I puffed as I stalked to the room where my mother was. I had just fought off some boys, including my best friend who called me a bastard. Usually, I ignored such statements as my mother trained me, but Sule was my closest friend. Something had to be wrong somewhere.
I barged in, and people were gathered with my mother, obviously praying. “Mom, I need to speak with you now!”
“Zainab can you conclude? Ladies, a moment, please. I'm having a parental crisis.” The women chuckled, and she was excused.
“Dende, why did you ignore the prayer in session?”
“Who is my father?”
She levelled a stern look at me, “What did I teach you about shouting and fighting?”
I bowed my head. “But Mum, you have no idea what Sule said.”
She kept staring.
“It’s alright.” She sighed. “I knew this day would eventually come. You know I was a radio presenter before?”
“Please, you say it every time, I’d have to be new and unrelated not to know” I scoffed.
“Well, it was a great job, and I got to interact with callers including people in this town and they would narrate their woes. After each show, I felt something in me, a feeling stronger than empathy. A call… To do something. It was easier to just talk, and for two years, I wrestled with the idea of quitting my job to move here. I finally made my decision, and I was disowned.”
“Really? Grandma would never do that!”
“They didn’t understand. I had my savings, and I took the first bus here. I must say it felt exciting to be a rebel, but I quickly realized the difficulties. I couldn’t speak the native language and knew nothing of their traditions except what I’d heard on the radio. Outsiders weren’t readily welcome, and I remained unemployed. Eventually, I learned their language and started teaching a native girl in English. Believe me, it was hard not to laugh at her accent. Gradually others came, and the class grew. I made some money, bought a farm and some livestock. Everything was going so well until…”
Her eyes were teary. “Until my farm was set on fire, I rushed in to see what I could salvage. There was nothing I could do, and soon I ran out, coughing from the smoke. Four men were waiting. And I was violated. When they were through, they threatened to do it again if I didn’t leave and never returned.”
I stood, my fists clenched. “Where are they, Mum?”
“Sit. I'm not done. I returned to my parents’ house momentarily, forgetting I had been disowned. I was soon reminded, though. I was angry. Why did God let it all happen? He sent me! I struggled, with nowhere to sleep and depleted savings. I got a job as a waitress and wasted money testing what I already knew. The doctor confirmed my pregnancy and handed me the flyer of an abortion clinic nearby. I was so unsure. I struggled, thinking of raising a child without a father. I was nearly fired; I lost the enthusiasm to do my job properly. I went to the clinic a number of times. Four? Five ? I can’t count. I became known, and soon bets were placed on whether I would go through with it or not. Eventually, I started showing, and I had to quit. Dende, I would be lying if I didn’t think of suicide.”
“But you are always so strong in church!”
“I’m not, it’s Jesus. Those days are so painful to remember. I didn’t know what to do, where to go and had nothing but a child in my womb. I lost faith. At your delivery, complications arose, and I was advised to undergo surgery. I didn’t have money for that, but somehow you came out alright. No one needed to tell me God was working. Your birth gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I struggled to make ends meet. But I wasn’t giving up.”
“I'm a miracle child, not a mistake, right?”
“Yes, you are. But God wasn’t done. A couple of years later, I met Zainab, one of my students, your Sunday school teacher. She was a university student, and we shared an apartment. She encouraged me to tell my parents about you and even accompanied me. I was sceptical. ‘Which mother won’t be happy to see her grandbaby?’ she said. I went, and the door was slammed in my face.
“Grandma? I didn’t know she was wicked!”
“She isn’t. Doesn’t she visit every year, giving you gifts and money?”
“You know about the money?”
“Your mom is a clergywoman. The Holy Spirit reveals everything to her.” They laughed. “She just had a difficult time adjusting to the circumstances of your birth. I cried when God told me to come back here. I ignored him. It had to be the devil! God wouldn’t do such to his children. The Hebrew boys entered the lion’s den only once. And worse, He was talking about starting a church. But you can’t argue with God forever. I decided to obey but not carry you along. Zainab would take care of you. I would go for short trips, do some crusades and return home. When Zainab graduated, she talked about joining me. There was no turning back.”
She paused and chuckled. “You want to know why we were praying when you entered?”
“We received an arson threat a few days ago.”
“We receive threats?”
“A lot, I stopped counting when you turned ten. But while praying, I received peace about the situation. I want you to know, things would be tough but remember you have a Father in heaven who loves you and will never leave you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to tell the ladies about this peace.”
I smiled knowing I had a father-the Father-and Sule had nothing on me.