Thursday, February 28, 2013

Please Help Amaka Munonye Get Her Children Back-5

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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 now had to come to terms with the fact that, whether I liked it or not, and that whether I wanted to or not, that I was involved with the church. I was, after all, in the sight of all the world, apparently married to him. I was the 'pastor's wife'. Nobody knew my secrets, or my hurt, or my pain. Human beings are, for the most part, about themselves. How could I have expected the people that came to church to be different? “Church is like a hospital,” to quote my pastor today, Pastor Wes Daase, “everyone comes to be treated, and if in the course of being treated you are able to help others, than you are doing well.” And I now know that part of healing is helping others to heal as well.

Anyway, nobody knew of the anguish that I was in, and if they suspected anything, well nobody ever said a word to me. People kept coming to me for different reasons. Mostly it was to complain about C – how he would never close on time, how when you told him something he either said it on the pulpit or he said it to other people. That was a really disgraceful aspect of him. He was a gigantic gossip, and he soon came to be known all around the community that you could never tell him anything and expect it to be kept confidential. It didn't matter how big or small it was, he would soon spread the news around. I really attributed this to his having too much time on his hands, and also he had absolutely no concept of time. Up until I ran from him in 2009, I had never, ever, seen him be on time for anything, not even once.

Also, a lot of the women would constantly call and complain that he dropped in unannounced at their family homes. This reminded me of the same way that he used to do that in his morning praying and begging rounds in Ghana, just dropping in on people and expecting them to drop everything and host him – and this without prior notice. I was constantly troubleshooting. He would keep on asking everyone for money - “Can I have $20?” Or “Can I have $50?” Or “Can you bless me with $100?” Or “I came to visit that I have visited you, you must buy gas into my car!” I was told most of these things by people and he also did a lot of his begging in my presence. It was humiliating, shameful, and mortifying for me, and I was very deeply saddened every day that I was even remotely connected to him.

I continued to study my bible as people would ask me questions and come to me with their problems all the time expecting me to know things. I feel that out of every adversity, that some good always comes of it, and for me one good thing was that I became more spiritual. I started to pray, I said, “God, if you're there, then please I want to know all about you and the real truth,” because I was confident that C was not a pastor and that he was not even a Christian. He still had his relationship with Mary Stacey going on, and she acted as treasurer for his church. I never asked anything about it. I never asked about money, and I didn't want to know. He sometimes volunteered that he never got any money from the church because they had to pay the bills and there was never anything left over. I thought it must be true, because I figured if he was getting paid then he would not keep begging people for money.

I was now completely helping out at the church. I had to keep up appearances. There was also a huge part of me that didn't want to let the people down. I thought I owed it to them to at least let the church be what they needed in a church. I arranged to have an overhead projector installed. And that was really a huge challenge for C, as it meant that he had to try and keep up with what was on the projector. I would ask what he wanted to talk about, and the scriptures he would use, and he would tell me, and I would put them up on power point and go over it with him many times until he knew what was on each page and the references to each scripture. He still would ask the church to read along, etc.

I told myself, I am doing this for God...I am doing this for the children of God, but I felt very bad about it. I felt that people were being deceived. I know for a fact now that C was not a Christian, much less a pastor, and I thought I was part of this great charade that was being played out. I began to fall into depression. To make matters worse, I got pregnant in November of 2002, and went into severe hyperemesis, like I said before. Suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time at the Nausea and Vomiting Clinic. Once in the hospital C came with two people from his church to see me, and I finally asked him. “C why all the beatings?  You have beaten me almost every week since I met you. Have I done anything wrong to you? To my great astonishment he answered me. He said “My friend John Agalaba told me in Ghana that educated women need to be beaten all the time, or else they will think they are the head. He said if you beat them for about a year, or two years if they are very stubborn, that they will start to obey you and do everything you tell them to.” I couldn’t respond at all. I pushed the call button, and asked the nurse to get them all to leave.

In September 2003, my son, David, was born. I have never known such joy in my life. David was a delightful baby – he was very good, he was healthy, he was strong, very peaceful, and I just disappeared into him. He became my every moment. All the love in me that I had hitherto had no outlet for, suddenly found an escape. I loved my child with every fibre of my being from the moment I set eyes on him.

