For The First

Kwesi woke up in a cold sweat. He had fallen asleep on the couch in front of old boom box his grandfather owned. Had the radio been on? His memory was clear one moment and the next it was wiped clean like a whitewashed wall.

The day before he had been at the First Love church at the University of Ghana campus. He still could not believe how that had happened. Nana Adu, his friend from high school had asked to meet up with him on Thursday night. Kwesi felt it had been a mistake to announce on his Facebook status, that he was in Ghana. Now there were all these people pestering him to go places with them. But he could care less about Accra’s newest malls.

He felt like his feet were glued to the ground and he lacked the ability to make any movement whatsoever as he watched the throng of young adults dance across the room. They sang. Loudly. Laughing and smiling as though they could not stop. The room they were in sat at least five hundred; it was packed to its capacity with white and blue plastic chairs. In the center of the room, there was a wooden stage. Strung on the wall behind was a large banner, “FIRST LOVE CHURCH” it read.

Already cynical, Kwesi chuckled. What else would it read? He was a bit put off by the bright colors and loud music and passionate dancing. But only because, he knew they had something he didn’t. And he did not fit it. He dug his hands deep into his pockets and looked down. He tried to make and sit down on the blue plastic chair behind him but was stopped by loud screams and shouts all over. Someone exciting had just entered the room apparently.

While straining his neck to see who it was, he heard, this time it was a ladies’ voice on the microphone, “Let’s welcome Bishop Dag Heward Mills!” As she spoke, she stretched every word so that it took her a full minute to say those five words. There was just so much excitement, everywhere.

Kwesi ran his hands over his bushy hair and remained standing. The bishop took to the stage and spoke into the microphone.

But he couldn’t be heard. The congregation squealed louder than before. Kwesi was laughing now. What was it with this crowd? What a din. He didn’t quite get it. Then, they got quiet for a bit and Bishop Dag began to pray.

“Father, thanks a million for this great blessing,” was all Kwesi heard before he zoned out again with his thoughts. What was he doing here? He didn’t believe in God and he had stopped attending church. Church attendance was declining in the United States like never before and in Princeton where he lived, even the black church he had attended a couple of times would be completely empty if not for the Princeton students that patronized once in a while.

“You may be seated,” Bishop Dag said. Kwesi sat and placed his hands on his gray skinny jeans. He pulled his iPhone out from his back pocket to Snapchat Pa, his grandfather. He wanted him to see this preacher. He stopped for a minute to gaze at the preacher. Tall, light skinned with a dark moustache, clean hair cut, wearing a t-shirt and a pair of black slacks- extremely unconventional. The sermon was beginning. He fastened his mental seat belt. He was not quite ready for a take-off but he could not shake off the feeling that he was in for one.

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