#prejudices

Church Girl Series (cont’d)

“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?”

“Actually, yes!

“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…)

Church Girl Series Part#3

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.

“Celebration, everyone!”

“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.

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