Thursday, February 28, 2013

Please Help Amaka Munonye Get Her Children Back-4

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Before you start reading, let me repeat that this is a long story [10 pages], and if you do not read to the end, you may not fully get it. Amaka Munonye is a Nigerian resident in BC, Canada and in the process of getting a divorce from her Ghanaian husband. At this stage, all you read are her side of the story. Their case is in court and she is afraid that if she keeps silent, she may lose custody of her children. She has shared the following story on her blog and I've been asked to help publicize it. If you know anyway to help, please do, or leave a comment in a respectful manner. Beyond that, I believe this is a story many women stand to learn a lot from. Thanks.

*Names have been initialed to protect third party privacy.

I kept on trying to call my supervisor, and soon started to get worried about not being able to return to my job, or even to get a new job. I had only ever attended three job interviews in Canada, and all three times, I had got the jobs, so I was really worried about not even getting a single call about a job. I began to be afraid that C had indeed put a curse on me and that was why I was unable to get a job.

Rose and I attended Calvary Worship Centre, a predominantly black church in Burnaby at the time, pastored by a Ghanaian, and after my ordeal in Ghana, I was loathe to have anything to do with any other Ghanaian; but the pastor of that church called me up and asked me to bring C to the church. He and his wife had been very kind to me when I first arrived in Canada, so I took C to his church to meet him. I hadn’t been going to church since coming to Canada with C. He had been going out and about, and I don’t recall now if Rose took him to Calvary Worship first.

When he came back from the church, he decided he was going to start his own church. He said he would start by having prayers for people there in the basement suite. He kept going to Calvary Worship, and was soon telling people he would perform deliverance on them and cast out whatever demons was causing any problems in their lives. I had many comments that I really badly wanted to make, but since most of them would be vitriolic in nature, I kept them to myself.

 He kept on going to the church and soon enough a lot of the people started to come from the church to the suite for prayers. When I was there, I would watch in astonishment as these prayer meetings went on, with all the screaming at devils to ‘Come out! Come out!’ but I mostly just ran away before the meetings started.  I would go to the malls and wander around, or I would go to the library until they closed at 9pm. The Pastor at Calvary Worship soon heard about the goings-on and called me to bring C to him again, and so I did. I have no idea what they talked about, as they went to the pastor’s office, and closed the door. On our way back to the suite though, C said so many times, that man is mad, he is so stupid, etc. he just kept ranting about what an idiot he was. I did not say a single word, not even to ask, ‘so why is he stupid?’

The end of January passed, and it was the first week of February 2002. I was still out of a job. My friend Sunny was getting extremely angry with me and calling and emailing me. I sent him an email asking for his continued patience.  I also picked up the phone and called Pastor Abakah, C’s supposed pastor in Ghana. I told him all that had transpired between C and me; he asked me to go kneel before C and ask his forgiveness and for him to release me from the curse that he had put on me. I initially refused, asking why I should. I had done him no wrong. I had brought him to Canada, incurred a $5000 debt because of him and then he had lied against me and caused me to go to jail.  There was nothing good about him, and I had done nothing bad to him, so why go beg him?

Then Sunny sent me a scathing email, calling me a liar and a thief and asking for all his money immediately, and saying that the friendship was over.  I went to C and said I was sorry I hadn’t read his paper and that I caused him to hit me with the phone book to forgive me and pray for me. He puffed himself up like a king and said prayers over my head as I knelt before him. I wondered what my father would think of this mess. I cannot even ever recall kneeling before my father.  C did his little ceremony on a Tuesday, I remember it so clearly, and I swear on a stack of bibles, Merrill my supervisor from the tax center called me two days later on Thursday. She said ‘Amaka I have called you and left you so many messages, why haven’t you called back? Don’t you want your job back? I was in shock, I told her I had been calling her for over eight weeks and that she hadn’t called back.

I even went as far as to report to one of the directors after the fact. She insisted that she called me many times, and I maintain till today, that she never. My fear of C came back in full force. I fully believed that he had actually done something to me to prevent me from getting my job or a new job, and that things had only changed because I had gone to beg him. I was back in my chains. Now with the clarity of hindsight, I look at it, and I can say with some degree of certainty, that there was no curse, that it had merely been a question of timing.

I believe now that my supervisor simply hadn’t called me because there was not enough work in December and January, but since it was getting to the middle of February which is the beginning of tax season, that she simply needed experienced hands, and had no choice than to call me back since there was so much work to be done. At that time though, no one would have been able to convince me of this. My judgment was completely clouded by my intense fear of him. I believed that he was this evil person who could make bad things happen all around him, as evidenced by all that happened to me and the people that had died because of him.

I went back to work very subdued. I started to pay Sunny back with the very first paycheck. After I had made about four payments I started to call and ask him to forgive me. I explained the no work situation to him. He would not answer my calls or reply my emails. I called his wife and asked her to go to him on my behalf. She reported back that he said he never wanted to hear her mention my name again. I called his sister in law in Toronto, all in a bid to say just how sorry I was about the whole thing, and to explain how things had gone so wrong, but he refused to have anything to do with me. He never spoke to me again. I did pay up all the money, and then emailed to say it was done and that I was sorry. He did not respond. I learnt to my horror that he died about two years after this. I lay the blame for my losing a dear friend, and him not forgiving me on C.

