We have a new tenant in our servant’s quarters, the Chansa’s. They have two children, a boy and a girl twins. The servant’s quarters has not been lived in since we arrived at this house two years ago. So the day before they moved in we had to do some serious cleaning. The servant’s quarters has two rooms. One used as a bedroom and another as a dining room/kitchen/sitting room. The shower and the toilets are outside. The toilet is not really a toilet but it is rather a hole in the ground and you have to be careful when you are showering not to fall into the hole. My father had tried to fix the shower head but the pipes are jammed and no water comes out. They use a bucket to bathe now.

The Chansa’s are nice, but they do not let their children play with us. Their father, when he is at home spends his time in their little yard by the house reading bible stories to his children. Even though they live at the servant’s quarters, they are always clean and we look like street children next to them. We are not allowed by my father to play near their house and he says to leave them in peace.

My father met the Chansa’s at the new church we now go to.my father and mother leave before us too. I walk there with a few kids from my neighbourhood. It is not a church built from bricks but it is tent. It is across the great north road in a shanty about a fifteen minute walk from our house. The Chansa’s are deacons in the church and always at church most evenings and they leave early every morning on Sundays to get there before the congregation arrives. So we never go with them and their children.

The church tent is very hot and humid. Even early on Sunday mornings. We usually arrive a bit late, but I don’t mind. The singing starts early and last for more than an hour and people scream and shout and praise God. Everyone wants to be seen there and some people are so zealous they walk around the pews touching other people speaking in tongues and gesturing wildly. I usually sing along, obviously but I have never felt the spirit like the others and I have never spoken in tongues. I have always been a sceptical child. When people hear a favourite hymn, some dance around and dust gathers in the tent and it goes in your eyes.

After the singing and shouting, we all sit down to hear the word. There are a few pastors there and for everyone’s benefit, they preach in English. This is so that they do not have to translate the sermon into several languages. The preaching usually lasts up to two hours. It gets hotter and hotter as the morning goes by. Sometimes I listen to the sermon and sometimes I just watch people’s faces and their reactions to the message. There are always some who stand up and shout “halleluiah, yes Jesus!”.

After the sermon we usually have to stand and all the people who are sick, lame or have demons are ordered to go to the front. We sit and the preaching resumes as people are prayed for and demons cast out. Usually at this time the children are allowed to go outside and play and wait for their parents. My parents never stay too long after this and leave after the sermon. They insist we stay. I don’t know why, because we could just then walk with them. We get very hungry. That is the one thing I cannot stand, it’s the dust, the heat and hunger.

One particular Sunday, we were walking home from the tent church, when the Chansa’s children joined us. They never joined us. And they told us that their parents were on an important mission that Sunday and they should go home with us. We started walking home. Now the walk home is alright because we know that there will be ubwali and chicken waiting for us. With our stomachs grumbling, it is a great treat. But before we have to cross the great north road to get to our side of the neighbourhood, we have to pass this one house. They have two of the most vicious dogs you have ever seen. Usually the dogs just bark from the gate and don not chase us. But we saw that this time, the owner must have forgotten to close the gate. We could not hear any barks and we crept by slowly trying not to wake the dogs in case they were sleeping. We managed to pass by the gate. But as soon as we reached the corner we heard barks. “run!” someone shouted. And we did. It’s a good few hundred meters to the main road from there and we ran with everything we had. But the road was coming up and we would have to stop. Luckily we heard a whistle and the dogs retreated. We were getting tired of running, and vowed to find another route to get home. We were five kids in total.

As we crossed the big road safely, the Chansa’s girl said, “me and my brother can show you how to pray so that those dogs never chase you again. You guys probably have demons in you and they smell it.”

I laughed and looked around at the others. They were not laughing.

“Really?” Dala said.

“Sure why don’t you guys come to our house now and we can pray. Our father and mother are prayer warriors and they have shown us how to do it.”

It seemed that some of my friends had forgotten how hungry we were and all readily agreed to go to the Chansa’s and engage in this prayer. I was sceptical and worried that a bunch of kids were going to cast out demons. I followed everyone anyway.

We got through to our back yard and my mother and aunt were busy plucking some chickens. They saw us and just waved. We walked waved and walked through to the Chansa’s place and the girl showed us in.

In their main room, there were two chairs and in the corner of the room there was a table. It had the cross on it with Jesus and there were candles all wound it. Those candles looked very used. The only light in the room was the naked lightbulb hanging close above our heads. There was no window in this room and it gave it an eerie sort of feel.

“Ok everyone we will hold hands and stand in a circle. If you feel the spirit compels you, you can speak in tongues.” The girl said.

So we started praying. Each saying their own things. I kept my eyes opened and I saw that everyone was really into it. A few kids had started speaking in tongues and soon everyone was. I tried to but all that came out was gibberish. I grew more sceptical. Suddenly I caught the eye of the girl, she was staring at me. She smiled and walked towards me and she shouted,

“Come out demon, come out!”

She lay her hands on my head. Her hands were clammy and hot.

“she has the demon!” she said

All the kids came up to me and some were shaking and going on. I don’t know if it was the heat combined with the hunger, but I started swaying and my feet felt light as though they were just touching the ground. I fell to the ground and I must have blacked out.

“Are you ok?” it was Dala. He had his face right down next to mine and was checking if I was breathing.

“I am fine. what happened?”

“The demon you had in you has left you. You are free now.” the girl said. Everyone clapped and cheered and they got me up. I was confused and I could not tell you to this day if they had been right or not. The girl placed a hand on my chest and said something under her breath. She opened her eyes and smiled at me. She had a wild look about her and I moved her hand away.

“Our parents will be back soon. You have to leave now.” she said.

We left, each kid went to their own house. I walked towards my mother and aunt who were now frying the chicken at the mbaula’s.

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