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!
For the past three months Ephraim worked assiduously setting in place the cupboard and shelves in the benevolence room, while Jala put her finishing touch on the space to make it warmer and more welcoming. Looking around the large room she could see her goal of serving the poor with honor becoming a reality. When she remembered what the benevolence ministry once looked like and what it is now, she felt a sense of accomplishment. Her goal now is to get people serving in the ministry who share her heart for the poor.
It was easy for her to work with Ephraim after getting over the night of the explosion and the gossip that followed. He understood what she wanted to accomplish in preserving people’s dignity while lending a helping hand. He installed cupboards to store barrels of food in the most discreet ways, while creating partitions in the room. Jala’s friend, Abe, shouldered up the responsibility of helping the men who came for benevolence, find jobs, by liaising with companies in the area. Jala had a way of prompting people to use their passion toward their purpose. Abe had a serious problem giving to men who did not work or try to find a job. He had his scripture verses to back it and would faithfully quote 2 Thes 3:10 If a man will not work, he shall not eat!
It was Friday evening and all the friends had gathered in the benevolence room chatting away. Chari made her usual larger than life entrance with finger foods and drinks.
“Welcome, welcome Chari, the bearer of good food!” chimed Abe.
“What exactly are we celebrating,” asked Jala, confused.
“We are celebrating, silly, the completion and opening of the new benevolence room!”
“You’re right Chari. We should celebrate!”
Abe wasted no time cranking up the music.
“Oh, by the way, Pastor Pruitt said to tell you that he will be dedicating it during second service on Sunday. So, you know that all of us will have to be there. He will be calling on us.”
“All of us?” queried Jala. “Ephraim that’s your church time.”
Jala had mixed feeling about his attending even though the four of them had bonded together so much as they worked on the ministry. She was afraid of another round of gossip.
After being called to the front of the church and applauded for their work in benevolence, everyone came to greet them after church.
Mrs. Lueth, who had been like a mentor to Jala and a safe place for many young adults at the church, asked “Is this the Ephraim I have been hearing about?”
“I’m not sure Miss, but it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He reached out his hand with a grin and shook hers.
“Ephraim? No. He just did carpentry work for us in benevolence. That’s all!”
Jala quickly looked at Ephraim, whose expression was immediately one of displeasure.
Many crowded around the benevolence area to see the changes, while Chari tried her best to recruit persons for the ministry. Abe entered their information into his laptop as Chari brought them in. Soon, Jala noticed Ephraim heading through the door.
“Ephraim! You’re leaving?”
“Yes, I guess my job is done here.”
Both Chari and Abe joined them.
“Fraim, we’re meeting up over Jala’s house after this. You’re coming, right?
“Aaaah, I’m not sure.”
Abe realized that something was wrong and pulled Ephraim aside to talk to him.
Jala knew she had finally offended Ephraim enough to get a reaction out of him.
As soon as Ephraim entered Jala’s apartment, he was like a pipe turn on.
“Listen, I don’t know how you all do Christianity, but it could be because I’m the youngest Christian among us. I kinda thought others mattered and that everyone was someone. I’ve chucked a lot of things up to growing in GOD but I’m frankly tired. It took everything for me to come here.”
“Wait, wait, wait man. What happen? I knew something went wrong at church but what happened?”
“I don’t know where to start. I guess there are many strikes against me and this friendship. I’m trying to figure it out! I’m a new Christian. I’m from another Church. I’m the handyman! All these factors put together make me “just the guy who worked in benevolence!” Should I be ashamed to be a carpenter or am I just out of your league?
“Wow! Oh my goodness! Ephraim we are all friends! None of those things matter,” said Chari. She looked at her dear friend Jala and saw guilt all over her face.
Ephraim continued, “No, I was so excited to see people my age living their Christianity and selflessly pouring into the lives of the poor, so I thought I had found my place. Somehow, I keep feeling like I’m an embarrassment just for existing. First, I tried to help Jala come out of the dark building when she hurt her ankle and she was ashamed that I did so. Confusing! After that I was treated weird, and at a distance for some time, and just when I feel like I’m making friends, this morning she introduced me to her mentor as an insignificant handy boy. No, you didn’t call me that…but that’s what it felt like. I’m sorry! I can’t do this!
Ephraim headed to the door. Abe ran in front of him blocking the door with his 6 ft 4 frame.
“Fraim, give us a chance to talk this out. We heard you and we understand where you’re coming from.
Finally, feeling forced to speak and yet afraid Jala spoke up.
“I’m sorry Ephraim.” She could hardly look him in the face. “It’s not your fault and the truth is that you don’t deserve any of this. I just have some issue to deal with and ever since you came around, they’ve been surfacing one after the other.”
“So, what is it, Jala?”
I can’t say right now, but it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Please forgive me.”
“Let’s eat guys,” said Chari, breathing a sigh of relief and quickly setting everything at the table to make everyone comfortable.
She walked into the kitchen and motioned for Jala to join her. As soon as she was close enough, she whispered, “I told you you’ve got to get some counselling!”
Wouldn’t you agree that Jala has some deep seated issues to confront? Stick with us for all the upcoming confrontations.
We crave your feedback and would love to hear what you’d like to say to these characters.
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.