A Man of Faith

by Kim Ngigi

A MAN OF FAITH

The man was not sure what he was doing there on Kenyatta avenue in the rain, getting soaked, with passing motorists staring at him as if he was the biggest fool in the world. But he did not consider himself a fool. Far from it.

If he were a fool, how could he be among the 500 or so richest people in the country? He soon forgot about the soaking rain and focussed on a nasty conversation he had had only a few moments earlier with a certain big shot Nairobi lawyer. The lawyer had the audacity - indeed, stupidity- to tell him to his face that he was only rich because he was a very lucky hypocrite who had succeeded in life "in spite of his obvious brainlessness!"

But what made his adrenaline rise even more was because the lawyer was hell-bent on blackmailing him by threatening to ' expose' the man's ' big secret' to the whole nation and thereby totally ruin the career, nay, the man's calling.

He was quite angry with the fellow and almost punched him in the face, but then he decided against it just in the nick of time -what if the counselor was provoking him deliberately so he could the rush to court to claim damages and other monies only lawyers know how to cook and serve themselves? And to make matters worse, the man had been provoked by the lawyer in the former's own office where the man had been enticed to go by the lawyer himself and help 'solve a small legal problem'.

So the man controlled himself and rushed out of the office before he did something he would come to regret later. He now stood in the rain and reflected on his life's journey, and for the umpteenth time, he confirmed to himself that there was no way he could be a fool. A genius maybe.

There is an enduring story in our village about the man. Most of his past life is never n dispute. He was once a church minister in our village, but was rejected by his congregation about 8 years previously allegedly because he was a habitual philanderer and that he constantly pocketed money meant for noble church activities. But after convincing the bishop that the charges were prompted by malice and petty jealousies, the diocesan synod decided to give him a second chance, but this time in a poorer village.

After leading the lord's flock in that new village for about a year, similar allegations started surfacing. Once again, instead of the synod de-collaring him, they decided to send him to minister in another more remote village. And in this new village, two people had died a few days earlier after eating poisonous wild fruits due to a prolonged famine.

The minister must have made a decision there and then that he was not going to test his luck in such a godforsaken place. So he immediately resigned from his church and established his own church in our village where he was first accused of engaging in ungodly indiscretions. His bet must have been that the earlier scandal was now forgotten, and he was mostly right about that,

However, there were those who still despised him, but in his first sermon to his congregation he concentrated on various biblical verses that stress the power of forgiveness. "Didn't Christ himself dare the one who had never sinned to throw the first stone?" He bellowed to the attentive audience.

He was a gifted orator and a master of biblical teachings - in fact he was top of his class in the theological college - and so he never lucked a sizeable congregation to preach to every Sunday. And, of course, no one in the congregation could take him to any higher church authorities in case- just in case - he inadvertently or otherwise disobeyed any of god's commandments.

Furthermore, in his own church, if anyone felt that the minister - or evangelist, as he referred to himself - was not a good enough preacher, it was the church member who left the church, not the other way round.

After about one and a half years, the congregation in his church had grown to several hundred adherents and he had already opened two new churches in neighbouring towns.

Quite naturally, he had his church elders install him a bishop. Three years after he had become bishop-evangelist (he loved using the two titles interchangeably), his church had become one of the twenty or so most populous churches in the country, and it still is. The former village preacher is now the eminent archbishop of his church, which is now headquartered in Nairobi.

After the meteoric rise of the status of his church, rumours started circulating once again from time to time about his secret twilight shenanigans; but trust the archbishop to start every sermon with the tribulations a 'man of god' must endure, including fighting the devil's agents 'whose perennial job is to test the will of the righteous'. "Is it not true that Satan never sleeps?" he would rhetorically ask his faithful. And they would all answer in the affirmative, with much tumult and violent gestures, no doubt ready to give the said Satan his comeuppance if he dared appear in their hallowed sanctuary.

But no one can be lucky all the time, and the eminent archbishop was no exception. He was once, not too long ago, caught red-handed making it out with the wife of the local plumber, who himself never went to church.

No one knows exactly what transpired in the eminent archbishop's house where the illicit act was being committed, after he archbishop had conveniently dispatched his wife upcountry 'to check on some extended family's matters'. The plumber caught them doing the real act. He had been tipped off about the affair but had decided to believe only his own eyes.

But what surprised everyone in the neighbourhood about the whole affair was the plumber's strange behavior afterwards. Rumour had it that the shaken archbishop must have cut a deal with the cuckolded plumber in exchange for his dear life. Indeed, the plumber was feared around the neighbourhood for his muscular frame and hot temper, but after the scandal about the archbishop and his wife, he started acting oddly, somehow nonchalantly even when close friends attempted to broach the subject.

A few weeks after the incident, the plumber relocated to a middle class suburb in the southern part of Nairobi, where he now engages in various businesses. And he bought himself a beautiful sedan in cash from General Motors, and found himself a beautiful new wife.

People always say that the plumber must have realized just in the nick of time that a decapitated head of the eminent archbishop was worth nothing, especially when he must have been offered millions just to let the archbishop live, and let bygones be bygones.

The followers of the eminent archbishop still hold him in total reverence. In their view - a view repeated by the archbishop himself while ministering in his deep baritone that seems to shake the walls of his church - the whole story is the work of Satan. " Who is the complainant, anyway? The followers continuously ask.

The former plumber has never complained about the alleged incident, nor has he either felt obliged to explain the 'coincidence' between his sudden affluence and the said affair. And his former wife doesn't have anything to say about it either. She quietly runs a colorful boutique in Nairobi's Eastlands, and seems comfortable with her current lifestyle.

Although the former plumber loves drinking expensive gin and brandy now that he can afford it, and sometimes whispers to his friends when he's tipsy about the deal with the eminent archbishop, no follower of the archbishop is ever inclined to believe the word of a 'non-believer', and a drunk at that.

My friend peter tells me that the eminent archbishop is a perfect example of someone who is a master of his of his own destiny. And I don't like arguing with him because he always places facts on the table just when I thought I had him cornered.

And so it is that the eminent archbishop seems to have life in this world under total control. It is in the hereafter where his self-control and unshakable self-concept will surely be tested, most likely, to his total discomfort and misery.

Kimani Ngigi

PO BOX 14243

GPO 00100

NAIROBI

KENYA

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