As the excitement of NYSC orientation camp died down, I quickly settled into the new life at my place of primary assignment- a secondary school in Abudu village- the outskirts of Benin. The Corpers’ Lodge was located within the school’s compound which is near the village market, but the locals lived miles away from the school, so we didn’t really have close-door neighbours. My only companion was Mfom (not her real name) with whom I shared the big bungalow, which seemingly had been unoccupied for a while, until we resumed at the school. Mfom and I were to teach different subjects in the school. With my background in Electrical Engineering, I was eager to teach the students, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry and pass on the knowledge my lecturers had impacted on me during my five years in the university.
Life was sweet between Mfom and I as fellow “corper shun”; we cooked and ate together, and had morning and night devotions together. As an official in my NIFES Fellowship at FUTO, my friends called me a pastor since I always had my Bible with me wherever I went. I preached to as many as I could and got many students born again while on campus. So I was ecstatic about NYSC as I saw it as a time of building myself up in ministry and NCCF (Christian Corpers’ fellowship) was going to be my launching box. Being the Evangelism and Missions Secretary of my zonal NCCF, I was in charge of ‘Rural Rugged Evangelism” and other missions/outreach programmes in my area.
Mfom wasn’t the typical “jimjin” sister but nevertheless attended the NCCF fellowship meetings with me, and she eagerly listened to me each night as I read and dissected the Bible to her. Her receptivity and participation in the Bible study I held with her made me begin to trust her, unlike in my days in campus when I didn’t trust women, not even the sisters in my fellowship.To me, women were more or less sent by Satan to kill one’s ministry and leak the anointing on the life of a serious-minded brother like me. So in campus, I kept them at an arms length and hardly visited even close sisters-in-the-lord at the female hostels. For me, the best strategy to adopt in fighting fornication is to avoid close contacts with women as much as possible.Moreso, I never felt comfortable sitting close to my fellowship sisters, let alone walk side by side with them after fellowship meetings. To me, brothers who hugged sisters were very carnal and worldly, and I couldn’t stand those sisters that used makeup and wore trousers to our programmes.
One night while I was sleeping, I heard a bang on my door and reluctantly opened knowing it must be Mfom.Then I hissed and asked, “Mfom,what is the matter with you again?” for she keeps waking me up abruptly time and again. The other night, she had asked for some candle sticks since NEPA hardly gave us light. Some other time, she would ask for irrelevant things she obviously knew I don’t have. I wonder what it is that Mfom wants from me which she can’t easily get on her own. “Women and their wahala.They just won’t let you rest and have your piece of mind”, I muttered to myself.
This time around, she sounded very frantic and scared. “A big rat just jumped on me from the ceiling while I was asleep, and I’m afraid they would bite me.” She continued, “Please Mike, let me bring my mattress so I can sleep in your room….I’m so scared to sleep in my room. I have been having nightmares because of these rats!”
I ignored her and remained quiet for minutes.
“Mike, please now…I know you don’t allow girls into your room, but am scared these rats could bite me and give me a terrible disease. Am I not your sister-in-the-lord again? Na waa for you oooh…hmm, so you won’t even protect me when am in danger…eeh?”
Before, I could decide on shutting my door against her, Mfom clutched her Vitafoam mattress and bed sheets like a mad woman and bumped into my room. I didn’t say a word to her again and went back to my bed.
“Which kain man you be sef…abi you no get sisters for una house wey dey fear rats like me?” she querried with a tinge of mischief in her voice.
“You know that I’m an NCCF exco and it’s not nice to allow a woman to sleep in my room”, I retorted back with a pint of bile in my voice. “Moreover, I don’t want any scandals in this school and you know how these FCS Secondary Students Fellowship members look up to me as a “Senior Friend” and you well know that they see me as a kind of patron to them.”
“Dat one na your own wahala…weda you like am or not, I must sleep in your room tonight”she retorted as she reclined on her mattress to sleep.