I was beginning to find some peace at last. I had my son and nothing could compare to that. Also, my dad, who had been quite ill, suddenly took a turn for the better. I spoke with him over the phone on Thursday the 27th of November 2003, and he said he was feeling much stronger. I promised him that I would try to visit home very soon, that I loved him, and that I missed him. He told me, “Amaka, you are like seven sons to me.” And I said, “Don't worry; I will soon come home to visit you.”

On Saturday the 29th of November 2003, my friend Rosaline came to visit me. She came to the church and we had become friendly. C was in the house, so I breast fed David, and I handed him to Rosaline, and I said, “I'm going to run to the store to buy a few things for the baby...I will be back within 30 minutes.” I quickly drove to the store and came back, and as I opened the door and stepped in, Rosaline got up and started towards me with her arms outstretched. She said, “Amaka, my dear...” but C beat her to it, “The old man is gone.” He said to me. I looked around confused. “The old man?” I parroted, “The old man?.” C said to me, “Your father. Your father is dead.” He said extremely callously. I fell to the floor with a grocery bag in each hand. I heard Rosie scream, “No, no, Pastor C, no!” as she came and picked me up in her arms where I wept uncontrollably. I wept for my dad, for all of his pain and his sickness, and for all the comfort and care that I had not been there to provide him, even though I knew he had been properly looked after by my mom.

Ah but my dad loved the adventurous and happy girl that I had been before I met C, and I knew that I provided him with hours of just laughter and entertainment; and I knew that he sometimes wondered at his having just fathered the mischievous imp that I had been as a child. I would do anything to make him laugh, and he loved to laugh. He also spoiled me something rotten, and against my mom's wishes, he would give me a lot of money. He would let me loose in a store, and say you have half an hour, pick whatever you want, and meet me at the front. Once he had come to my hostel in the university, and I wasn't even in town. He left 20,000.00 naira in my fridge freezer with a letter saying he had left me some 'cold hard cash'. I called him Daddy CIA for about a month after he had done that. When he asked where I was, saying “I hope you were not running around with boys when I came to visit you.” I said, “Daddy don’t you trust your daughter?” I'm not sure what he made of that answer, but he wisely never pursued it – and now he was gone. I love my father a lot, and I have many good memories of him. He loved me for my intellect and he would discuss things with me in front of his friends. He wanted to show off how smart I was, and I did my best never to disappoint him.

Now he was gone and the news had to be broken to me in so wicked a fashion by the worst person in the world. Rosaline maintains, until this very day, that she has never seen anything as horrible as that evening, and that was when she really started to suspect that C was not a good person.

I mourned my dad so much. I couldn't believe he passed away just like that, after sounding so well, and after he seemed to have rallied. It was as though he was doing better, and he suddenly passed. I would carry my 2-month-old baby in my arms and just weep. I started to get ready to attend the funeral in Nigeria. I had gained a lot of weight both from my pregnancy and from my depression, but I still felt I would be able to explain it away by blaming it on the new baby that I had. The funeral was to be in January, but I asked my family to wait for February so my baby would be over 4 months old, and of course they were quick to agree.

As you can probably imagine, it wasn't much of a Christmas or New Year. My beloved father had died, and I was living with a monster. The only bright spot was my baby, David, and I lived through him – through his every smile, through his gurgles, just through everything that he was.

One morning, on the second week of January 2004, I dressed myself and David up. I was going to go to my family doctor to get anti-malarial shorts in preparation for my trip to Nigeria for my father's funeral. When C came out of his room, he said, “Where are you taking the baby to on this cold morning?” I said, “Well, I'm going to the doctor to get my shots.” He said, “Make sure the doctor doesn't give anything to that baby.” I said, “I don't know if they give babies anti-malarial here. What I plan to do is buy baby anti-malarial medicine when I get to Nigeria.” “Nigeria for what!?” He shouted.

“For my father's funeral.” I said. “Am I not going to bury my father? The man that raised me and did everything for me my whole life?” C said, “You are free to do anything you like. You can go wherever, but that child is going nowhere.”

I could not believe it. I refused to believe it actually. I just ignored it. I went to the doctor, I got my shots, and I kept planning to attend my father's funeral. I refused to believe that C could try to stop me from going to bury my precious dad. At the end of January I told C that I would be going and that I would be back, as I had to go to school when I returned. I told him as rationally as possible that I would not give up living in Canada just because of him, and that I wanted to raise my son here. He went into a huge rage and yelled and screamed, and told me that if I thought I would take my son with me, that I had a mental problem. He said one of the women from his prayer meeting had told him that when women had new babies, that they cried all the time and that they became crazy. He told me that he knew I cried every day and that he would tell people that I was crazy. He said if I ever said anything again about going to Nigeria with the baby that he would suffocate the baby, and he would tell the church that I slept on him, seeing as I was so fat.

