Reverend Peter Maruku stands, stretches and yawns. It is 3 pm, and he is hungry. He leaves his office and walks down to Cavorta Bar & Restaurant to grab his lunch. Although Peter is a pastor, he doesn’t have any problem dining in a bar and restaurant. As he correctly points out to his congregation, Jesus was notorious for dining with sinners. Besides, there is usually hardly any alcohol at Cavorta during the day. The place is usually an eatery like any other during the day.
During the night though, the place transforms itself into a nightclub with loud music, disco lights and all sorts of characters drinking their alcohol while smoking substances that may or may not be legal. At night, Cavorta is regarded as one of the hottest entertainment joints in town.
It is a den of sinners, so to speak.
Many pastors in the small town of Chogoria use Cavorta as a reference point when discussing the sin cities of the ancient days, such as Sodom and Gomorrah. Inevitably, the owner of the establishment, Mercy Kairegi a.k.a Mama Cavorta, is regarded as the embodiment of sin by the Christian establishment in the town. It is bad enough that she sells alcohol, but the fact that her waitresses wear miniskirts and tight clothes makes her a pimp by default. Devout Christians avoid her like a plague.
Cavorta is a popular eatery during the day, but no pastor or church leader would dare go there. The place is frequented by people who either do not go to church, or who go to church but do not hold strong religious views. Although Peter frequents the place during the day, some of the frontline, white collar members of his church would not dare come here. These are people who defected to his church from other churches. Even Peter’s own wife Janet would rather die than be seen here. But many of Peter’s congregants still frequent the place.
When Peter came to this town two years ago, he instantly knew that Cavorta would be the foundation on which he would establish the church. Peter left his cushy position as a youth pastor in a city mega church two years ago to start a rural church because that had always been his dream. He was well paid in the city, and he looked destined for greater things in the ministry; but left it all because he wanted to work with poor rural folks. He knew that he would have to give up the luxuries that he had been enjoying in the city, but he was prepared. And the good thing was that his wife shared his vision.
Peter chose Tharaka Nithi County as the place he wanted to start his ministry. He founded a rural Assembly of the church he had previously been serving in, Christ Jesus the Lord International (CJLI) Ministries. Although the Presiding Bishop of CJLI gave Peter formal authority to open a rural branch of the CJLI Ministries, he warned the younger clergyman that he would not get any financial assistance from the Mother Assembly or the Head Office. Instead, he would be expected to start remitting thirty percent of his collections to the Head Office after a grace period of a year. Peter was not deterred; he was confident that he was doing the right thing, and that God was leading him. At only 31, he and his wife packed their bags and left Nairobi to face an uncertain future in Tharaka Nithi.
Peter avoided Chuka, the commercial hub of Tharaka Nithi County and arguably the largest urban centre, choosing instead to set up camp in Chogoria, a smaller town about twenty minutes away. He had been saving for years, so he knew that he and his wife would be comfortable for about a year and a half before he depleted his savings. His wife had just gotten her license to practice medicine when they left the city, and they hoped that she would get employed by Chogoria Mission Hospital so that they would not be overly reliant on the young church for their daily sustenance.
For the past two years, the CJLI Ministries Chogoria Assembly has picked up at a delightful pace. Initially, Peter leased a plot with his own money and set up a tent where he would be conducting his church services. He also bought basic public address equipment as well as a cheap piano and guitar. Charming as ever, he managed to build a vibrant congregation of young people. Due to his experience as a youth pastor, Peter is able to connect with the young people in a special way. Many of the young men who form the backbone of his church today were drunks who wasted their lives at Cavorta Bar. Peter made it his habit to visit Cavorta every evening, and as the young men streamed in, he would talk to them about Jesus. He would only walk away when rowdiness started setting in, to return the following day.
Peter soon became a walking evangelist in Chogoria, targeting young men not only at Cavorta, but also at boda boda stands and at the matatu stage. His efforts bore fruit. A few young men got born again, and they are the ones who helped him to evangelize to their friends. Within a short time, Peter became a darling of young people, and they started flocking to his church. When young women started defecting from other churches to his church, the other pastors were not amused.
