Standing here, an image of a moment in my childhood comes to me. I must have been seven or eight, some of us children—both boys and girls—were told to go take our baths in a small shed covered with palm-fronds behind the church. And so we carried the buckets filled with prayer water and small bowls, and went to wash ourselves of what—now that I think of it—I still do not know.
Embarking on this road trip, my predominant thought has been on how the past intersects with the present. When I arrive in Ìbàdàn, she receives me with her arms open, and I think to myself, “there should be no unease here.” But here I stand, at the entrance of this structure held together by tree branches and zinc sheets—the place of worship for Prophetess Felicia Gbàdàmọ́sí at Orí Òkè Agala—with a part of me warring against my memories, as the sheets now take the place of the palm-fronds in my past. And in that moment, I think of the phrase “the washing away of sins.”
My reluctance to step in is out of rebellion and I wonder about the times I have taught my legs to run, about the things that have changed from my transition of seeing God as a fearful, distant being to a loving father, about how I want to run still, about the things I may not be able to run from. After all, isn’t the past always mingling with the present?
Two moments separated by many years and hundreds of kilometers now merge into one. I have always known this feeling of being together and still apart.
Another image from my childhood comes to me. Iya Májẹ́ntẹ́, the founder of Christ Apostolic Church Òkè-Ìtura, Ọ̀wọ̀, the church of my childhood, stands barefoot on the sand, the Bible gripped in her right arm is raised to the faraway space by her right, mouth moving, head shaking in prayer. She then turns to the other side, repeating the process until she has faced the east, west, north and south. Prophetess Gbàdàmọ́sí tells us she prays for everyone who comes to the hill to seek the face of the Lord, including Muslims and traditional worshipers. These women may not know the politics of war between nations, they may be unaware of the current agitation for restructuring in the country, but their knees know one thing: how to bend in prayers for places their feet have never touched.
Watching her, I am reminded that there is togetherness in our differences as a people, that there should be no unease here, still, there is.
I hear Iya Májẹ́ntẹ́ now lives in Èkìtì with an old body and agile spirit that still commune with God. As I take my young body across cities, I am aware that this is the only time I will experience a space in a moment in time. Growth as a journey. Quietly, I hope, that the road will teach me to be faithful to my path, remind me to commune with myself.
*Cover Image Credit: Kenechukwu Nwatu