It had been several weeks since Father Desjardins left. She missed him very much, especially their talks about the Bible and religion in general. There were times when she walked through the fields, half expecting to see him or him sitting down at the picnic table at the back of her grandmother’s house. She went to church expecting to see him there only to be reminded that he was gone and that there was another priest who had taken his place.
It was August. Soon she would be back at university for a third year. She was looking forward to hitting the books again. That would help to take her mind off Father Desjardins. He had sent her an email letting her know that he had arrived safely and how much he was looking forward to meeting the members of the village and the church where he was to serve as their new shepherd. He asked how she and her grandmother were and promised to keep in touch.
The new priest, Father Peeters was a very nice and likable man. The members immediately warmed to him and in no time he was invited to break bread with them. For a man in his early sixties, he was as fit as a fiddle. He had been a priest since he was in his early twenties. In his first sermon which was about A Leap of Faith, he told the story of an Olympian who was inspired by a flea. “The young man was discouraged from becoming a pole jumper because of his height until he watched a video about a flea. He watched the small insect jump an impossible height and was so impressed that he wanted to learn more about fleas. He discovered that a flea could jump around 30 thousand times in a row. And that it can also jump very high. If it were the size of a human being, it would be able to jump over the Eiffel Tower with an acceleration force which was at a rate 50 times greater than a rocket taking off into space! The young man decided that if the flea could do the impossible despite its size, he could do the impossible despite his height. And he went to try out the pole vault jumping and qualified. He went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics in 2016. Thanks to that flea he took a leap of faith and won the prize. There are times in our lives when we need to take that leap of faith even in the face of what seems like an impossible hurdle.”
The clearing of a throat interrupted her thoughts and she glanced up, startled to see a man standing there watching her. He was tall and handsome in a rugged sort of way and looked to be in his late forties or not older than fifty.
“Hello,” he said in French. “I was passing by and I saw that you have some really nice stuff in here.”
“Yes. There are lots of nice things here. Have a look around but I must warn you that the store will be closing in about ten minutes.”
“Oh. I’d better hurry then.” He was gone and back in less than five minutes with a couple of white shirts and ties.”
“I didn’t mean to rush you.”
“You didn’t. It doesn’t take me long to shop for what I need.”
“Will that be cash or credit?”
She ran up the sale and after putting the items in bags, she handed them to him. “Here you go, Sir.”
“Thank you.” He took them from her and turning, he walked out of the store.
As soon as he was gone, Mrs. Moussa walked in. “Well, it’s time to close up. Ede, you don’t have to stick around.”
“All right. Have a good evening, Mrs. Moussa.”
“Thanks. You too.”
“Call me again if you need me.”
“I will. Good evening.”
Ede left the store and after she closed the door behind her. She walked in the direction of the bus stop. As she crossed over the street, she saw the man who had just left the store. He was putting the bags into the back seat of a car. When he closed the door, he saw her. Instead of getting into his car and driving away, he waited for her to reach him.
“Do you need a lift?” he asked after he removed his sunglasses and leaned nonchalantly against the white church building.
“No, thank you,” she replied in English.
“You speak English.”
“My name is Hank. What’s yours?”
“I don’t usually give my name to strangers.”
He smiled. “I hope I won’t be a stranger to you for much longer. I moved here a couple of weeks ago. I’m the new pastor of Harvest Seventh-day Adventist Church. Are you familiar with it?
“I have heard of it. I know a few people who are members. One of them told me that they were getting a new pastor. She said that he was American.”
“I’m from Portland, Oregon.”
“Why did you leave there to come all the way here?”
“Harvest needed a new pastor and I was chosen. Besides, when God tells me to go somewhere, I go.”
“Oh. We recently got a new priest. Our former priest went to Ireland because they need young priests there.”
“Yes, I’d heard about that. The Catholic Church hopes that importing younger priests from abroad will help to keep the fire burning and the priesthood booming.”
“I hope it works.”
“Now that you know my name, the work that I do and where I’m from, will you tell me your name?”
“Ede. What does it mean?”
“It means strife for wealth.”
“Mine means ruler of the home.”
“And your wife is the helper of the home.”
“I don’t have a wife.”
She stared at him, surprised. “I’m sorry. I just assumed that you were married.”
“Most people do until I tell them that I’m not.”
“How long have you been a pastor?”
“That’s a long time. You must really love it.”
“I do. For me it is a great blessing. What about you? How long have you been working at the store?”
“I don’t work there. Sometimes I help out during the summer. I’m still in university.”
“What are you studying?”
“Nursing. What type of nursing are you specializing in?”
