(Continued from Brutus II)
The Youth League Convection is the one church event that holds a special place in Julius’ heart. To him, it is probably the most important event in his church’s calendar, because it gives him an opportunity to shape the minds of the younger generation. It is also important to him because that is how the course of his life was shaped.
This year the Youth League Convection is in Eldoret, and as usual, Julius is presiding over it. He would have preferred to have Marie with him here, but she chose to follow Brutus to Burundi. The people who are assisting him, besides the senior pastor of the Eldoret Tabernacle, are his daughters Sarah and Deborah. There are about two thousand four hundred delegates from across the country.
Julius has lined up main six speakers from across Africa (2 Nigerians, 1 Ugandan, 1 Ethiopian,1 South African, and 1 Tanzanian). All of them are bishops of mega-churches in their respective countries and are respected men of God. But the keynote speaker is South Korean bishop Keon Moon Kuk. Keon is famous for his work among young people. He has written 71 books, and 52 of them are centered on shaping the destiny of teenagers and young adults.
Besides leading a mega-church that has a following of about 3 million people across the world, he is also the Chancellor of Seoul Evangelical University. The University is one of the largest Christian institutions in Asia, and it is fully owned and sponsored by Bishop Kuk’s church.
A special guest at the conference is the man who led Julius to Christ many years ago. Bishop Humphrey Rukuture flew from Rwanda to attend the conference. He is now a frail 95-year-old man and will not be doing much speaking. But he opened the conference officially at the invitation of Julius and decided to stay on. He is speaking in a few of the small-group seminars that precede the plenary sessions.
The team that is leading worship at the conference is an assembly of the leading worshippers from all the Kenyan tabernacles of Julius’ ministry. They are led by Terry Chepkoech, a well-known gospel musician and worshiper. Terry’s songs alone are enough to lead souls to Christ, which they probably have many times in the past.
This year’s conference is the 28th edition, and in Julius’ estimation, it is by far the most powerful. Julius feels bad that he has to leave even for a single day. He has seen young people turning their lives to Christ, and others having their faith rejuvenated. This, he tells himself, is the reason he got into ministry in the first place. Young people are the future of the Church, and seeing so many of them being revived is his joy.
But Julius is also alive to the fact that he is an administrator and the head of an institution and therefore he will have to travel to Burundi. The Burundi conference is much smaller and is expected to have less impact than the Eldoret conference, and under ordinary circumstances, Julius would have let Brutus preside over everything. But this conference will lead to the launch of a church in an important East African city, and it is important that the church in Burundi feel that their Bishop cares for them.
That is why he is in his car, riding toward Eldoret International Airport. He is being seen off by his daughter Sarah. Sarah and Deborah will be left in charge of the conference until Julius returns.
“I have a bad feeling about this trip Dad,” Sarah says as they approach the airport.
“The one you are making to Burundi. I don’t know why, I am just feeling uneasy. Do you have to go? Can’t Brutus run things down there?”
“You know I have to go, my dear. I don’t want the Burundians to think I don’t care about them. Besides, it is just for a day. Tomorrow night I will be back.”
They ride the rest of the way in silence, each of them consumed with their own thoughts. Sarah can sense that her father is also uneasy, but she decides not to push the subject. She knows the old man well; once he makes up his mind to do something, he will not change his mind under any circumstances.
Once at the airport, Sarah bids her father goodbye and hugs him tightly. He will be flying with his personal assistant Michael, so at least he will not be alone. Usually, Michael is also his driver, but since they are flying together, and Sarah needs to get back to the conference, they recruited someone from the security team to drive them to the airport.
As the car turns around and exits the airport, Julius stands and watches until it gets out of sight. He would not admit it, but he is also feeling uneasy. But he is attributing it to the fact that he is leaving a conference that is dear to his heart. Julius is serious about coming back tomorrow. He intends to open the conference in Burundi and then return to Eldoret for the youth conference. He gave his life to Christ at a youth conference, and he knows it changed his life for the better permanently. He enjoys seeing young people get a similar experience.
Julius gave his life to Christ many years ago at a youth conference in Thika, organized by the legendary pastor the late Rev. Zakayo Ntigwa. But the person who led him to Christ was Bishop Humphrey Rukuture from Rwanda, who was a guest speaker at the conference. At the time, Julius was a student at Kenyatta University College, as it was then called.
Julius was not born again, and he would ordinarily not have attended such an event. But he had fallen in love with a girl from his class, and when she told him that she would be attending the conference, he quickly offered to go with her. She was delighted. He knew she loved him, but the one thing that was stopping her from dating him was the fact that he was not ‘born again’. Julius did not attend the conference to get born again; he attended to please Ruth.
