Sheila’s heart melted the first time she saw him. She was visiting Christ Divine Fire Church in Westlands at the invitation of her friend Stella. He was leading worship, his deep voice sweeping through the large sanctuary. His eyes were dripping and his voice quavering as he urged the congregation to worship. He knelt down on the carpeted altar as he sobbed. Stella whispered to Sheila that the anointed worship leader’s name is Isaac.
Sheila did not consider herself saved. She was brought up in the church by strict Pentecostal parents, but once she left their nest and joined the university, she rebelled against their teachings in a quest for her freedom. Yet, a special place in her heart still loved God. She still went to church every Sunday. She would position herself at the back of the Presbyterian church near her home, sit through the service emotionlessly then leave immediately it ended.
Until her childhood friend, Stella, invited her to Christ Divine Fire Church. Stella has stayed on the narrow path since their childhood, a church girl through and through.
As Isaac sobbed, Sheila was hit by a wave of emotion. She found herself weeping too. She repented her sins. She even repented of her carnal feelings towards the worship leader. Then, as Isaac whipped the lyrics of the hymn Burdens are Lifted at Calvary, Sheila lifted her moist eyes to the heavens and rededicated her life to Christ.
Stella inducted Sheila into the Church’s youth group. Isaac, Sheila learned, is the leader of the group. Christ Divine Church has a very vibrant youth group, partly because the church is fairly large at four thousand members, and partly because of the charismatic charm of Isaac.
The team welcomed Sheila warmly. Led by their charismatic leader, they threw a small party for her in her honor. Sheila warmed up to them and within a couple of months she was fluent in Christianese. The few curse words that had been ingrained in her vocabulary disappeared. She was now a daughter of the Lord.
And the Lord was rewarding in many ways, including in her social life. There was a man wooing her. That man was none other than the charming worship and youth leader himself. She told Stella about it and her friend urged her on.
“Every girl in this church wants him. He is handsome, God-fearing and a hardworking young engineer. Plus, he comes from a proper family. His father is Deacon Musembi, that lawyer who chairs the church’s Deacons Board. His mother is Sister Peninah, the leader of the Women’s group. What else would any girl want?”
“Are you saying you want him too?” Sheila teased.
“If I were single, I probably would. But I am happy with my Solomon,” Stella replied, laughing.
Still, Sheila was hesitant. She had scars from her past dating experiences. Scars that were still too fresh. She had been used and dumped, even by men who had portrayed themselves as the perfect gentlemen.
“The difference is that these men were not born again. Isaac is born again. He cannot mistreat you,” Stella insisted.
These assurances, coupled with the fact that she was already deeply in love with the Man of God, made her agree to date him. The entire youth group erupted when their leader told them the news. They blessed the Lord and worshipped, throwing pious Christianese jokes at the latest couple in their midst.
The first two months were beyond anything Sheila had experienced. Isaac called day and night. They went on dates in restaurants almost every evening, they held hands, they hugged and Isaac pecked her cheeks. Nothing alarming. Sheila was settling in. Indeed dating a man of God was amazing. Most of her exes began demanding sex on the second date. She usually gave in on the fourth. But Isaac had said nothing for a whole two months.
So when one day he invited her to his house, she did not think much about it. He wanted to surprise her with a meal he prepared himself, he said. Sheila was elated. The man could even cook! Most of the chauvinists she had dated before expected her to clean the week-old mess in their sinks, cook, and clean up afterward. But Isaac wanted to cook for her!
She was surprised to find that his house was very neat. She always assumed that bachelors’ houses were dens of dirt and wild animals. Wait, are cockroaches and rats wild animals? Haven’t bachelors domesticated them?
He welcomed her to his spacious sitting room and served her fruit juice as he warmed the food. The food was delicious. The chapatis were fleshy and soft, and the beef stew was heavenly. After the meal, he served yoghurt and sat beside her. That is when things started to go south.
Isaac started groping her and kissing her. Sheila was shocked. They had agreed that they would wait until marriage. That had been particularly important to her, because she felt she had given her body to other men too easily, and gotten hurt in the process. She had told him that, and he had supported her. Waiting was the Biblical way to do it, he had said.
“Stop it, Isaac…I cannot do it,” she said, breaking free.
