On Sundays Bhut’Manga is up early, and usually leaves the house by seven o’clock. He goes to a church on the other side of town. Lizzie said it’s the loud one, where they all pray at once and use loud instruments. Even the white people shout and dance and look like they are talking to themselves in delirium. Tjo! These churches! I have heard that there are many who have lost their minds due to them.
I wonder why they shout though? No! I have the answer. God is too deaf and needs the clamoring sounds of drums, just for him to turn His head. What more if one wants Him to listen and actually answer? Then one would have to engage in the nonsensical ‘tongue talking’ that I have heard these fanatical Christians have to do. But because I have not seen it, I cannot fathom what that looks or even sounds like; but I imagine that it is a sight that would easily crack my ribs as I laugh uncontrollably.
On these days, I leave the house for my day off at midday. This is because Bhut’Manga returns from church at lunchtime. I prefer that he finds the house empty. I don’t want to annoy him by not listening to his order of me taking time to go out and rest.
However, as I am showering, I can hear him return at half-past eight in the morning. Oh no! Will I be in trouble for being here? He is walking around the house, and I can clearly hear his fast paced steps. Perhaps he is looking for something? I don’t know, I wonder what is wrong. But as quickly as he walked in, I can hear that he has walked out again and the car is driving off. Tjo! I wonder what that was about?
At quarter-past nine, another car is driving into the drive way. i cannot understand the sudden activity in this home and i rush to the window to see who it could be. It is MaDube. She parks, comes out and knocks at the door, and I walk over to open it. I am already dressed for going out, because I know that I will not be doing any work today, and my food for the day was packed way before I showered, earlier.
As she comes towards the door I greet her politely, but my face visibly questions her intentions.
‘Uvukanjani ntokazi,’ she says with her always happy face, only today it is more elated and and she appears even bubblier.
‘Nd’yavuka ma, ninjani?’
I still don’t know what she wants, but I know I want her to leave quickly just in case Bhuti Manga comes back again.
She starts to inform me that she found a church to attend, as she had promised, and she is now here to pick me up. She is matter of fact about it and is not about to take refusal for an answer.
But honestly, what is wrong with this woman? Does she think that I spend my days waiting for her to decide what I should do with my life. This is preposterous! And it is highly disrespectful. I cannot believe that she couldn’t even speak to me the previous day and at least ask me nicely.
She interrupts my thoughts and apparent silence, by saying she had tried to come and see me the previous day, but I was not around during the times she came. She is sorry if she has caught me unawares.
Well, I am embarrassed now, aren’t I? Was she reading my thoughts? Did she hear every word I said in my head? My personal guilt overwhelms and I suddenly feel obligated to reward her efforts. After all, I was only going to return to my thinking place and spend my day pondering on a random thought of my choosing.
‘Okay ma, let me get my things.’
As I say this, she looks so satisfied and turns to go and wait in the car.
What? She didn’t try to enter the house and use the opportunity to witch hunt? Either this woman has already sent her goblins to spy or she is very different from anyone I have ever met? Either way, I am impressed by her restraint and lack of vicious curiosity.
The church is a small one, and sits just over 200 people. It is a communal church in the small township area, and so most of the congregants come from its neighborhood and slightly beyond. I can see people of all ages and I surprise myself when I find I am intrigued to see those that are my peers. I can see mothers with babies in a section that seems to be their own. They are many and the majority are ‘shooshing’ babies that aren’t even crying – there are only one or two that are actually fussing.
We walk slowly to the middle of the church and are told by a gentleman leading us, to sit on the right side. As we take our seats, I am drawn to the music that is being sung. It is beautiful, and the young woman leading the songs has the voice of an angel. MaDube gets up almost immediately and joins in the joyful singing. She knows the song and it seems to make her very happy. Embarrassed to continue sitting alone, I stand up nervously. They are clapping, and so I clap, but I do not know the song nor the words, so I cannot open my mouth. It is a catchy tune, I note, and I know that I will be humming it inwardly for a while to come.
After two more fast songs, they begin to slow down and I watch as those around me close their eyes, lift up their hands, and sing with such passion, as though they are singing to, or communicating with someone. What are they doing? Who are they talking to? For the seriousness with which they take this moment is something I have never seen before. Even after the girl has stopped singing, they continue, softly; singing and speaking in voices I cannot quite hear and languages I cannot quite understand. They seem to be singing different songs from each persons mind. It’s so disorderly, but there is a sensibility about it. I really cannot explain it. They look so content, so happy, so serene.
Finally, a man gets up and says a prayer. He prays with such a conviction that somebody is listening to him. He prays for over 3 minutes, and no one gets tired. They are still standing and I am in awe and just keep turning my head around. I do not understand what is happening, but for some reason, I like it. It’s not that I have not been to church before. I have. But it was different. They sang from books and all the songs were long, slow and a bit boring. The only expressions they made were of awe when the songs hit high notes and the actions they made were of standing on their toes during the same. This is not church according to what I remember. Besides the look and the types of songs, there is something else that is very different, unique maybe. This, right here has a feeling attached to it. Yes! that’s it – a feeling. It has a feeling to it that is comforting, that is memorable, that is beautiful.
