Thursday Feb 02, 2023

Beni’s Cross

It was a big day for Beni. That interview he had long desired just came through and he did not want anything to stop him. He tried to convince himself that this time the job was his, standing in front of his cracked mirror, his hair reflecting in four unequal parts definitely needed to be combed. He searched his drawer for the instrument he seldom used. Why is the comb so far away? he thought.

His friend had bought it for him as a souvenir with the colours of her country’s flag on it. He had wondered why a comb of all things but the reason was quite obvious. Now dressed and checking himself out in the mirror, it felt like something was missing… yes! his ‘good luck charm’ his grand mother had given him a chain with a tiny cross pendant and told him to wear it for ‘good luck’ and if there was any day he needed it, it was that day. As he lifted the chain from its sacred box and latched it around his neck he was certain nothing could stop him this time!

He marched out with confidence, reached for his keys and fought with his rickety doors. One glance at his cracked  watch told him he had to run if he would be on time for his interview, but how do you run from the high street  to the mainland? only a motorcycle could do the trick. He had hoped to take a keke so as not to scatter his best attempt at looking good.
Oga don’t you know that tall glass building beside the church with a large illuminated cross on it?
l no sabi am o, abi you sef no sabi the place? you fit show me nah”
Ok let us  go I know it”
Nah N700 ooo
Haba Oga which kind thing be that just church street there nah im u dey call N700
so you sabi speak pidgin since, na im u wan us English scatter my head no be only illuminated na laminated enter N300
it could be way cheaper but Beni was not ready for more drama so he mounted the bike and encouraged the man to speed up. the excited man sped up like he couldn’t wait to announce that he just won the lottery.
In a flash all Beni could hear were various voices “where is the hospital?which is nearer? “ a distinct husky voice replied “we can see the green cross on the pharmacy from here so I think its nearer” another man with hasty caution in his voice spoke up wait don’t move him, he may have a concussion, I am a certified member of the Red cross and I have my first aid kit the young man who sounded no older than him said. Beni remembered the red cross ‘training’ he got in camp as a corper, for him it was just a ploy to escape from the soldiers drills and knew he could not do more than fan a sick person as first aid. fearing for his life he struggled to seat up, he didn’t want to be a specimen for a red cross recruit.
don’t move sir, you may have broken bones
“BONES?” he managed to speak out. What did getting to church street have to do with bones? He only remembered shouting “Oga wait the  light don turn red then everything else became a murky blur.
I will be fanning him, this morning sun is too harsh a lady said as if trying to remind them of her extremely important role in saving his life. The little book she used had a cross on its pages, not like any one he had seen, it was not pretty like his good luck charm (which he would probably toss away as soon as his arms regained freedom to move); not like the one on the church next to his interview venue or others on the same street; not like the one on hospitals nor that on pharmacies and definitely not like that of the red cross or the Switzerland flag-a flip of it; this was old and rugged. The edges were more worn than his rickety door. there was something different about it.
And like ‘super book’ a cartoon he had watched as a child where the characters in real time get drawn into the story in the book by the force of a bright light  to become part of its cast in the already written story; he saw himself being drawn into the book but this time it was like a mild Harmattan breeze blew him into  what was definitely another era as he Just saw himself and everyone around dressed like they were from the **11th century**  he must be on the set of a movie most likely a sequel to Spartans or Ben Hur. The men were dressed in sack clothes and a thin girdle around the waists. The women wore long sack robes and covered their hair with a long scarf. Their footwear was mostly fine leather gladiator sandals-  the only thing in his costume he wished to retain. If he sold it, his next rent would be covered.
He looked around for cameras, lights or a director to scream ‘action’ or ‘cut’ but nothing happened so he concluded it was a dream. He descended the hill slowly as he watched some women crying- and wondered why.  It was dark and there were no street lights. People groped their way through the streets with torches held high like the Olympic torch. There was a loud sound of fabric ripping and the  ground began to shake like an earthquake was about to start. Just as suddenly as it started, it ended. He watched as plans were made for  a man to be  brought down from a cross. The cross looked like the one on the pages of that book but much bigger and real. The people treated the dead man with respect like he was some sort of King.
