Christian Coming of Age Fiction

This was the last chapter, the last line to be exact and he was on the last word. 85-year old Jonathan Moses had just finished reading his new book. This book was an autobiography of a woman that he knew all too well … Amanda Lovelace, a former child evangelist and a former member of his church. Jonathan knew when she was born, in fact, he Christened her. He watched her grow and blossomed into a graceful young woman until she left and went overseas to study and then to live. She was visiting from abroad, and had stopped by the day before, to greet Jonathan and his wife and to drop off a copy of her autobiography which Jonathan spent the whole night reading from cover to cover.

Her story brought tears in his eyes as it brought so much fresh memories of the past tainted with a sense of guilt.  

“Amanda!” he whispered while clutching to his prized book. “My dear Amanda, I am so proud of you”.

He was jolted back to reality by the voice of his wife of 55 years, who had just walked into the room.

“It is alright John! I know you are touched by the testimony of Amanda but don’t cry like that. Remember yu blood pressure enuh … relax honey, relax!”.

Without looking up, he took a long sigh! “Dear”, he said. “I have pastored for sixty years … and in all my life, I can’t say anything broke me down to this”.

“It is well, Dear”, she responded lovingly while rubbing her hands over the bald patch in the centre of his head. 

“My Dear, Manda, the rejected girl has made it in life … and she said it was my teaching in the church that helped her. … She even wrote my name in her book Dear …”, he said with tears streaming down his face. “I must see that girl … Oh we need to have a talk today”, he said, almost shouting while looking down on the book which he had carefully placed beside the old over-used Bible he had been using since the first day he started ministry.

“Please, send her a message, my dear … I need to meet with her this evening”, he finished, while looking out in space.

“Yes, darling”, retorted his wife, while putting on her glasses to dial Amanda’s number via WhatsApp.

Before a ring tone came on, Amanda answered with such joy in her voice and indicated that she would be there by 5 PM that afternoon. This brought much comfort to the old man.

Jonathan was the retired pastor of the community church which he founded 60 years ago, just two years after migrating to the community. He was inspired to start the church at a time when his community and his nation were in crisis. The country was just reeling from a civil war and there was chaos and confusion everywhere. Jonathan was one of several young people who began to study the scriptures and to seek the face of God for breakthrough. They would pray at times from sunset to sundown and after that they saw the raw and undeniable power of God manifested in their lives. When they prayed for the sick, they were delivered. Backsliders were restored and many in captivity were set free.

Shortly after forming the church, Jonathan married a very godly woman, Ivy, and together they were blessed with 3 biological children.

As Jonathan thought about the meeting with Amanda, he could not help but to think about the day her parents came into the district. It was Spring. Trees everywhere were blossomed, and pollen were falling on the ground all over the countryside community. The scent from fruit trees had filled the air and the children at play were just about going into their homes for dinner. It was almost dusk when a moving truck came into the district and parked at Miss Neeta’s house. Everyone peeped out of their windows to pry to get any bit of news they could hold onto. Miss Neeta was a half-eccentric woman, who became mentally disturbed after she was abandoned by her husband who ran off on the Farm Work program.

By the following morning, news had spread that Miss Neeta had new tenants: a young couple from the city, Ralph Lovelace and his heavily pregnant wife, Eunice. The following Sunday, the young couple were the first to make it to church. Jonathan and Ralph grew up in the same community and were good friends. They had lost touch but reconnected about 10 years after Jonathan formed the church. After that, it was customary for Jonathan to visit Ralph and his other friends in the city, which he did the last Friday of every month. Now Ralph was joining him in his own community to live with his new family. The congregation was ecstatic to hear that Ralph was not a stranger and they wasted no time in installing him as the chief musician. Ralph was a contractor who worked in the city and was always away from home but made sure to be back on weekends.

Ralph asked Jonathan and his wife Ivy to provide oversight of Eunice in his absence. Not long after that their baby Amanda was born.

Amanda was born on a quiet night. Eunice was at the point of delivery but did not know. She felt the urge to use the toilet and then went in labour. She screamed out and Miss Neeta came to her rescue and delivered her. Praises went up in the community for Miss Neeta after news broke out that she delivered Eunice’s baby.

Gradually, she started following the couple to church with their baby and little by little her mental faculties were restored. Everything was fine until about 3 years after Amanda was born. It was a Women’s One Day Convention at Church and people from all walks of life came. Ralph had just taken out the musical instruments for the event and went to the other side of the church when a bus load of people showed up. 

