LOVE FOR THY NEIGHBOR
“Nailah Moore?” A voice called out through the crowd of parishioners.
Service had just ended at the Healing Hands Deliverance Center, and it was a packed house. Coming from down south in a small town of Arkansas, Nailah thought Wyandanch, New York would be beaming with tall buildings, and busy streets with pedestrians waving their hands, rushing to taxi cabs. To her surprise, it was a regular close knit community with rural housing, and well-manicured lawns. There seemed to have been a church on every corner, and a couple of convenient stores.
She had called her friend, Priscilla Jordan, the night before to let her know which hotel she would be staying at, but her friend insisted she stay with her. Nailah pushed her way through the crowded sanctuary nearing her friend.
“Hey, girl,” she said, embracing Priscilla.
“I see you’ve made it.” Priscilla beamed.
Priscilla was a twenty-four-year-old college graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, and worked as a Business Analysis at the local hospital. Nailah held a Bachelor of Ministry, but was continuing her education to obtain a Masters in Theology. The thirty-year-old planned to one day travel to Africa and do Missionary work there. She had researched different programs, but was still unsure where she wanted to begin her missionary assignment.
Nailah and Priscilla meet at a Single Women’s Retreat in Atlanta, Georgia four years prior, and have been friends ever since. When Priscilla called her up a week ago and asked that she come spend the week with her to help her plan for a huge event, she eagerly said, “Yes!”
There was a community event held every year called Wyandanch Day. It was more of a rally where locals and community leaders rallied together to stop community violence. The rally held live concerts, vendor booths, cookouts, fun rides for the children, and workshops for parents and children educating them on gun violence, safety, and loving thy neighbor. The event was to be held in seven days, and this year Priscilla volunteered to head the Love Thy Neighbor Workshop.
“I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here to help me. These past couple of months have been crazy. You wouldn’t believe it,” Priscilla said.
“Tell me about it,” Nailah exaggerated. “I’ve been so stressed about these finals it’s killing me, but soon I’ll have my Masters in Theology.”
Nailah was extremely proud of herself. Her great-grandfather moved to the states from Africa, settling in New York, and hearing all of the stories passed down from her grandfather and father only fueled her desire as a child to someday go there.
“So what will that make you?” Priscilla asked. “A Minister, Missionary, Prime Minister…POPE!” She continued, throwing out sarcastic statements at her friend.
“No,” Nailah chuckled. “It’s just Missionary. That’s all. Missionary Nailah Moore.”
“Well, alright, Missionary, let me introduce you to my family.” Priscilla grabbed her friend by the arm and led her to the pulpit.
They muffled their way through the crowd, making it to altar. The altar sat on a slightly raised platform more like a step. There was a glass podium near the center edge of the platform. Four huge wooden chairs with green plush cushions sat behind it, Nailah assumed was for the ministers and elders. A thick, heavy green curtain hung on the wall behind another raised portion of the platform where there were chairs for the choir. The curtains draped over an opening with a wide pool she assumed was for baptizing. As they continued to walk towards the pulpit, they came to a short round man of caramel complexion. He had the brightest hazel eyes she’d ever seen. Standing next to him with a wide smile and a hat bigger than her small head draped with pearls from her earrings, to her necklace, and the bracelet on her left arm was a woman of a deep dark complexion. ‘Sun-kissed’ as Nailah’s father would say.
“Mom? Dad?” Priscilla said approaching them both. “I’d like you to meet me friend, Nailah.”
“Oh, hi.” The woman was the first to greet Nailah with a hug. “My name is Lady Evangelist Krystal Jordan.” She released Nailah and placed her hand on the man’s arm and said, “This is my husband, Bishop Paul Jordan. We are so blessed to have you here with us this afternoon. I hope you enjoyed the service?”
“Yes, ma’am. I did,” Nailah answered.
“She’s studying to get her Masters in Theology.” Priscilla boosted. “Daddy, I bet you would love to have her as your daughter.” They both laughed.
Bishop Paul only wished his children were interested in the ministering of the Gospel as he was. He was destined to lead a congregation just as his father and his father’s father did. His grandfather, Rufus Jordan, founded the Healing Hands Deliverance Center. It was only fair that he kept his family’s church going and servicing the community as they had done since the church was established. Did he teach his children the Holy word of God? Yes, daily. Did he force them to follow his footsteps? Yes, but to no avail. All of his children were on the right path with God. All but his youngest, Todd. He was at the age where smelling himself was an understatement. Being a sixteen-year-old boy in this generation was tough, but he wasn’t giving up on his son. That was going to be his leader someday, and he counted all his son’s mishaps as lessons needed so that God could position him to lead this new generation of saints.
“Daddy, all but drove us crazy with sermons and convictions through our childhood,” Priscilla said, reminiscing. “But all-in-all, those sermons got me through a lot of tough times as I got older. Being the only girl didn’t make it any easier. Between him and my brothers, you guys stayed on my case. I didn’t get it then, but I get it now.”
