As a Jehovah’s Witness, going out on evangelism is a certainty. It’s what makes you worthy of the appellate in the first place. From the place of worship, you were put in a group of two, sometimes three, and sent out to propagate the gospel of Christ. I detested this simple Christian activity for two reasons: One, I was a naturally shy person and evangelism isn’t for the timid. Two, often times, the period for evangelizing didn’t always sit well with me. But I was born a Jehovah’s Witness and as long as I lived under my parents, I had to remain one.
So when I was paired with Aramide, a slim, anxiously pretty and outspoken Sunday school friend, for evangelism that Christmas day, my dislike of evangelism soared higher, like a kite that escaped a young boy’s untrained hands.
“How on earth must we evangelize on Christmas day,” I asked myself, “with all the aroma of chicken and fried rice wafting around our neighbourhood like strong insecticide in a choked room?!”
“Of all possible Witnesses, why should it be Aramide, a lady I have had a crush on since we were in senior secondary school?” And the questions continued.
My brain did a makossa at the thought of spending the whole morning with a girl I had asked out twice to no avail.
“But sir,” I began in a stutter, as I tried to persuade the Head of Evangelism to reconsider the pairing, “I am not feeling too well sir and I might not be able to handle the rigours of evangelism today.”
“No, no, Bro Sheye, you’ll be fine,” he started, “and that’s why Sister Aramide will be there to give you all the assistance you need.”
“Don’t worry, Bro Sheye, the Lord is your strength,” he chipped in before I could say more.
I turned to look into Aramide’s eyes. What I saw were brown eyes set perfectly on an oval face finished with a slight dimple. She arched her eyebrows as her eyes pored into mine. I looked away.
“How does she always make me feel this way?” I asked myself.
As things turned out, the whole evangelism didn’t take more than twenty minutes. We never went beyond the first apartment we visited.
The building was one of those common four-flat storey buildings set on a plot or so of land. When we entered the compound, the apartment closest to the gate was the first port of call.
Ko ko ko.
It was Aramide who knocked while I stood behind, silently reveling in the view her shapely behind offered my sinful eyes. I snapped out of my sinful mode as soon as I realized we were supposed to be on evangelism.
“No one is answering, Sheye,” she said almost in a whisper.
“You sure? Isn’t that music playing in the sitting room?” I stepped closer to listen clearly. It was music alright, a Celine Dion song, the title of which I couldn’t immediately decipher, filtered into my strained ears from the apartment. I knocked, this time harder, on the half open door, the curtain swayed slightly from behind the open door.
Still, no response.
We gave up and decided to drop a copy of Awake at the door, like we had been rigorously taught over the years at the sanctuary.
“Never walk into any apartment uninvited,” the voice from the evangelism training hammered in my head like a recalcitrant headache.
As I fished for the magazine in the bag I carried, one which always reminded me of the Baba Alajo’s on our street, I heard a sound. It was the unmistakable thud of a piece of furniture followed immediately by a creaking sound like an overloaded hydraulic machine groaning under a weight beyond its stated capacity.
Without thinking, I pushed the door open.
What I saw on the day changed my views about evangelism permanently.
Right in front of me, in the middle of the room, was a middle-aged man hanging by a rope from the ceiling fan like an uneven pendulum. His neck was askew and his tongue protruded from the mouth like some half-concealed currency in a wallet. His feet jerked wildly as if in a leg fight with some unseen spirit. Through the gory sight, I saw life struggle with death.
I rushed towards him, a shocked Aramide in tow.
Getting him off the rope was a huge task for he was a fairly big man. I immediately sent Aramide out to get help.
By the time she got back, he had stopped jerking and his eyes bulged like some surprised cartoon character’s. When life eventually left him, his body got heavier in my arms as if I’d inadvertently lifted a wrongly-tagged weight in a sub-standard gym. I regretted not coming earlier. Maybe if we had, the man would have lived.
That was last Christmas.
This yuletide, as Christmas chickens and rice once again rent the air, I walk down the street in evangelical glee. I couldn’t save a life the last time out; but this Christmas, I must rescue a soul.