It was another day at work and it was in the morning of the first Friday in the month of July, 1999/2000 session. There were few teachers already seated at their various seats in the big staff room for the teaching job of the day. Bola Ajagun, a Mathematics and Science Teacher with one of the best public schools in town was sitting at his table with his chin resting on his two palms while his elbows were also resting on top of his table. When am I really going to come out of these money troubles, he said to himself as he watched some of his colleagues who were already around chatting away the morning instead of taking their time to prepare for the work of the day.
“It’s practically impossible for you to be a Christian and also become extremely wealthy. Those who’re rich today and claimed to be Christians are not telling us the whole truth about their wealth,” one of his colleagues had said in one of their many classroom discussions on financial prosperity last week.
“That’s not right, Mr. Kolawole,” he had replied. “The bible teaches financial prosperity and I know of quiet a few people who have prospered immensely by applying only these teachings from the bible.”
“Eh Eh, so you believe them.”
“Yes,” he had replied with little voice strength. “I agree there are so many lies flying around now especially in the body of Christ but that does not mean the bible did not teach financial prosperity or that there are still not the few who have clean riches.”
“Look, Mr. Ajagun. I’ve been an elder in my church for close to twenty years now and I must tell you that I’ve seen lots of lies and deceits that I find it difficult believing any story.”
“Oh, come on,” he had said still with little strength in his voice. “You should not allow the negative stories of mortal men stops you from believing the truths in the Word of the Living God. The bible says in Isaiah Chapter 55 verse 11 that the Word of God will not go back to Him until it accomplishes what it has been sent to do.”
“There you go again,” Mr. Kolawole had said, raising his voice. “The bible says..., the bible says..., I’ve heard lots of that from these same people in the church but we’ve found out how they’ve been very dubious and devilish in their chase for money. And may I ask you why all these quotes from the bible are not working for you and I?”
“Good morning Mr. Ajagun,” the sharp voice of a colleague in her late thirties woke him up from his reverie.
“Oh good morning Mrs. Etese. How was your night?”
“All thanks to God,” he said and watched her walked steadily to her seat.
Oh God! He said to himself now looking through some students’ notebooks on his table. I’ve to pay the money I owed her today. How time flies. She gave out the money to me on trust to be repaid back today. What do I do now? I don’t have the money with me. Mrs. Etese was one of the few devoted Christians among his colleagues. She also had her own financial troubles around her. Her husband pastors one of the orthodox churches in town and they have lived together with their three children on the little income from Mrs. Etese’s monthly salary. Oh I can’t afford to disappoint her, He finally said to himself.
But how come Pastor and Mrs. Etese are also having financial troubles? He resumed his thinking exercise. It’s likely Mr. Kolawole was right after all. These bible teachings are not just working for us. Those who claim to be rich Christians are not telling us the whole truth. He tried to find a balanced and general answer to the many questions that have been bombarding his mind since the last discussion with Mr. Kolawole.
He picked up his red pen to mark the home works of the students that have been on his table for over a week. The first of the notebooks was that of his favorite student and as usual, he scored the maximum marks. It’s good I’m marking the right notebook, he said to himself. This will just help to put some light into my fading hope of a great financial future for me and my family. The second and third notebooks were as good as the first one. He was through with the ten notebooks on his table just before the bell for the first period rang. I wonder what this generation is turning into. The students are becoming lazier by the day. Only twenty students submitted an assignment I gave to them three days ago out of a total of fifty. He shrugged his shoulders. I wonder how they hope to face the future if they’re treating their academics this way.
He thought again about how this same education has done little to help people like him, Mrs. Etese, Mr. Kolaowle, his other colleagues and many others and shuddered. Talking about the students jeopardizing their future just because they’ve not taken their studies seriously, how come I still remain financially unfulfilled after putting so much into my studies at all levels? I was the second best student in the final school certificate examination during my days in the high school. I was the third student with the best results in the Mathematics and Computer Science department of my set at the University of Lagos. I also had good grades during my Masters degree in Statistics at the same University. Yet all of these have done little to solve my financial problems!