“Why? You are mine,”
“Isaac, we are not yet married. We agreed to wait,”
“Forget what we agreed. I need you now,”
“Isaac! Aren’t you…”
Before she could finish her sentence, he grabbed her and carried her to his bedroom, where he forced himself on her. When he was done, he started accusing her of leading him to sin. Sheila was doubly humiliated. She felt defiled and violated as she left his house, tears flowing freely on her cheeks.
The Reverend Peter Karanja is facing the greatest test in his position as the Lead Pastor of Christ Divine Fire Church. A new member of the church, Sheila Karwitha, has accused the worship leader of raping her. She has even filed a report with the police.
Peter has spoken with the girl and he believes her. The problem is that the boy’s father is the very influential chairman of his Board. Christ Divine Fire Church, unlike most Pentecostal churches which have powerful pastors, has a very powerful Board. That means that Deacon Musembi wields immense influence both in the local church at Westlands and in the hierarchy going all the way to the Headquarters.
The Musembi family has been leading a vicious smear campaign against Sheila at the church. The youth group is behind their leader, Isaac. The women are behind their leader’s son and the Deacons’ Board is supporting the Chairman’s son.
The narrative is that Sheila seduced Isaac. She went to his house and threw herself at him, and when he resisted, she accused him of rape. After all, they added, she was a loose woman before she purported to get saved. She was Satan’s angel sent to bring down the Lord’s servant, Isaac.
But Peter is convinced that Sheila is telling the truth. When he spoke to the girl, what he saw was a broken and hurting girl. Besides, why were the Musembis going out of their way to rally support for their son? Ordinary church protocol would be to have both of them tell their side of the story before the full Board. But Musembi blocked that move, insisting that his son was innocent.
On a personal level, his own marriage is on the rocks. His wife is threatening to leave him if he should be sacked because of supporting Sheila. It is obvious that his position is at risk because Musembi is pulling strings with headquarters. The reason is simple: he has refused to buy the Musembi narrative. Isabella, Peter’s wife, is fully behind the Musembis. She has even accused Peter of sleeping with Sheila.
Peter has little hope that the police will vindicate him and Sheila because he has heard that Musembi has been bribing senior police officers to exonerate his son.
That Sunday, Peter was surprised when the Bishop of Christ Divine Fire Ministries Kenya strode into his office. He knew something was wrong because his wife had moved out of their matrimonial house the previous day, which could only mean that she knew he was being sacked. They had lived together for twenty-eight years, bringing up their two adult sons. Peter could not believe he was being left by his wife. He always knew she was ambitious and sometimes ruthless, but he loves her, and for almost thirty years has been assured of his love. She has many times accused him of being soft, but there has never been a major rift between them. Until now.
“I am preaching today Peter,” the Bishop said curtly and walked out of the office and into the main sanctuary.
Isaac led worship as usual. Bishop Kitema took the microphone after the worship.
“Christ Fire Church does not tolerate sin,” he started. “It is especially sad if the sin comes from a leader,”
Peter almost smiled. Finally, someone was seeing the truth. But the Bishop’s next statement sent a cold chill down his spine.
“In line with the tenets of Christ Fire Ministries, I am removing Pastor Peter Karanja from his pastoral office because of his affair with a member of this Church, Ms. Sheila Karwitha. I am also excommunicating both of them from all Christ Fire Assemblies. I hereby appoint Pastor Isabella Karanja as the Lead Pastor of this church.”
The church gasped. Opinion was split over the Isaac-Sheila affair, but no one for one second believed that Peter was sleeping with Sheila.
“I will now ask Peter to vacate the Pastor’s chair,”
Peter stood calmly and exited the church. There were murmurs, and a few congregants stood and left with him.
“I do not want to split the church,” Peter told them as they crowded him outside the church sanctuary, about fifty of them. “Remain in the church. I do not even know what will happen to me. I have nowhere to take you,”
“I am sorry Pastor. I did not mean to bring this upon you. You shouldn’t have lost your wife and position because of me,” Sheila said.
Peter looked at her kindly.
“You did not bring anything upon me my daughter. I chose to stand with the truth. I know that boy raped you. I cannot participate in a cover up just to retain my seat as a Pastor. What kind of a pastor would that make me?”
Peter paused and looked at the small crowd.
“Pray for me. But more importantly, please pray for sister Sheila. She has been violated and humiliated by the institution that should have protected her. Let us keep each other in prayer. This too shall pass,”
A number of women started sobbing, including Sheila and her friend Stella. The eyes of the men were also teary. Peter felt his own eyes getting moist. But he knew he had done the right thing, and that is what mattered to him.
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