At The End Of The Tunnel – Episode 9
© Jennipher Duru
“This is where you dispose of the waste from the chapel and the missionaries’ quarters. We usually ask a few members of our church to help us carry it to the main dumping site near the bush” Pastor Rowland said to Florence. Mama Stella was also standing next to her daughter as she was being given her job description. It was their first day at work and they were both nervous. Florence was going to be in charge of cleaning the chapel as well as the missionaries’ quarters. Mama Stella took up the job of cooking for the missionaries and a couple of orphans that were taken care of by the mission. As for the washing of clothes, they had both decided to do it together every Friday morning after their specific duties. Florence began the job immediately. She entered the Chapel and started cleaning. Austin was also present.
Pastor Rowland took Mama Stella to the kitchen and showed her the utensils to use. “We usually asked our former cook to follow our food timetable there, but we wouldn’t mind to have something creative. Just make sure it is not so oily. You can find most of the food stuffs in the fridge, but don’t hesitate to inform me if you need anything else. I am not very good at cooking, so I might not know what is missing. And besides, my colleagues and I have a lot of work to do” Pastor Rowland said. Mama Stella nodded her head in agreement and started her job. Pastor Rowland took Austin and asked him to accompany him to the Chapel.
“Hmm, beef stew and rice three times a week! This isn’t good at all. I need to add a lot of vegetables to this menu” Mama Stella said to herself. She rushed to her house and plucked out some pumpkin leaves that were growing in her backyard. She went back to the chapel and began cooking. She could hear the sound of music coming from the chapel as she cooked. “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the Earth hear His voice, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the people rejoice…” the song went on. She shook her head and hummed to the sound of the rhythm as she cooked. It was a sunny day and the kitchen was hot. She wiped her sweat with a towel and sat on a chair as she waited for her food to cook.
“Hey mom, how’s the cooking going?” Florence asked. Mama Stella smiled “Oh very well my dear. I am doing my own menu today and I hope they like it. Have you finished cleaning?” she said
“Yes I have. I am quite tired. The chapel was very dirty. It looked like it had not been cleaned for ages. The missionaries’ rooms were also quite dusty, but I managed to clean them up. Is there anything I can help you with?” Florence said as she sat on a stone by the entrance of the kitchen
“Oh not really, maybe just help me clean those plates over there. I will be serving the food soon” Mama Stella said.
“Hello sir, the food is ready. Where do I serve it?” Mama Stella said to Pastor Rowland, partially kneeling down. “Oh how fast! Please bring it over there in the hut right there. That is where we all eat our food” Pst. Rowland said, smiling.
Mama Stella and Florence brought the food and went back to sit in the kitchen to wait for the plates so that they could wash them. Pastor Rowland called out to them “Mme. Stella, Florence, please come over here
Mama Stella: Yes sir, you called for us
Pastor Rowland: Why have you gone back to the kitchen to sit down?
Mama Stella: We are waiting for all of you to finish eating before we can wash the plates sir
Pastor Rowland: Oh no! You mean we can just eat and leave you out? God forbid! A laborer is worthy of his reward. Please we have more than enough food here. Join us as we eat.
Mama Stella and Florence joined them. The group consisted of Pastor Rowland, his two colleagues, 3 young boys and Austin. Pastor Rowland opened the cover of the dish and exclaimed “Wow! What food is this?”
“Oh this is vegetable sauce made of pumpkin leaves with the dry fish I found in the kitchen. I noticed from the timetable that there weren’t any vegetables included in your meals and I thought I could add them to it. Vegetables are very important as they provide vital nutrients to your body” Mama Stella said. She said this out of fear because she imagined that they wouldn’t like it at all.
Pastor Rowland nodded his head and after praying for the food, he served himself and started eating. The rest served themselves as well. Everyone was quiet as they ate. Mama Stella kept looking at them to see their reaction. After a few minutes, Pastor Rowland took a glass of water and spoke “Mme. Stella. I must say that ever since I came to this village, I have never had any food as delicious as this. This is absolutely amazing. May God bless the works of your hands” his other colleagues also nodded their heads and Pastor Joshua added “Yes indeed. Delicious food! I am actually finding it difficult to stop eating”
Mama Stella’s heart beat fast. “Thank you very much sir. I am glad that you all enjoyed it” she said. Florence looked at Austin and they both smiled.
“Mme. Stella and Florence, my brothers and I are really happy with your work. The food was great and the chapel and our rooms have never been this clean. I am slowing beginning to understand that it is Father that brought you to us. May God richly bless you. Please enjoy your evening and see you tomorrow” Pastor Rowland said to them. They all left and discussed happily on their way.
