Refreshed after a cup of hot tea, Serena went into her study to check her flashing voicemail. It had been nearly a week since the last time she was able to spend any time in her office. Serena was the head of a twenty-four hour prayer line and was thankful for her team of seasoned intercessors.
They worked the prayer line faithfully and most of the times without obstacles or issues. In the beginning she ran into many hurdles and there were bumps in the road, but with extra patience, prayer and tender loving care, Serena was able to weed out those who wanted to be a part and get rid of those who were there with insincere motives.
Her mother, Pastor Crystal Sampson, told her that it was mighty strange that so many people showed interest in the ministry when it was first announced six years ago. She had great insight and cautioned Serena on how to handle the group without causing offence to them. She let Serena know up front that it didn’t take a little bit of nothing to make folks leave the church. The phone rang before Serena could hit the button on the answering machine to play back her messages. The red light blinked on and off furiously, but the messages would have to wait.
“Praise the Lord, Prophetess Sampson speaking.” Serena had to concentrate on the pronunciation of her words to keep from straining her voice as her throat was still sore.
“Serena, child is that you?” Crystal sounded worried.
“Yes, Pastor it’s me.” Serena rolled her eyes up into her head. She answered the phone too quickly and if she had a chance to think about it before answering, she would have let it roll over to the already full voicemail.
“What in the world is going on with your voice? I’ve been calling you since after church on Sunday to see how the conference in Atlanta went, but Amina kept telling me that you weren’t available, or were in the shower, or sleeping. Are you two okay over there?” Serena’s mother’s voice boomed through Serena’s earpiece.
“Mommy, it is well. I’m just really tired and I appreciate the wisdom that Amina possesses to know that I need rest and peace. The last thing I want to do is have a conversation, plus my throat has been bothering me. You know how taxing it can be to minister three nights in a row. It’s an exhilarating, yet draining assignment. Women were delivered and set free so mission accomplished. Mother, the atmosphere changed immediately upon the heartfelt worship of the people.” Serena gave Crystal the quick version.
“Are you feeling better today? God really must have used you because I can hear it in your voice. Girl, I know you inside and out and you sound like you’re sick. You musta overdosed on the Holy Ghost, down there in Atlanta.” Crystal laughed at herself. “Mama always knows when something ain’t right with her children. The intercessors had also been trying to get into contact with you. I guess they grew tired of trying to reach you and resorted to calling Sister Edna. Evangelist Curry didn’t hesitate to let her know that she’d left numerous messages on your voicemail,but you hadn’t returned any of her calls.
You know Sister Edna is ill equipped at handling matters of the spirit and you know what she does when she can’t handle an issue. She buzzed me in my office up to fifty times a day. It didn’t matter that I had counseling sessions booked every hour on the hour. She doesn’t have any problem reminding folks that she is just the administrative assistant you know?” Crystal droned on and on in Serena’s ear.
“Mommy, please.” Serena didn’t feel like hearing all of the issues that she was sure that awaited her on the busy voicemail. “What was the issue they were having?” Serena asked.
“Oh, chile something about someone joining the ministry. I can’t remember the young woman’s name, but I quickly told Evangelist Curry that she would just have to wait until you return to church. That’s the reason I placed you over that ministry, so folks can stop coming to me seeking direction on every thing.” Crystal fussed.
Serena felt a sermon coming on, so she spoke up before Crystal came back with more to say, “Tell me about the service, did any souls get saved Sunday? I will deal with the intercessors and the prayer line before the day is out. I may need for Evangelist Curry to stay on call the rest of this week.” Serena wished that she could just crawl back into her bed, pull the covers over her head and go to sleep.
“Oh my, God showed up and showed out today, daughter. Judah Praise Team was in full effect and it didn’t take long for the anointing of God to saturate the place. The Holy Spirit showed up and showed out, like always. It just blesses my soul to see God’s people free in Him.” Serena’s mother went off on a tangent and she knew there would be no stopping her mother until she got tired.
“Mommy, did anyone get saved today? It seems like that would be the case since the spirit was so high. Cutting her mother off from replying, Serena continued talking, “How could the anointing be strong and no one got saved?” Serena was aggravated as her passion was seeing folks get saved. The highlight of the service for her was someone surrendered their life to Christ.
“Serena, you know you can’t make people give their lives to Christ, so to answer your question no. No one received salvation today,” Crystal said in a huff.