“Daddy”, someone shouted from the bus window. “Mommy I see Daddy” the child said almost shouting. Ralph recognized the all too familiar voice and immediately dodged behind a car.

“This is it”, he thought. He dashed for his house nearby and grabbed all the pieces he could find. He left without a trace and was never seen since. Eunice, who was still at home, went to the church and told everyone that Ralph had an emergency and had to go to town. Ralph did not come home! Weekend one, weekend two, weekend three. The following Saturday after church Eunice asked Miss Neeta to look after Amanda while she goes to Downtown. That was the last time anyone saw or heard of Eunice Lovelace.

To this end, Pastor Jonathan told the congregation that “it was just the devil at work”. People talked and gossiped and some even left the church. 

Miss Neeta raised Amanda and with the support of Jonathan was able to secure food for her, here and there. With no family around, Amanda made the church her home. She walked in the fear of God and followed all the teachings of the church and later led the youth ministry and went way beyond her call of duty in her service. She coordinated evangelism, preached to the young people in the community and brought a lot of souls in the church. She later got a scholarship and went to study abroad, but she never forgets Miss Neeta, the woman who raised her. Her story had intrigued many people and so she decided to share it in a book.

Now she was back in the community as part of her usual visit to look for Miss Neeta, but this time she decided to take several copies with her to give to persons who were part of her journey.

Jonathan thought long and hard for a long time. He slept, woke up, slept again, and woke up again, but he just could not get Amanda off his mind. At approximately 5 PM, there was a knock at the gate and sure enough, it was Amanda.

Ivy went to get the door and welcomed Amanda, who was cladded in a nice semi formal black dress.

“Good evening Maam”, she said with a big grin.

“Good evening Manda” She responded. “John has read through your book and it has him emotional”. She continued. “He is in the living room” She finished.

“Ok Maam”, she responded, before walking off to greet Jonathan.

“Hello Pastor John”, she said while bending over to hug the frail eighty odd year-old man.

“My dear Manda … Blest your heart”. He said while holding her hands, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Thank you, Sir. I am grateful” responded Amanda.

With his wife by his side and Amanda sitting in front of him, he began to speak.

“Amanda, I am nearer to the end of my life’s journey than when I just started… and I want to be at peace with God”, He said, while looking at her.

“It is necessary for me to correct the story you wrote in your book”, He stated.

“What do you mean pastor”, she questioned, who by now had her eyes wide open.

“You got it wrong, everyone got it wrong, but I must set the record straight, because I don’t have much longer here”, he said, before taking a sip of his coffee.

“Let me start by saying that everyone knows me as Jonathan Moses”, but my real name is Alexander Robinson. Upon hearing this, the cup which his wife was holding, slipped from her hands, and splashed all over the floor.

Jonathan then closed his eyes, tears welling up and then continued. “I must spill everything…” he said. “It is appointed unto man once to die and after death comes the judgment … I have pastored for over 60 years, but my life is not right, and I do not want to go to hell. Manda, you are more righteous than me. You followed everything I taught, and God has blessed you tremendously and there is still many more lands to be possessed. You will go very far”, he continued.

“I started out well and held to the teaching of the Lord for years. … Before I became a Christian, I was a notorious thief, and I was part of a criminal gang that scammed people of their hard-earned cash… the One Destiny gang.”, He said, before taking another cup of tea.

“The gang was implicated in a criminal operation and then we went under-ground and went our separate ways. It was then I went by a different name. This black mark on my face is not a birthmark but a tattoo”, he further continued. By this time, his wife was in so much shock and disbelief that she held her head to suppress the instant headache which she got from the shocking revelation.

“I became born again, but I still went by the name Jonathan Moses, lest people thought I was a fraud.”, He stated. “I was genuinely saved, started preaching and started the community church … and everything went well until one day I went to town. I was standing in a Wholesale Supermarket, when I heard an all-familiar greeting:”

We must confess, we are the best,

We will not rest, in all our quests;

We will not lack, we’ll cover our backs,

Until the end, we will not bend;

In life or death we’ll always be,

One heart, one mind, One Destiny

“That was how members of the Destiny gang greeted each other. I looked around and saw my old friend and gang leader, Ralph, the father you heard about and wrote about in your book”.

“Wow”, exclaimed Amanda.

“By the way, his real name was not Ralph Lovelace, but rather Earl Johnson.”, He continued.

