Prayers For Martina
by Temba Magorimbo
"Alright ladies you can come around," Pastor Trudy motioned with her hands. There was a chorus of laughter from the young people coming to make a circle around her. Feet clad in canvas shoes, leather, calf skin and cattle skins moved closer. Further up the shoes were jean, corduroy trousers and cotton skirts and long dresses with intertwined knee high leggings underneath. Pastor Trudy was tall and lean. Her normal attire was longer than knee skirts and overlapping blouses or loose cotton trousers under t-shirts or blouses. She spotted two gold looking rings and a set of silver and gold bracelets.
"Ladies, ladies," a slim and tall girl echoed to more laughter.
"Hey stop it," one of the young boys said. Jackets were in makes and sizes with some having wool interiors. "We are not all ladies."
"All right my youth crew," Pastor Trudy read the Riot Act. "We are doing community service in these our rural areas. We are going there asking if the folks want household help after which every team will pray for the household before moving on. Right?"
"Yes ma'am," was the chorus. "Do we pray for the household items?"
"The household, period! It's a thrust which the church leadership has seen fit to use. We once gave free food hand-outs but when advisors told us to stop, the congregations dropped to less than a quarter," Pastor Trudy said.
"If they offer us food?" someone asked.
"We move with the spirit so accept any food offering but no offerings for labour, right?" One elder interjected.
"Maybe we should try free bibles," another suggested.
"No free Bibles it does not have the same pull as doing community service. With community service you have about an hour with a family proclaiming the name of the Lord. Do remember to talk a lot about the church and its benefits. Councillor, you want to say a word?" asked Pastor Trudy. "Yes, good morning gentlemen," the councillor said to choruses of laughter from the assembled young men and giggles from the ladies. He pulled his jacket closer to his body. Suddenly the zipper was no longer going beyond the halfway mark. With so many eyes looking at him, he thought not to be a spectacle.
"I see we have had a good humour break. I acknowledge the presence of Pastor Trudy, the ladies and the gents."
"Thank you and Amen!" Pastor Trudy said.
"I am representing my constituency where you will be doing this good work of community service. Though I am a politician and you are church people, people like you make my work easier because socially you bring solutions instead of problems. Keep it up. Its' my uttermost delight to see youth connected to Jehovah working in my constituency.
"We have our fair problems with youths who do not worship. They drink, prostitute, impregnate our daughters and deny responsibility and bring home babies whose fathers we doubt and don't know. They steal and commit crimes even against their elders. I watched with disbelief as some of our notorious youths prone to drinking, fighting and holding grudges settled by fists becoming docile church members. Hey, that is a big benefit. I held briefings with village heads and their sub-committee so that the type of tasks you will do won't include chopping wood, tilling the fields though its dry, anything to do with spanning of oxen and digging pits etc. Thank you for your kindly gesture, gents ________ and ladies."
"Over to you pastor," the councillor said.
"Okay people off we go in our four groups," she shooed them off. "Matthew and Group 1 head north, Susan and group 2 start by north of north east then head east past the bridge. Christabell and Group 3 head to the right and watch your heads on that mass of thorns. Henry and Group 4 head south, I will be linking with group leaders. You won't get lost because our local youths are with you though they will be working in villages other than their own. Their voice with their own peers should help us reach a greater and improved audience. Any issues that are political you address the elected representative not a would-be elected representative, okay?"
"We are not politicians. We are a church and a church looking after the interests of souls to turn to the Lord not to explain politics and political views. "
At the end of the day the pastor and her elders were at the clearing where they were working to build a church. There was a virtual absence of pentecoastal or even the old time churches in the rural areas. One of the reasons was the distances people had to travel to go to church and the general fact that most relied solely on farming. Their incomes corresponded with their tithes and offerings to be low hence most churches had ignored the rural areas. In return religious sects whose dogmas and doctrines were superficious were prevalent full of ‘prophecies'. Their church had made it a policy that every four urban area churches should sponsor a rural church and here they were. The rural people were making the load easier by helping in building, making standard bricks, grass cutting added to which rural churches had no municipal dues, electricity and caretaker costs.
There were steel poles and wooden rafters that held a zinc roof over brick and cement floor that was a temporary church. Toilets were Blair type in a neat row painted yellow at the bottom and brick red at the top. The church yard was fenced off in six strand barbed wire. There was an area where a church building had been started with the foundation trenches almost complete. The shape was of a cross. The rural folk had moulded and burnt piles of bricks arranged in three neat rows to almost a metre and a half in height.
Pastor Trudy had her back resting on a Ford Ranger diesel twin cab facing her four group leaders. The vehicle was caked in dry brown mud right up above the mud guards. There were two tents at opposite ends at ninety degree angles to the block of toilets at the far end of the church stand. Both were similar but had different colours, one was blue and the other was red. The girls were lodging in the blue tent for two nights more with the boys were doing the opposite.
"Right children," the pastor said. "Let's have any reports while the evening meal is cooking."
"Group 1,"an elder suggested. "Start first."
"We had the usual then there was a woman I suggest should be about 34 years old who wanted to know why there were so many churches. Our responses were why were there so many shops now? In the end we left our arguments hanging, we agreed to come and talk again while we invited her and her husband to tonight's church service," Matthew replied. "Your warning on politics was good. We made a point not to argue or be drawn into these arguments. There were about two old men and a middle aged man who wanted to delve into politics but we stayed clean."
"Thank you Matthew and group 2?" asked another elder.
"The normal chores and we had sister Shaleen who likes to sing more than she talks. She was being praised for her jingles," Susan said. "We invited all to the church services."
