Alex and his wife, Ada wore beautiful clothes that attracted people’s attention. They were in St. Christopher Parish, a suburban parish in downtown city of Kalo. As the service was ongoing, Ada knew something was off about Alex.
“What’s wrong, darling? You seem upset.”
He looked at her as if in a trance. “Nothing to worry about, just reflections. That’s all.”
“Am looking forward to the sermon, I heard Rev. Crane is a strong preacher of the word.”
“So it seems…”he replied.
She looked at him amazed “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” he replied sarcastically.
As the last hymnal was recited, the priest walked up to the altar to preach his sermon titled ‘The wages of Sin’. He spoke about the common sins that man considered convenient and its danger to spiritual upliftment. He encouraged all to surrender their lives to Christ. At the end, about ten of the worshippers gave their lives to Christ and became born again. Still Sheila noticed Alex wore a sad look throughout the service.
At the end of the service, Sheila urged Alex to introduce themselves to the priest as he was the new District Police Officer in the community and had just resumed duty a week ago.
‘It won’t be a bad idea’ she said. Surprisingly, he agreed and they went towards him.
“Reverend Crane, it’s a pleasure to meet you” she said warmly with her cheeks grinning from side to side.
“You too. If I may ask, are you new to this church?” he asked. With sunburn tans and a thick moustache, he appeared older than his age. The priestly robe covered up his athlete build.
“Yes. I just moved into the city with my husband, Alex.”
Alex with a wry smile brought out his right hand and shook him firmly “ I am the new DPO. You have a wonderful parish here.”
“Thanks be to God for his mercies. We are growing everyday in his word. It’s nice to see you around. I hope you won’t mind having dinner with my family, perhaps this evening.”
Alex was about to say something but Ada rudely interrupted, “ We would not mind at all. Alex can be shy at times, aren’t you?’ and she held his hand. He reluctantly smiled and said “Tomorrow, I think will be better. We got some settling down to do today.”
“No problem at all” replied Crane. “I will see you tomorrow. You can call me on this cell number 0165234980. Can I have yours?”
Alex brought out his business card and gave to him. With his left arm, he took Sheila and said to Rev. Crane “Till tomorrow then.”
“May God be with you.” He replied.
In the car, Sheila was furious. “That is a man of God, why are you behaving so odd to him?”
He kept mute and continued driving. She kept on making comments in order to get his attention but he did not say a word.
He thought “Some things could not be said, not even to Sheila…”
“I am enjoying the meal. Thanks a lot” she said . Obviously the atmosphere around the dining was too quiet and needed some life in it. Sandy and Tom had earlier come to greet them before they went to their drama classes.
“So, Alex, what made you to choose here as your station? Or were you just assigned?” Crane said.
Alex replied “I wanted to start a family in a small town for a start. Am fed up with the life I had in the big city.”
“Well, you won’t regret it. It’s a very peaceful community with a lot of honest and disciplined people in it. Been here for the past three years and it’s been a blessing”
“Where did you grow up, Alex?” Carla asked.
Sheila said “Alex does not talk much about his home. I guess being raised by foster parents most of his life didn’t help.” She certainly didn’t want this talk to deviate into an x-ray of Alex life.
“It’s not a problem at all. My childhood was marred with a lot of resentment and bitterness, not something I enjoy discussing. Anyways, I think I spent most of my early days in Mago as far as I remember “Alex said.
“I was in Mago too in my younger days. Quite a big city, full of life. I guess it needs some spiritual input as well. How devoted were you to the church then, Alex?” Crane asked.
“Perhaps I was an atheist then,” he replied sarcastically. Everyone looked at him. “I was just joking” and they all laughed.
“I was a devout Christian for most of the time. Fell off for a time but I am back to the fold now.”
“That’s a good thing to do. Ada, what about you?” Crane asked. Most times the wives had a crucial role to play in the man’s spiritual life.
“My parents were devout Christians of the Presbyterian order. I was raised to be so.” she said succinctly.
As the meals were finished, Nancy and Sheila offered to clear and wash the dishes. Alex and Crane continued conversing in the parlor.
It was 11:45pm. Fifteen minutes to Fr. Crane midnight prayers. He was in the living room studying the scriptures. Nancy and the kids were fast asleep. Suddenly, his cell phone beeped.
He checked. It was Alex. He answered “Good evening Alex.”
“Sorry to disturb you, Fr. Crane. I had a burden in my heart I wish to share with you but on further thought, I would like to share it with the congregation.”
“I hope it’s nothing too personal. You can share it with me as your spiritual counselor”
“No, it’s better for the church. It will strengthen their faith in God. More like a testimony. Can you arrange it for me this Sunday?” Alex asked.
After some hesitation, “okay, will check my schedule and fit it in. hope everything is fine though.”
“It is, Fr. Crane. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. Goodbye.” And the line cut.
As the hymnal ‘To God Be The Glory’ was being sung, it elicited fond memories for Alex. This was his favorite hymn. He sang it with great fervor that astounded Sheila.
“Obviously, this is much better from you compared to last time” she remarked.
“Life is full of surprises. I have one in store for you today” he replied.
At the end of the sermon, Rev. Crane announced ‘I want to use this time to welcome all of you to this service especially some new faces. I have the pleasure to invite Mr. Alex Mani to offer his testimony to the congregation. He is as you well know the new district police officer.’
He received applause from the congregation as he stepped to the front .
“I am honored to be in your presence this morning, most of all in the sight of God. So far, I have felt at home in this town with all your support and encouragement especially from Rev. Crane” and looked at him. He acknowledged.
