(Continued from Madam Cavorta II)
“What I don’t understand is, what did Janet tell the Bishop to make him fire me without listening to what I had to say?” Peter asks Mercy. They are sitting in Mercy’s office adjacent to the club. During the day she operates the restaurant from this office, but at night she prefers to stay in the cash office so that she can keep an eye on her girls. Mercy is known to drag men who try to harass her girls out of the bar.
It is ironical that when Peter breaches his rule against meeting women in private, the woman he does so with is the same woman he is accused of cheating on his wife with. But Peter doesn’t have an option. Mercy wanted to talk to him and they cannot sit in public without attracting attention. Many of Peter’s congregants are sympathizing with him and whenever they see him they want to offer words of support. There are also a few who want to jeer, or offer sarcastic words of support. Peter doesn’t like the attention, so he has been holed up in his apartment since Janet and the Bishop humiliated him two days ago.
But today Mercy called him and told him that she wanted to speak to him urgently, and she didn’t want to talk over the phone. Inviting her to his apartment would have been scandalous in the circumstances, so he chose instead to drive to her office.
“You don’t know what your wife told him, Pastor. She must gave poisoned his mind against you,” Mercy tells him.
“That is true. But I have known Bishop Keanga for over a decade; over twelve years to be precise. I have not known him to be erratic in decision making. The Bishop is always that patient father who listens to both sides of an argument before making a decision. That is why I am so surprised-and hurt- that he did not give me a chance to explain my side of the story.”
Peter is definitely hurting. Yesterday Janet’s lawyer called a press conference to address “the rumors that celebrity pastor Peter Maruku is splitting up with his wife.” He confirmed that “the rumors are true” and that his client is tired of being subjected to “emotional and physical abuse” and was therefore filing for divorce. The lawyer went ahead to say that since Pastor Maruku and his wife relocated to the small town of Chogoria, the pastor had started frequenting bars, had become violent and had been caught having affairs with multiple bar maids. Under the glare of the cameras the Janet and the lawyer dramatically signed the divorce petition, which the lawyer handed to one of his clerks for filing.
The falsehoods stung Peter. He really did not understand why Janet was doing this to him. If she wanted to leave him, why couldn’t she leave quietly without having to drag his name in the mud with falsehoods? Peter does not consider himself a celebrity, but it is true that he is well known in the country. After all, he had been the youth pastor at the Mother Assembly of the CJLI Ministries, which is a popular mega church in Nairobi.
CJLI Ministries has six Assemblies in Nairobi and all of them have a membership of over two thousand. There are eighteen others spread across the country, including the Chogoria Assembly. Two years old and with a congregation of five hundred, the Chogoria Assembly is the youngest and the smallest Assembly in the ministry. But it is also the fastest growing. The Mother Assembly, located along Thika Road, is the oldest and the largest of them. It has a congregation of five thousand members, including one thousand five hundred youth members. To accommodate the numbers, the church runs three Sunday services at both the main church and the youth church. The services of the main church and the youth church run concurrently.
With a vibrant congregation of one thousand five hundred youthful Christians, coupled with his personal appeal and charisma, Peter was a very influential clergyman when he was the youth pastor of the Mother Assembly. In fact, he was more popular than most Senior Pastors and Bishops of other churches in the country. Within the Lord Jesus Ministry, Peter was regarded as the most influential pastor, second only to the Bishop himself. It was generally believed that he had outgrown his role as a youth pastor. Many believed that he would be sent to one of the other city Assemblies as a senior pastor. Others believed that the Bishop would hand over the administration of the Mother Assembly to Peter so that he (the Bishop) could focus on overseeing the twenty four Assemblies of the ministry as a whole.
The speculation was not unfounded. Peter had been the Bishop’s right hand man since he successfully completed his internship. He was the unofficial assistant to the Bishop. The Bishop definitely needed help because he is an extremely busy man. In addition to being the Presiding Bishop of the entire CJLI Ministries that has twenty four Assemblies across the country, Bishop Keanga is also the Senior Pastor of the Mother Assembly of the Ministry. The administrative and spiritual duties of his office were overwhelming, and many times he would send Peter to represent him in official functions or to discharge some of his functions. Peter was to Bishop Keanga what Timothy was to Apostle Paul, and that comparison was made many times by many people, including the Bishop himself.
Some of those functions included media duties, and many times Peter attended television interviews on behalf of the bishop. Within no time, he started getting TV and radio invites in his own right. The Bishop has always treated him like a son, and always backed him in everything he did.
That is why the second press conference that was called yesterday hurt him even more than the first. The Bishop and his Council Members called a press conference yesterday evening and announced that “former Reverend Maruku” had been removed from his position as the Senior Pastor of the CJLI Ministries Chogoria Assembly with immediate effect, to be replaced with Reverend Harrison Kianki, the current youth pastor at the Mother Assembly. In addition, the Bishop announced that the council had resolved to defrock and excommunicate Peter. In other words, his ordination as a pastor within CJLI Ministries was being revoked, and he was also being expelled from the church altogether. The Bishop regretted that such a decision had to be made, but explained that all efforts had been made to bring the “disgraced former pastor” back to the fold of Christ but “the efforts had proved futile.”
Peter could not believe that those words were coming from the mouth of the Bishop. He, Peter, is the one who has been calling the Bishop since the day before yesterday, and all his calls have gone unanswered.