But it turned out to be a magical experience for him. The praise and worship songs, led by the renowned gospel musician Anne Abonyo were enough to lift anyone from the grasp of Satan. Reverend Zakayo and other speakers gave rousing sermons on why every human should live for Christ, but in the end, it was Bishop Rukuture’s sermon, on the sixth and last day of the conference, that led Julius to the altar.
Julius will never forget that sermon. It was titled ‘The error of identity’. The Bishop powerfully demonstrated how human beings who are not born again perceive themselves to be more important that their maker, and how this ‘error of identity’ ultimately leads to self-destruction. That sermon resonated with Julius, and when the Bishop made the altar call, he was the first to go, with tears flowing down his cheeks. He gave his life to Christ that evening, and he has never turned back.
That same evening, when they got back to KU, Ruth looked him straight in the eye and told him: ‘If you still want me to be yours, now I can. I will now be able to submit to you because you have submitted to the same authority as I do.’
Julius didn’t quite understand what exactly she was saying then, because he was not yet conversant with Christianese. But he understood enough to know that she had agreed to be his girlfriend. His joy doubled. They got married the following year, shortly after graduation, and began what would end up being a 39-year marital journey. It has been ten years since she passed away, but he still misses her. She is the woman who led him on the path of salvation. She was his friend and confidante. She understood his thought process and his heartbeat.
That cannot be said of Marie. Although he would never admit that to anyone, Julius has come to admit to himself that his daughter was right. Marie was not the right woman to take Ruth’s position by his side. Maybe no woman would have been right to take that position, especially because he had been with Ruth for close to four decades, but Marie was a particularly poor choice.
To be fair, she is a good woman, unlike what Sarah’s gut was telling her. Marie is friendly, jovial, submissive, and has all the characteristics of a good wife. This is what attracted him to her in the first place. But the problem is that she doesn’t see things the way he sees them. That is of course probably because of her age, a factor that Sarah correctly said would affect their marriage. For instance, she spends a lot of time on her phone, when Julius would have preferred to hold conversations with her. She has also been asking him whether they can buy a ‘proper’ house in a ‘proper neighborhood’. Julius understands that she wants to move to the suburbs. She is particularly fond of Karen. She has also been complaining that her car was ‘too small and ordinary’, but Julius doesn’t see what is small or ordinary about a Toyota Rumion. Julius usually ignores these complaints.
The biggest challenge, however, is that he has discovered that it is almost impossible to get through to her emotionally and intellectually. That also affects the quality of their lovemaking, because Julius views sex as a physical manifestation of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual harmony. This was the case with Ruth. Their lives were so intertwined that lovemaking came naturally. With Marie, it usually feels like a performance and an obligation. More often than not he has to ask for it; she shows no interest in him. Julius cannot remember the last time they had a conversation that was unrelated to their work or their son. More often than not Marie is usually on the phone whenever they are alone.
That probably would explain why he is not excited about going to Burundi, where she is waiting for him.
On the drive back from the airport, Sarah is praying silently. She is praying for her father. She has never felt this way before, and she wonders what the problem could be. She prays for the aircraft that he will be flying in, its pilots, and the rest of the crew, and she even prays for other passengers. She prays against accidents and asks God to keep him safe.
Her prayers are interrupted when the vehicle slows to a stop. She opens her eyes and sees that three men, armed with AK-47 guns, have stopped the vehicle. They are standing on a deserted part of the road. There are no other vehicles in sight.
“Why are you stopping?” she asks the driver. “Those men are not police officers. You should speed away!”
“If we try that they will kill us. Are you blind? Can’t you see the guns?”
What he is saying makes sense, but he strikes Sarah as being too calm for a man who is getting into a dangerous situation. Maybe he is trained for this, she tells herself, and the thought is comforting. Her heart is pounding so hard that she thinks she is going to faint. It is a good thing that he is not panicking. Maybe he has a plan that will save both of them.
The two back doors of the vehicle are flung open, and two of the men enter, sandwiching Sarah. The third man opens the driver’s door and yanks the driver out. He sits behind the steering wheel and pulls the vehicle back into the road. He drives a few meters away and then leaves the highway and joins a dirt road.
“What do you want with me?” Sarah finally gathers the courage to ask.
“Your body, your soul, and your spirit,” one of the men seated beside her says, stretching his hand to touch her boobs. The other two men laugh heartily.
“Don’t worry madam,” the driver says, amid laughter. “After we are done having fun with you, we will send you to your maker. Isn’t that what every Christian wants? To go to heaven and walk in the streets of gold?”
They all burst out laughing again.
“Maybe your mansion will not be ready when you get there,” the third man says. “But a leaking sink in heaven is better than a complete house on earth, right?”
There are more howls of laughter. Sarah realizes that they are not wearing masks. Which can only mean one thing: that they intend to kill her after this ordeal. They are laughing, but they are not joking.
Image by Rudi Maes from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/sand-stones-away-winding-road-car-4706961/
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