HOME IS A CASTLE OF STORIES

HOLIER THAN THOUGH

When the  story of my life is written. Some words will fill the page eulogising me. They will be bold words, lively words. They will rule over the air around my burial grounds. Provide that aura of holiness, goodness. They will charm the few people in attendance, lie to them. Coax them into believing that I was a good person in my lifetime. A being that served the Lord and rescued homeless cats. At some point in my life I did serve the Lord. Well, I still serve him but not as much. However, I never rescued homeless cats.


Isn't that true dear God?


In the brief tribute to Osoch Ogun. It will read "HE WAS ONCE AN ALTAR BOY."


You don't believe me??  Please don't roll your eyes. At one point in my life, I was a servant of the Lord. I walked behind the father during Sunday mass. I helped burn incense. I carried the Bishop's gown and made sure it didn't touch the ground. An unholy ground where sinners walked. Like the Bishop's gown was cut from the shroud of Jesus. I played the role of a good altar boy to perfection. And most people were convinced that I was next big thing in the service of the Lord. The next Pope John Paul II. My mother was happy, my grandma was over the moon. Their descendant was going to make it big in the church. He was going to be the first African Pope.


Then I changed.


Like hurricane Katrina, it hit me. I realised that I wasn't made for this. This wasn't my vocation, never my calling. I wasn't ready to spend the rest of my life reading verses to sinners and pretenders. A people reluctant to pay sadaka.


My mother wasn't happy with me. But she said. 
"If you don't want to serve the Lord it's okay. Find your purpose in life. Just be happy. It's your life."


Sorry mum, I'm yet to find my purpose in life. I'm not sure if I am happy though.


So I bade farewell to the church. A church which had been my home. A church which had been my family. A church which had raised me. I knew all the corners of that church, it's foundations, where it's heart lay. My role was over, my time done. So I walked away, slowly at first, but my pace increased with every step I took. There was no turning back. My relationship with the church had taken a blow from which it would never recover. Not like there was something bad with the church. Not like some Priest had tried to abuse me. I don't think Kenyan Priests shag young boys. They got better things to do, politicians to meet. The church had been good to me. It had been my refuge. My Alpha, my Omega.


But then, we all want a change in our life. So I stopped going to church altogether. I prayed to God, each day, I still do. But I didn't show up in that church for about four years. That's a long time. The church forgets you. Your memory is eroded from the walls. The pews don't want you to sit in them. People in the service of the Lord forget you. It's like you're an invincible ghost. People shake hands but somehow you're forgotten. Nobody is interested in you.


After such long absence. This is how I found myself in the house of the almighty again.


I was in the capital, sorting out my entry into campus. I got into a brief tango with the lady at the admission desk. A very gorgeous lady I must say. Her bosom and ass defy description. But then, I think she was using boosters, firmers, herbal teas or whatever women use to maintain their youth. But age was catching up on her fast. She was trying to run, but you can never win race against nature.


The lady perused through my admission forms. No smiles, such a tough look I thought she might tear them apart. Then turned to me.


"I can't see your leaving certificate and result slip. Without that, you'll not be admitted."


"Looks like I forgot them."


"How can you forget such, or you're a fraud?"


Here, I just grinned at her. Smiled like a motherfucker and didn't say shit.
She sighed and was like.


"On admission day be sure come with those documents."


The documents were in Gusii. There was no way about it. I had to go back home.


On a certain Sunday in gusii, not so long ago. I decided to go to church. And not any other church but Catholic, Roman catholic. It was a new church, still under construction. It reeked of paint. But a house of the Lord, is still a house of the Lord. Regardless of whether it's under construction or not, prayers will get to heaven. God is not dramatic like some people. He won't say.


"That church isn't fully finished. How dare they pray to me in a church under construction. This humans can be dumbasses. Please Angel Gabriel, reject all prayers from that church. They ain't serious."


No, God isn't like that. The Lord I believe in listens to prayers. Whether you pray under a tree, in your room or In an unfinished church, he listens and showers us with his blessings.


It was a small church. I got in early and sat at back, trying to be inconspicuous as possible. Though my shaggy hair stood out like a sore thumb, nobody was interested in me. Few people gave me that weird look but all was well. They were here to pray. Not judge my hair.


The mass started.


Somewhere in between, it was time to offer sadaka. I never offer tithe. Furthermore, in my pocket I only had 20 Bob. I had big plans for that 20. So I sat in my chair and waited for people to start offering sadaka.