He shook his head in deep regrets. I thought my last resort should be Christianity. Yes time-tested bible principles. But even that has failed to help the cause of myself, my beautiful wife and our four beautiful children.
He shook his head as if fighting off the messages his helpless mind were now passing across to him. But God can’t be a liar, He thought. I’ve seen miracles happen live at church programmes. Perhaps, I’m the one getting it all wrong somewhere. Perhaps, Mrs. Etese and her husband are also getting it all wrong. Perhaps, Mr. Kolawole and some others in our shoes are also getting it all wrong somewhere. He shook his head. He didn’t know.
It’s true that education has failed us so brilliantly like a soldier who ran away from his colleagues on the war front. But I believe the last resort should be the Word of God. I may be right or wrong but I know it can’t just afford to fail us! He concluded in his mind.
The sign of the bell announcing the second period brought him back to life and he quickly reached out for his timetable to see whether he does not have a second period class. You can’t even afford not to keep your timetable by your side these days. Not with the way it keeps changing every now and then. I believe Mrs. Okpara needs a refresher course on how to prepare timetable for a high school, he resumed his thinking exercise again. But who’ll sponsor her to such courses even if it’s available. Not with the constant cries of ‘no money’ by the school authority and the government every day, Only a miracle would make teachers have any professional training in the course of carrying out their duties in schools.
He found out that he was not expected in any class until after the first break at exactly quarter past ten. Thank God, He said to himself. I’ve enough time to look for ways to find Mrs. Etese’s money. I can’t’ just afford to disappoint her. No! I can’t and I’ll not!
“And if you fail to find someone to borrow you money?” his mind asked him.
“I’ll find someone,” he answered himself.
“But supposing you did not find someone?”
“But it may just happen that way and you end up disappointing Mrs. Etese.”
He thought about these possibilities and shivered, because he knew Mrs. Etese gave out the money to him on trust and according to her, she and her family needs the money for the weekend. So he was the hope of a good weekend for the innocent and nice Etese family...
The noise of the banged door of their bedroom woke him up at exactly 7.05 a.m. He had slept heavily throughout the night. He heard this noise from his sleep and it was strong enough to halt his deep sleep. Morenike must have left the room in haste to attend to something that requires her urgent attention in the sitting room, he thought. He opened his eyes now to look at the ceiling of the bedroom with his back still lying on the bed. I need to find a way to clean you today; he spoke in his mind to the ceiling. The cobwebs are gathering again.
He searched his mind for what must have made his wife to bang the door so hard the way she did to disturb his sleep. Perhaps, she’s getting tired of our constant financial troubles, he said to himself. Morenike, my dear wife, just be a little patient with me, I’m ready to crack this code once and for all very soon, he said to himself as if he knows exactly what to do to solve the problem.
Can we find many women that can be as faithful and patient as Morenike? He asked himself, looking at the ceiling as if the answer would come from there. Not really, he finally answered himself. She has supported the family with the little she makes from her teaching job in a private school all these years. Yes she has been very supportive and honest and I believe she has no equal.
Bola Ajagun sat on the bed and tried to check what the time was on the clock hanging on the wall of the room. He noticed he still had about fifteen minutes before it would be time for the family Morning Prayer devotion.
The family had always had the Saturday morning prayer devotion at 7.30 a.m because it was a work and a school-free day for the family. They always had it at 6.15 am on work days.
He jumped up from the bed to do one or two things before it would be time for the prayer devotion but had to sit back on the bed when the thought of how he was able to borrow money to pay Mrs. Etese came back to his mind.
That was a close one, he said to himself. I almost disappointed Mrs. Etese. No, here I go again, it’s not just Mrs. Etese but the entire Etese family! I thank God I was able to find a way out, I would’ve hated myself, he finally said to himself, smiling and rejoicing over his narrow escape. But will things continue to happen this way? He asked himself feeling dejected. I’m tired of escaping narrowly every now and then. Thank God, the school Bursar was able to bail me out till the end of the month by borrowing me money till the end of the month from the school account. Oh! God bless you Mr. Ike Musa, you were the angel God sent to lead me out of that prison of shame.
