“Did you have a good birthday yesterday, Ede?”
Ede was at the cosmetic shop where her friend worked. It was Isoka’s lunch break and they were sitting outside in the shade. They had just finished having something to eat.
“Yes, I did, Isoka.” The highlight was when Pastor Hank called her in the morning to wish her a happy birthday. She had been looking forward to hearing from him. They spoke for over an hour. After the call ended, she went into the living-room to admire the flowers he had given her on Monday.
They were so beautiful and she wished that they would last forever. She took photos of them. The card Pastor Hank gave her was propped up beside the vase. The words were simple but they meant a lot to her. She had read them over and over until she knew them by heart.
She had also received a card from Father Desjardins. It was nice hearing from him. It was funny how she had missed him so much after he left Cotonou but after she met Pastor Hank, she hardly thought about the priest. And she had a hard time remembering what he looked like. When she tried to, she kept seeing Pastor Hank’s face and when he called her on Monday, she wished that she could have seen him instead. She had to be satisfied with the phone call.
As soon as he finished wishing her a blessed day, she apologized again for kissing him on the cheek. “Don’t worry about it,” he told her. “You were simply thanking me for the flowers.”
That made her feel better and for the rest of the phone call, they talked about how she was going to spend her day and he reminded her that they were going to watch a live football game on Sunday. She was really looking forward to that.
“What did you do?” Isoka asked, interrupting her thoughts.
“I went out for lunch with a couple of friends.”
“Thanks for your card.”
“Our next door neighbor, Mrs. Issafou baked a cake for me.” She didn’t mention the flowers from Pastor Hank or the card from Father Desjardins.
“Have you been to the Harvest Seventh-day Adventist church as yet?”
“No, have you?”
“No, but my aunt is and she’s encouraging me to go with her. She says the new pastor is really nice and his sermons are very good. Maybe I’ll go on Saturday.”
“I met him when he came into Mrs. Moussa’s store.”
“Is he as attractive as Anaïs says?”
“Anaïs? Does she know him?”
“She met him at the football academy. He was there with the Adventist youth group. When I saw her yesterday, she mentioned it and went on and on about how attractive he is. It sounds like she has her eye on him. He’ll probably go for her.”
“Why would he go for her?”
“She’s white like him. I won’t be surprised if she starts going to Harvest just to see him.”
Ede stood up. “I’ve to go.”
“Where are you off to?”
“I’ve some errands to run. I’ll see you around.”
“Ok. Bye’, Ede.”
“‘Bye, Isoka.” She got up and walked away. She didn’t want to hear about Anaïs and how attractive she thought Pastor Hank was. And she didn’t like what her friend said about him going for Anaïs because she was white. Anaïs was right though. Pastor Hank was very attractive.
Ede didn’t have any errands to run. That was just an excuse. She decided she would go by the academy and when she got there, her heart skipped a beat when she saw Pastor Hank sitting outside on the steps. She walked up to him. He looked pleased to see her. “Hello, Ede.”
“Hello, Pastor Hank.” He was wearing a tee shirt with a pair of black athletic pants and in his hands was a football. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m waiting for a few of the youth from Harvest. We’re going to play some football at the field behind the centre. What are you doing here?”
“I–I was just passing by.”
“Do you want to stick around for a while?”
“Do you want to sit down?”
She shook her head. “No, thanks.” Should she ask him about Anaïs? “I was talking to a friend earlier and she mentioned that her aunt is attending Harvest.”
“What’s your friend’s aunt’s name?”
“Oh, yes. Mrs. Dossa started coming two weeks ago. She has invited me to have lunch with her family and her on Saturday.”
“Oh. My grandmother’s would like you to have lunch with us one Saturday.”
“I’d like that very much. Just let me know which Saturday.”
“My friend also mentioned that Anaïs might be going to Harvest too.”
“Yes. She’s tall and blonde and in her late twenties. I think she was here at the center recently.”
“Oh, yes. I remember her now. She was here last week Wednesday when I came with a few of the youth from Harvest. She attended church for the first time last week Saturday.”
“She was at Harvest last week Saturday?”
“Yes. She told me afterwards how much she enjoyed the sermon and the worship music.”
Ede bristled inwardly. “What was the sermon about?”
“Grace. I spoke about how salvation comes through grace–it is a gift from God. Everyone can receive the grace of Christ which develops grace inside the person who receives it. Grace has not done away or replaced God’s Law. The two are not opposed to each other. I gave the example of the woman caught in adultery to show how the woman who according to the law was supposed to be stoned to death but Jesus showed her grace. However, He told her to stop sinning. So, grace saves but it expects us to still live in obedience to the law. Grace does not give us a license to sin but power unto salvation and righteousness. The woman was shown grace but she still had to obey the law. Since she was shown grace instead of being condemned to death which was what the law required, her response was to forsake her sinful life. Christ’s death show us clearly that God’s law and grace are not enemies. They go hand in hand. We don’t compromise or treat God’s law lightly because we are under grace. God’s grace makes our salvation possible and it’s patient. In Romans 2:4, Paul wrote these words, ‘that God has been very kind to you, and he has been patient with you. God has been waiting for you to change’. It goes back to what Peter said about God being longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. This is why Jesus hasn’t returned as yet.”
“It sounds like a really good sermon. Thanks for explaining what grace is.”
“We can talk more about it or we can do a Bible study, if you like. And I have several copies of a book called, OUTRAGEOUS GRACE which I can give you one.”
“That would be nice. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Ede–“
Just then, a group of young people walked up. Pastor Hank stood up and greeted them warmly.
Ede watched them and she bristled when she saw Anaïs with them. She was wearing a black top and a charcoal grey denim capri with wedge heel black sandals. Ede felt self-conscious in her white tee shirt, jeans and blue and white Slip-On Sneakers.
“Hello, Pastor Hank,” Anaïs greeted him with a dazzling smile.
“Hello, Anaïs. I didn’t know that you were going to be here too.”
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I had such a great time the last time.”
“Well, it’s nice of you to join us.”
“Thank you. Pastor Hank, do you play any other sport besides football?”
“Yes, I play rugby. Portland is home to some of the most competitive rugby in the nation.”
“Portland, Oregon. That’s where you’re from, isn’t it?”
“I’ve never been to America before but I’ve heard a lot about New York and Hollywood. I think I’d like to visit Portland. Is it a big city?”
“It’s Oregon’s largest and most populous city.”
Ede watched them, seething and wondering how long their conversation was going to last. Thankfully, one of the youth went over to Pastor Hank and said something to him. Pastor Hank excused himself and together he and the youth joined the others.
Anaïs turned to Ede, still smiling, though not as broadly as before and her eyes weren’t friendly. “Hello, Ede.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I thought I would stop by and talk to Pastor Hank.”
“Oh? What about?”
“Spiritual things, of course. What else?”
“I didn’t know that you played football.”
“I don’t but I like to watch them play.”
I bet you do, Ede thought resentfully. She noticed the way that Anaïs kept looking at Pastor Hank and it set her teeth on edge.
Hank joined them. “Ede, will you come and watch us play?” he asked.
She smiled up at him. “Yes, I will,” she said, much to Anaïs’s chagrin.