Jonathan further explained that he never wanted to go back in the gang but was caught between a rock and a hard place. He explained that Ralph reminded him that he was still a wanted man and told him that if he did not agree to continue meeting with him and supporting his operation, he and the other men would expose him so that he would be arrested for the crimes he had committed. He further explained that it was this fear that forced him to keep in touch with Ralph.

“Amanda! … Ralph set me up big time… In fact, he gave me a woman and every month end, I had to go into Kingston to attend a party and sure enough, the woman they arranged for me was there, because she was also a member of the gang … and that woman was your Mother Eunice. My Christian life fell to the ground but because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, the prayer I prayed for people still worked and I was still able to preach and mask my secret life all those years”.

Amanda’s mouth dropped open. She could not believe what she was hearing. By now Jonathan’s wife Ivy was completely silent, tears rolling down her cheeks.

After a long pause, Jonathan continued… “The dolly house mashed up when Eunice got pregnant… so we hatched a plan for her to come to the countryside because it was easier to go unnoticed here. We gave the impression that Eunice and Ralph were a married couple expecting a child. This was our way to save my church from disgrace, and by extension to save the group from exposure. I therefore bargained with Miss Neeta to give the couple a place to stay in exchange for food and other things, but Ralph had to be with his real family during the week. So, we told the church that he was a contractor in town. On weekends, Ralph would come here, and he told his real wife that he was on business. We were known to be spending time in Fasting and Prayer on weekends, but the truth is that all three of us: Ralph, Eunice and myself spent all the time in the church vestry, eating, drinking, playing dominoes and counting the monies that Ralph made from his weekly loots.”, He continued.

“Then one faithful day … the church decided to host a Women’s One Day Convention and Ralph’s real wife who was a devoted Christian showed up with her four children along with other women from her church. It was shortly after that that Ralph and Eunice left, because we were almost exposed”, he said sobbing.

“So, Ralph was never actually married to your mother Eunice. … And I know you are thinking Amanda … Ralph was not your father. Your real father is Alexander Robinson, yours truly … commonly known as Jonathan Moses.

“What!” exclaimed Amanda, with tears flowing down her cheek.

“Your mother left you because carrying you along would eventually expose the gang and so she chose the gang over you.” He said between sobs.

“So, you see Amanda, your story needs to be corrected. I cannot continue to lie anymore, and I cannot afford for you and others to narrate a motivational story which is incorrect. For the sake of my soul, I must set the record straight”, he said, while staring to the ground.

“So, what happened to Ralph and Eunice?” asked Amanda, who by now was drowning in tears.

“Well,”, he responded. “Eunice ended up in an asylum and Ralph died of a heart attack about 10 years ago”.

“Noooooooo”, she screamed out.

“I started well, but the devil set a trap for me and I fell in it. I lived a life of deception for many years, and my relationship with God was never the same. When I read your story last night, I realized that I need to repent and come clean, because I want to settle my account with my Lord and my God.”

Jonathan then slumped down to the ground and begged. “Please Amanda, please my dear Ivy, please forgive me and please pray for me. Ask God to have mercy on me because I am now ready to completely surrender and repent”.

Amanda did not know where she gathered the strength from, but she knelt beside Jonathan and prayed for him with deep passion and conviction. Ivy then joined them on the ground as they prayed and wept while hugging each other.

When they were finished praying, Jonathan stated, “I have not felt such peace in so many years … a weight has literally left me”, he continued.

“I am now ready to be with my Lord”, he said before lifting his hands to God. “Lord Jesus, he said … I am ready to go now. Please take me home”.

He then asked for a drink of water, after which he gathered his feet together on the settee and took his last breath while holding the hands of his wife Ivy and his daughter Amanda.

“I will halt all further printing of my manuscript” Amanda said out loud, while sobbing.

Tears and agony went up in homes across the community as the news began to spread that Pastor John had died.  

Two weeks later, Amanda stood and watched as Jonathan’s body was lowered into the ground at the community cemetery.

As the pastor declared: “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” over the lowering casket, Amanda quiety whispered to herself, “Surely, there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death, and no one can cheat God because we all reap what we sow.” She took one last look at the grave and continued, “But God is a God of second chances and I am glad you repented Pastor Jonathan … I mean dad. I am glad you truly repented before you took your last breath. Now you can truly rest in peace”.

– The End –

August 30, 2022 18:50

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