Suddenly, Florence held her mother’s hand “Mom, look who is coming right towards us” she said. Mama Stella squinted her eyes to see closely. It was Brian’s mother. She was coming towards them. Mama Stella’s heart beat fast. She thought of what to do. As she drew closer, Mama Stella said with a smile “Hello Ma, I greet you”. Brian’s mother went past them as though she didn’t hear a word. Mama Stella looked at her children and smiled “Let’s keep going. Never mind her” she said
And so, Mama Stella and Florence continued their work at the Chapel. They had been working there for 4 months so far. They were both doing a good job and the missionaries were happy. One day she baked some cookies and gave them to the missionaries, who really enjoyed them. Pastor Rowland suggested that she begins to sell some of them to the villagers. Her cookies were slowly becoming popular. Even people that used to fear her were now buying from her. Brian’s family heard of it and they tried to discourage people from buying from her. However, it was quite impossible because villagers, especially children were finding it hard to resist. They were both making some savings out of the little money they got from their job as well as the sales. Austin had gone back to the city where he continued working hard to earn a living. He sent money to his mom every month. “My dear, I promise you that next year you will go to university. Once we manage to save some money, you will go back to school and we will probably move back to the city. I can rent a small room and sell my cookies there” Mama Stella said as they finished washing the missionaries’ clothes one Friday. Pastor Rowland came to meet them and said “Mama Stella and Florence, I would like to invite both of you to our afternoon service today. I don’t know why, but I feel led to invite you urgently as though something needs to happen in your lives”
Mama Stella hesitated to answer. She rarely attended church back in the city. In fact the last time she went to church was when she was about to get married. Brian was not a fan of church too and so they never thought of going to church after their wedding. She looked at Pastor Rowland and out of respect, agreed to come along. After they had finished washing, they both went to the Chapel
About 50 people were gathered inside. Pastor Rowland was standing at the pulpit as he prayed. The rest of the people also prayed: some stood; others knelt down while others lay down on the floor, tears flowing from their eyes. Florence stared at Mama Stella. They both laughed within themselves and went to seat down at the back seats.
“Lord, we give you thanks because you have not counted the number of our sins. You have not regarded our state of iniquity, but you have blessed our souls with blessings that we do not deserve. Lord we thank you” Pastor Rowland said. A young man was translating in the local language. Pastor Rowland finished his prayer and went to sit down. Pastor Joshua rose up and sang “Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling. Do not pass me by. Savior, Savior, Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling. Do not pass me by” two men played a small keyboard located in front. Mama Stella stared at Joshua as he sang. Suddenly, she felt a strange wind blow across her face. She tried to resist the feeling she had inside her but to no avail. She fell down on her knees and cried, her wrapper dripping some water because of the laundry she had just handled. Joshua kept on singing. Other people also knelt down and cried. Mama Stella lifted up her hands and shouted “Father, hear my humble cry. Father save me from this world of sorrow and grant me the joy of your salvation”. Florence bent her head and cried too. Pst Rowland stood up from where he was and sat next to Mama Stella. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and sang along. The Chapel was filled with voices of people singing and praying. Pst Rowland gave a sign to Joshua to continue singing. This went on for over 45 minutes.
Pastor Rowland stood in the middle of the crowd and shouted “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to drink from the well of life that never runs dry. His name is Jesus. He will give you eternal life; He will wipe your tears away and heal your wounds. Just open up your heart to Him and accept Him now. Now is the time. Do not harden your hearts. Now is the time my brothers and sisters!” Mama Stella lifted up her hands and shouted again “Jesus, come into my life. I need you. I am broken, I am wounded. Heal me!” Other people in the Chapel clapped their hands. Pastor Rowland hugged Mama Stella and led her in a prayer of salvation. Florence also joined them and prayed along.
After the service, Pastor Rowland sat down with Mama Stella to have a discussion. “I perceive in my heart that you have so much anger in your heart. I see in you a broken soul, a sorrowful heart. But Jesus is healing you from all the pains” he said. Mama Stella wiped her tears and explained everything that had happened to them. Pastor Rowland hugged both of them and comforted them “It is all over my children. God has taken over your battles” he said.
After that encounter, Mama Stella and Florence experienced peace like never before. It had been 1 year and 2 months since they left the city. They had now adapted to village life and kept on making some savings. They still believed that one day Florence would go back to school. They had both become committed members of the Chapel and spent a lot of their time speaking to other villages about Jesus. The Chapel was growing fast and many villagers were now attending service. Mama Stella and the missionaries organized a free food day once in a month to feed those that were in need. Austin visited them whenever he had time to do so.
“Mama Stella. Please come over here. I have some interesting news for you” Pastor Rowland called out. Mama Stella and Florence hurried to hear the news.
Pst. Rowland: I have been trying to get some scholarship for Florence in Canada for some time now as instructed by the Lord. I tried twice, but it did not work out. However, since it was an instruction I received from the Lord, I continued to do so. And today, by the grace of Father, I am glad to inform you that I finally secured a place for Florence at the University of New Brunswick for a 3 year degree course in development studies. It is a full scholarship which means that everything will be paid for her. I spoke to my brother in Canada and he and his wife are more than delighted to welcome her before she becomes familiar with the place.
Mama Stella lay down on the floor and said softly “Oh Father, blessed is your holy name. For you have remembered me, a woman of sorrow and distress. You have looked upon me and showed me mercy. My cry has reached unto you O lord of the heavens”
Florence jumped up and down. She hugged Pastor Rowland and Mama Stella. Her heart was filled with joy. Pastor Rowland laughed as he watched them celebrate.
To be continued
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