I continued to live with C in the basement we shared with Rose. I would go to work and then spend evenings at the library studying. I had decided finally that I would heed Dr. Eni’s initial advice and start my grade 12 all over. I was fairly confident that I would be able to challenge any English, Biology and Chemistry exams even five years my last high school class, so I started to study up on Math 12 and Physics 12. C of course knew nothing about it, as I was sure he would do something to thwart it if he knew, so I said nothing. I did not even mention it to Rose.

C continued with the house fellowship. Even after the pastor from Calvary worship had cautioned him against siphoning off his members, he couldn’t be bothered. People would come to the house every Wednesdays and Fridays for meetings, and he would collect offerings from them each time they gathered. I thought wow what a total scam he has running here. He soon changed the Friday meetings to become all-night prayers. I was bemused. I was still doing my own bible studies intensely, trying to figure out the truth behind the whole Christianity situation. I also started to pray, because I figured that it would take God Himself to free me from C. I also wanted to know more about Christianity, so I unearthed the bible I brought with me from Africa when I first arrived in Canada, and started to study intently. I also bought tapes and books from preachers like Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. I was quite shocked to see that Kenneth Hagin talked about casting out demons like C did. I decided I would not delve too deeply into that aspect of things as they seemed quite scary, and my life just by itself was scary enough. I focused a lot on the parts where good overcame evil and where there was comfort and joy and love, and I prayed a lot. I prayed for myself and also prayed that God should change C and make him stop being a liar and an evil person. I wasn’t sure what else to do. I didn’t think based on what I had read in the bible, that divorce was an option for me as a Christian, so I just prayed that he would change, as part of my surrender to my circumstances. I now know, and it has clearly been explained to me, that my marriage, sham that it was, was never really a covenant of love entered into willingly by the parties involved, like a normal marriage ought to be. I was forced into a marriage against my will, and that since that was the case, that I had never been obliged to remain in it; but at that time, I saw no way out. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. When I saw that more and more people were coming to the house prayers, I started to tell C once again to go and get his basic reading and writing and grammar done, mostly so that he would not keep asking me to read things or tell him the meaning of what someone had said. He refused completely, and would get quite vehement in his refusal. He also kept on saying that he wanted to register an actual church, and wanted me to pay the $100 dollars for the registration. I refused to. I told him that he would need to get a job to pay for it himself.  at this point a lady I had been friends with at Calvary worship, invited C and me to another church in Surrey called  Calvary Grace assembly. It was pastored by a Caucasian gentleman called Pastor Phillip.  A rather nice man actually, and I enjoyed going there. He was very knowledgeable I thought, and his sermons made sense to me; I was able to find all of the things he talked about in the bible. It was while we attended this church that one of the members got C a job at Wendy’s restaurant in Langley.  I believe he was paid about $6.75 to $7.25; he worked there for about three months, after which he quit, saying that the grill was too hot for him.

I was getting paid almost $17 per hour at the tax center at the time, and was able to start putting aside little bits. I bought myself a used car, and enrolled at the Vancouver Community College to get all my grade 12 courses out of the way. It was really expensive to park at work, so I would take the bus, and I would always come home to find C gone with my car, so I started to take my car keys to work. He was so angry about that, but I wasn’t about to keep gassing my car for him to drive it to wherever. He also did not have a driver’s license, and of course if he got into a car accident, my insurance would not pay, and I told him so, many times over. He would get so angry about it, that he would beat and rape me. I decided that I would drive my car to work and pay the parking. I would also drive to Vancouver after work to attend my classes at VCC. I spent a lot of money on gas and on parking just so he would not be able to drive my car, and no, I am not sorry about it, not even now.

I discovered in early 2003 that I was pregnant. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I decided that I would overwhelm the baby with love and that I would make up for how he was conceived by flooding him with love. I decided that I wanted a son, and I chose the name David, because David in the bible was a man that God loved and called ‘a man after my own heart’ even in spite of all the bad things he had done. Within a few weeks I started to vomit very seriously, and quite soon I developed full blown Hyperemesis gravidarum. I was vomiting upwards of 15-20 times a day, a lot of it dried blood. My throat was burnt and bleeding from the force of the vomiting. C kept away, and Rose really had no choice but to look after me, feeding me light chicken broth, which was all I was able to keep down. I lost over thirty pounds within six weeks, and my hair and skin dried out. I was in the nausea and vomiting clinic for over a week at a time each time I had to go in. I remember the doctor that first examined me, Dr. Price I think was his name. He said, you are as dry as the bottom of my shoe, and I recall thinking that I had never thought of the bottom of a shoe as a dry place. I was sick till I was about seven months along, and then it started to abate. My gynecologist started to encourage me to take walks. She kept on saying that you need to get some exercise Amaka; you have been lying down for many months. You are not going to be strong enough to push the baby when the time comes and I will have to do a caesarean section on you. I took her advice, and Rose started to take me for walks whenever she was free.  She had her day job, and another part time cleaning job, so she had only two evenings a week, but she would take me walking.  I asked C who only worked three days a week at his job if he would take me for walks, and he refused. He said there are some boulders along 87B avenue, you can sit on those rocks if you get weak again, and if you fall, there are people outside, I am sure someone will help you. I hated myself for having been forced to ask him in the first place. I started to encourage Rose to quit her afternoon job. I asked her to go to VCC as well, and she refused citing concerns about her English.  I promised to help her with it every evening she was around. She did quit the job and go to school, and she continued to walk with me. I helped her through her studies at VCC and she ended up as a health care assistant. Today she is working towards becoming a registered nurse, and I am proud of my role in her progress.

