“You are so beautiful,” Brutus says, kissing Marie on the forehead. “I cannot wait for you to be fully mine.”
They are enjoying a post-coitus moment at a hotel in Gitega. Gitega is the second largest city in Burundi, and the current capital city. Brutus and Marie are pastors, and they are here for a conference that is expected to lead to the launch of the second Burundian tabernacle of the Golgotha Miracles Tabernacle. The only tabernacle in Burundi so far is in the former capital, Bujumbura.
Golgotha Miracles Tabernacle is a Kenyan church that was established by Bishop Julius Welaba. Bishop Welaba will not attend all the five days of the conference. He will fly in tomorrow evening in order to attend the opening of the conference, and then return to Kenya, where he will be leading another conference in Eldoret. He will return to Burundi on Sunday in order to officially launch the new church.
He has delegated the work of preparing for the conference to the two senior most figures in his church, his wife Marie and his deputy, Brutus. They will be assisted by the leadership of the church in Bujumbura, as well as the proposed leadership of the new church. Marie, 37, is Julius’s second wife. He married her five years ago following the death of his first wife. She sits on the church board, and is the Associate Pastor in charge of operations.
Unknown to Julius, his wife and deputy have been having an affair behind his back for three years now. When the affair began, Brutus was married. But his wife Angela died under mysterious circumstances two years ago. Because of the Bishop’s advancing age, he does not travel as much as he used to, and he often relies on his two lieutenants to do the running around. Usually, it is Brutus who is sent on these errands, because it is his work to deputize the Bishop. But Marie always finds an excuse to follow.
On this mission, Marie argued that since she is the head of operations, it is her work to ensure that the systems of the new church are in perfect order. Simeon wanted her to remain with him in Eldoret but he saw her point and let her go. She flew to Gitega a day after Brutus. As often happens when they are abroad or on the road locally, they booked separate rooms in the same hotel, but they only intend to use one. The other is for appearances sake.
“That can happen as soon as next week, baby. If we move with speed and precision, the old man will be six feet under before the end of this week. You will actually launch this new church as the Acting Bishop. And I will be beside you my love.”
Brutus and Marie have hatched an elaborate plan to seize control of the church. They want control of the millions of shillings that pass through the church. Marie doesn’t understand why she has to live like a pauper while her husband dishes away millions of shillings to useless projects. Other Bishops’ wives are driving SUVs, but she is forced to make do with a Toyota Belta, she is forced to live in a tiny three bedroom house like a lowly civil servant and she has to stay in budget hotels whenever she travels abroad.
She doesn’t admit it openly, but she is also embarrassed by the age of her husband. She only married him for the money and status; she has zero affection for him. That will be solved by the plan she and Brutus are working on. When the plan succeeds, Julius will die, and Brutus will take over as the lead pastor. He will marry her, and together they will seize absolute control of the church. They will populate the church board with their cronies and ensure all the pastors are loyal to them.
But for that to happen, Julius has to die.
“These people we are working with, can we trust them?” Brutus asks as he strokes her hair gently.
“Absolutely. I handpicked them myself.”
“Then we are set then, my love.”
He kisses her on the lips, and within minutes they are making love again.
The Bishop Julius Welaba is advancing in years, but he is still a spry and agile man at the age of 72. He is a respected man of the cloth. Since 1970, he has been at the helm of Golgotha Miracles Tabernacle, a ministry that has grown to become a large East African institution. Julius founded the church with his late wife Ruth in 1972, while both of them were still secondary school teachers. They started with ten congregants, but by the time Ruth passed away ten years ago, the church had grown to a membership of 91, 000, across 72 tabernacles.
Of the 72 tabernacles, 51 are spread across Kenya and 10 are in Uganda, where Julius and his late wife spent quite a lot of time evangelizing. There are six in Tanzania, four in Rwanda and one in Burundi. It has become a giant of a ministry, churning out billions of shillings annually in tithes and offerings. But the one thing that has set apart Julius from a majority of other preachers, is that he has shunned a life of luxury. He still lives in the same three-bedroom house that he built with Ruth while they were high school teachers. The land on which the house stands, and the house itself, were built using loans.