They wrapped the man in fine linen cloth and placed him in a tomb dug deep into a rock with a circular opening just wide enough for two people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. It seemed really grand; he thought of his own burial not sure if he was dead or alive and wished it will be simple yet executive as the one they gave to the man. He thought of rocks in Nigeria that could be used, but only one felt suitable for him “Aso rock will be a good place for me to be buried
“what do you mean my son?” an old woman asked.
He did not realize he had voiced his thoughts.
erm never mind ma
Joanna the old woman, thought  He looked a bit strange but he had a close resemblance to Thadeus one of Jesus disciples who was rather quiet in most of their activities. It was dark and she had been crying for long so she just assumed it was him and was too grieved to comment about his hair cut.  “you must all be tired and hungry let us all go back to the upper room” she said to him and the little crowd that gathered in front of the tomb. He followed her and others without hesitation.When they the upper room, just a large room on the top floor of her home. He met a lot of people- young old, funny, cranky. In the 3 days he stayed with them, all they did was sing eat pray sleep same routine. They didn’t have much time for small talk as people were grieved by the death of the man the called their ‘Messiah’ but even in their hurting state, they were hospitable and he really felt at home with them.
Very early in the morning they prepared some special perfume. It smelled so good that he couldn’t resist checking the jar for a designer’s name. He just couldn’t believe that a mixture of leaves could produce such an exotic scent. He started taking metal notes of the leaves he saw- there was even one that looked like cocoyam leaves and he knew he could get that easily to make some for himself.
He tagged along as they went to the tomb, but the man they had placed was not there, yet the linen clothes were folded up. What could have happened? he wondered. ‘abi dem don thief him body?‘ the place didn’t look like it had been through a raid it looked more like ‘a careful exit’ had taken place, his mind was too myopic to imagine a ressurrection his friend had mentioned that ‘God resurrected’ but he had always used all manner of science theories to prove it impossible but this seemed like a possibility was staring at him in this case as the soldiers who were to guard the tomb said no one could have taken the body away they too were in awe as to the disappearance of the body without human help.
As he wondered, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them and said to them “why do you look for the living among the dead? he is not here: HE HAS RISEN”
Fear seized Beni immediately. he couldn’t run away or anything- he knew nowhere to run to. This was not a movie. Everything was as real as the hair on his head. The scene was vaguely familiar like a story he had heard or a movie had seen but he couldn’t fix it.
He he needed someone to explain it to him. A few minutes later, Peter ran to the tomb he seemed so agitated that the body was not there. Perfect timing he thought. Peter was the boss in the area he coordinated most of the prayers and meetings they held in  so he should be able to explain however, at a closer look at Peters demeanor it was obvious he was in no mood for the rigorous questions he intended to ask ,so he decided he will wait for a good time.
Few days passed and the people were all together, it was the same routine but they seemed more excited ass they circulated the news *that the Messiah had risen just as it was fore told that he will die and after three days he will rise again*,  In fact some people said the Messiah appeared to them the same day they visited the tomb, he was not happy he missed witnessing the appearance.
He was really enjoying living with the disciples, he didn’t have much to lose. No one would miss an Orphan like him, he had no wife, no children,no love, no hope but these people received him and took good care of him. No one bothered if he was from their tribe or not- a challenge he had faced on many job interviews. Some would put it nicely and say “sir you are very qualified but most of our clients speak Hausa, we will like a staff who can communicate with them…” here he was loved and accepted just the way he was and the constant prayers and singing though he wasn’t used to it began to touch his heart he began to feel a change… Feeling it was in his power to decide, he pondered on whether to stay or go back to life as he knew it.
while he watched the disciples sing and pray, Suddenly the house began to shake and a mighty rushing wind blew round the room and something that looked like fire suddenly attached to their heads. As usual Beni wanted to take off but he didn’t know where to. Right away people started speaking various languages. He Was intrigued
