“He Said…She said’
Like a well-oiled machine, benevolence ministry took off as Jala envisioned it. She couldn’t help feeling a sense of accomplishment as volunteers filed in and issues were being passed on to the counselling department of the church. She realized that the two ministries worked hand in hand. Jala oftentimes consulted with persons and heard their situations and then filtered them to the appropriate ministries. Mrs. Lueth, Jala’s mentor, was training new persons in the counselling department only two doors down from the benevolence room.
Chari had laundered the clothes that came in, ironing and folding them neatly. She had them well organized and almost looking new. Meanwhile, Jala handed out numerous packages to the poor and sought ways to extend the ministry to meet the needs. Abe served passionately in his lane, linking men with local job opportunities with the help of Ephraim. Friday evening was the busiest evening for benevolence and this Friday the four friends were tired and hungry.
Pastor Pruitt had the hospitality department treat all the persons working in counselling and benevolence to finger-foods in the courtyard. As they ate, a spontaneous discussion on marriage erupted and over 20 young adults were fully engaged.
“I’m living my best life now and any man who can’t handle that, too bad!”
Knowing how passionate she can become, Jala wanted to stay as far as she could from the discussion, so she busied herself serving the food.
Abe could not resist, “So, your best life means everything done your way?”
“Why should she put her life on pause waiting for a man?” snapped Samantha, who had broken off a relationship with Abe years ago after letting him know he was not assertive enough in the relationship.
Ephraim, who had snuck in to hang some hooks Jala had asked him to install added, “It doesn’t sound like a man has any room to enter that ‘best life’.”
Gavin, known to be a sharpshooter, opined bluntly, “As a man, I find a lot of Christian women either too full of themselves or too desperate! Just sayin’.”
“Wait…wait now!” said Sister Becky, who had been married for years, trying to keep the conversation from escalating.
Still, Gavin was not yet done.
“It’s true, if you give a woman a compliment, the next thing you hear is that she’s planning the wedding and you don’t even know!”
Jala managed to stay on the outskirts of the conversation until she heard Gavin’s statement.
“If men would stop intentionally leading women on,” started Jala with flared lips and hands on her hips, “yes, asking probing questions about the woman’s dream marriage after sweet-talking her on the phone every night only to find out he makes several of those calls and have several women dangling not knowing if he’s in a relationship with them. That’s the real problem!”
“Ohhhh!” The courtyard exploded as persons were surprised that Jala called it out this way!
“Well let’s talk about it!” Aunty Lu was glad to address the matter. “I counsel many in this church with the same issues you all have brought up. I must say the blame is shared as it concerns men leading women on and women being way too gullible.”
Walking over to the women she added, “Women, I would suggest that you assume nothing of his intentions but a friendship until you are clearly approached. At this time, you can consider if he is worth it.”
“If he is worth it!” shouted Cassandra as she sprang to her feet, pointing like a teacher to the other ladies. “Some of them are certainly not! After spending so much effort on making yourself a class of a woman, why pick up an underpaid man?”
“So, a man is not a man unless he is making more than you, Cassandra? Now we are getting down to what matters to them, men!”
The men rose to their feet with rumbles of disagreement.
It was Aunty Lu to the rescue again. She knows just how to balance firmness and kindness in the tone of her voice.
“Men and Women,” she said with hands raised, “how many of you agree that you both need each other?
The place was still, but not peaceful.
Ephraim stepped out from the men. “Mrs. Lueth, while we agree that we need the women, do you see the predicament us men face? We are being discriminated against for not climbing the ladder of success as fast or faster than these godly women, not to mention if we are not as spiritually mature as they imagine we should be. What is your advice to us?
“Before I answer your question Ephraim, let me ask how many women here would not consider courting a man if he is not as or more spiritually and financially grounded?
Some hands went up, while others did not.
Ephraim subtly glance over at Jala to see if her hand was up. Jala’s arms were folded as she looked intently at Aunty Lu.
“Well Ephraim, now you can see that not all women think the same way. The one you will marry will honour and love you despite where you are in your journey. She will value the person you are and the one you are becoming. Together you will be a rock for each other.
“Wow!” marvelled Ephraim. “Would it be ok to give you a hug?”
Aunty Lu gave him one of her healing hugs and Ephraim grinned. A sober look was left on each face.
Chari shouted, “To be continued!”
Jala headed to the benevolence room to lock up after the discussion and Efraim was right behind her.
It puzzled him that his friend who he had come to accept as a stickler for an already made man…did not agree that a man must make more money than she does.
