I left home a few minutes before 6pm yesterday for church because of Bible Study. Everything seemed perfectly normal when I got to church until after about 45 minutes into the service. My pastor called me to come and handle a situation.
There was a young girl in church who had come to visit one of our sisters. The sister used to be a corper (the one year compulsory youth service scheme for Nigerian Graduates) in Jos, Plateau state.
Why was this an issue? The sister who is a member of our church had finished her one year youth service and has returned to Lagos. The girl was a student in the school where she served and was obviously having issues at home. Because of the issues at home, she ran away from Jos all by herself and came to Lagos. That’s more than a thirteen hour journey to a place where she has never been to and does not know anyone.
On arriving in Lagos, she called her former teacher and claimed that she had come to stay with a cousin. She said she would like to visit the teacher before returning to Jos so the sister who used to be her teacher gave her the house address.
This girl found her way to the teacher’s house and they had a very long chat. The teacher expected it was time to go and started talking to her about leaving. It was then she said she had nowhere to go and the teacher also found out that she had no cousin in Lagos.
She wanted to stay with the teacher having absconded from home. Now this became difficult and worse still, the parents of the teacher would not let the stranger teenage girl stay with them overnight. They knew nothing about her except that she used to be a student of their daughter. They were also very afraid because the girl is from the northern part of the country and we now know that it’s little girls that the terrorist groups are using to blow up places.
Left with no option, the teacher brought the girl to the church. That was how this became the headache of the pastor.
We started asking questions and we found out that the girl ran away from home. She claimed she was living with her step mother but that turned out to be a lie. ‘How did you get to Lagos?’ we asked. She claimed she sold her father’s old laptop to get ten thousand naira cash and that was what brought her to Lagos.
As a church, in order to stay out of trouble and not spoil the name of the church, we decided we would report to the nearest police station.
We went to the first police station and incidentally met two officers who know Jos to a large extent. The other man is from Jos so he spoke Hausa fluently. The officer spoke with her, and by this time we had connected with the woman she referred to as her step mother on phone. So the officer also spoke with the woman.
That was when we discovered the woman is actually her mother and not a step mother as she claimed. We also found out that her father lived in Abuja so it couldn’t have been the father’s laptop that she stole and sold. It was someone else’s laptop. That complicated matters and it became harder to think about accommodating her for the night. Finally the officer there told us the issue can’t be handled in their jurisdiction because of where the church is situated and where the sister who used to be her teacher lives.
Going to another police station was the only way out. We thought about going to another close to the sister’s house. It was a long and terrible road so we had to go on motor bikes to the police station. There was a mild drama when we got there. The station was in total darkness with gates under lock and key. When we knocked, a few kids came out and finally an elderly man started asking questions from a distance.
He never came close and never opened the gate. He said it was too late for him to take any case and we should go over to the Divisional Police Headquarters. We had no choice but to leave and go to the place he told.
It was well past 10pm when we arrived at the last police station. We table the case again before the fairly elderly woman who was at the front desk. The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) walked in before we could finish the conversation. The female officer immediately called his attention to the case and told him the much she knew as at the time he came in.
Interestingly, this DPO too had just returned from Jos after serving at the police staff college for four years. He knows the nook and crannies of Jos and started talking to the girl. The DPO did a bit of counselling and asked her if she thought that the teacher she ran to would have become a teacher in their school if she ran away from home as a student.
Finally, the DPO instructed the female officer to take the details of the girl and the teacher. He also instructed that she be put on a bus back to Jos the following morning.
Why did the church get so much involved with this? For one reason or the other she had stepped into the church. We also knew she ran away from home and had told several lies. The church needed to stay away from trouble and be not entangled by her many lies. She can wake another day and claim she was kidnapped. Several other things could go wrong and the name of the church would be dragged in the mud.
It was already 11pm by the time I returned to the church with the girl, the teacher and another brother who is the head of department in church that the teacher belongs. Now it was time to drive another 4 to 5 kilometres back home to my family on a road starved of asphalt. I also just had a second baby who now cries nearly every night and keep her mother and I awake for at least another one or two hours.
This and many more are some of the troubles pastors go through. A lot of people don’t know about these troubles and they only see the glamourous part of standing behind the pulpit. More importantly, many of us don’t take a dime from church as allowance or salaries. We spend what we earn from our different professions and businesses to run the church.