It was a day of confusion as people ran helter skelter. Villagers surged toward the church located at the outskirts of the village.
The Millennium’s Chosen People of God Church is known for its powerful prayer and praise worship in Apa. But that particular day’s noise was unusual as the wailing voice of Brother Akanya Ode and other members of the church tore the silent night into pieces. Within a short time, the church premise was filled to capacity.
The door of the church building was pulled down by the people struggling to enter so as to know what was happening, and then elder Ogbe, the leader of the vigilante group shouted in a loud voice ‘Abomination! Abomination!! the word of God is peace and love. Why are they mourning in the house of God? What has Apa done to deserve this? Tell us! Tell us!! What is amiss, before we let loose our anger on you’.
All of a sudden silence increasingly regained control of the crowd. Brother Akanya Ode stood up and spoke. The crowd was all ears. Women opened their mouths, men stared and rarely blinked, and then brother Akanya continued. We received a thought provoking message in the morning on ‘rapture’, the day God Almighty will collect his people for eternal rest in heaven.
In the wake of that I, the prayer secretary called the prayer band’s members for a night vigil; while we, were praying it happened… His voice trailed off. ‘What happen?’ The crowd asked in unison. When he was about to continue, a child suddenly let out a loud wail, which brutally tore into the silence. Hardly had its mother found the door than a young beautiful lady sneezed and coughed repeatedly, thousand eyes hit her. After a while silence returned and brother Ode went on:
‘We were praying then ‘rapture’ took place. Brother John Odeje and Sister Charity Audu disappeared. I continued to pray, even when I could no longer hear their voice. I thought they were in spirit. Alas! When I opened my eyes, I was confronted with the reality of the ‘rapture’. So when other members of the church came, they could not help, but joined us in crying’.
At this juncture, a Reverend from one of the Pentecostal churches in the village asked in a trembling voice, ‘Brother, you mean ‘rapture’ has taken place?
Silence chained the crowed once again. And like Jesus Christ and a group of Pharisee that brought an adulterous woman caught in the act to Him. One after another, the crowd disappeared into thin air, leaving only the church members and their reverend.
The sudden disappearance of Brother John Odeje and Sister Audu who were regarded as the emblems of Christianity among the members of the church and in the entire village, threw the church into an induced confession. As each member steps forward and confessed his or her sin.
The prayer band’s leader stepped forward in a daze and pleaded mournfully, Reverend, I had a pre-marital sex with my fiancée just last night pray for me.
Then, the Choir Mistress stepped forward in tears and said; Reverend please help me, I keep malice with Sister Ene and brother Peter since I had misunderstanding with them three months ago.
Elder Edo stepped forward in a daze and pleaded mournfully: Reverend will you not help us? I used the church money in building my house.
A young lecturer stepped forward and said: “I’ve been in a complete daze since hearing the news of the ‘rapture’ pray for me, Reverend, for I do collect ‘PR’ from students”.
The Reverend who remained mute stared at them like an Egyptian Mummy for some time, moved stealthily to the centre of the church like a young hunter retreating backward from a tiger and said: church, save your Reverend. I always cheat on my wife.
While the confession was going on in the church, the heart of the village became desolate with the exception of the ‘garage boys’ who became the lords of the village and were taken ‘gogoro’ freely. They laughed at any Christian who dare move out, and tell such a person ‘you too are left behind? Come and join us, you cannot lose two things…
Hardly had the confession ended than brother Odeje and Sister Audu appeared in the church premises. On sighting them, the church members ran in different directions. While some ran without stopping, others stood some yards away from the church and craned their necks to see what was going on. They breathe heavily like a pregnant woman under labour.
Reverend Onu was not left out in the action; he jumped through the window and fell on Bishop Shagbaor Suemo who was hiding behind the window watching the horrible scenario-taking place in the church.
The Reverend let out a loud cry, Bishop! You too are left behind? When Reverend Onu finally, regained his composure, he said, Brother John and Sister Audu why are you tormenting us? Bishop Suemo stood speechless and dusts himself.
After a while, Bishop Suemo and Reverend Onu entered into the church. As other members saw them entering, they too followed.
When Brother Odeje was asked about his sudden disappearance that led to the commotion he said, ‘I had been purging for about three days ago, so while we were praying, I dashed out to ease myself. While I was in the toilet in my house, I heard people discussing the rapture that has just taken place. And the shame of not being qualified made me to hide in the church Orchard. I came out when I heard passer-by discussing me that God had finally taken me home’. At the end of his speech many sighed heavily.
When Sister Charity Audu took the floor, she gave her own version thus: ‘We were praying, and then Sister Grace Adukwu came and informed me that I had a visitor, in order not to disturb the prayer, we quietly left for my house. On our way home, the news of the ‘rapture’ got to us, while sister Grace Adukwu ran to her house, I ran into the church orchard, while I was there, something told me to go to the church, then I obeyed and on my way to the church I met Bro. Odeje
Like the hamattan fire, the news had gone, round the village that John and Charity have appeared in the church.
On hearing that, no one wanted to be let out. The lame arranged to be carried to the church. The blind paid to be led there. It was like the day of resurrection, children, and the elderly went there.
Then, Bishop Shagbaor Suemo organised an impromptu crusade and in his sermon he warned the congregation to take the incident as a lesson as no one knows when it will really happen. And he later tagged the incident, Woeful Tales of Resurrection.
Paul Ugah is the Vice-chairman Association of Nigeria Authors & Auditor, Nigerian Union of Journalist, NUJ, Benue State.