“People don’t change overnight, Pastor,” Mercy now tells him.
“I know, and that is why I am so confused right now.”
“Do you want to know what I think?”
“Of course I do.”
“Your beautiful wife is having an affair with the Bishop.”
“No way; that cannot be. Janet is like a daughter to the Bishop. The Bishop has known her since she was born. Janet’s parents were founder members of the church long before Janet was born.”
Mercy rolls her eyes.
“Since when did any of that stop a hyena? Some men even defile their biological daughters.”
“The Bishop is not like that…”
“Let me tell you something, Pastor. These so called Men of God, and I mean no disrespect to you and your calling, are hypocrites; at least the ones in this town. That is why many of us had given up on God and church before you arrived. Many of the pastors in this town pretend they are too holy to come and take lunch in this restaurant, but in secret they are always begging me and my girls for sex. And when we say no they start insulting us.”
“Why don’t you expose them?”
“To what end? How many pastors in this country have been caught red handed with other women and continue with life as if nothing happened? I could record a pastor begging me for sex on the phone, but if I release that record somehow you Christians will defend him and I will become the devil in the story. It is not worth the trouble.”
“I have always wondered why pastors in this town hate you so much. Now I understand why the male ones hate you. But the female church leaders, what is their beef with you?”
“Propaganda. It has already been established that I am Satan’s representative in this town. Apparently my girls and I are out on a mission to steal people’s husbands and to destroy the morals of the town.”
“But you are not the only person with a club in this town.”
“True, but Cavorta is the most successful club here. It is not an elite club like Mountain Tribe across town or Slope Castle on the other end, but I have the numbers. I am also the only female owner of a club. Other club owners don’t like me, but that is normal business rivalry. The real beef is with church leaders, especially the male ones. Most of the bar girls in other clubs including Castle and Tribe sleep with men, both Christian and non-Christian, for money. I know that for a fact because my girls talk to me and they talk to the other girls.
So these men think that all the girls who work in clubs are prostitutes. I won’t lie to you Pastor. I slept with men to get money to start this place. But that is not who I am. Having sex for money does not define me, and I did not enjoy it one bit. In fact, most of the time I just did not have a choice otherwise I would not have one it. But once I could sustain myself, I kissed that life goodbye. I still get harassed by authorities for sex, mostly KRA guys, County Government and police officers, but I always tell them off. I pay my taxes, get the licenses and obey the laws. I won’t deny that once in a while I do bribe to stop them from bothering me; but my body is off the table, and they have come to respect that. I try my best to make sure my girls are comfortable. I pay them well, and I have taught them how to save and have hustles on the side so that they are not forced to sleep with men for money like I did. But the men don’t like that. They think that just because the girls wear miniskirts they are prostitutes and therefore available for sex on demand.”
“But why do they have to wear miniskirts?”
“It is business, Pastor. Men are heaviest consumers of alcohol, and the same men are obsessed with the female body. Display it to them, and they come falling over themselves. But I am very strict. Flirting with the girls is allowed, but I don’t allow the men to touch them; not even the slightest touch, leave alone groping. At first we had issues, and I had a few men arrested, friction here and there. But by and large the men in this town are decent men. Once the boundaries were established, I have never had any major issues with the people who come to drink here. My problem is with the so called “Men of God”. Such hypocrites they are. To be honest I was suspicious of you when you first came. I thought you were just pretending to preach to me and the girls just to find a way to get us to bed. But after two years I am convinced that you are a decent man, and many of my friends and clients feel the same way. We think you are a true Man of God, irrespective of what the Bishop and your wife say.”
“Thank you Mercy.”
“That is why we don’t want you to continue hiding. You have not done anything wrong Pastor. You and I know that there is nothing going on between us. And none of my girls has ever complained to me that you were inappropriate towards them. The Bishop and your wife are lying, and they are the ones who should be ashamed. You should be walking with your head high.”
“I know Mercy, but what am I supposed to do? I am no longer a pastor.”
“And that is where you get it wrong. You are no longer a pastor at CJLI Ministries. But to many of us, you are still our pastor. Today is Saturday. Are you willing to lead us in worship tomorrow?”
“We do not have any place to worship. That sanctuary belongs to CJLI Ministries.”
Mercy smiles sheepishly.
“Can’t we worship under a tree pastor? The idea is to worship, not to be in a building, right?”
Peter smiles. “I guess you are right. But who will come? Every one might decide that they do not want anything to do with me.”
“Even if it is just me and my girls, wouldn’t that would be okay? The Bible says that where two or three are gathered…”
“…he is there with them. You actually know scripture.”
“I am not a devil pastor,” Mercy says, laughing. “I actually went to Sunday School before the world entered me. Anyway, I am offering this building as a sanctuary tomorrow. We will clean it up early in the morning. I have hired plastic seats that we will use. I have also hired a piano and a basic public address system. I have a store that you can use as an office. If you agree I will get some young men to clean it up. Some of my girls are willing to lead worship and others will be ushers. I don’t know whether your born-again followers will come or whether they will stick to CJLI Ministries, but I can assure you that that hall will be packed with drunkards. Many will be suffering from hangover but they will be there. I know most of them personally and they have assured me that they will come. The question is, are you willing to preside over a service held in a bar and attended by drunkards and barmaids only?”
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/church-pews-benches-seats-1645414/
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