Read “You or No Other” here
I sat on my mat in the eerie darkness of the cold room, waiting silently for the loud clanging of Pa Muyiwa’s bell. Baba and Maami would be fast asleep, so it would be easy for me to slip away. My palms were wet in trepidation and my heart thumped against my rib cage as I sat, clasping my hands around my knees.
Then, in the distance I heard it- the melodious sound that signified it was time for sweet fellowship. Quietly, I tiptoed from my room at the extreme of the narrow corridor and made my way down to the wooden gate. I opened it as carefully as I could and squeezed my way out. Once outside, I heaved a sigh of relief and started running.
Baba had no inkling that I had been attending Sunday meetings with Pa Muyiwa and his team for the past three weeks. Maami found out last week when she saw the tract Pa Muyiwa had given me, neatly folded under my mat. Maami could not read and write, but she knew enough to know that the tract came from Pa Muyiwa and his missionary team. She accosted me while I was feeding the goats in the barn and demanded an explanation.
“Pa Muyiwa gave it to me”, I said, avoiding her eyes.
“Why did you collect it? You know Baba’s feelings towards them. They have come to turn this village upside down with their strange religion!”
I didn’t respond.
“I don’t want you associating with them!” she spat in annoyance.
“Maami, that may not be possible,” I said, taking two steps backwards, just in case her hand decided to move faster than her lips.
Maami’s eyes widened in shock.
“Bidemi, what did you just say?”
I chose my words carefully. “Maami, I wish you and Baba can understand that there is a god that is greater than Esu. His name is Olorun, and He has a son named Jesu…”
The last word was barely out of my lips when Maami flung her arm, giving me a resounding slap. My left ear tingled.
“How dare you! Have you lost your senses? Don’t you ever utter such blasphemy against Esu.”
My eyes brimmed with unshed tears as I rubbed my smarting ear.
“This madness you just displayed,” she continued pointing her index finger at me, “Baba must not get wind of it. The day he finds out, he will kill you!”
She eyed me contemptuously as she adjusted her headscarf.
“There is no god greater than Esu, the god of benevolence. I don’t want to ever hear you talk about another god. Now get out of my sight!
As I walked out of Maami’s presence, I was convinced again that Esu wasn’t real. In my fifteen years of living, all I ever felt was great fear and dread for Esu. Not once did I feel the love, peace and calm I felt the day I renounced Esu and embraced Jesus, the son of Olorun.
I slowed down my steps as I approached the meeting ground. As I drew closer, I could see all eleven persons in attendance clapping excitedly as they sang. Their joy was palpable, notwithstanding that they were treated awfully by the villagers. Quickly I joined them, clapping vigorously, as most of the songs were novel to me.
Pa Muyiwa’s sermon was brief. He talked about the love of Olorun, and how he sent his only son, Jesus, to die so that mankind could be saved. I was awed at such extraordinary display of love. Esu didn’t love. All he did was demand for countless sacrifices. If Jesus could love me this much as to die for me, then I was ready to die for him.
After the meeting ended, I hurried back home, hoping and praying that my absence had not yet been noticed. My hopes were dashed as I heard Baba’s powerful voice behind me while I attempted creeping into my room.
“Where are you coming from?”
I froze. If Baba knew I was out with the missionaries, he would kill me. I turned around slowly and one look at Baba’s grim face, my heart melted.
“Have you suddenly become dumb? Answer my question!” He roared, his veins sticking out dangerously on his neck.
In that instant, Pa Muyiwa’s voice rang in my head “Do not be afraid to declare your stand in Jesus. Do not be terrified to let people know that you are now on the Lord’s side. God knows how to fight for those who choose Him.”
I felt a burst of adrenaline into my veins.
“I-I -went for-the morning service Baba”.
“Ha! So it is true!? Those strange people have bewitched you, Bidemi?
I opened my mouth to res pond, but Baba’s blow knocked me off my feet and crashed me into the wall.
“You are a bastard! How long has this been going on?”
I was writhing in pain. From the corner of my eye, I saw Maami standing afar, hands on her head.
“Do you want to shame me? You want to destroy my legacy? Before you do that, I’ll make sure I destroy you.”
With that, he reached out for me, yanked me by the collar and dragged me into his room. In a twinkle of an eye, Baba tied me up with the rope that was used to dedicate the he-goat at the last Esu-Agabra sacrifice. I lay on the floor, trembling.
Baba pulled out his koboko. “I’m going to teach you an unforgettable lesson. After this, you’ll stay far away from those worthless people”.
The first lash landed on my back, causing a searing pain. Another lash landed mercilessly and I gritted my teeth.
As Baba’s ruthless torture increased, so did my resolve to stand for Jesus deepen. In my agony, that joy and peace did not elude me. I closed my eyes and visualized Jesus smiling at me.
For His sake, I am ready to die.