“I’ll get the windows,” Ephraim said, stepping in front of Jala to pull shut the two sliding windows.
“That was such a robust discussion. It’s good to hear young people honestly express themselves.
“Your church doesn’t do that?” enquired Jala.
“Well, we’re probably not as open and down to earth as here. I’m surprised though at you.”
“At me? What did I do again?”
The two headed down the corridor.
I noticed that you didn’t agree that a man must earn more than you to be a suitable mate.
“And that’s surprising to you?”
“What else did you assume about me Ephraim?”
“Not much. I am just trying to get to know you lot and I was surprised that you’re not one of those women who would not even give a thought to an average guy. “
“Fraim, I’ve watched my mom struggle with us while our father roams the earth having more children and leaving them with no support. So, I don’t think less of my sisters who believe a man must really be put together well before he is an option. I was like them and if I don’t keep my focus on the GOD who keeps me,
there go I.
“Wow! I never thought of it that way Jala. Maybe, I have assumed a lot. It seemed to me that you came from the perfect family and that’s why you’re so proper and well put together. Jala laughed as they leaned against the car talking.
“You know….those perfect families you see getting into their cars after church. As for me…I grew up without any of my parents. It’s my sweet grandmother who raised me. Yea and she was amazing. Still I wondered what it would be like.
“At least I have a mom, gosh that must have been hard for you.
“The truth is grandma poured love into me and taught me a lot. My father, her son, died in a freak accident when I was 3…I hardly remember him.”
“Fraim! Can I get a ride with you?” Chari came charging out of the building. “Abe got caught up in another argument with Cassandra and Gavin. Imagine if we had a single’s ministry. This is what it would look like? War!”
If you have missed the last 4 in the Church Girl Series…your in the right place…wifematerial.blog. Take a read and learn more about the jagged journey of these characters at a church near you.(more…)
Jala was almost finished helping Mrs Lueth prepare for all the young adults who were coming over for fun and fellowship that Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Lueth’s house was big enough to accommodate several groups of young adults at the same time and she enjoyed having them over. Jala could hear Mrs. Lueth calling her softly as she finished cleaning off the kitchen countertop.
Jala sank into one of the plush brown outdoor chairs on the balcony, suspicious of what might be coming next.
“Auntie Lu, what’s going on?”
“Something’s been on my mind recently since you introduced me to that young man.”
“Oh dear!” Jala let out a sigh as she cuddled one on the cushions placing one hand under chin. “Do we really have to talk about Ephraim?”
“Aaah… we don’t have to talk about Ephraim, but we do have to talk about you. I’ve been praying for you, asking GOD what’s happening? Jala…You are in a series of reaction. I only wonder if you can see what you’re reacting to.”
Jala felt something in the pit of her stomach. This conversation has gone so deep so fast. She knew she could not be surface her answers to Mrs. Lueth. She was motherly with a dark chocolate complexion and pleasingly plump, with deep dimples that created apostrophes around her smile.
“Auntie, I don’t want to go back to where I’m coming from.” The tears started welling up in Jala’s eyes but Auntie Lue was not letting up. Her gentle countenance was most disarming, backed by her evident love. She folded Jala into a side hug which softly communicated that there was no getting away.
“You’re in quite a fight Jala. I see you waging a war against what started on the inside of you. When you end the war inside you’ll end the war outside.”
“These people hurt me! They dragged my name through the mud. Hardly any ever asked me to my face what happened. People I trusted spread lies about me and him. I’m still so embarrassed. I genuinely thought Jonathan loved me and was interested in being married to me. We got prophesies, Auntie!”
Jala was breaking and tears were flowing from her broken heart as she struggled to control her usually well guarded emotions.
“People said I slept with him! Oh my goodness Auntie. I felt like a church floozy! Me…a virgin!”
“It’s ok precious. It’s ok!” Auntie held her the more but Jala heaved until they were both on the tiled floor.
“Just let it out.”
“I never talked about it! I felt too ashamed. I messed up! I went too far with him. I could hardly talk to God after my repeated offence. Again I felt ashamed. Auntie….only to find out I was just one of the girls he was with in the church?
Her mouth opened with no words or sound, just tears. All this time Jala toughened up and blamed herself for being this foolish.
Auntie moaned alongside Jala like a midwife helping her to give birth.
“Let it out,” she comforted.
“It wasn’t even a month later he was engaged! I looked like I was trying break up their union…Auntie I wanted answers! Why did he choose me to make a fool of and why didn’t I see? How did I miss God?”
After many tears and snot, Mrs Lueth prayed her red hot fiery prayer for Jala, who was like a soaked handkerchief.