“Geriatric. I’m very interested in helping the aging community with their basic needs and also providing more advanced treatment like medicinal care, physical ailments or even mental conditions. I moved here from Porto-Novo where my parents are to live with grandmother. When I’m not at university, I take care of her.”
“What about when you’re at university?”
“A housekeeper and nurse take care of her during the week and I take care of her on the weekends and holidays.”
“Your grandmother is very blessed to have you.”
“I’m very blessed to have her. She’s a wonderful person. She’s 70 and suffers from arthritis but her mind is as sharp as ever.”
“My mother is 80 and although she has a few aches and pains, she’s still physically active and mentally sharp too.”
“Does she live by herself?”
“No. She has a live-in housekeeper.”
“How did she feel about you coming to Cotonou?”
“She wasn’t thrilled but once I convinced her that it was God’s will for me, she was supportive.”
“Why do Seventh-day Adventists worship on Saturday instead of Sunday?”
“It is the day of the Lord’s Sabbath. It is the day God rested. It is the day Jesus said was made for us and it is the day He said that He was Lord of.”
“But what about Sunday? Why do all the other churches worship on it instead of on Saturday?”
“Seventh-day Baptists also worship on Saturday. The other churches worship on Sunday because they believe that since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, then, all Christians should worship on that day.”
“But what’s wrong with worshipping on Sunday because of the resurrection?”
“Why don’t we continue this discussion while I’m giving you a lift home?” he suggested.
He moved away from the building and preceded her to his car. He held the door open for her and as she passed him to get in, their eyes met briefly. He smiled as he waited for her to settle in before closing the door. As he walked to the driver’s side, he donned his sunglasses.
“Where do you live?” he asked. She told him, giving him directions. “I know where that is.”
“How should I address you now that I know that you’re a pastor?”
“You can address me as Pastor Hank if you like.”
“Pastor Hank, could you explain to me why it’s wrong to worship on Sunday when it’s the day Jesus rose from the dead?”
“Jesus never said that He wanted His followers to keep holy the day on which He was resurrected. The only day we are to keep holy and the only day God calls His day is the seventh day. It was the day He set aside for rest. Jesus said that the Sabbath was created for mankind.”
“I thought the seventh-day Sabbath was for the Jews.”
“The Sabbath existed long before there was even a Jewish nation. The Jewish nation was formed when they were captives in Egypt. That’s why the Sabbath commandment begins with the word, remember. The Jewish people were to remember to keep the Sabbath. You can’t remember something which never existed.”
“But doesn’t it mention in the Gospel of John, chapter 20, I think that the disciples were assembled on the first day of the week?”
“Yes, that’s the evening of the resurrection. They were in shut up somewhere because they were afraid of the people. This wasn’t a worship service at all. They didn’t even believe that Jesus had risen even after Mary and other disciples had told them so.”
“What about when Paul preached to the disciples on the first day of the week?”
“The disciples had come together to break bread–to fellowship and Paul showed up to talk to them because he was leaving the next day. He spoke until midnight. They were in the upper room with lamps burning. Would a worship service go on for so many hours and why in an upper room instead of in the synagogue where other people might benefit too? No, the disciples weren’t worshipping on the first day of the week. They were still Sabbath-keepers. We read in Luke 23:56 that the women who followed Jesus rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. It was the custom for both Jesus and Paul to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. After Paul finished preaching at the synagogue, the Gentiles begged him to preach to them the following Sabbath. And on the following Sabbath, the entire city of Antioch came to hear the word of God. If Paul and the others had changed from keeping the seventh day to keeping the first day, why didn’t he preach to the Gentiles on the previous Sunday? When Paul was in Philippi, he and Luke who was a Gentile went to out of the city to the riverside on the Sabbath day where prayer was customarily made and they sat down and spoke to the women who met there. One of them was Lydia, a Gentile saleswoman who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart and she accepted what Paul said. On that day, she and her household were baptized.”
Ede’s mind was spinning. “This is a lot to digest,” she said.
“You’re right. Let’s leave the discussion for another time. I will say the same thing to you which Jesus said to His disciples, I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.“
She looked at him. “Thank you.”
“Here we are,” he added as they pulled up to her grandmother’s house. He turned and faced her. “When can I see you again, Ede?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“I’m driving to Ouidah on Monday. Would you like to come?”
“I–I’m not sure I should.”
“You don’t have to decide right now. Think about it.” He scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to her. “Here’s my number. If I don’t hear from you, then I’ll know that you’re not interested coming to Ouidah.”
She took it and put it in the breast pocket of her shirt. “Thanks for the lift.”
“You’re welcome.” He got out of the car and walked around to open her door. “Goodbye, Ede. I hope I hear from you.”
“Goodbye, Pastor Hank.” She turned and walked up the path to the house. After she unlocked the door, she turned and waved before going inside.