I was having severe typhoid and malaria; obtaining permission from the proprietress of the school, I entered a taxi from Federal Housing Estate to Slaughter. Immediately, as I came out from the taxi, a man appearing helpless came to me and asked me where he would locate Oneh, a seaport.
Really, I did not know about this place, but as he was desperate to find his way, and he was a foreigner, I decided to help him. Suddenly, I saw another fellow asking me about the mission of the other man, and I told him. He encouraged me that we should help him.
Later, the much-admired foreigner told us that he had goods – computers -- for sale, that he would give each of us one. I did not utter a word because I did not need his laptop, I had my own laptop. I became hungry and wanted to eat. I looked around but did not see a restaurant. I sat down under a big tree, receiving a breeze, and they joined me, persuading me to hurry up as I wanted to buy garden eggs to eat.
The esteemed man said he had the materials for minting money. All my attention was not given to him as I was thinking thought about what to eat. I then moved to a place where soft drinks and Gala were sold. I bought some for myself and for them too. I didn't know that they were all very hungry. Before I could finish eating, they had already consumed theirs and wanted to eat more.
I kept quiet until the man sent the other fellow whom I thought was Cornell or one of Cornell's boys, to look for where chemicals for minting money were sold.
He zoomed off and suddenly breezed back to tell us that the man was in and wanted to see us. I went with them and began to realize that what they needed me do for them was encroaching on another business. We sat in a veranda and waited for the man to come.
Suddenly, the noteworthy foreigner rose up to go hide himself. He did not want the chemical seller to know him. I did not know that it was his tactic to deceive me. Later he came with a plastic bottle of water. I thought it was a chemical for minting of the money, until he sat down with little fretting shown on his face, and then drank a little quantity of it.
Only the fellow I thought to be Cornell and I were with him. He asked us our names, which we supplied. He demanded that we pray. He prayed our Lord's prayer, and this convinced me that they were not evil men.
The man held a small mirror and a white handkerchief in his hands. He asked my name again, place of birth, where I worked, and my account number. Each piece of information I supplied, and he confirmed it by looking into the diabolic mirror.
I thank God that the week this incident happened, I took all my money from my bank account for Thanksgiving. As I mentioned Coderabia Bank as my account, he used the evil mirror to check my account balance and then found out that there was no money there.
At this time, the acclaimed foreigner trekked in like a he-goat with an injured leg. He sat beside us. I didn't know that I was the only foreigner in their midst. The man with the mirror and white handkerchief stood up and then prophesied that we had come for a good mission, "virgin money," he exclaimed.
"Due to we are all Christians, we will not use a human being for the sacrifice, but we shall bring money and buy the chemicals and thereafter we shall regain all we have spent.”
I told him that I did not have any farthings to give. He asked me to sell my laptop that I carried in my bag.
"Without the money, you become impotent," he claimed, looking at me, and then told the other fellow to go and sell his late father's land and bring the money.
I was sad. I realized that I was into trouble because of volunteering to help a fellow who was desperate. I took my laptop to a place where phones and computers were sold and repaired. One man I met asked me to tell him the reason I wanted to sell my laptop; I told him it was to pay my school fees. This was a lie those people put into my mouth to use in case people asked to know the reason I was selling my computer. They knew that if people knew the real reason, they would not achieve their aim. I did not know that I was under the influence of their charm. I sold my Dell Computer at the amount of #40.000.00, and I had bought it for #98,000.00.
I returned with the money and handed it over to them. They collected my money and promised that before 4:00 p.m., everything would be ready. I left and went back to where I was living. I suspended my traveling.
Some few minutes after 4:00, the notable foreigner called me the on phone to know if I had called the man who had gone to mint the money, and I said no. He wanted to call him and said he had made a supervisor for the money minting and that I should not mind the other fellow.
It is good to be kind to people; my kindness today has been rewarded, I thought, believing that it was God's will.
Around 8:00 at night they called me to come for the money. I then knelt down and prayed to God before leaving. As was trying to locate where they were, a man with a Bible and a jotter walked up to me and begged me for money. He said he was an Anglican priest and that he was going for a program. I looked at him, and I felt sorry for him because looking at his outfit, he seemed to be really suffering. I then dipped my hand in my trousers pockets to show him that I had nothing, which he confirmed.