“You must forgive yourself Jala. You’ve repented for you part. Receive God’s forgiveness and freely give forgiveness to those who hurt you. The more you hold on to the pain, the less able you are to move forward. Your healing has started.”
Mrs. Lueth wiped her face.” Jala, remember that Ephraim was not there. He should not be punished for what others did.
“I knew that in my head. I felt I could not allow him to think for a moment that I was interested in him. I realized that I really enjoy his friendship once there was no threat of a relationship or others thinking there was.
Mrs. Lueth could hear the cars pulling into the cul de sac and got up to remotely open the gates from the balcony so that the early birds could park in the yard.
Walking back to Jala she added, “Don’t waste your energy trying to get people not to talk about you. My mother once told me, ‘Live free and let people be.'”
Jala quickly got off the floor, to fix up before everyone was inside the house. “Thank you Aunty Lue. I feel so light. Yes, and free!”
As soon as she disappeared in the bathroom, Chari’s loud voice filled the house.
“Auntie Lue, I smell something good!”
Abe and Ephraim followed behind carrying all the bags Chari gave them to take in the house.
“Hello my children,” Auntie did a dance coming down the stairs. She greeted them one by one and made effort to especially welcome Ephraim.
“Where’s Jala, Aunt?”
It’s been a hectic morning. She’s gone to shower.”
“So Ephraim I hear that you go to the Baptist Church not far from us.”
“Yes, mam,” answered Ephraim trying not to appear awkward while fighting the memory of his first introduction to Aunty Lue.
The three sat around the island in the kitchen, while Auntie Lue plastic wrapped the trays of food and chatted about her friends at the Baptist Church that Ephraim attends.
The bell rang again as Jala came into the kitchen greeting everyone and she grabbed the remote to open up from the balcony.
“Can I help you with anything,” asked Ephraim.
“Great, thank you. Ephraim, you take the igloo out to the balcony, Abe you get the ice from the deep freezer and Chari you come with me.”
As Ephraim headed to the balcony he hesitated as if he wanted to make a u-turn.
“Fraim, sang Jala, I’m so glad you came.”
“Really, cause I don’t want to embarrass you anymore.”
“You don’t embarrass me, but I’m embarrassed about my behaviour toward you. Could we please start over?
Jala extended her hand for a handshake.
“Nope,” Ephraim turned his back.
“But we can pick up from the where we left off in benevolence.”
Jala slowly breathed a sigh of relief, quickly shaking Ephraim’s hand.
“Friends,” they both agreed.
Auntie Lue glanced at them and gave out a “Thank you Jesus!”
Chari and Abe were just in time to create a huddle and a strong bond was formed.
Hey, we’re not done. More Church Girl Series coming. Tell us if you can relate these characters and scenarios. Jot us a line and be sure to share the story with friends. Thanks in advance!
Chari had the bad habit of knocking while attempting to open Jala’s apartment door.
“Jala! You knew if you didn’t answer the phone I’d be coming over.” She knocked again impatiently and twisted the doorknob.
Eventually, Jala came to the door not saying a word. Chari came in with food in hand and proceeded to the kitchen counter to share it out.
“I stopped by benevolence after work, and they said you didn’t come by…Sunday you slipped out just before church ended. What’s going on, Jala?”
“I’m just trying to lay low and get these folks off my back. Ever since the gas station explosion and Ephraim helped me out of the building, I can’t get these people off my back! I wouldn’t be surprised if they were planning our wedding.”
“You take things too seriously, Jala. I would not care one iota if it were me. No! None of them would have anything to say to me. I would play with them and give them something to talk about when I turn my back.”
Chari laughed as she created scenarios to provoke the nosy church folks.
The two friends sat eating at Jala’s small round dining table. A flowery pendant light hung just above their heads. Chari knew her favourite Chinese dishes and sought to use food to get pass Jala’s walls. Canton Kitchen served the best kung pao chicken and noodles and they were near Jala’s apartment.
“On a serious note, though Jala, I think you are still reacting to the embarrassing situation you went through with Jonathan almost four years ago.”
“Oh no, you don’t! Chari, is that what you’ve come here for, to drag up my past and make me a counselling case?”
“Relax! We’ve been best friends longer than you and I can remember, so I think I should be able to point out a little trauma in my bestie’s life. Jonathon was a colossal mess! With his high tenor voice and pretentiousness, he had half the ladies in the church convinced he only had eyes for them. He sounds like one of the beasts in Revelation with eyes everywhere. He lured you into his web!”
“Ok, I was an idiot!