The shock of my life.


The system had changed. It starts from the back where you move from your sit and take what belongs to Caesar at the front. There's no way you remain sitting. Coz everybody will see you. And you know Kisii people. Word will start going round like a bushfire fanned by the harmattan.


"Kuna kijana alikataa kulipa sadaka."


Then Mosoti will have his take on me. 
"Ne etuki omoisi ori abwate, mpaka are Illuminati. (With that hair he has, that boy must be in Illuminati)


People will savage me with looks, eyes piercing like a poacher's arrow. 
"How come he doesn't want to  pay sadaka."


Those people couldn't understand that I had big plans for my 20 Bob. I'm sure, even gusii girls would steer clear of me. I would try to talk to one but they would shush me and walk away. Probably thinking.


"That bastard of a boy. Thinks he can talk to me yet guy can't pay sadaka. I don't talk to people who can't pay sadaka." (Hello, Linda. This sounds like you.)


She will walk away, joyous, flinging her ass in the air. (Linda, this sounds like you again.) Happy that she has avoided a sinner, a dude who doesn't pay tithe.


To avoid such dramas and live a life of fulfillment in my brief stay in gusii,  I had to part with my 20 bob. So I gave Ceasar what belonged to  him. And everybody was happy. As I walked from the offering box. People were smiling at me. The Catechist smiled even more. Maybe he thought.


"Huyu lazima amechomoa elfu."


Easy guy, twas just a miserable 20.A twenty I had planned for. Nothing is sad as losing something you have planned for. But Ceasar is a bad person, he doesn't give a damn, he takes it all.


I hear some churches have more devious methods of collecting sadaka. There's a church I gather, it decided that no offering of coins. God is too good to accept coins. Only notes, and notes of 200 Bob upwards will do. It would make Angels escort blessings right to your doorstep. But people of that church never heeded such stuff, they still offered coins. Then one day, the chief Priest said enough was enough. He brought carpenters into the house of the Lord. All offering boxes had a do over. A mabati base was installed. So if you threw a coin, the noise ensuring would resonate allover the church. Then believers would turn and gaze at you. Their looks ludicrous and of imported mercy. 
"You have the nerve to give the Lord God, God of Moses, a coin! A coin!"


And you know how Kenyans have perfected the art of turning a small flames into an inferno. Word would go around town quickly. People whispering. 
"He offered a coin in church."


Your friends would avoid you. You will sit alone in pubs, coz who wants to drink with a person who offers coins in church??


After the sadaka session. The mass proceeded without incident and was soon over. After announcements, it was time for a harambee! One little secret. Catholic churches in gusii are never complete without a harambee.


Briefly, the harambee was never successful. The chief guest was an area MCA, homeboy didn't show up. I smile, recalling how the MC went on with his business. I swear that this is what he said.


"And now, for the  culmination of the event. I want to call upon one of our most illustrious sons. A true son of the soil. A son we helped put in power and he shouldn't forget the role God played in that. Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for the area MCA, Omari Mogaka."


You guessed it right. Guy wasn't around. But the MC, not aware, he persisted.


"Mr MCA, we have been counting on you to help us with this. You should even have a talk with mkubwa (prezda Uhuru) to visit at one point, handshake manenos. Mr MCA, si I told you were going to win. The Lord cleared your path, well partly because we asked him too. We know you have a tight schedule but thank you for making time to visit us. Your contribution is highly valued. Toa ukijua ni mungu unatolea.


About five minutes had withered, but Omari was nowhere to be seen. A ghostly silence engulfed the church. Honestly, I was struggling to reign in a laugh. How can you laugh and the MCA ain't around to contribute 🇲money? People, will hate you. You will be cursed and banned from the church. How can you laugh during mchango?? Who the hell are you?? Huh! So you're the funny guy??


The MC was visibly shaken, but he managed to "arrest" the situation. The harambee rolled on without much life. Lambs of the Lord offered the little they had. I offered nothing, they had already snatched my 20 bob remember. Not fair! Not fair! I know that God is watching them, they will pay.


The harambee rolled on. One of the advantages of sitting at the back is you can slip in and out and nobody notices. So I left. A final ode to church of God. It will be long before I set foot in there again.


©Osoch Ogun.

Photo credits [Basilica, Nairobi]. This is a shot by andyguyensj. He is a Jesuit who does architectural photography of places he travels to. And Andy travels a lot. Thanks jo. 


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