My inability to be partisan, and bend to some age-long church traditions and god-fathers, had culminated in a bitter feud with some big wits in church.
The church-in-council meeting that Sunday in October had gone all sour. The trouble-makers had ganged up, and I was roundly maligned.
I still had the support of the majority though.
But I was done. My passion had always been field work, not bickering and managing church crisis.
All I wanted was a platform to reach out, and touch people directly. It was the very reason I chose to pastor under the Baptist convention in the first place.
I wanted out, and did resign as Pastor under the convention altogether.
My focus was to fully engage in evangelistic outreaches without interference.
I felt the church in the township was ‘beleful’. The more reason we did little asides skirmishes and scandals.
I decided for the unreached in the rural centres.
I opted to start up an outreach in a very remote village on the outskirts of Osogbo.
It was to take the form of a discipleship program. The team comprised myself, my wife and the girls, with a couple who had had a divine leading to join us.
We drew up a plan which would kick start the program, first by raising awareness and meeting up with the churches there. This is to followed up by an evangelistic crusade to the entire village, where the converts would hopefully join the discipleship classes from there.
I was to go on a survey and courtesy visit to the village, first to meet up with the Baale, and then the church leadership. We planned on fully starting on the dawn of the new millennium- January 2000.
The village itself was a small settlement, predominantly Yoruba speaking, with an Egbira and Agatu minority. It was a handful of about 85 houses surrounded by several hectares of cocoa plantations and arable.
The only significant touch of civilization in the village was the Government primary school and a moribund post office.
There were only two churches -the African church, most of the folks attended including the royal family, headed by a Prebyster simply called Baba Ajala. Then a small Pentecostal assembly founded by a young indigene of the village, Ishola, one of the few lucky chaps to get tertiary education. He taught at the town’s primary school. He was in his mid-thirties, and single.
He was soon to become my good friend and companion.
The plans were well laid out to Baba Ajala, who was seen as the father figure and head clergy of the entire village. It was well received, especially the part that clearly stated the program wasn’t going to take on the form of a formal church. That meant no threats to the already existing churches.
It was Baba Ajala that introduced me to the Baale, who was briefed on our plans, to which he warmly acceded. My host affirmed this with a classic hospitality token of Pounded yam and bush meat. The palm wine component I politely refused.
It was a Saturday, and it had gotten too dark to drive back to town. Baba Ajala had urged me to sleep over in his place. I would take the opportunity to attend the Sunday service on the morrow, and be formally introduced to his congregation.
6:30 am that Sunday. The church bell had punctured the tranquility of dawn in the village and shattered it. It was call for the morning prayers. A handful of villagers had gathered already. Baba Ajala led on.
He was too energetic for a 70 year old that morning, perspiring profusely in the harmattan cold. It confirmed what I saw him do earlier in the house, with a bottle of local gin.
Later in the morning, he introduced me to the organist, an elder, about the oldest in the church before treating the congregation to a very boring tirade of stories. And that was his sermon that morning. We listened, ‘attentively’.
The organist was a retired staff of the defunct Railway corporation. He had since settled back to the village to do some farm work. He was terrific on the piano, and would often go ballistic with his fingers’ weird moves, yet never missing his key.
His old coat, which he had claimed was a personal gift from the renowned Baptist missionary and founder- Rev’d Bowen, would swing to his moves in agreement.
Discussing with him that morning, he had tried impressing with some murdered English, that had managed to slip out from behind his fast eroded rows of kolanut-stained teeth. And between his breaths, I smelt rum.
The publicity and evangelistic outreach had yielded much fruits. Our discipleship class witnessed a massive turn-out.
Folks responded impressively, the youths most especially. We had notable personalities in consistent attendance: the Olori, the headmaster, some resident teachers, among others.
It was our honeymoon period.
Ishola and Pa. Ajala were very much cooperative too. Attendance at their church services was not threatened. We shuttled from our base in Osogbo to the village every Wednesday for the classes. Sometimes I would visit and stay over on weekends, primarily to reach out to the youth population. We were offered a shed in the spacious African church’s compound for use.
Things started falling apart from about a year we started.
Ishola had died mysteriously from the much dreaded Magun . He had apparently slept with a charmed lady. The woman in question was rumoured to be the youngest wife to one of the most powerful village chiefs.
She was one of the many ladies I had always caught flocking him. I had often suggested he rather got married than frolic with girls. He would often dismiss the issue with a wave of hand, telling me he was bidding his time. He called the girls harmless friends. Well, ‘harmless’ got a new meaning.
He was said to have suddenly broken into fits of convulsion, while having his meal after service on Sunday, and had foamed profusely, before finally giving up the ghost only a few minutes later, just before help arrived.
‘Help’ was Ifagabamila, the village chief priest.
Ishola was buried on his plot of land, just beside his uncompleted building that same day.
I missed him terribly. I wept.
His junior brother took charge of the church. But it was too late, the flock was scattered already.
The church was closed down within the following 3 months.
And things fell apart…