From the time that C started the house prayer meetings, the majority of the people that attended were women. I knew some of them from Calvary worship Center. There were also about two men in attendance. I noticed one woman in particular, because I am the sort of person that notices things. Her name was Mary Stacey. The first night vigil she came to, I saw that she fixated on him. I also saw him notice that. The next Wednesday, she was back for another meeting. At the end of it, she stayed back after most of the others were gone, and they talked for quite a while.  I needed to go to sleep, and he was still not welcome in my bed, so I just threw his blanket and pillow out to him, and I went inside to sleep. They soon became inseparable.  I felt a huge sense of relief in a way, because I said, the more time he spent with her, the less I would see of him and all the trouble that he gave me. I was totally right.  Things eased up a lot after that, because he was barely around. He continued his meetings in the house, and we kept going to Pastor Phillip Bloomfield’s church Calvary Grace Assembly. I had my job back, I was repaying Sunny, he was happy with Mary, and so we moved on. He kept begging me to help with the registration of a church for him, saying that I would not have to do much and that if there was any work to be done that he and Mary would do it. I thought to myself, well if he has a church, something that he is doing, then that would keep him away from me even more. I then changed my mind and helped him to register the church. The initial signatories included me, a man called Charles who later killed himself, Mary Stacey and Rose. I also paid the one hundred dollar fee that was needed. The church was called Love Family Christian Assembly, a name I chose as a pun, in light of all that had happened to me. I avoided going there as often as I could, using my schooling as an excuse initially, and after I got pregnant, then my pregnancy.

Just before my baby came, C found a basement suite and we moved in there. I of course paid the damage deposit and the rent. I prepared for my baby to come. At this time, he and Mary had found a place to rent for the church. They shared premises on King George Highway and about 80th Avenue. An American from Washington State and his wife were pastoring another church, but they met in the afternoons at about 2pm, and so C could hold his meeting in the morning. One good thing that came of this was that I met some good people and became friends with them. I am still friends with a few of them. The church meetings soon became a source of friction between C and I; he has absolutely no time management skills, and really, just no clear concept of how long an hour was, or what ten minutes represented. People soon started to complain to me. Initially I failed to understand why they were telling me anything.

I felt, why would they think that I cared? I then asked a woman that had told me more than three times already to ask C to close the meetings on time why she didn’t tell him by herself? She said “oh, but you’re the pastor’s wife”. This was not what I had planned for. The plan was that between the church and Mary Stacey, that he would be so busy that I would become completely irrelevant to him. He would not know if I was there or not I thought. It didn’t quite work out like that. C like I have said already was a functioning illiterate. He could barely read or write, and when you had a conversation with him, majority of what you said would go right over his head. He had some excellent cover-up methods for sure, and the more I studied him, the more I realized that everything that he did was a smokescreen, a cover for his being illiterate, and that he was more or less blind and deaf in a world like Canada where everything was on paper, or signs. In the church for instance, he would never read any bible passages, he would say, somebody read for us. He soon got a lady I’ll call Lessa to become his regular reader. Lessa was very educated, and attended an Ivy League college in the United States. She and I got on very well. She was in her early forties and unmarried, having chosen her education and career as her priorities. Anytime she didn’t attend church, he would get someone else to read. I don’t ever remember him reading by himself. C also had this habit of parroting anything that someone said to him, so no matter what it was one was saying, he would repeat the last few words of what they said to him.

I found it hugely irritating, and I never spoke to him in public if I could avoid it, neither did I stick around when he was having a talk with anybody, especially if he felt they were educated. I had also started building up my library, and from every paycheck I would buy a few books to add to my shelves. I joined The Folio Society, a book club to enable me buy classics and other great books.  He asked me once why I put all the books on the shelf, and since I refused to answer him, Rose told him that people like Amaka who are educated always buy books all the time, because educated people like to keep reading a lot, especially the smart ones like Amaka.

Before very long, I noticed that he started to buy all kinds of religious books. I was extremely amused by it, and would call him Booker T. I thought it just pathetic that he would spend the church funds on all those books, without actually making any attempt to learn to read properly.  He would spend hours painstaking copying out chapters from books to preach in the church on Sundays and weekdays. If I asked, what are you doing? He would always say I am making notes. I pointed out to him that just copying words from a book to his notebooks was not ‘making notes’ that he was just copying. He would get very angry and I would always run away and lock myself in a room to avoid his fists.

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