Monday, 30 October 2017

Nwakaego

 
     It was a night of celebration. Many people had come for Ifeanyi and Nneka’s wedding at Umuji village. Finally, the wedding ended. The newly wedded couple now had time alone together.

“I’ve waited this long for you,” Ifeanyi told his wife holding her lovingly.

“Me too,” Nneka whisphered.

He kissed her. “Darling, did you lock the door?”
Suddenly, five boys burst in holding guns. The couple could not scream for fear of the guns. The intruders had their way with the bride and left as soon as it was over. It was no longer a happy wedding night but a night of terror. The next morning, the whole village heard about it. Things would never be the same for this couple.

One day, Nneka broke the silence, “Darling, do you still love me?”

Ifeanyi was silent for a while. “I…don’t know.”

By then, her protruding belly was obvious. The following day, she left for the city.
 
         The city life was new and difficult for Nneka. There was nowhere to go till she eventually met a ‘nice’ Madam who helped and gave her a one-room apartment in her yard. Time went by and Nneka put to bed a daughter. She named her, Nwakaego meaning a child is more important than money.
Later on, the ‘nice’ Madam began demanding for her rent.
“I don’t have any job!” Nneka cried.

“Then, you have to work for me!” Madam snapped.

Nneka had no choice. She had a rent to pay and a daughter to take care of. So, she began ‘working’ for Madam.

Nwakaego grew and was fortunate to go to school and wear nice clothes unlike her mates in the yard. This sparked up envy among them.

“Na because your mama dey follow men!’ one girl lashed at her in furious jealousy when Nwakaego showed the girl her new wristwatch. 

It hurt Nwakaego deeply but it also opened her eyes to some things she never really took notice of. She noticed the revealing clothes her mother wore daily, her many male friends, her late nights out…. 
 Then she noticed her mother lose weight and complain of being sick. It became so serious, she had to go to the hospital. 

     One day, Madam picked her up from school.
“Your mother wants to see you,” she explained to a surprised Nwakaego.

Her mother was in the hospital bed. Nwakaego gasped when she saw her mother. She looked just like the AIDS patients she saw in her textbooks. Her mother could hardly move and struggled to talk; she began crying.

“Nwakaego, I’m so sorry… but I did all these because I loved you.”

Nwakaego too cried and held tight to her frail mother. She spent the rest of that day with her sick mother. When dusk came, Madam insisted that she leave the hospital; she had to prepare for school the following day. Amidst tears, mother and daughter kissed each other good bye. It would be the last time she saw her mother.

One day, Madam called Nwakaego. “Your mother is dead,” she told her plainly.

Throughout that day, Nwakaego cried.

As usual, she continued going to school until she was made to stop because she had not paid her fees. She ran to Madam for help.

“If you need money, you must work for me,” Madam said matter-of-factly.

Nwakaego agreed but it was not what she expected. At only age twelve, she was introduced into prostitution. Madam paid her money enough for only the rent and feeding. When she turned eighteen, she decided she was big enough to stand on her own and left Madam and the yard she had lived in all her life.

This time, she ‘worked’ for herself and was able to rent a one-room apartment in Diobu, the ghetto part of the city. She was well known as a ‘runs-girl’ in that area for her ‘work’ and never lacked customers. Even the so-called soul winners seemed to know her kind of work especially one Father Amadi who came every Saturday morning for evangelism. The most annoying part was that his messages always seemed to be directed at her.

“Give your life to Christ now,” he would cry over his microphone, “If Christ comes now, would you make heaven?”

Such talk never moved her. She had longed stopped believing in God. Why would God allow her to go through such a hard life?
One day, while on her ‘night duty’, a rickety car stopped by her. The driver had broken teeth, a blind eye and reeked of alcohol and marijuana. 

“Babe, come na. I go pay you well,” he drawled.

Nwakaego was really repulsed by him.
“You of all human beings?” she snickered, “Dog beta pass you. Abeg, no be me and you.”

His countenance changed in anger. “Wetin you mean by that?” he growled.

Nwakaego simply hissed and began walking away from the due-for-repair car.
“Get her into the car!” she heard him order someone.
Without warning, she was overpowered and her face was covered by a drugged handkerchief. She could not scream as she was immediately gagged, and even if she could, no one would hear her. It was a lonely street at a dangerous hour of the night. She could sense being hauled into a car back seat before slipping into unconsciousness.

         When she woke up, she found herself lying on a bed in a nice bedroom. “Where am I?” she wondered.

Just then, a plump-looking man came in. She recognised him.
“Father Amadi,” she croaked weakly, “Where am I?”

“In my house dear,” he replied standing by her bedside. “I found you lying unconsciously on the road on my way home from a night vigil. You had only a top on.”

Nwakaego could only imagine what could have happened the previous night. She closed her eyes in shame.

“It is well, my daughter,” he comforted stroking her head.
        Father Amadi was the residing reverend in the Catholic church just close to his house. He took care of Nwakaego and talked to her about God. One day, he told her the story about the adulterous woman in the bible whom Jesus forgave in John 8:1-11.

“Nwakaego, Jesus loves you and forgave you. Why not come to Him?”

But Nwakaego did not. She found it difficult to believe in a God who had let her pass through so much. Still, she wondered if Father Amadi was right. He said he was an imitator of Christ. He was very caring and forgiving. Could Jesus be like that too?

Father Amadi was a voracious reader and had a library in his house. Whenever she was bored, she would read the books there. She began to read the Bible but still had her doubts. She read Francine Rivers’ ‘Redeeming Love’. She cried after reading it; the protagonist’s life was like hers. She also read about Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou. Both had been rape victims but did not allow that to stop them from becoming something in life. She came across newspapers with stories about girls who committed suicide after being raped. She was saddened by their tragic ends and felt their lives would have had a better ending had they got back on their feet.

  She was reading the bible one day when she came across a passage in Deuteronomy 30:19-20a: “Today, I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live. You can make this choice by loving the Lord, your God, obeying Him and committing yourself to Him….”

Right there, she chose life.
One Sunday service, she entered the church where Father Amadi preached.

“2 Corinthians 5:17,” he was saying, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Yes, she believed in Jesus. That day, she gave her life to Christ.
With Father Amadi’s encouragement, she became a counsellor in church especially for the young girls. Through that, she was able to reach out to many broken girls and women. Then church members noticed her gift and began to invite her to speak in religious organisations, schools and conferences. Later on, she started an NGO for sexually abused and rape victims. With the many donations to her NGO, she was able to give out scholarships to female students from poor families as well as start-up capitals to promising female entrepreneurs who had neither jobs nor any business.

      Whenever she was invited anywhere to give a talk, she would always emphasise, “Anyone who believes in Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Your past does not determine your future; your present does! So, take positive steps today, so that your tomorrow would be better than your yesterday!”

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Mimie Walks