I ignored her and slept peacefully till the next morning. We still had our usual devotion in the living room of our 2 bedroom apartment before our breakfast and left for school to teach our students. Mfom read Biochemistry at University of Uyo and took the senior secondary students in Biology.
The following night, Mfom continued her antics and to let peace reign, I decided to allow her sleep in my room for a second night since those rats that play around in the ceiling seem to freak her out. I also reasoned that women generally are afraid of rodents and can even faint when a roach or lizard alights on them. Maybe that’s why they are truly the weaker vessel. And going by her usual arguments, my sisters might do the same thing if confronted with the same situation at hand. As we discussed or rather argues that second night, we reached a consensus which she promised to comply with:
“Mfom”, I said with a sense of fear and dread, “You know I’d be bending over my personal rules if I allow you to be sleeping in my room every night. My sisters don’t even sleep in my room, and I remember I told you I never had any girlfriend at FUTO.This is to tell you how serious I’m about women . But I’ll only allow you on one condition….”
“Haba Mike, are you that mean…?” she interrupted. “Anyway, what could be as bad as living under the same roof every night with an insensitive guy like you who behave as though he was not born by a woman?”
“Call me names if you like, but you know we can’t be sleeping in the same room every night”, I said with vehemence. “I am a pastor and won’t let anything affect my testimony. You don’t even bother about what people would say when they discover”.
“Na waa for you oooh. I never see a fake and Jew guy like you that doesn’t even care for others. So I’m now a devil that will spoil your testimony eeeh? What is your stress with women sef?”
“Mfom, it’s not that I see you as a seducer of men…emm I am only trying to be cautious you know…”
Then I heard a quick sermon from her. “Oh I have become Jezebel eeh? Shame on you Mike. Even Jesus Christ related well with prostitutes and we didn’t hear any scandals, and he still remained the Son of God. Was he not man enough to hold Himself before Mary Magdalen and other women that were so crazy about Him?”
I wasn’t ready for another argument so I quietly asked: “So what do you want from me Mfom? I’m just not too cool with you sleeping in my room? I don’t want our corper friends to use me as punching ball for their naughty jokes again”.
She chuckled a little and said, “Do I look like someone whose mouth runs like a tap without control? I don’t even understand you at all.What are you afraid of? That you’d end up sleeping with me? H common Mike, you don’t have to fear anything like that ok. Do I look like a loose girl or someone that sleep around? Please, don’t try to insult me indirectly as I have my dignity to protect. To avoid any insults, I’ll just bring along my mattress and sleep at my own little corner while you enjoy sleep on your bed, period!”
Somehow I conceded reluctantly but still protested. “I’ll only allow you to sleep in my room just for a while until I get some rat poison that will kill them. Hope this is ok by you?” Mfom didn’t respond. She just made her bed and reclined to sleep.
So that night, we slept separately on our mattresses and she must have watched me snore without a complaint. I had heard from my sisters and family folks that the cacophony of my snores at night is sure to wake up a sleeping child.
At the beginning, Mfom used to wear a thick night gown with a dark hue so my eyes didn’t need any plausible stimulus to stray in their normal roving movements. But I began to experience some uneasiness when Mfom changed her night wear to a more transparent and revealing one. She would tie wrapper round her torso though, thus shielding my eyes from straying too far. I had once looked at her awkwardly and she didn’t complain, but I felt a bit ashamed that morning before she had her bath.
One of the nights when the rats seemed to have a rowdy rat race, she became more scared and rushed to my side in a hysterical manner. She seemed to have had a nightmare that night; thus she abandoned her bed and rushed to me as though she had been bitten by a snake. She clung unto me like a whimpering child and my mind was fussy as to what to do with her.
“Mike, please hold me….. I feel like dying...” she said amidst sobs. She looked like a baby that just saw the head of a cobra. “Oh Mike, am so scared…!” she continued to whimper as I attempted to calm her down.
“It’s ok Mfom…nothing will happen to you”, I kept reassuring her. She later calmed down and slept peacefully beside me. It was my first experience of having a female body lie closely beside me. I felt so uneasy and wondered what it would be like for me when I got married…only to face the reality of sharing the same bed with my wife each night.
