By: Ben Akponine – Samuel
Chioma got to the city late at night. She knew she was running to a life of uncertainty and totally of the unknown. She had nothing on her, no bag. All she had was the few clothes she wore and little change that was left from the money Ngozi had given her to buy foodstuffs. She hoped she would never be found.
That night, she slept in a church that was holding a vigil. She had stumbled on the church as she wandered away from the motor part and she went inside. She sat down in the small congregation and soon fell asleep in the chair.
‘’Who are you?’’ A woman asked her when she was woken up later after the vigil had come to an end.
She was still tired and drowsy. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her palms. “My name is Chioma,” she said.
The woman was staring at her. Chioma stood up. Two men came up to the woman. They looked at Chioma. “Who did you come to church with?” The woman asked.
Chioma looked around and realized that the congregation had thinned off as many of them had left .she shook her head and said she came with nobody.
‘’So how did you come here? Where are you from?” The woman asked. The two men stood behind the woman, staring at Chioma and Chioma felt like someone who had committed a serious crime.
Chioma decided to tell them her story. She reasoned that since she was new in the city and knew nobody and any place, it was best she told them her story besides, it was a church. She could get help.
“So you ran away from home and came here? All the way from the East?” The woman asked. She did not look impressed.
“My stepmother was too mean to me,” Chioma said. The woman looked at the men and heaved a sigh. What do we do with her? We don’t know who she is. I suggest we send her away from here besides, the service is over, she can go, she said.
One of the men, the older one straightened. “This is a church. It should be a safe haven for the homeless and the helpless. We know she is in distress having run away from home. Look at her: she is out into danger,” he said. The other man agreed with him
“But pastor we cannot tell how truthful her story is, the woman said.
“Ours is not to judge whether her story is true or not. We should help as the situation is presented to us. If her story is not true, truth has his way of coming out surely,” the pastor said.
“I agree with you pastor,” the other man said. “What if we send her away and her story is true. So it is better to do our part which is to help her.”
‘’Deaconess, take her home, let her stay with your family and by Sunday, we will decide the next step,” the pastor said.
The woman was not very pleased but she accepted. She took Chioma to her house.
Chioma had food to eat and she was very helpful in the deaconess house. Even her children commended Chioma for being hardworking. It occurred to the woman that she could actually keep Chioma in the guise of giving her a place to stay and the girl would just be her maid and she would not have to pay her. She gave Chioma clothes. Chioma was happy.
On Sunday, the pastor had a meeting with some of his pastors and the deaconess with her husband who was also a church elder. “I thought that we can trace her family and return her home and we talk to them on how best to take care of her,” the pastor said.
“I had a serious talk with her and she repeated the same story about how mean her stepmother is,” the deaconess said.
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‘’Surely, she has no life there. The woman is wicked and has her father under her control. Sending her back there is returning her to the hell she has escaped from.”
“But it is only right to take her to her family,” another pastor said.
“It looks right but I am a mother and I know how it feels for a young girl without a mother living with a stepmother. It is hell. We can’t take her back to the bondage she ran away from. If we cannot help her, it is better we let her go than to return her to her wicked stepmother in the name of helping her,” the deaconess argued.
“So what do you suggest?” The senior pastor asked.
‘’Let her stay here with use and as a church we can help her and when she is old enough, she can be reunited with her family,” she said.
The pastors agreed and it was decided that the church will look for a volunteer to take the girl in and the church will support with her feeding, clothing and education. The deaconess said she would volunteer to take the girl in.
That was how Chioma became a member of the deaconess’s household. But it was not a rosy time for Chioma because the deaconess turned her into her house-help and bought only second hand- clothes for her despite that the church was giving the deaconess weekly allowance for her upkeep. Chioma was enrolled in a public school and she was usually the first to wake up in the morning as instructed by the deaconess and she did all house work .
Chioma found Ngozi, her wicked stepmother in the deaconess and she could not tell anyone what she was going through, she was overworked and was always tired when in school.
However, there was a particular lady in the church named sister Ngozi. She had visited the deaconess one day and had met Chioma washing a heap of clothes. The deaconess’s had not been around. Sister Ngozi was not happy that Chioma had become the deaconess’ house help. She reported to the church.
The deaconess denied the allegation and she told Chioma to lie that nobody asked her to wash the clothes. Chioma was confused. She knew if she did not tell the truth, she would continue to suffer in the deaconess’s house. When she was invited by the church committee and asked how she was treated, Chioma narrated exactly what she was going through.
“You are wicked liar, an ungrateful child, no wonder you came with lies that your stepmother was mean to you meanwhile, it’s all lies,” the deaconess attacked her.
Unfortunately for the deaconess, it had been a subject of gossip amongst the women and many testified against her. In the end, the pastor decided that Chioma would move in to his house and live with his family.
The pastor’s wife who had become sympathetic towards the girl after her ordeal with the deaconess, accepted and Chioma moved in and was treated like a member of the family in the senior pastor’s house. She was happy now and was glad that finally, she was being treated well since she lost her mother.
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