Interestingly, many of the regular revelers at Cavorta Bar started attending his Sunday services, even though many still were not proclaiming Christ as the Lord and Savior. Peter thought that this would put him on a collision course with Mama Cavorta, because many cut down their drinking, even though they did not stop altogether. Peter thought that Mama Cavorta would stop him from going to the bar to preach. But the opposite happened: she became one of his very close friends. A routine has been established over the past two years. Peter goes to Cavorta Bar at around three in the afternoon to have his lunch. That time things are usually slow, with the lunch crowd gone and the evening crowd yet to come. Peter spends time talking to Madam Cavorta and her waitresses. They mostly talk about God, but they talk about general life issues as well. At about five, as the beer people start streaming in, Peter engages them in conversations about the Bible before they start drinking. But when they start getting impatient, Peter leaves, the girls concentrate on serving alcohol and Mama Cavorta retreats to the cash office. Mama Cavorta herself doesn’t attend Sunday services, but almost all her waitresses do.
The church has grown. Peter and his congregants were able to buy the plot on which the church stood. Because CJLI Ministries Chogoria Assembly is not an independent entity, the title to the land is in the name of CJLI Ministries, and Peter submitted the title deed to the Head Office. The construction of a modern stone sanctuary is ongoing. Early this year, Peter started remitting thirty percent of his collections to the Head Office as he had been instructed by the Bishop.
The problem started with his marriage. Tensions between him and Janet started less than six months after they settled in Chogoria. At first, Peter thought that Janet was just missing city life. After all, in Chogoria there are no malls, there is no KFC, no Java, no Chicken Inn and no Galitos. They used to go to watch movies every now and then, but IMAX does not exist in this rural town, or even the neighboring Chuka. But Peter soon came to realize that it is not the town she has a problem with. She has settled well in this town, and she seems to be thriving. She got a job at Chogoria Mission Hospital and she has even formed a clique of friends. She has also settled in as a charming, rural pastor’s wife, and the congregation adores her.
It is he, Peter, that she seems to have a problem with. But she never comes out in the open to tell him what he has done wrong. Whenever he asks, she walks out on him while clicking her tongue. Their marriage has deteriorated in the last one and a half years. Late last year, Janet moved out of the master bedroom to the guestroom. She doesn’t talk to him in private, but in public she pretends to be a doting wife. She holds his hand, pecks his cheek and praises him as the most wonderful husband in the world. That is the picture she also paints on her social media platforms.
Peter doesn’t understand what is going on, but he suspects that she wants to oust him from the church. Janet has certainly turned out to be more weird and cunning than he could ever have imagined. But how would ousting him from the church benefit her? If he is removed from his position, the Bishop and his Council will send another Senior Pastor from the ministry’s pool of associate pastors. Janet would not be the one to take over.
So what game is she playing? Peter is confident that he has not done anything wrong that would warrant his dismissal. If he had, the Bishop would have called him already. Everything is so confusing. Peter has been praying hard about this, but so far the heavens have been silent.
Peter is still thinking about his domestic problems when he enters the Cavorta Bar and Restaurant. He has not share with anyone, because he does not want to badmouth his wife. But lately he has been thinking that perhaps he should talk to the Bishop and get fatherly advice. After all, the Bishop has known has known Janet all her life, and he (the Bishop) has known him (Peter) since Peter was a young college boy. Peter purposes to call the Bishop tonight, right after he finishes ministering to the people of Cavorta Bar.
When Peter enters the restaurant, he finds Madam Cavorta crying.
“What is it Mercy?” he asks anxiously. Although Madam Cavorta is a young woman in her early thirties, she is one of the toughest people Peter knows. For a young woman to successfully run a bar, she has to be tough.
“I have decided to give my life to Christ,” Mercy, a.k.a Madam Cavorta, says tearfully.
Peter is so overjoyed that he hugs her. Madam Cavorta is very influential in Chogoria’s secular circles, and her salvation is a big win for the Lord’s Kingdom. Peter has been praying for her since he came to this town.
“Peter!” a deep voice bellows from the entrance almost immediately Peter hugs Mercy.
Peter releases Mercy and turns. He is surprised to see the Bishop standing at the door of the Bar & Restaurant. He is flanked by Janet and two church elders from the Chogoria Assembly of the CJLI Ministries.
“Why would you do this to your wife? You not only cheat on her but you cheat with a harlot? I am so disappointed in you.”
“I don’t want to hear it. From today I don’t want you to have anything to do with the church. Elder James here will take over in an acting capacity before the Bishopric Council meets to formally appoint a Senior Pastor to take your place. You have until tomorrow morning to take out your things from the Senior Pastor’s office.”
Image by Natalie Stayerova from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/girl-face-closed-eyes-half-face-1098612/
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