“No way! You’ve got to let that go and forgive yourself. The guy was like Solomon without the wisdom. Many women fell for him.”
“Why couldn’t I see that he was not interested in me? I was an idiot! A man who does not want to be seen in public with you, ignores you at church but calls you the moment you reach home to express his undying love, should raise many red flags. But, not to me he didn’t. I was smitten despite your caution. Well, no need to repeat that situation! I’ll make sure of that.”
“Girl, at the sound of things, you are not about to let any other man in.”
“Look at you! You’re a genius!” exclaimed Jala finally laughing. She felt empowered and in control.
“Oh, speaking of not letting another man in…guess who I saw when I stopped by the benevolence room? Ephraim. He was asking me for you.”
“Pastor Pruit must have let him in to work. I was so into my selfish slump I didn’t remember I was supposed to open up for him.
Jala suddenly stopped and looked at her friend. “You weren’t thinking that I had interest in Ephraim too?”
“Oh, no!” snapped Chari with both hands in the air. “I would never assume that you would even consider a handsome, mannerly carpenter of a man! No doubt he has no degree!”
Chari continued with great sarcasm. “After all, of what use is a man like that!”
“Firstly, I don’t know a thing about him.
“Secondly, even if did, I would not like to be in a relationship.
Thirdly, I could not take a carpenter home to meet my mom! So, let that set your mind at ease.”
“Jala, I knew all your numbers from one to three already. We’ve been here many times. I know…he’s a pleasant guy though.”
“Yea, I agree.”
“By the way, I gave him your number.”
“You said he was a nice guy! He wanted to check up on you and find out how your ankle was doing. He said from he dropped you off that night he never heard another word from you even though he gave you his number for you to call if you needed help.
“Precisely, I didn’t need help! I still don’t!”
“Ooooo, so edgy Jala!”
Jala sighs and admitted that poor Ephraim was not deserving of this harshness nor this situation in which he was involuntarily placed.
“To be honest, Jala, Ephraim is a wonderful human and we had a great time chatting. I can see us being good friends.”
“Wow, that’s big of you! We know he wouldn’t make it to the husband list because he’s a carpenter. Still, I’m impressed that he is worthy of friendship.”
There’s a knock on the door and Chari wastes no time parting Jala’s damask patterned curtains to see who’s outside.
“Speaking of forever friend zone,” she whispered loudly to Jala. “Hello Abe!”
Jala dramatically flung the door open freezing in a grinning pose.
“Oh, I forgot you live here. Hi Jala,” he said, passing Chari to hug Jala.
“Hey Abe. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming by?”
“Jala, you don’t answer your phone and besides, you may say no. What are friends for!”
“Indeed, what are some friends for?” chimed Chari looking at Abe. Their friendship has been much like this.
“So where is your new friend, Jala?” inquired Abe, who is known for his blunt and unfiltered communication.
“You know about Ephraim too?”
“Of course, not because I play the drums mean I don’t hear what’s going on. I hear that you and him have been an item for some time now. I’m just wondering how I didn’t hear about him as your dear friend who you love, by the way!”
“Here we go!” shouted Jala jumping from her chair.
Chari’s eyes opened wide. “Do tell Abe!”
“Do tell what! You already know the truth. I met the guy moments before the gas station explosion. That’s what you get when you go to a small church and everybody knows everybody and tries to marry you to anybody!”
“What does this remind you of? This was what happened when Jonathan was found out after leading all these young ladies on…including our dear Jala,” added Abe.”
“That is what it feels like! People nosing into my business and assuming a lot. That’s why I keep myself to myself. I hope God gives me a husband who is from a different church!
No one calls to find out the truth but continues to talk and build lies.”
As if on cue, Jala’s phone rings.
“It’s condescending Connie from core.
“Hi Connie, how are you?”
“Hi Jala, I didn’t see you at core yesterday so I just call to check on you.”
“Actually Connie, I’ve been missing core for almost a month, but thanks for calling I’m fine.
Yes, I did hurt my ankle, but the swelling went down.”
Yes…It was lovely of the gentleman to help.”
Both Chari and Abe were laughing uncontrollably at Jala, who was trying to maintain her cool.
No soon as Jala came off the phone with eyes rolling. It rang again.
“Let me answer her,” shouted Chari.
Jala looked down at her phone wondering who was calling.
“Let me answer!” Chari snatched the phone from Jala.
“You’ve reached the number of Jala McKnight, how can I help you?”
“Oh no! Just a minute.”
She motioned for Jala to get to the phone quickly while Abe whispered, “Who is it?”