Serena listened to her mother go on and on about everything from Sister Tasha’s short dress and how she wished the child would put on more clothes, to Mother Jenkins hollering and crying throughout the service because her baby boy, Jody, had gotten shot hanging out with the gang.
Serena had to put her mother on mute for a moment, happy not to have needed to respond to anything she was saying. She called out for Amina to bring her two aspirin and another hot cup of tea. She tried to stay focused on the conversation going on the other end of the phone, but realized her mother was on mute when she called Serena’s name to make sure she was still on the line.
“Serena? Are you still there? Did you hear what I said? Child, you must be tired, I hope you can get it together before Friday night prayer,” Crystal said.
Serena had accidentally pushed the mute button on the handset with her chin. “Mommy, I’m sorry, my mind is really full and I am trying to nurse my throat.” Serena wished she would have let Crystal know that she wasn’t feeling well at the beginning of the call. “Can I call you back tomorrow evening to let you know if I will be able to make it for prayer on Friday evening?” She hoped that her mother would be okay with that.
Crystal didn’t like the idea of her daughter not feeling well, but couldn’t act as if she was too concerned because that would cause Serena to shut down. It was no secret for those who knew them that their relationship was strained, but Crystal hoped that would change before it was too late. She was also concerned about Amina who was being groomed and trained in the prophetic ministry.
The two of them stuck together like Frick and Frack. When you saw one, you saw the other. When one was absent the other would be also. They were like Siamese twins joined at the hip. Crystal knew that the ministry would feel the prolonged absence of the two most effective and anointed intercessors at Abiding Savior Christian Community Center. “All right sweetie, please let me know as soon as you are feeling better. We have missed you in your absence. I will put you on the prayer list and also will solicit prayers from the pulpit. I love you and I’m here if you need me, ya hear?”
Serena agreed to anything her mother said because she was more than ready for the phone call to end. “Yes, I promise that I will call to let you know either way.” Before releasing the phone call, Serena had one burning question. “Um, mother, had Brother Nathaniel Jackson been in service this past week? I haven’t heard from him since before I left town for the conference.” Serena waited, hoping her mother would tell her something about the man who had been unsuccessfully trying to court her for the last three months. They’d gone on a few dates and she liked him more than she would admit to anyone.
“Brother Nathaniel?” Hmm, let me think. You know we have so many new members that I am not good with names.” Crystal laughed out loud, however Serena didn’t find any humor in what she said.
“Mother, he’s the nice looking brother who stands six feet seven inches. He kind of puts you in the mindset of Idris Elba. You can’t miss him. Nathaniel is such a distinguished looking brother with the smooth bald head that looks like he has it spit shined before church each Sunday.” Serena felt her temperature rising as she leaned back and sighed softly.
“Oh yes, Brother Nathaniel, now I remember him. Serena, are you sweet on him or something?” Crystal asked her daughter in surprise.
“Why would you ask that?” Serena closed her eyes wishing she hadn’t brought him up.
“I’m asking because if you have any interest in that brother, you had better keep your eyes open. Yes he’s been at church since you left, but trust me when I tell you that all of your single sisters haven’t been delivered from the ideology that church is the spot for a hook-up. The difference is that they think it’s okay, as long as it’s done within the confines of the church walls. Hmmph, a holy hook up is what I hear it’s called now adays, but back when I was a little girl, it was called pimpin’ in the church.” Crystal said with her tone laced with disgust.
“Pastor, don’t be so dramatic. I was just wondering if Nathaniel had been in church while I was away. God showed me that He has greatness in store for him. The Lord also revealed to me that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing on assignment to destroy his destiny. Women who are operating in the spirit of Jezebel are trying to blindside him by flaunting themselves in his presence.” Serena felt the energy she had on reserve zapped from her just by talking about Nathaniel. She felt the spirit of jealousy and desire rising up in her flesh so she took that as her cue to end the conversation before her carnal nature betrayed her heart.
Serena finally said her goodbyes to her mother and dropped her head on her desk. Her temples throbbed as she heard her mother’s voice in her head telling her to watch out for Nathaniel if she wanted a future with him. Serena had become complacent believing that he would just follow her around and sniff up under her forever. Serena admitted to herself that she’d been acting stand offish. She tried pretending that she wasn’t into Nathaniel as much as she was, to protect her heart from having to possibly repeat the past pain she barely got over.
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