Inside Anointing by Chidera Duru

You could ask any member of Our Savior Ministry and they would tell you there was nothing Bro Silas could not do. Whether it was to raise the dead, heal the sick or make the blind see, Bro Silas lived up to his reputation. He simply had a healing hand.

This was how Mummy’s friend, Aunty Chichi, introduced Our Savior Ministry to us on that sunny Sunday afternoon when she called on our house. Mummy was sitting cross-armed beside Aunty Chi, her gaze contemplative. I curled up on the arm chair opposite them. And when Aunty Chi said, “Our Savior Ministry will be your last bus stop!” I thought about fire service, the bus stop before our street that swarmed with scores of pedestrians and chocking fumes from exhaust pipes.

“That is where all these successful people you see around go to for special prayers”, Aunty Chi continued. Her fists were clenched when she said ‘special’.

“But I already have a church,” Mummy had declined. Aunty Chichi chuckled, the easy, indulgent chuckle of a person who has just realized how unfounded another person’s opinion is.

“It’s not a church. It’s a ministry,” she explained. “Don’t I have my own church?” she asked adjusting her sitting position, legs astride. She was so full she seemed to cover every inch of our leathery couch.

“Listen, Caro, going to church alone does not solve anyone’s problems. You need to have a spiritual director!” I chewed on the words ‘spiritual director’ until I could almost feel it become tangible between my teeth.

“Chi, my sister, all these ministries tire me. I mind where I go, before I attract something else to myself and my family.” Mummy said, pulling her ear for emphasis. But minutes later, she budged.

Aunty Chi smiled broadly. “Come with Udeaku. She needs special prayers as well. So she could pass WAEC this time.” She looked at me as if she had just solved all my problems. And in her words, the hurdles of nearly scaling through WAEC, the ache of seeing my mates bristle with a sense of purpose as undergraduates, and the trauma of staring at the steel-cold silence of the house every other day melted into liquid.

*****

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Our Saviour Ministry hummed with raspy ‘Amens’ and complacent rounds of applause the next Wednesday. “This is the midweek service; that’s why the crowd is not so full. You wait till Saturday. You won’t even be able to find a seat!” Aunty Chi rattled. She led us into a pew at the center, and as we sat cross-armed, the air became crispy columns of hope.

Bro Silas was a short, middle-aged darting man clad in a silvering tuxedo. When he moved from one side of the podium to another, bellowing, “Shout Mega!”, the congregation rippled with a rapturous outcry of “Mega!”

“Should I prophesy?” he would ask, chubby hands clutching a slender microphone, and the audience wold respond, “Oracle, prophesy!” And when I looked up and noticed that the atmosphere overhead beamed with yellow shafts of sunlight slanting through the fluted window near the roof, I thought to myself that this was an epiphany, proof that God was here.

“Thank you for remembering me, Oh lord,” Mummy cried out when it was time for prayers, her palms pressed together. An uncontrolled murmur rose from the congregation and stuffed my ears. The woman beside me yelled and gesticulated, wincing and looking upwards as if God had hurt her deeply.

Orobo kaila kurimakasintarabakaila orobo!” She repeated this particular language until it started to make meaning to my ears. Then I got a slap to my shoulders, “My friend, pray! Talk to God. You didn’t come here to look around,” Mum warned and then shut her eyes and drawled, “Oh lord, Do not pass me by!”

As I shut my eyes and cried out, my voice became one with the overlapping words around, Bro Silas’s interjections weaving in and out of our prayers: “Talk to your father. Say Lord, I will not leave here the same!”

After service, Aunty Chi held our shoulders. “I have collected tally for you. You need to go for consultation!” We fell in line with scores of people who waited outside Bro Silas’s office to meet with him. His P.A. walked up to us after few minutes of shuffling our legs and exchanging impatient glances with Mummy, and said, “it’s your turn!”

Bro Silas sat behind a swiveling chair. There was resplendence in the sheen of his wooden table and the way glistening new-looking religious books sat at the corner of the table in a tall stack.

Broda, this is my friend, Caro and her daughter…” Aunty Chi’s hand swept the air before her. Bro Silas’s gaze fell on Mummy for a while, and then it lingered on me.

“What’s your name?” he asked “Udeaku…” I replied, swallowing.