The next night, I had to allow Mfom to sleep on my bed since that seemed to be the safest place on earth for her.Moreso, my bed was a lot bigger and had enough room for two adults to sleep comfortably. I later became more relaxed each succeeding night, and morning when I wake up to see her lie beside me. Sometimes I stole a passing look at her well-sculptured body which the night gown concealed away from my full glare like a silhouette.
One night after our supper, Mfom began to regal me with jokes. We laughed and teased each other at will. Then her tone changed from mere teasing to obvious mockery.
“Mike …Are you really sure that you’re a man?” she said with a mischievous grin on her face.
I was silent for a while, trying to understand her drift. Then I qupped, ‘So what makes you think I am not a man if I may ask?”
‘If you call yourself a man, how come you don’t even touch my body? You don’t even know how to make a woman sleep well. You don’t even know how to cuddle a woman and make her feel good….yet you call yourself a man. Abeg go and rest jariii”. She taunted and laughed me to scorn, till I began to feel a bit embarrassed.
‘Imagine having a correct and fine babe like me every night to sleep with on your own bed and you can’t even do anything. Kai…I tire for you oh! Which kain pastor you be wey no dey feel anything for body when others dey salivate when I pass by…?
‘I pity that lady you call your fiancée or wife cos she’d have a miserable marriage as I don’t see you satisfying her like other men I have known would. By the way, are you sure you’re not impotent Mike….?”
She was just being mischivious and I was not cool with it.To say that I was embarrassed that night would be an understatement. My eyes opened intermittently as Mfom’s scathing words ate deep into my being. I wondered how long I’d remain a virgin when many pastors I knew talked about the days they sowed their wild oats before they got born again. I was often bothered that my own testimony isn’t as wonderful as mine. Many had been involved in orgies; used and dumped their girlfriends at will before they had an encounter with God. For me, I have been the atypical church boy and missionary kid who was shielded from known vices. I never explored the wild side of life like my peers.I reasoned that if I remained a virgin, god would also bless me with one as wife to compensate me for suppressing my desires, and holding on till I married.
But the taunting by Mfom continued every night and in more subtle ways. She didn’t stop poking me in the presence of other Corps friends who visited our lodge regularly. “Maybe I should prove to her that I am not an impotent man” I began to reason. After sometime, I began to rationalize and see reasons why I have to prove to her that I am as virile as those seemingly hot-blooded guys she often boasts about. But there was a snag somewhere; my conscience and all that I had stood for. I had unending battles with my conscience which appeared to be a ruthless and merciless umpire of sorts. I just wouldn’t have my peace each time I resolved to go all the way with Mfom.The best way would be to stifle the voice of my conscience if must taste of the pleasure Mfom has to offer.
Then I heard a voice in my head say to me, “Afterall, everyone is doing it and God hasn’t blown them up yet and Mike can’t be the first or the last person to break any of God’s laws”. Somehow I saw reason in that and felt a bit more comfortable when I contemplated about what I had planned to do. Each morning though, we still had our devotions together. She read the Bible passages while I did the preaching before our daily night prayers. We kept this routine religiously each night before we slept.
Despite the prayers and Bible studies, thoughts about the free offers from Mfom began to eat my resolve and for the first time, I thought her to be attractive .It became more difficult for my eyes to avoid peering at her body while she slept. When I realize what I had done, I would mutter a word of confession like, “Lord, please forgive me for thinking lustfully about a woman who is not my wife”.
I really can’t remember what came over me that fateful Saturday night. It was as though someone had sent an intense but strange shockwave that deadened my conscience till I lost grip of my long-held resolve to be celibate. Mfom seemed like an angelic being that night ; too irresistible to be ignored. First it was a kiss, and my hands began to grope awkwardly .One thing led to the other and before I knew what I was doing, my innocence was gone. I became dis-virgined not so much by Mfom’s theatrics, but my own lust and passionate desire to experience pleasure that I had suppressed for too long.I saw how powerful passions can be when stoked by my imagination. I was so disconsolate and sullen. When I looked at Mfom thereafter, she just cast a sneery glance at me, as though I was a reprobate condemned to hell overnight.