The story began in Part 1 of the Church Girl Series. Look out for Part 3 soon. Find out how Jala confronts her deep rooted issues…including the meddling saints.
After many days of clearing out the benevolence room, with very little help, Jala could see her vision materializing. She had a passion for the poor and devoted every evening after work for the past month, to revamping the room.
Her vision was to ‘help with honor’ way beyond just giving the poor a few food items. She finally had the approval for the construction of a small office within the large benevolence room. Jala removed the dark curtains that blocked the sunlight and brought in a few sheer panels she had convinced her friend Chari she did not need. Chari was used to Jala pulling her into the benevolence Ministry to help at a moment’s notice.
In benevolence ministry, she had latitude and could avoid being upfront, yet serve the people she was passionate about. Chari often tells her that she hides in benevolence to avoid interaction with majority of the church.
This was Jala’s passion!
“Jala, you’re back there?”
Jala could hear a coarse male voice calling her as it drew closer to the benevolence room. It was Pastor Pruitt, who played a major role in Jala becoming a Christian.
“I’ve got some help for you! Where do you want the cupboards and the shelves?
“Pleasant evening Pastor Pruit,” said Jala as Pastor Pruitt steps aside.
“This is the help I brought you. Meet Ephraim who will be doing the cupboards and shelves for the room. Please tell him where everything goes.
“Oh Hello, Ephrem, E-phraaim?”
“That’s okay. I’ve heard it all. I’ve even had someone spell my name starting with an ‘F’ for Ephraim.
Jala laughed and ushered him into the room.
“I don’t know what my mom was thinking. If she wanted a Bible name, why not David?”
“Follow me, David!”
They both laughed. Jala explained the new layout and Ephraim wasted no time measuring up the space.
As Ephraim worked, he and Jala chatted away as if they had known each other for years.
“So, what is this church like, and how long have you been a Christian?”
“Wow! That’s a lot of questions…let’s see…vibrant church, not without issues and 5 years.”
Stopping to process what Jala said, he added, “That works.”
“You might consider me a baby Christian, but I’m excited about my new life. I got saved at a church not far from here about a year ago.”
Jala was standing on her desk trying to hang a few frames, while Ephraim continued measuring outside the office.
The light flickered…
“Did you see that?
“I’m glad you did,” replied Jala.
Soon there was an explosion and the electricity was out. Hardly any light came through the window now.
Jala, frighten, tried making her way off her desk and twisted her ankle in panic.
“I’m here… I’m here. Are you alright?”
Ephraim pulled out his phone flashlight and found Jala trying to get off the floor. She was embarrassed. Jala hated to admit her need for help to a complete stranger, no matter how kind he appeared.
“Did you fall?”
“No,” she snapped. By this her ankle was pounding and painful. The tears were rolling down her cheeks and she was grateful for the darkness.
“How embarrassing,” she thought.
Realizing that Jala could hardly walk Ephraim offered to help. She reluctantly laid her pride aside and held on to David, hopping out of the room.
“What was that?”
Ephraim understood that the bubbly personality he met only hours ago was now very uncomfortable. He shifted the attention to the incident at hand as they walked down the hallway.
Upon approaching the exit door, they could see lights. There were lights of fire trucks, ambulances and a fire at the gas station across the road.
A crowd had gathered outside the church, as many prayed for those who were being placed in ambulances.
Jala realized that her pride being hurt was insignificant to the dire situation before them.
“Jala we had forgotten about you and Ephraim around the back,” said Pastor Pruitt. “Are you okay?”
By this Jala was standing on her left leg, while Ephraim braced her from the side.
As soon as Pastor Pruitt asked the question all eyes gazed puzzlingly to Jala and Ephraim. Jala knew what that meant. She could only imagine their conversations and thoughts.
“Didn’t she just meet him?”
“What’s his arm doing around her?
“They wasted no time.”
“Is he even saved?”
Again… Jala felt a covering of embarrassment. It was what she wanted to avoid the most…giving church people something to talk about. Her swollen right ankle left her no option. She had to take the help and risk being falsely accused. It only got worse when she got in her car and Ephraim drove her home.
Jala had a few things to say to GOD.
“God how could you do this! You know I have maintained a clean reputation. I’ve stay away from unfruitful relationships and things that fuel gossip. Now I seem to be caught up with a man I know nothing about…a baby Christian at that. The poor thing has no idea what he just stepped into. I will have to live this down. Why, me? I hope this guy doesn’t get any ideas in his head.”
Follow us on the next blog to find out how the guarded Jala handles the unwanted attention from her church family and poor Ephraim.