“Udeaku, my little wife.” It was intended as a joke, but I felt a wriggling sensation in my chest. Mummy and Aunty Chi laughed. “Broda, you are so funny…” Aunty Chi dithered. “Broda can be so funny at times,” she said to Mummy and the smile on Mummy’s face widened to a grin.

“So, what’s your problem?” Bro Silas asked, leaning closer. Aunty Chi took it upon herself to explain to him how Mummy had not had another child after having me. Broda should pray that God will open up her womb. When she said ‘open’, her mouth formed an outstretched pout.

“And What about Udeaku?” Bro Silas asked. “Ah, Udeaku has taken WAEC three times now without success!” Then Aunty Chi shook her head wistfully. A moment of silence slipped past before Bro Silas spoke again.

“They will come for ‘inside anointing’,” he declared and Aunty Chi said, “That was exactly what the spirit ministered to me!”

Outside his office, as the bare sun pressed against our heads, Mummy turned to Aunty Chi: “What did he mean by ‘inside anointing’?”

Aunty Chi squinted, shielding her eyes from the rays of the sun. “My sister, it is an olive oil session next week. Normal drinking of olive oil costs two thousand naira, but inside anointing costs five thousand. It is during inside anointing that Broda will diagnose all your problems and tackle them!”

So, for the rest of the week, Mummy and I, following Aunty Chi’s advice, fasted and prayed for God to minister to Broda on our behalf during the inside anointing.

 

*****

It was Aunty Chi who collected the ten thousand naira from Mummy the following week, on a Thursday morning, and paid it to the church cashier, and a receipt and two tallies were issued to us.

“Sit here and wait. I’m drinking the normal olive oil. Broda will attend to us first before the inside anointing!” Aunty Chi breathed. Mummy nodded. Before Aunty Chi walked away, she said, “Don’t just sit idly. Keep speaking the word. Speak to your situation. Tell God to use Broda to touch you.” Mummy bowed her head and muttered a quiet prayer.

Further away, Aunty Chi and a host of others had queued up before Bro Silas and two women whose heads were wrapped so tightly with woolen scarves that veins drew on their foreheads. The trio went from pew to pew, pouring cups of amber-colored olive oil into waiting mouths. I watched the people gulp the oil and scream: “Oracle prophesy!” And I felt queasy, imagining the balmy feel of raw oil slithering down my throat. It took a few hours before the last person gulped the oil and Bro Silas and his companions ambled towards the back of the building. Aunty Chi swept down to our seat.

“Hurry, you are the first people he will attend to.”

“Is it time?” Mum asked and she nodded fast. At the back of the church building, the door of a small room was ajar. The two women with woolen scarves stood outside the room. We stood behind them and a line of people started to form behind us. Bro Silas emerged from his office and breezed into the room. At the door, he called out to the women in scarves: “they should start coming in!” then he shut the door. One of the women turned to us. “Number one!” she bellowed and Mummy rushed forward. They led her to the entrance of the room. When she got in, they shut the door and moved backwards to join us on the line.

Mummy stayed too long in the room. When I tried to peep into the window, I noticed that thick, draping curtains covered it. Mummy eventually emerged, her face contorted. There was a faraway look in her eyes. “Let’s go!” she said to me. “But she hasn’t yet been attended to!” Aunty Chi protested. Mummy’s eyes broadened. She looked exhausted, fatigued even.

“Number two!” the women called again. “Okay go… I’ll be in the car waiting,” Mummy said to me without making eye contact. The women led me to the entrance of the room and then backed away. I stepped into the dim, cubed room with lime green walls and a narrow bed. Bro Silas had his back to me at first, but the moment I shut the door, he swirled round. “This way…” he beckoned, his hands drenched in olive oil. I walked towards the bed.

“Pull your shirt!” he said in a husky voice.

“What?”

“Pull your shirt!”

There was fieriness to the glow in his eyes. I obeyed. I placed the shirt on a stool. “Your bra, too,” Bro Silas demanded. Our eyes locked for a while before I slowly unhooked my bra, as if I was under hypnosis and placed it above my shirt. Bro Silas heaved a sigh before closing the distance between us. He dipped his fingers in a bowl of olive oil and then placed it above my right breast. He rubbed my breast gently, his eyes half closed.

“Whatever troubles you have is over today,” he chanted. “Amen!” I whispered. Then he rubbed … read more here

Chidera Duru, Author of The Sound of War and The Colours of Water.

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