I did not know that the man was those people's agent, and they had been monitoring my movement, but I was not seeing where they were until they called me to stop. I looked and saw them near the street road. The acclaimed money-minting man said a lot of things including his tale about an accident he narrowly escaped as he was traveling in pursuit of the money.
He then said quietly that he had brought the money, but it required our own money to mix them together, if not we would have a problem with doing that. It was as if I was not listening. My mind was not there. The man wanted me to touch the money, which I reluctantly did. The man asked us to go and bring money. Since I had no money, I then called the cashier of the private school where I worked to remit #20,000.00 for me, and when my salary was paid to me, they could take it back. The cashier listened to me and promised to give me the money in two days' time.
I never told the cashier what I wanted to use the money for. I then called my mother to pray that God had answer our prayers. I told her how soon I would become a billionaire. My mum was surprised to hear this. She had never seen me staying outside at that time of night. She wanted to know what was happening, and I only told her to pray around the midnight for God to do His will. I asked her to send me #20,000.00, and she wanted to know why I was demanding such an amount of money, so I told her a bit about my encounter.
"Ah! Are they not criminals?" She said.
"They are not", I responded.
She wanted to know more about it. I told her to forget about sending me the money. Later on, she called to tell me that my younger brother would bring the money for me. When my brother heard about it, he said those people were criminals, and he gave me instances of people who had suffered the same fate, but I was not believing him.
In the morning, I woke up and prayed: "God, if I'm in the hands of evil men, rescue me from them." After the prayer, my phone rang, and it was my younger brother who had come to locate me. I directed him where to stop. I then dressed and went out to meet him.
I sat on a wooden bench of a woman near the main road, a woman who sold rechargeable cards popularly called Air-time. I sat there and was looking at the type of latest Jeep I would be driving, thinking about the type of temple I would build for my church. Many thoughts were running in my mind. I had good thoughts about what I would use the money for if the deal really worked out. I planned on sending all my siblings to UK to stay. In fact, I was seeing myself as a great man, a wealthy man.
I did not know that I was one of the prisoners of hope. I was marooned in deep thought until my brother came. We then went into my room. I prepared some dish for him, which he ate. Thereafter, he looked at me, and then asked me about what I had told them. He told me what people he knew experienced that related to my case. I doubted him and said if those people were using charm, that it would never work for them. He brought the money, and we were set to pay them as they demanded.
On the way, I told him that we should forget about those people. My brother was glad, and we then went to the man that bought my computer and pleaded with him to give me my laptop back. He accepted and returned it, as we paid him #50,000.00, due to his having installed a lot of software in the system.
So, when I heard the man at the motor-pack with bushy hair calling me, I did not want to listen to him, because of my odd experience. He approached me and then said that he was one of the men that came to me one night to ask me to pray for Levi. I remembered but did not know much about him. Thereafter, he promised to come to church the day Levi would deliver his last sermon.
On the following day, Levi and all his family members and relations gathered in his house. None of them opened their kitchens to prepare food. They decided not to eat.
Adanta, in grief, meditated on how she would see Levi breathe his last; she thought sadly about the limited time that Levi had to live. "Today, the church will hear his last speech, and thereafter he will die," she groaned.
Though Adanta never appeared before her husband openly grieving, she suffered excruciating pain and sorrow in her heart.
Fabian came out from his room, in a black cloth, without wearing his shoes. He wore his wretched sandals, while Mildred put on her dark blouse and waited for the others to go for the last Sunday Service of Mr. Levi, the presiding elder of Saint Philip church.
While friends and relations were outside waiting, Levi was inside pouring all his sorrow to God, asking him to deliver him from his impending doom. "Lord, may Your will be done. Let this sickness of mine prove to people that You are a great God and a mighty Healer.
“No medical practitioner can heal lung cancer. All they prescribe are Platinol, Onxol, Ventolin inhaler, amino-phyline in immediate-release form and morphine in lower dosage for fear of fatally depressing the respiratory center in the brain. But in all their prescriptions, none of them could heal the patient. Their prescriptions tend to sustain the patient for a limited time, and thereafter, the patient will die.
“Lord, may You extend Your loving mercies upon my wretched life. My family members and church members are now anticipating my death. If doctors really own my life, let all their predictions come to pass, but if my life is really in Your hands, rebuke this sickness in my body so that I may be healed and be a testimony to people about Your miraculous power.
“Since I have repented, have You, O, Lord, seen me drinking or smoking again? Are You not the God Who says that You have no pleasure in the death of he who dies, that we should repent in order that we should live?