The man on the stage asks us to sit and begins saying some things that will happen during the week, I suppose. The people are attentive, nodding where it is relevant and writing down what they need to. He then discusses the issue of offering and giving to the Lord, but it is one statement that catches and grabs a hold of me.
He says, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever, should believe in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.’ Had he not repeated it, I would not have heard it clearly. It is the repetition that gets me. God loved the world and He gave. The man goes on to talk about the power of giving and how giving is found in the love. He says the utmost motivation and reason for giving must be love. If the love is big, the giving will be big. If it is small, the giving will be small.
It makes sense to me now, that that man had no love for us, and that is why he took pleasure in our lack. Ridiculing my mother was his way of ensuring that she knew that she was not loved. Had he loved us, he would given us the things that we needed. But he didn’t. He was just fulfilling duty and taking advantage of my mother who was stranded and desperately needed to be affirmed as a woman in her late husband’s community.
The man on the stage also says that, God gave His only son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. He says that Jesus hung on the cross so that we might be saved. Saved from sin, saved from hurt, saved from pain, saved from destruction. I can tell that He strongly believes what he is saying. He believes that it is true. And because he believes, he is so liberated and passionate and the whole room can not help but listen to him and his message. They nod, and shout continuously, ‘Amen, Amen!’ They agree and they are free to express their agreement.
I have never heard this before. I mean, this thing about God loving me, and thing about a Jesus Christ dying for me. I have always suspected that maybe there is someone out there who controls things and has a way of making them work. I felt it a lot when I escaped. The people I met along the way had to be placed there by somebody, because the coincidence was just too much. But the Jesus Christ thing? No! I had not heard that one.
As I am in deep thought, they sing a song, call another man and he stands talking for a much longer time than the first one. I cannot hear what he is saying though, because this Jesus’ Christ thing is consuming me. How did he die? On a cross? He was hung, Why? Because He loved me? But why? Me; Primrose?
It is a mystery to me that someone would be born and live just so that He can die for me. I cannot fathom this. Does this mean that apart from my mother and my siblings, somebody, out there loves me and cares for me to the point of death? Aaa! I am amazed, so amazed. Could this actually be true? My mind is a myriad of questions and answers as I ponder of this statement that the first man said. Somewhere deep down inside me I have developed a sudden thirst for answers to the questions that erupt from my mind.
The man on the stage interrupts my thoughts when he says,
‘In closing, if you would like to make Jesus’ Christ Lord and Savior of your life please, show by the raising of your hands.’
Huh? Lord and savior? What does that mean?
I must have said it out loud, because MaDube whispers that it means that He will walk with me, and talk with me and help me to lead a happy life.
Mmm, I think to myself. I want that! I want a happy life. I want to be like Lizzie. I want to smile also.
Without hesitation at the sudden understanding, I lift my hand and stand abruptly. It is like I am pushed up by a force, and I am compelled to do whatever needs to be done to get what I want. I have only ever had this feeling of boldness once before, and because I know it saved my life then, I follow it, ready for whatever it brings. I do not concentrate on my current actions, I simply concentrate on what I want; and what I want is happiness. It’s all I have ever wanted, all I have ever needed. I want it so much and I want it now.
The rest of what happens is a blur to me. One moment I am walking, then I am standing, then I am praying, then he is praying for me, then I am taken away by a woman and when I finally come to coherent understanding, I am sitting in a room that is different, and there is tea infront of me and I am being welcomed to the family of God.
What’s most interesting is that I am smiling, and it won’t go away. I cannot stop smiling. My shoulders are feeling loose, I am not tense anymore. I am simply happy. That is what it is, I am happy. I really am.
It’s like I have entered a world of enchantment and I feel like I felt as a child in the village when mama would come home from the city. I would see her from a distance and would run like a gazelle, and she would drop everything she would be carrying, and embrace me, throwing me into the air and hugging me like no one else mattered. I feel that way again, just happy. This is amazing.
On our way home, MaDube is ecstatically detailing how she felt when she noticed that I had been convicted. She says she didn’t expect to see that at the beginning of the service but was praying that I would ‘meet with God’ today. The truth is, I can hear her and I try my best to respond, but I am still searching myself because I can not understand this new person inside my body. It’s like we were swapped. Like I traded myself with myself. It is still me, but it is not me. I feel so different. I feel like I can run, fast, all day. I feel like I can roll in the sand, like those families at the beach. I feel like I can shout out loud and not care who hears me. I feel free!
MaDube drops me off at home and promises to come and give me a bible and a book to help me study. What is she talking about? I cannot read. Not well enough to STUDY anyway. That is for learned people. Of course I do not tell her that I can not read; I do not want her to think that I am stupid. I just politely agree and she drives off.
Although I cannot see Bhuti Manga’s car in the driveway, I know it is too early to go into the house because I am supposed to be away on my day off and so I make my way to the shoreline and just take a walk.
To be continued next week Monday
Meet Daniel and ‘That Man’
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