I said, “You are would harm an innocent are really evil.” He said, “Well babies' souls return straight to God...everybody would know it was you that has killed the baby since you are crying every day” is what he said to me.

Well really, that was the end of my talking about going to Nigeria to bury my dad. I did not attend my father's funeral. The last time I had seen him was four years prior when I moved to Canada. I also stopped crying to the best of my ability, and if I cried, I would wash and make my face up before C showed up. I ate more and more, whatever I could lay my hands on – I couldn't cry, I had no one to go to, so I ate, and I ate. I settled into a sort of numbness after my father's funeral had passed in February. I also gave up any hopes of being away from C.

My only reality was David, my son. I lavished all my love on him. I ignored C and his girlfriend, Mary, and when the tax centre called to ask if I would return to work, I just agreed. Nothing really changed. I would come home from work and grab my child when he was dropped off like he was a lifeline. We still spent our evenings together, David and me. We slept in my room, he slept on my bed with me, and C, of course, stayed in his room.

There was an incident that happened when David was about 6 months old. I was still breastfeeding him, and we would regularly get up every night to feed. So I would sit up against the headboard of the bed with about three pillows behind me for support, and then I would use one more pillow as a nursing pillow so that I would have David in my arms with a pillow under him. Well, one night between 2:00 and 3:00 am, I was awakened by the crackling of static on police radios. My landlord at the time was Jasbir, we lived on 85th Avenue, and she had two sons living with her, so I just thought that maybe they had had a party and the neighbours had called the police.

Soon after I heard the radios, I heard a loud banging at the door. I got up and made for the front door. I was in my nursing pajama top and bottoms, and C got to the door before me. He was still fully dressed. Two policemen came in. They wanted to know how many people lived in the house, they went through both rooms; they went into the bathroom. I followed them wanting to know what had happened, and little David, woken up by all the commotion, just started to squeal. So, I picked him up in my arms. Once of the policeman took us to the bathroom and showed us holes in the wall from the outside, through the bathroom to the bedroom that I shared with my baby. There was a hole where bullets had passed across the headboard out through to the outside wall. When I realized the implications, my legs just gave way and I fell to the floor in shock still cradling my baby. I was wailing loudly. C was still following the police officer outside, and the police officer turned to him and said, “Where are you going? What are you doing? Go pick up your wife! Make sure she's okay! Go help her!” C said, “She's okay. She always behaves like that. Get up!” He said to me, without moving.

You know, I will never forget my shame when the policeman came and helped me up. He sat me on the couch before he went out. I will also always remember the disbelieving look that he gave C. I thought, welcome to my world. I actually felt quite good that the policeman had looked at C like, what kind of a monster are you? It confirmed to me that I was not the only one that thought that he was wicked. So, what had happened was that there was a drive-by shooting – some people had shot a volley of bullets into the front door of the main house, and the garage, and three to four bullets had come through to the basement where my child and I lay sleeping. I have no idea why that shooting occurred. The police never said what it was about, although they did ask C where he was coming from at that time of the night, seeing as he was fully dressed.  I'm not sure what he told them. When they asked me I told them that he was always out at all hours, and I wasn't sure where he had been.

After the shooting incident, I was now convinced that there was a kind and a merciful God who was looking after me. Three things convinced me: One, I am a light sleeper. The slightest noise would wake me up, but now as a mom, I was so attuned to any disturbance or the tiniest sound from my child. So for me to have slept through a volley of gunshots was miraculous to me, considering that I had woken up when the danger had passed, to a crackling radio. Secondly, the time that it had happened was my regular feeding time. I would normally be sitting up against the head board nursing my baby, and the bullets would simply have passed through us both, and thirdly, David also slept through all the noise.

I decided I had to get closer to God. I redoubled my efforts, I studied my bible – I had to know more about this God of the bible, and I soon discovered many comforting and reassuring verses. I like the Psalms a lot. They talked about all kinds of situations. I started to pray all the time. I started to ask God to please save my baby and me from C and all other evils, and this Jesus that I learned about in the New Testament did not seem anything like what I had heard C talking about. I kept studying. I had to find out if C was dealing with another God – not the one that I was learning about.

Continue reading - Page 6

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