“O, Lord, let your servant live and not die, so that the world will know that I, and my children are born for signs and wonders. As I step to the altar to deliver Your message, send down Your healing power upon me. As I’m sick, all my family members are also sick. My wife and children have been reduced to tears. I see no joy in them, nor do their faces radiate with gladness.
“I realize my error – a gross ignorance of drug addiction. Let me live to proclaim Your word before the princes and kings. Now, the church is waiting to hear my final speech before I die.
“No, by Your grace, I will not die but live to glorify the name of the Lord. Amen.”
Before coming out to join the people waiting outside, Levi dried the tears in his eyes. He then came out, and a crowd of people followed him to the church.
As he stepped into the church, people begin to weep until I, the priest, addressed them. “Today is a day set aside for our beloved brother, Elder Levi, to deliver his last sermon to the church before he will join his ancestors. I now call on him, Elder Levi, to climb to the altar to deliver his farewell sermon,” I said.
While Levi was climbing to the altar, Adanta’s face and those of many others were dejectedly staring at Levi. As tears of grief rolled down Levi’s cheeks, worshipers began to mourn, and people began to feel the intensity of grief and sorrow that had clouded the church.
Many people had brought their sick ones from Dr. Smart's Hospital to witness the final Sunday service of Levi on the Earth. I watched as the patients were brought to the church, and I was praying to God to seize the moment to heal all the sick persons in the church for the glory of His name.
Levi stood still, allowing the members to feel with him, then he began to speak, “Brethren, today is a special day, which the church has given me the privilege to say few words before you. You can see my condition today, a healthy man reduced to dry-bones, a patient returned from the hospital to die in his house. Well, such is life, full of ups and downs. But I want to encourage you that whatever may happen to you, you should always put your trust in God. If we encounter challenges and troubles in our lives, let them be open doors to commune with God.
“When Asaph was in deep trouble, he searched for the Lord, day and night pouring out his anguish to God with hands lifted towards Heaven, when he felt the answers were not coming forth, he claimed it was his fate – perhaps his sins made God to slam the door of His compassion on him.
“As Christians, let all our troubles and trials toss us to the comforting bosom of our God. Within this period of my suffering, I have learnt a lesson that sickness and pains are very significant in human existence for men to turn to God for salvation.
“Recall that God spoke to Hezekiah, ‘set your house in order, for you will die.’ This particular portion of the Bible is very familiar to us. We read it and we think that we are not like Hezekiah and what happened to him will never happen to us. Now who among us is like Hezekiah? I’m the one. God says, ‘Set your family in order, for you will die.’ This message came to Hezekiah when Hezekiah was dying in sickness just like me who the doctors have said will die also.
“When we hear such a sad message, we shouldn’t fold our hands; we need to do something, consult the mighty man in battle, the great I Am, the invisible God, He Who made Heaven and Earth, and before God, every impossibility is made possible.
“Hezekiah did not receive the message and just keep quiet, he did something, he consulted his Maker in prayers; he reminded God about what he had suffered for His name’s sake, by walking in truth, with perfect heart, and doing that which is good in the Lord’s sight.
“Immediately, Hezekiah prayed to God and wept bitterly. God reversed his decree; the prophet Isaiah who announced the doom of Hezekiah was the same man who said to Hezekiah that God has heard his prayer and has seen his tears, and He will heal him.
“The question is, has the Lord’s mercy and compassion ended? Wouldn’t He extend such a healing power to His suffering children? Know this, God is unchangeable. For us to receive healing power, we should allow the Spirit of the Lord to live in us.
“Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:11, ‘but if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.’”
Having quoted this scripture, Levi felt the power of healing and anointing of God in him. Convalescence was taking place. His relatives and church members wept bitterly. Members who were sick as well were healed, and nobody knew what was happening when Levi was delivering his sermon. It was later on that people began to testify the goodness of the Lord upon their lives.
As Levi was leaving the altar, it was as if two angels were carrying him up. Levi’s body wasn’t the same. He praised the name of the Lord that he had been healed. Everyone in the church became surprised, and all sang, “God can do what no man can do; only You can do what no man can do.”
I then prayed for Levi and for all the members.
Surprised, Dr. Smart asked Levi to return to the hospital for a check-up.All the members were glad as they left the church one after another: Levi’s death had been postponed.
This touching novella, by Nigerian writer, the minister Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, via his firm, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. It is being serialized in this blog over several weeks.