When the evening fellowship had ended, all Christians but Mrs Kimathi, left. For the members of this fellowship, this was not unusual: Mrs Kimathi always stayed behind for counseling. Mr Kimathi, her husband, had married a second wife: the bottle. He would return home in the wee hours of the morning, drunk like a brewery’s beer taster.
Almost on all occasions, Mr Kimathi would beat up his wife. He always accused her of sleeping with the local pastor. Rumours that Mrs Kimathi and Pastor Kihara were having an affair had spread far and wide. A young man in his late 20s, Pastor Kihara was yet to find a wife. Until then, everyone in Randarwa expected him to stay pure, waiting upon the Lord to reveal to him his rib.
“He feasts on the women that fellowship at his home,” a man said, then dipped his drinking straw deep into the gourd of local brew.
“And during overnight prayers,” added Mr Kimathi, shouting at an elderly woman to bring more warm water to add into the pot.
The other drinkers were quiet. Mr Kimathi dominated the attack on religious leaders. He talked too much, not because the frosty waters had sunk into his head: he was a talkative man. A retired teacher, Kimathi gulped his pension. Not that he had been a drunkard. In fact, Kimathi hated alcohol until his retirement. He had never tasted it, at least not in public. He had been an elder at the Randarwa Blessed Church under Pastor Kamau who died in a motor accident.
Kihara was Kamau’s son. He had completed his business degree at the University of Nairobi the month his father died. Church leaders were split on who, between Kihara and assistant pastor Karanja, should be the next pastor. Mr Kamau was pro-Karanja while his wife, like many women and girls, preferred the youthful Kihara.
The split at Randarwa Blessed Church was the beginning of quarrels in the Kimathi family. Husband and wife fought over it openly, their three daughters watching.
“You are sleeping with that young man, you harlot,” Mr Kimathi fired at his wife in the middle of one of the scuffles.
“Mummy, what does a harlot do?” asked Jackie, Kimathi’s youngest daughter, tears stinging her eyes in sympathy of her mother on whose face Mr Kimathi was raining blows.
When Kihara took over from his father, Karanja and his sympathizers sought to build a rival church. Under construction, the new church was swept away by a strong wind, like the biblical house that had been erected on a sandy foundation. Distraught, Karanja went to Nairobi to seek employment. He had been an extension officer but the job was not raking in as much as the offertory and tithing baskets were. Being a pastor came with respect and was also big business! When he failed to find a job, Karanja became an armed robber but was shot dead when police intercepted his gang in a Nairobi bank robbery two months later. With his mentor erased off earth, Kimathi took to the bottle to mourn his death.
Kamau’s son was now in charge for six months. He had managed to grow the church congregation twofold. Women and girls were the majority of the 500 congregants. They loved the pastor who preached with swagger and enthusiasm. He visited them, counseled them and fellowshipped with them. He also spoke in tongues. He chased out demons and prayed for miracles. Church was lively on Sundays when he preached for longer hours. He jumped up and sang and danced and joked and laughed and cried, almost at the same time. He was surely a man from God, groomed by his equally fervent father, many said.
Indeed Kamau had groomed Kihara! Kihara spent almost all his time at school. Unknown to his father, Kihara’s tongue had not only tasted all the clans of alcohol available in Kenya, but had slept with women from almost all the tribes in the country. He had never thought of heading a church. He detested his father’s job with a passion. He wanted to be a businessman. He had already made contacts in the illegal drugs industry and was planning to ship his first consignment of contraband the month his father died.
When his father died, Kihara was shocked to hear people fronting him as a successor. He knew there was a successor in either Karanja or Mutua – but not in him for he was not even worthy to untie his father’s sandals. Mutua did not appear on the succession list for he had disagreed with Pastor Kamau. Kamau had told his family how God had showed him that Mutua would take over after him. In fact Kamau said he had had a vision of his own death. But he had prayed against the vision as the work of the devil. Mutua and Kamau had been on good terms until the latter’s final year on earth. Mutua had opposed the misappropriation of a donation meant to help community orphans. Kamau used the money from the church’s UK friends to build a house. And he disgraced Mutua by asking him to confess before the congregation for reportedly stealing offertory money. But deep down in his heart, Kamau knew that Mutua was innocent.
Tonight, Kimathi was determined to find out the truth. He had been fed on too many rumours: it was now time to act and action should be on the basis of truth. With a few of his drinking friends, Kimathi had been monitoring the goings-on at Kihara’s house where evening fellowships always took place. When all the members of the fellowship, but Mrs Kimathi, had left, the monitoring team smelt a rat and was keen on flushing it from its hole.
Kimathi tiptoed into the living room where the fellowship had taken place. If I find the pastor and my wife in an unsuspicious mood, I’ll tell the man of God I have come to repent my sins, Kimathi had thought while he entered through a door that had been left open at about 7:30pm when the fellowship ended. There was no one in the sitting room. Mr Kimathi at first thought of leaving the house but was attracted by ecstatic noises in Kihara’s bedroom. He tiptoed to the door to this bedroom. He was torn between pushing the door and making noise. He decided against the latter because he was not sure of what was taking place inside the bedroom and who exactly was involved.
When he had pushed the door open, Kimathi’s eyes beheld Pastor Kihara on top of his wife. He made an alarm, attracting his friends and the entire village and pairs of eyes watched the truth in its nakedness.
“The devil tempted us,” the adulterous couple managed to mutter these words, in chorus.
“How many times,” probed a man from the witnessing crowd.
“Numerous but I’ll never do it,” cried Pastor Kihara. “In fact I am a pastor no more: Mutua is the man God chose…”
Samuel Kamugisha is a Ugandan journalist, editor, fiction writer and translator. Winner of The Tabere Mudini Award 2015