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Harold bungles his first baptism

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Peter Theuri | March 21st 2021
A baptism session. [Courtesy]

I stopped at Harold’s door on Tuesday evening with a message more important than any he had been brought in half a decade.

Many people call me the bearer of bad news - some even claim I was an emissary of Judas during the crucifixion of Jesus, so Harold was pleasantly surprised when he realised I had information worth celebrating.

Njane, Githendu’s son who went to Nairobi had returned to the village with a ‘white’ girlfriend. 

“They have come to have their baby baptised!” I told Harold, who smiled widely.

To say the wife is white means she is of fair complexion and has surely never tasted problems of the village.

Githendu had told me that Njane had come home following the tragedy that befell him (Githendu). If you remember, Githendu’s chicken were stolen.

Njane was in Gitegi to condole with his father, but he had not come alone. He was accompanied by a woman who spoke English “with the nose”. With them was a little baby boy they just called Prince.

“Why not have his newborn son baptised right here where there’s plenty of water and where the priest will probably demand very little for the dip?” asked Githendu.

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I twisted the message to make Uncle Harold feel important by telling him that Njane had come primarily to get his son baptised by the village pastor, Harold. 

“I told you I am famous, young man. And loved. You should be proud to live with a celebrity that doesn’t keep reminding you he is a celebrity.” After bragging that he was the modern John the Baptist, and scowling when I asked him why he was no living in the wilderness, Harold remembered that he had a serious problem. 

“I have never baptised a baby before. How do you baptise a baby?”

But that was not even my most pressing concern.

What I was most worried about was if Harold would remember the name of the child.

Njane grew up a football fan, idolizing the likes of George Weah, whom he called Gorge Wear, and Alan Shearer. But according to Githendu, a girl who had seen more things in the world corrupted the son of Gitegi into watching golf, and baseball, and badminton.

Now Njane no longer idolised the immortal Maradona but was now a fan of Tiger Woods.

“But why would a man call himself a tiger in the woods?” wondered Harold. “That is like calling yourself Shark Waters. Or Bird Nests. Or Harold Church.”

I piped up that it was more accurate to call himself Harold Drinks, which sounds like some rock star, but he shot me a venomous look and I withdrew my comment.

That Sunday, the church was packed to the rafters. Word had gone round concerning Njane’s arrival and the possible baptism and the members of the gossip club occupied the front pews. They wanted to see the baby. They wanted to see Njane’s wife. And they wanted to see Harold baptise someone for the first time.

The service was good by Harold’s standards; two people even got saved. They would backslide later in the evening, we all knew, but it was not important at the moment.

Then came time for the baptism.

We went to the abandoned fish pond in the church compound that I had filled with water the previous day.
When Harold got into the water, the colour turned brownish, the first time in eons that his cassock had touched water.

The baby was put in his arms.

“Today, just as John the Baptist did it, we come here to baptise this little baby that I hold in my arms.”

The gossip club members pushed and tugged as they struggled to come near and see their chairman in action.

“When we baptise, we are in essence making sure that the child is cleansed,” said Harold. “Water moment!” he shouted  trying to corrupt “what a moment”, unsuccessfully.

Then I read panic on his face. Harold’s free hand that was not wrapped around the baby frantically went to his pocket.

He was looking for the paper on which I had written the baby’s name, alongside verses to guide him on baptism. He had lost it.

The baby was to be called Tiger Githaiga, after Tiger Woods. Everyone stood anxiously waiting as the baby gave a loud yell.

“To baptise you,” he said, looking at the baby’s face with scared eyes, “means that from today henceforth, you are a member of this church.”

I saw alarm in the eyes of Njane’s wife, but she did not say anything.

“And now we baptise you...,” Harold paused. The sweat forming on his forehead was hard to ignore. 

“And now we baptise you…” I made the gesture of teeing off, like Tiger Woods, but Harold did not still get it. I knew what was playing in his head. Shark Waters. Bird Nests. Harold Church. I growled. Harold was still lost. I made a running gesture like that of an animal. Still, nothing.

“And now we baptise you… Harold…”

Njane’s wife gasped, and Njane shrieked.

The baby fell from Harold’s hands and into the water, but Harold grabbed him back into his hands.

The crowd cheered. The baby had taken the all-important baptismal dip.

“And now we baptise you Harold Waters!”

Those who did not have their mouths wide open, were rolling on the ground laughing.

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