He was only recently prevailed upon by his children to abandon his ancient Toyota G-touring, which has driven for 15 years, and which he bought after being prevailed upon, once again by his children, to abandon the Toyota Sprinter that had been his first car. His wife, Marie, had been begging him for years to upgrade from the G-Touring, but he steadfastly refused, always arguing, quite correctly, that the car was serving its purpose.
The children only manage to convince their father to abandon his cars by buying him others. 15 years ago, when they were all young and new in their careers, and all they could afford was the G-Touring. But it was new, or rather second-hand new, and they imported it from Japan. Now they are in their middle age and in their prime, and they had wanted to honor their father with a luxurious SUV. But Julius turned down offers of a BMW, Lexus and Prado. He compromised and agreed to a Toyota Rush, but he still grumbled that it was ‘ostentatious’.
But the other thing that Julius is known for is generosity. He believes that the church exists to do charity work. His church is perhaps the most philanthropic in the country. From very early on, he set the 70:30 rule which the church rigidly adheres to. Under this rule, 70 percent of the church’s collections go to charity work, and only thirty percent is channeled to administrative costs, including staff salaries.
Julius has always ensured that the income gap between the senior officials of the church, such as himself, and the support staff is not large. He himself earns a modest salary, even though he is the head of the church. He ensures that the church runs efficiently on the 30 percent allocated to administrative costs.
For a long time, Julius ran the church with the same board of 7 members, who were all aligned to his vision. The first member of the board to leave was his wife Ruth, through her demise, and the seat remained vacant until he married Marie five years ago. At the age of 32, Marie was the youngest person to sit on the board. But it made sense to have younger blood on the blood, because succession is on the mind of Julius and his board. They are aware that they will soon be too old to be overseeing the affairs of the church, and that there is need for orderly transfer of mandate from them to the next generation. Marie represented the first step towards that transition.
The second step came when Julius appointed Brutus Mwathurana to join the board, replacing 92-year-old Geoffrey Onyango, who had opted to retire. Brutus, 41, is widely regarded as Julius’s successor, although Julius is widely expected to remain at the helm for at least another fifteen years.
Brutus was mentored by Julius from the time he was a teenager. He comes from a poor family, and had dropped out of school due to lack of school fees. But Julius took him under his wing. He sent him back to school, where Brutus became a Christian Union leader. He was the chairman of the Christian Union for two years. Julius also hired Brutus’ parents at the church. He hired Brutus’ mother as a cook and gardener, and her work is to prepare meals for the headquarters staff, and to maintain the grass and the flower beds. Brutus’ father was hired as a driver, and his primary work is to drive the church van. Julius drives himself. They are still holding these jobs, although they are on the verge of retirement.
Brutus got a B plain in KCSE, and he told Julius that he was feeling a calling to be a pastor. Julius took him to Bible School, and when he graduated, he hired him as a youth pastor. He excelled in that role, and Julius transferred him to a newly established tabernacle in Embu. Brutus built the tabernacle from scratch to a membership of three thousand within five years. Three years ago, Julius brought him back to the headquarters, this time as the Deputy Overseer of the entire ministry, as well as the Associate Pastor in charge of Mercy Ministry. Mercy Ministry is what the church calls its charity work. Last year, Julius appointed Brutus to the board. That effectively made the younger man the third most influential figure in the church, after Julius and Marie.
Brutus and Marie wake up early, shower, take breakfast and then take a cab and head to the Airbnb that they have prepared for the Bishop. It is a beautiful bungalow in a leafy Gitega surburb. They chose it because it will be easier to manage the poisoning of Julius from here than from a hotel. The people who will be attending to the Bishop are Burundians, but they were secretly and very carefully selected by Marie.
It is also not a coincidence that the house is very far from the nearest hospital. By the time Julius get’s medical help, he will be long dead.
Image by Rahul Singh from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/love-couple-romance-romantic-woman-4266855/
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