He searched his mind to see whether there are one or two things he could do in the room before he joined his family in the living room for the day’s Morning Prayer devotion. Oh! I nearly forgot! The news of the money I borrowed from Mr. Musa will be top news among the staff by Monday morning, Bola said to himself in a way that seemed somebody just pointed his attention to that. Mr. Musa can’t keep the smallest of secrets. Well, I’m still happy; his assistance saved me the blushes of disappointing a whole family for the weekend.
He checked the time and observed that it was now 7.30 a.m. and just as he stood up from the bed to join others in the living room, the door flung opened and rushing in was his six-year old third child, Seun to wake him up for the morning devotion.
“Daddy, it is devotion time.”
“How’re you Seun,” he replied.
“Look I’ve told you that the first thing you say to an elder you’re seeing for the first time in the morning is, ‘Good morning’.”
“I’m sorry Dad, I forgot,” Seun apologized. “Good morning Dad. Mummy says it’s devotion time.”
Bola smiled, “Good morning my dear, I’ll be with you all in a moment.”
Bola watched Seun rushed back to the sitting room and picked his yellow t-shirt from the hanger. He put on his shirt standing in front of the mirror to see whether he has to rinse his face a little before he joined his family in the sitting room.
Wonderful children that Good has given me, he thought. Come to think of it, I nearly failed to pay the balance of their school fees last week. Thanks to Mrs. Etese. The proprietress meant business when she vowed to lock the school fees defaulters out of the school by last week, he thought with fresh fears running down his veins. That was a close shave! Yes, another close shave. There are so many close shaves and all of these are getting me worked up by the day.
Bola shut the bedroom door behind himself and joined his family in the sitting room. The children were already seated as their custom was. They had their bibles and devotional booklets on their laps and already in the mood to start the prayer devotion with God.
Mrs. Ajagun herself was also ready with her bible wide open in her hands and was looking through it as if she was checking for a big secret that would be discussed during the morning devotion.
“Good morning Dad,” the children chorused.
“Good morning children,” Bola said. “How was your night?”
“Good morning Darling,” Mrs. Ajagun said with all smiles facing the direction where her husband was standing.
“Good morning sweet heart,” Bola replied and moved towards his wife to give her a peck on her forehead.
“I noticed you slept heavily all through the night and I did not want to disturb your sleep this morning,” Mrs. Ajagun said quietly showing admiration for the sweet peck she received on her forehead.
“Thanks my dear, that was thoughtful of you,” Bola said. “I think we’re behind schedule this morning for the devotion so we should start in earnest.”
The morning devotion started immediately and it was Mrs. Ajagun that was in charge of coordination of that morning devotion. The normal praise and worship songs were rendered and Mrs. Ajagun picked up the devotional booklet for the topic of the day.
“Our topic for the day is ‘God’s will for us is prosperity,’” She announced while others also glued their eyes to the devotional booklets in their hands. “The bible text is taken from Psalm 35 verse 27"
This announcement hit Bola Ajagun like a thunderbolt. How come this topic of bible prosperity keeps trailing me for the past few days? He asked himself, feeling very uncomfortable. No, how I wished this is not the topic for today. I just want to stay neutral for now until I can find a way to know what’s right or wrong. Bola Ajagun felt very uncomfortable all through the devotion time. He couldn’t understand why the bible is filled with so many promises about why God wants us to prosper and he couldn’t really feel the impact of these promises in his pocket or bank account. If it was education, he had his Masters. If it was keeping the rules of God on financial prosperity, he was not faring badly. If it was activities in the vineyard of God, he has put in lots of efforts in his local church over the years.
Devotion time ended with shouts of hallelujah rendering the air from the mouth of everybody present at the prayer devotion.
One question kept on crossing the mind of Bola Ajagun all through the weekend and that was, ‘Why are the promises of God concerning prosperity not really working for people like him and others?’ He felt finding the answer to this question was a task that must be given top priority as he looked for a way to stop the ever present financial troubles in his life and that of his family.