“Yes,” Bishop Paul started, boosting in his joy. “And you’ve turned out to be a very beautiful and prosperous woman of God.”
Nailah smiled at Priscilla and her father’s playful relationship. It made her miss her father. She made a mental note to call him when she settled in at Priscilla’s house.
“Sir, I really enjoyed your message today.” Nailah said. “Especially, the part about stepping out on faith and not letting anyone hold you back. I really needed to hear that. I have a habit of getting into my own way at times.”
“Thank you, Ms. Moore. You see, sometimes God is trying to take you places in your life not everyone is allowed to go. Not everyone can understand the promises of God, because first of all it was never meant for them. God gave it to you.” The Bishop said. With a twitch in his eye and lifting his right hand to his ear as if he were in the middle of a sermon, he reared back shouting, “Oh, Lawd,” just before grunting. “And I heard the Lord say,” he continued. “Not everybody is going to understand it. Not everybody is going to agree with it, but as long as you grab a hold of some faith, God can begin to shake some things loose in your life. He will begin to manifest himself through you by the very situation they laughed and mocked you for.”
Just before he finished his last grunt Priscilla grabbed her father’s arm and said, “Ok! Ok! Ok! Daddy, we just sat through one sermon. I think that’s enough for today. We don’t want to scare her off.”
“I’m sorry, baby.” Bishop apologized. “When the spirit moves I’ve got to move too. But I will say this one last thing, your being here is not be accident, my Sistah. God has something special for you to do while you’re here. Hold on to God and let him use you.” He handed Nailah some pamphlets and a visitor’s card instructing she fill it out before she left town.
“Yes, sir.” Nailah said with a huge grin plastered on her face.
She took the items and placed them in her bible. Just as she was closing it some papers fell to the floor. As Bishop Paul helped her to pick them up, he noticed the words Faith Community Friendship Cathedral Fellowship Outreach Center Ministries on a flyer.
“You’ve visited this church?” He asked.
“No sir.” Nailah said, taking her papers and stuffing them back into her bible. “There was a group of women passing out some flyers at the airport. They were very nice. They said they were going to be selling plates next weekend to raise money for a community event. I thought it was a very cool thing.”
“Well, my daughter here, will be heading a workshop in that event. It’s an event were everyone in the community comes together and encourage our youth.” He said, boosting about his daughter.
“You have to excuse my father,” Priscilla said, pulling Nailah towards the entrance doors. “I told you, girl, he don’t know when to stop.”
“It’s fine. I rather enjoyed it. Your father’s pretty cool.” Nailah as the exited the church.
Every Sunday it was tradition at the Jordan house to have Sunday dinner. No matter how busy they were no matter what happened, Sunday dinner is one event you must not miss. Krystal made sure you never heard the end of it if one did. The table was spread with fried foods, baked foods, desserts, and side dishes. Everyone said grace and prepared to eat their Sunday dinner. There was so much food Nailah stomach hurt because she didn’t know where to start first.
“This looks delicious, Ms. Jordan.” Nailah said, gazing upon the meal that sat in front of her.
“Thank you,” Krystal said. “Do you guys have Sunday dinner where you’re from? Arkansas? Is that right?”
A wave of sadness rushed over Nailah. She cleared her throat giving herself a moment to collect her emotions. Growing up, she always wished her family came together. She barely knew who they were, let alone get them all together for a meal. Being an only child, she had no sisters to fight with, and no brothers to protect her. Just her father, grandfather, and her. She cleared her throat again just before answering, “No ma’am. We don’t. It would be nice if we did.”
Priscilla sensed her friend’s emotional shift and quickly interrupt the awkwardness in the room, “So, dad, have you guys figured out what you’re doing for Wyandanch Day. I’m really going to need one of you to help me set up.”
“Don’t worry, your brothers, Allan and Todd will help you. Your mother and I really don’t need much help setting up.” Paul assured his daughter.
“Thank you, daddy. I want this event to be epic. I have something special planned for you to. I hope you like it.”
Priscilla’s father gave her a confusing stare. She knew he hated surprises, but she couldn’t help it. Surprising her family with her gift was the only way she could see them accepting it. A part of her felt dishonest. Yet, opening Pandora’s Box right now could mean the loss of her life.
“Priscilla, baby, you know-”
“I know. I know,” Priscilla interrupted. “But please give me this one time. I promise no more surprises.”
Paul thought to himself for a moment and then replied, “If I say yes, will I be able to eat in peace?”
Priscilla eyes sparkled as she nodded to his terms. The only other thing left was the when and how to set up the surprise. The next few minutes were quiet as everyone enjoyed their meal.
“Do you guys have some sugar?” Nailah was the first to speak.