“haa mama, se eti gbo yoruba ?‘ he asked the woman beside him who seemed to suddenly start praising in his language. but she was so enraptured she didn’t even hear him. Several languages were spoken at the same time and he was certain he heard some Idoma, Igbo, french and ‘otegaa otegaa’ from the heavily bearded man on his other side had to be Urhobo.
He couldn’t take it anymore, when there was some more calmness in the room, he called peter aside narrating his tales,from how he wanted to enter ‘keke’  to how he appeared in their city. unaware of what a ‘keke’ was, peter started from the crucifixion and explained many things to him.
The man you saw on the cross is Jesus…” the name was familiar to Beni People always shouted it when in Danger and he has heard it on many other occasions  “…his Father, God, seeing the helplessness of man, sent him to the world to save us from our sins and unrighteousness, there has been a distance between man and God for thousands of years and various attempts have been made to cover it  up to no avail, but this death of Christ on the cross will bring us redemption as it has provided a bridge for man to cross over to God by believing in Jesus and doing what he says in his word” Peter explained, telling him about the past the present and the anticipated future.
Pondering on the words, though not totally strange to him it made a whole new meaning to him. He finally saw the connection between what he Peter just said to what his Christian friend had been telling him and what is happening in his world and he  knew people must have tried to create a false safety by making sizes and colours of cross; to some a fashion icon others a decoration, but the real essence of the cross is the price Jesus paid for our sins, now he got it!!!
Peter further told him about what just happened, “I know you heard those men accuse us of being drunk, because we spoke in different languages. I assure you we are not drunk- we are only filled with the Holy Ghost,”
“Holy Ghost? what is that?” a puzzled Beni asked
“he is the comforter, the helper, the teacher, the guide to all believers who desire Him, Jesus said he will send him, and He just did, I know I am stronger and better and ready to carry on the great commission Jesus gave to us you are welcome to come along my dear friend”
“Lord you said in your word that we should ask and we will receive Lord I am asking you to raise him up, he must rise o he must rise o God I rebuke the spirit of comm… “
the Voice of Victoria filled in air, why was she praying so aggressively Mary,Joanna, Peter James, John all his friends didn’t pray with so much fuss what is her own? Beni grumbled within him at the seeming strangeness of his friends prayers when compared to those he had heard for many days now.
He opened his eyes and a bigger shout deafened his ears. “he is risen! he is awake! thank you Jesus! doctor!”
he was not sure why she was so excited that he was awake, most likely because he will pay the money he has been owing her for…he couldn’t even remember what he was owing her for or even how much.
the doctor came in examined his eyes, took his pulse and fell silent for a moment.
“this is definitely a miracle” he said
“our God has  done it again” Vicky said
at the sound of ‘God’ he recalled his dream, trance, time travel he didn’t know what to call it,
“Oh Beni, I am so happy you are finally awake God be praised”
“why are you saying finally?
“hmm “ she said with a sigh ” you have been in Coma for 5days, they could only reach me after two days, the man who brought you said the battery of your Chi phone flew away in the accident that he had to search the market for two days to find a spare before he could call me” Beni groaned, wishing she would focus on the main facts of the story…
so he saw my number saved as “Sister Vic” the same name I said you should stop calling me as It made me feel old! Anyway it was the only one saved like that so they assumed I was your sister and I have been coming with my friends to pray for you and to…
Vicky was his former landlord’s daughter. They had been friends when he lived in their quarters she had told him about Jesus a couple of times and how he loves him so much and the need for him to receive him but he had always brushed it aside as a fad. He didn’t think that anymore….and after his near death experience he did not want to risk going to Hell or living a life on earth without enjoying the freely given gift of Christ’s love he knew he had all to gain.
cutting Vicky short he blurted “I want to accept Jesus NOW
Really?” smiled Vicky “that’s the best thing you can decide to do. oya say this prayer”
He nodded and said with her
“Heavenly father, thank you for  loving me, thank you for sending your son to die on the cross for my sins, I acknowledge I am a sinner, please cleanse me of all my sins and give me the power to live a righteous life in Jesus name. Amen”
Beni felt a fresh joy,peace and love wash over him he knew that moment that the many cracks in his life will be straightened out he thank his friend with a grateful smile and he sank into a refreshing sleep.


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