When the day dawned, I could not look at her face without a tinge of bile and regret gripping my conscience. I had sinned against God out of my own volition even though Mfom was a willing vessel that helped to drawn me. I felt like strangulating her alive but that would be uncalled for. I had dug my own well and had to nurse the gapping wound in my conscience all alone. Mfom seeing how sullen and bitter I had become, relocated back to her abandoned room as though the rats had become her amiable friends overnight. We no longer held morning devotions or read the Bible together after that fateful night. But how could I when I have eaten the forbidden fruit that has discolored my teeth and defiled my conscience? I began to avoid Mfom like a plaque and was afraid she’d share my dirty secrets with her friends who respected me as a pastor.
Afraid of facing a scandal in the area, I decided to relocate from Abudu village to Benin City. Mfom got wind of my plans from our Zonal Inspector and begged me to not leave her alone in the school. For me, it was a matter of life and death. Three weeks after that fateful night that I so much regret, my reposting letter from NYSC Edo State Office got approved and I left Abudu unceremoniously. I wanted to leave my past behind me for good so I can start a new life bereft of regrets and gnawing sorrow and pain. My fellow corpers and the students didn’t know why I left in such a hurry.
I ran into a fellow “Corper Shun” and “Ajuwaya” friend, Chuka at the NYSC secretariat in Benin City. We’re in the same platoon ten during the orientation and hit off as friends but didn’t get to see again until we met in Benin that day. He gladly agreed to house me for a while till I was able to get my own accommodation. Chuka overtime noticed how reticent I was most nights, wondering why I stayed awake peering into the ceiling. And after much prodding, I opened up my heart and shared the horrid details of my misadventure with Mfom.I really needed someone to talk to so I can have some peace. Being a fellow NCCF brother, I had assumed he’ll condemn me like I did to guys who had fallen into sexual sin in the past. Though a virgin himself, he so understood my plight and spoke kindly to me, yet he’s not even a pastor in campus but a fringe member in the fellowship. He showed so much maturity though 4 years younger than me, and he made me realize that there’s forgiveness available in God. I was so relieved when he read out some passages from the Bible which I had taken for granted:
“[Doing Good to All] Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”(Galatians 6:1)
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "—and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:1-8)
“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”(1John 1:6-10)
I felt so glad God sent a great friend like Chuka who spoke kindly and empathically to soothe my emotional pain and inner turmoil. He was more like Jesus Christ who wouldn’t let anyone cast a stone on the guilty prostitute that was caught in the very act by the religious powers of her day. Chuka made me know that what I committed was not an unpardonable sin but didn’t condone it all the same. Each night, he kept on encouraging me to not give up my resolve to live a chaste life. To him, even if I lose my virginity, God had another equally valuable gift; chastity, which He gives to those that put their past behind, and resolve to live holy and righteous without depending on their own strength but on His grace.
Though my thoughts drifted back to Mfom often, I realized she was not Jezebel-incarnate like I initially had thought. Being very beautiful and light-skinned, I had seen her as a harbinger and custodian of seducing spirits as we’re taught back in Campus Fellowship days. If anything, Mfom made me see that weak side of me that I thought I had conquered. She was a blessing in disguise as she made me see my own self-delusion and moral pride which my religious piety had beclouded for long. Now I know better to not trust in my own strength again but on God’s. Though I still battle with the not-too pleasant memory now and then, the condemnation I often felt before I met Chuka no longer grips me. I saw in him, a friend who is closer than a brother and we really need many like him!
The author is an Abuja-based physiotherapist and moderator of Cry of Adam Network, which is devoted to bringing emotional and spiritual healing to the wounded. He can be reached via email@example.com , or www.nuggetz4life.blogspot.com