"And someone mother wished she had a daughter in law that sings like sister Shaleen," someone interjected to hoots of laughter.
"Watch out Shaleen may be wedded soon."
"The usual chores and group talk about Jesus with the ruralites men not very fond of us women wearing trousers or shorts. We talked much about God and they argued about old time churches which we agreed with them were not well represented here," Christabell replied. "We had odd and emphatic cases of polygamy where someone of the young wives were younger than us but already with a litter of children. A mother of two at nineteen with the eldest being three years old, the youngest barely half and there is a huge and growing stomach protrusion."
"Thanks Chris and last but not least Group 4."
"Well," Henry began. "We did the normal chores and prayers with particular prayers to be carried forward to this evening's intercession time for Martina age suspected around 17 and single. She had nausea, vomiting and stomach aches. There is special mention of prayers for an Uncle Philip who has swollen legs and Heather, a primary student who has fainting fits. We converged around her and invoked as much of the spirit of God as we could for the little girl. We told the parents to lay down their counter charms and reach out to our rural based pastor and his elders for spiritual guidance."
"Thank you teams," one elder said. "Let us have all the prayer requests so they can be read out at evening time."
"Remember," Pastor Trudy reminded them. "Our youth motto is every through Christ the King. No premarital sexual conduct and chaperoned dating. We maintain pure bodies and pure minds that are acceptable to God the father through Christ Jesus the son so no hunky punky. No touching of whatever opposite body parts and absolutely no kissing even if you are dating. Then we want a vigorous youth, if you are rural based, almost three [perennial rivers and lots of irrigation land. Your name should be on the list of producer farmers. With a lot of work and prayers, you won't find time for smoking, drinking, thinking of girls etc."
"That's below the belt!"
"Pastor, do you mean I can't kiss my baby brother?" one youth had the assembly in stitches of laughter.
At the end of their outreach the youths, their elders and the pastor in charge bade farewell to the community promising to come again when funds permitted.
"Another report?" an elder leading the group six weeks later asked when they had been another outreach. Members of the church in urban areas had come for three nights to help their rural folk in spreading the word. Deliverance services were being held daily morning, afternoon and at night. Teams of youths mixed with the elders were moving from household to household talking about the Word and doing chores. There was a brick and concrete slab where once there had been moulds of earth removed when the foundations were dug. Every corner of the building had been raised by about six lines of bricks and mortar with the rest still at slab level.
Henry said, "We had a coincidence in being asked to prayer for a sister we prayed with last time almost two months back. Sister Martina asked for prayers. I hear she is now a regular church member every Sunday and is part of the rural youth movement.
"The last time this church and us hosted a youth conference we had seven youths from here mixing with us in the city, she missed that she says. She says she has back pain time and time again. We should remember her and others whose prayer requests I have put here including a mother of five, yes five children who is praying for a son before she weans.
"Then there was little Heather prone to fits and collapsing, I am made to understand they can't remember when she last had a fit. She is with the Sunday school team and the grandparents are now saved members of the church."
"We have another prayer request from sister Martina," Henry replied. The church building was slightly about window level overall with yawning gaps for window frames to be fitted. There was a section were the rural people under guidance of a skilled builder had cast lintels. Deformed iron bars cut in sections and concrete had been laid in the ground where bricks had been used to ram the earth. Water had been poured on the lintels for a week now. The major task of installing them was imminent. "We had two elders with us when we did community work, she says now there is too much blood pressure."
"We will remember Martina and the others in tonight's prayers," Pastor Trudy replied. After the service the community prayed intercessory prayers for various people not mentioned by name. "In future even though we will be doing community work, devotions and prayers we should have medical personnel to guide us. I think we should have included Kumbulani who is a Medical Air Rescue ambulance medic and registered nurses."
On the morrow Henry informed the pastors. "We have received word that Martina was rushed to the mission hospital at the growth point last night. Her blood pressure was going up and up. Unfortunately we could not get someone skilled in medical issues within our group to check on Martina and others."
"Maybe as we break camp, we can pass through," the pastor said. "You as team leader and four of your youths."
"Next time you hear there is a youth retreat in the city, pay up as early and as fast as possible. Then any shortages advise the elders so that we chip in," Henry had promised. "It will be nice to meet."
"Maybe we will meet as youths before Collin ties the knot," one rural youth said of one urban youth marrying in seven months.
Three vehicles and a 32-seat bus left the rural area after farewells. The urbanites returned to their daily living promising to come back again.
They parked at the Mission Hospital and proceeded to ask.
"We are here to see an Martina," Henry said in the local language.
"What does she look like?" asked the nurse.
"She is heavily built with a very large bosom but she is short and about 17 to 19 years old, unmarried, she was suffering from high blood pressure," he suggested.
"We are from the!@#$ %^&*() _+ Church, she is part of the youth group," Trudy volunteered. "Aha, church?" the nurse queried. Henry remembered that being heavily built and large bosomed seemed hereditary in Martina's family. Her elder sister who was married was almost as stout being just lighter in complexion. "I now know you have that church holding quarterly revivals on the road T junction? You donated some foodstuff and medicines to this hospital."
"Yes and our youth gave this clinic a second coat of paint," one of the church elders added.
"Complexion?" the nurse asked.
"Dark to ebony with plaited hair if she didn't removed the hair do," Henry volunteered.
"Come with me," the nurse led them into a ward. "If it's her because I didn't get hold of the name."
There on the bed sat Martina without plaits in her huge bulk holding a new born baby in her arms!