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I sighed. 'Bola, I can explain', I finally said.

          'What is he doing here?', she managed to ask amidst shock.

          'He's my friend just like you are', I replied with a cynical look.

She remained silent for a while.

          'Harriet', she finally said. 'I'm not disputing that. You're an adult and I can't run your life for you but there are sometimes you may make wrong decisions regardless of your age and experience. That's when friends come in'

          'So, what are you saying? That me welcoming my male friend into my hotel room is a mistake? Or I don't understand. Please, enlighten me'

I knew I was totally wrong but shame and guilt won't let me give in to the argument. Shame that a newly born again convert was caught flirting and guilt that I was totally wrong about my stance but wouldn't admit it.

Bola sighed. 'I didn't come here to argue with you. I just came here to tell you that the church is organizing a four days retreat starting from this Thursday to Sunday for every single in the church. It will be great if you attend because it is a time to build and increase on every side. Registration has started. I've registered. I wanted to register you but I wanted to be sure that you are cool with the arrangement before registering you'

I sat back on the table.

          'Okay. What's it going to be about? How much is the registration fee? Is it going to cover food? Are we doing it in church or somewhere else? Give me an insight'

She sat on my bed before replying.

          'Actually', she continued. 'It's going to be somewhere in Calabar. We chose that location because we really want to go somewhere far but really nice. Funny enough, it's absolutely free. The church was able to get a couple of sponsors. The only thing we have to do is register. Food and everything will be great. There would be a major crusade on the last day before we travel back to Ibadan. It's going to be fun. We would be staying in a guest house over there in Calabar.'

          'Wow! That's a big one! It's okay then. I'll take excuse from my company before leaving. By the way, one of my friends is getting married next week Saturday in Lagos. Would you like to come along?'

She scratched her hair. 'I would really have loved to but from next week Friday till Sunday, I'll be going into intense fasting ad prayers whereby we'll have to meet at church by 6pm. The fasting is simply ahead of the power crusade that will be coming up upper week. I'm so sorry'

          'It's no problem', I said. 'So what's up? Have you eaten?'

She smiled, 'I'm actually fasting right now ahead of this singles retreat'

          'Wow!', I exclaimed. 'Bola, are you now the pastor of the church or what? Is it only you that will be fasting all the time? That's why you are looking thinner by the day'

She laughed, 'I'm not the pastor. I'm part of the prayer warriors in the church. Aside from that, even if I wasn't a prayer warrior, fasting and prayers is a voluntary thing. Anyone can do it. We are not doing it for the pastor or the church but for our Lord Jesus. He commanded us in His word to fast and in another scripture, He told us to watch and pray. So, don't get it all meshed up. You also can join in the fasting and prayers'

          'Hell No! I value my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Except I see Jesus like Paul and He tells me that He has called me into ministry, that's when I'll do that. If not, I will keep enjoying my food'

Bola shook her head.

          'It is well with you, Harriet'

          'And you too, Pastor Bola'

We laughed as she stood up to take her leave.

          'Lest I forget, please, no skimpy clothes during the retreat. I'm sure you won't like to appear odd. Something above the knee will be okay', she said

          'I'll try', I said and escorted her out of the hotel.

I ate dinner early so as to sleep very early. I switched off the A.C and hid under my blanket. Rain was falling heavily and there were thunderstorms. The television was showing a really scary Yoruba movie. I hissed and switched it off. I was really pissed because I couldn't change the channel. It was permanently in Africa Magic Yoruba. Anytime I complained to the receptionist, she would apologize but nothing would be done to it. Apparently, they enjoyed the channel more. I surfed through the internet for a while before falling asleep.

Thursday came quickly. I managed to convince my company to give me time off for Thursday and Friday. They were very reluctant because I had already bargained for a break next week Friday ahead of my friend's wedding. However, I was granted the permission. I woke up very early to pack my box and checked around to be sure I wasn't leaving behind any necessity. I arrived the church exactly 7:20 am. There were almost 50 singles in the church compound and they were all praying as they were been led by Pastor John. I looked around for Bola and saw her standing a few meters away while speaking in tongues. I dropped my box and joined in the prayers. Soon, other youths started joining us. I wasn't too late after-all.

After praying, we started singing and then went back into prayers. At some point, everyone was speaking in tongues and I felt I was the only one who wasn't able to do so. I simply chewed my mouth so I won't look odd. After almost an hour, Pastor John rounded up the prayers and we were ready to march into the long buses waiting for us. The guys helped in arranging our bags in the boot while we waited to be called. Bola was nowhere to be found now. I stood alone among other people. Every other person had someone they were talking to. They all seemed very excited.

          'Sister Harriet', I heard someone call my name. I looked back. It was Pastor John.

He looked really cool in his polo and Jeans. It was my first time of seeing him in a casual outfit. He was always on suit every other day.

          'Hi. Sorry. Good Morning Sir', I said, confused of the best way to greet a Pastor.

He smiled, 'Bless you. How are you doing this morning?'

          'Good. At least, I'm surviving'

          'The word is victorious. You're victorious'

Here they come with their religious words, I thought.

          'Okay, Pastor John'

           'I will like you to lead Praise in the bus on our way to Calabar'

         'Me???', I exclaimed. 'Erm, maybe you're mistaken. I'm not a chorister. Did bola tell you otherwise?'

          'Bola and I haven't discussed about you concerning this program. I just want you to do it. I want you to start taking up little responsibilities like these. It will help your growth and christian walk as well as make you alert and prepared'

          'Aha, Pastor. This one is hard o. I don't even know most of these church songs.'

          'It's not of you but of the spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. God bless you', he said and walked towards the bus.

          'Do I even have the Holy Spirit?', I asked myself


(Read Episode 13 HERE)



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