“Sugar?” Krystal questioned. “What do you need to put sugar on? Is the Kool-Aid not sweet enough?”
“No ma’am. The Kool-Aid is fine. I like to put sugar on my spaghetti.”
Instantly, Krystal begin choking on the food she had just taken a bite of. Her husband quickly began tending to her. “Honey, are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” Krystal assured him. “I’m fine. Excuse me, while I go get the sugar.”
Everyone continued eating while Krystal slowly slid her chair back and walked into the kitchen.
“So, Nailah, what about your parents? Where are they from?” Bishop Paul asked.
“My dad is back home in Arkansas. My grandfather lives with us as well. My great-grandfather’s mother moved here from Africa.”
“Wow!” Allan bellowed out. The twenty-year-old was amazed to talk to someone from another country. He had always heard stories growing up and even seen television programs about Africa, but he didn’t know many people who were from there. “So, do you guys go back and forth there to visit?” He asked.
“No,” Nailah answered. “My father has always talked about going to visit, but we never have. I, on the other hand, want to do my Missionary work there.”
“I’ve always wanted to go to Africa,” Allan said. “I’m currently in pre-med. Soon as I’m finished with school I plan on visiting there and setting up a medical center. Maybe we should get together some time and I can pick your brain.” He winked.
Nailah blushed and was speechless as the room filled with laughter. Bishop had to hand it to his son for going after a beautiful girl such as Nailah. She reminded him so much of his wife with her deep dark complexion, jet black wavy hair, and right down to those almond shaped eyes. He was proud to see that his son was going after a strong woman. He was even more proud to see that his mom had made such huge impact on their son’s life.
“Alright, Son,” Paul continued his laugh. “So, Nailah, what about your mother? If you don’t mind me asking, is she around?”
“No, sir. Not at all.” She cleared her throat once more. “I don’t know my mom. She died when I was born.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Bishop Paul said, offering his condolences.
“It’s quite alright. I don’t remember her. The only thing I can get out of my father is that her name is Kaci. He doesn’t talk about her much.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know how, yet,” Bishop Paul said in Nailah’s father’s defense. “Just give him some time. I’m sure the day he tells you about your mom there will be lots of laughter and tears of joy.”
Nailah smiled hoping it hid the sadness that tried to press through her perfectly beat face. She would always get emotional when she spoke of her mother. She wanted more than anything to get to know her. It taunted her at night while growing up as a young girl transitioning into adulthood. There were so many things she wanted to ask or to even know. What did she look like? Did she look like her? What was her favorite color? Was her hair long and beautiful or short and pixie? Nailah dreamed so many dreams, but would always wake up to the reality that her mother was forever gone.
Just as another wave of silence swept the room Krystal returned with a small glass container full of sugar. “Here you go, sweetheart.” She passed the container to Nailah. As Nailah reached for the container, Krystal noticed the charm bracelet on her wrist. “That’s a pretty charm bracelet. Where you get it?”
“My father gave it to me. He said it was my mother’s. It’s the only thing I have of hers.”
“Well, it’s very pretty,” Krystal said, as she took her seat.
“So, Priscilla, tell me something. Humor your old dad. The word on the street is that you have a love interest up in New York City. When was I to know?”
Immediately the walls began to cave in around Priscilla, and she felt small. So small that when she opened her mouth to speak it was nothing short of a whisper. Who had seen her? That was the whole purpose of being in New York City, so that no one would find out her secret.
“Well, daddy,” Priscilla said then gulped down the remainder of her Kool-Aid. “I got a question for you? If two people were in love, they should be together without restraints or judgement. Do you agree?”
“So you’re in love,” Bishop Paul said with a wide smile. “I can’t wait to meet the young man who has stolen my daughter’s heart. Is he God-fearing?”
Priscilla looked up at Nailah who had a blank stare. “Yes,” she said.
“Well, then it’s settled. Bring him to the Wyandanch Day event and we shall official meet.”
Priscilla knew that her father would go on and on about her love interest all night until he could get as much information out of her that he could. She wasn’t ready to expose that part of her live. She didn’t need anything separating the relationship that she had worked so hard to grow for the past three years.
“You are bring him to the Wyandanch Day?” Her father asked interrupting her thoughts.
“Sure.” Priscilla said, then gulped down her Kool-Aid.
Nailah nudged Priscilla with her leg, “So, who is this lucky fella?”
The corners of Priscilla lips curled into a sneaky smile, and she shook her head. She knew why Nailah asked such a rhetorical question. She had been quiet lately about her feelings and everything that’s going on in her life. But at the Wyandanch Day event she was going to let everybody in on her little secret. She was so caught up in her plans that she hadn’t noticed her mother’s piercing gaze.
“I don’t trust her.” Krystal leaned in to her husband.
“No, her friend.” Krystal said, staring a whole through Nailah.
Check back later. A new chapter will be added.