He continued “It is not easy being a law enforcement agent, having to see people of different personalities commit crimes of various degrees. Rapists, murderers, child abusers, petty thieves, arsonists to mention but a few. I was motivated to join the police because I was a victim and a perpetrator of such crimes.” The congregation mumbled. Rev. Crane listened with rapt attention.
“I have bad childhood memories. I went through foster homes like a tourist, humiliation, torture and abuse were my companions and death was a fantasy I desired. Each and every day, I asked myself: where is God? My mom always told me he is omnipresent but at those times, he was an absentee. I resorted to joining gangs of robbers who bullied rich men kids on the streets, spent most time in shelter homes, molested ladies that thought I loved them, did so many bad things that I felt God will never forgive. But I was wrong. I confessed my faults and I know he forgave me. Still I had an unfinished project. Will God forgive me in this final act? I wonder!” he exclaimed.
Sheila whispered in the air ‘”Alex, what are you up to?”
Tom went back to Nancy and was looking scared.
“I am who I was and am today because of my father. You see, I had a loving and committed Christian mother but my dad made her life a misery. He was an absolute drunk and a chain smoker who had no discipline whatsoever and regards for family values. He treated my mom like garbage. He killed her.” This created noisy scenes in the church.
Sheila didn’t know what next was coming.
“Every day he came back from the bar, he would beat her and assault her sexually. She didn’t even have the courage to report to anyone let alone the police. I was a victim of his beatings and flogging. One day my mother got so upset that she hit him with a bottle on the head. I thought that would stop him, instead he entered the kitchen and took a knife to kill her. We ran away and entered the car. My mom drove away with speed out of fear and she was in tears. Before I could say anything, she lost control of the car and we had an accident.”
He wiped tears from his eyes with tissue and continued “I woke up in the hospital. The doctors told me my mom had died on the spot; they could not trace my father’s whereabouts. Unfortunately as I had no other relative, I was going to be taken care of in the orphanage. I was just ten years old. Mom gone, father abandoned me. God was being cruel, I felt. Now I know God is not to blame. We have the free will as humans to make good or bad choices and my father chose the bad route. No one is to blame but himself. Isn’t that right, Rev. Crane?”
He was lost for words.
He rolled up his right sleeves and raised his right palm. It had a burn scar on it
“This is one of the many scars my father inflicted on me. To you, it may make you cry but to one person in this church, it will make him bleed!”
He turned to look at Fr. Crane whose eyes were wide open in fear and anxiety.
“Rev. Crane is my father!
“NO!” He shouted and fell to the floor. “It can’t be!”
Nancy was shocked. Tom said “Is it true, father?”
Ada was in tears. She could not believe what she heard. The congregation was numbed.
“Tell them the truth, father. You can’t even recognize your own son. Shame on you!” Alex said with fury and then took out his gun from his back pocket.
Sheila shouted “please Alex, don’t do this! This is a church”
Alex bursted in anger “If anyone dares to go out or make any phone call, Rev. Crane will be a guest in the kingdom of hell!” Everyone went silent.
“Confess to them. I followed you all these years waiting for the right time to reveal your evil deeds. None better than the church of God! How ironical that you preach to others about repentance when you have not been completely honest with yourself. You want further proof, Dad?’ he revealed his left hand that had multiple scars and bruises included one that his name was scripted ‘ Alex willan’
Fr. Crane had never felt so ashamed. “ I am so sorry, Alex. I never meant it to be this way. After your mom died, I couldn’t face the world, then taking care of you with all I did, I had to run! I tried to forget all that happened, though I made efforts to find you but I didn’t succeed. I went to church one day and found a new spirit within me.”
Alex interrupted “ You are a liar and a hypocrite! You did nothing to find me. You abandoned me like you always do and ran to the church to save you. Twenty years was enough time for you but you never thought so!”
He cocked his gun; people shouted “No!”
“Tell me one good reason, brethren, why I should not kill him and end my misery. Is he worth living for God?”
Nancy knelt “please show mercy. If you kill him, it will not change what has happened.”
“At least, I will feel better. I will not stand seeing him preach when I remember what he did to me and my mother. Never!”
Sheila tried to do the same but Alex pointed the gun at her. She sat down immediately.
Alex looked all around him and saw the fear, tension that was palpable in the church. As he looked into Crane’s eyes, he saw his mother’s cries, the beatings, the pity, the torture. He shut his eyes to hold the tears but he couldn’t. He cried out “Why father? Did you hate us that much? Here you are being pled for, yet undeserving. Am I supposed to live with the fact that I let you escape with life today? Perhaps it will be best if Tom and Sandy are left fatherless. Better to be fatherless than to have a father with a heart filled with treachery!”
“Please, show mercy as Christ has shown on you” Crane pled.
After a minute pause, Alex with the gun still pointed at Fr. Crane’s head said “I forgive you, Father! As they say, forgiveness is almost a selfish act because it gives benefits to the one who forgives and torments the forgiven. I will spare your life today and the church of God is my witness. I will leave this town with my family because I will not stand seeing you preach to me. You will carry this guilt to your grave and your whole family is aware of it even your very congregation. That is enough punishment for you. It is your Penance!”
“To the rest of you, please take care of your families. Do not molest your wives or children, they are responsibilities assigned to you by God. May God have mercy on us all!” He then pointed the gun to his own head. Sheila rushed towards him.
“This is for you, Father!!” Boom!
“No!!!” they all shouted.
Alex killed himself….
WAS THIS AN ACT OF PENANCE FOR ALEX OR FR. CRANE, HIS BIOLOGICAL FATHER? DID HE REALLY NEED TO COMMIT SUICIDE TO PUNISH HIS FATHER? WAS THIS A SELFISH ACT KNOWING HE HAD A WIFE TO CARE FOR? THESE ARE QUESTIONS I WOULD LIKE MY READERS TO ANSWER. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!