* * * * *
Deacon Conley, Cecelia’s cousin, was the head deacon at All Star United Church, and along with two other deacons, was in charge of counting the offering after each service. He also served as business advisor to the pastor, and although he was being paid well, as the Bible says, ‘the heart of man is never satisfied.’ Deacon Conley felt he needed extra income which he stole from the offering plate. He was in charge of depositing the money in the overnight drop box on Sunday evening or making the deposit on Monday morning. After the deacons did the final count of the offering in one of the meeting rooms, he would often change the amount on the deposit slip. He made it his business to fill out the original deposit slip which he changed to reflect the new deposit after he took out what he justified as rightfully his.
No one knew what he was doing; No one that is but God. The Bible does say men do not despise a hungry man who steals to get food even though he will be required to replace that which he took without asking; on the other hand, the Bible does say that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Deacon Conley loved money and would do anything to acquire more of it. He was no Robin Hood either—stealing from the rich to help the poor; he was more like one of the thieves from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves—stealing and storing it up for himself.
“Cecelia, I took care of the matter with First Lady Akron.”
“You did? What did you do?”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. Just have my reward ready in about five days; remember, $50,000.00.”
“I got you covered, Cuz,” Cecelia said. “Is she going to be completely obliterated from the earth?”
Deacon Conley chuckled. “We will see. We will see.”
As soon as Cecelia got off the phone, she called Bishop Akron. “Bishop, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since the last time I spoke with you.”
Bishop Akron chuckled. “I don’t like it when you get into thinking mode. It usually means I am in some trouble, but speak on.”
“I just want to let you know that since you’re adamant about not leaving your wife, I’m equally as adamant about you paying me more to keep me silent. I could be with anyone else you know.”
“Baby, don’t do me like that. Fifteen hundred a week is not enough? And it’s just you?”
“Listen to me and listen to me well,” Cecelia said. “I’ll spread it big time because I have nothing to lose. Nobody knows me; but you on the other hand, your name is becoming a household name. Remember, the internet? I have a job where I sit in front of the computer all day long. You’ll go viral in a matter of seconds. And once gone viral, you’re over and done with. Picture this headline: Rising Young Charismatic Mega-church Pastor, Bishop Collin Akron, Has Been Carrying on a Sexual Relationship For Over a Year Now With a Church Member Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous. People still love gossip, Collin, especially about the man of God.”
“Come on now. You would not really do that to me, now would you? After all I have done for you?”
“Okay, okay, okay. How about five hundred more each week? I’ll up it to two thousand?”
“Nope. How about fifty thousand up front and another two thousand each week following?” Cecelia said.
“What? You have got to be kidding, right?”
“Do I sound like I am kidding you?”
“You’re expensive, you know that? But I can fill that order.”
“I offer high quality work, Bishop,” Cecelia said softly and with a smile. “You can bring it with you tomorrow.”
“Yes. Tomorrow. Time is of the essence. I’m sure you have the money stashed away somewhere. If there is going to be a problem let me know now before I get off the phone and go viral. Wow! I love that word. Don’t you?”
“Okay. Okay. But what’s the hurry?” Bishop Akron asked.
“Because I’ve been waiting for over a year now. And, frankly, I’m tired of waiting. Waiting makes me wonder how serious you are about me. Are you serious about me?”
“Of course, I am,” Bishop Akron said. “What account do you want me to drop the money in? It’s better to do a transfer than to take out that large amount. The bank people might get suspicious.”
“Huh! I don’t think so, but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I want $5,000 cash and forty-five transferred into my account by twelve midnight tonight. I just sent you the account number to your personal email. I expect to see it registered I think within the next two days. I already called my bank and checked out how long it takes for the transaction to show for such a large amount, so don’t pull any tricks. It’s a matter of pressing a few buttons. Two days, Bishop. Until then, I do not want to see or hear from you. I’ll call you. Bye.”
Bishop Akron had no choice but to consent. His good name and reputation were on the line. Money sure does talk and answers all things, he thought as he hung up the phone. Now, what is the most efficient way to get the money to her? I’ll take $20,000.00 from my personal account. I’ll take the rest from the church account. After all, it’s for a good cause; she’s taking care of the Bishop. I can’t risk her bringing shame upon the church.
Calling an emergency meeting of the three deacons who handled the church funds he gave the explanation that he needed $30,000.00 to take care of something personal that came up unexpectedly. Deacon Conley, well aware of the so-called unexpected personal situation gladly consented to that amount. His signature was a must on any check that went out of the church’s account. He gladly signed over a check in the amount of $5,000.00 thinking Cecelia should be calling me in about another four days, if not today. The other two deacons balked at the request and asked for specific details, but Deacon Conley spoke in favor of it.
“Bishop Akron has never lied to us before, now has he? He’s sacrificed his time, energy, health, and even his personal money at times to help out folks at the church. I know of things he has done for the church family and even for others outside of the church that you other deacons don’t know about.”
“But this is such a large amount,” the other two deacons said as they signed the $5,000.00 check over to Bishop Akron.
“Do you want me to take care of the transfer of the twenty-five thousand for you, Bishop Akron?” Deacon Conley asked.
“You can probably come with me down to the bank in case you need to verify something. I’m sure they are familiar with you down there.”
“I would count it a pleasure,” Deacon Conley said, slipping his jacket on.
Bishop Akron was walking out of the bank and saying goodbye to Deacon Conley when his cell phone rang. It was the hospital. His wife had been rushed there by ambulance for a severe concussion and a broken arm. She was disoriented and would be on bed rest for at least a week. Her car had somehow spun out of control, hit a tree, and overturned into a ditch. Thank God others had seen the accident and had come to her rescue while awaiting the arrival of the police and ambulance crew. She was lucky to have survived. The cause of the accident? According to the police, somehow the nuts and bolts holding the two front tires in place had come loose. The police concluded foul play.
“Probably some idle teenager looking for something “fun” to do. Just be careful,” the police had cautioned. “We’ll be carrying out an investigation, and we’ll let you know if anything new comes up.”
Bishop Akron asked for prayer for his wife at the church’s Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study.
“You didn’t fully complete the job,” Cecelia said to her cousin as she dropped the five thousand cash in his hand that night after the prayer meeting when he stopped by her condominium. “I’ll transfer twenty-thousand in your account within two days once the transfer registers. I’ll give you the rest when the job is completed. I want her forever gone off the face of this earth. In other words, I want to wear my new black dress to bid her a last goodbye. But I believe you will complete the job. You’re pretty thorough. This is just for starters.”
“Don’t worry. That’s just to shake her up,” Deacon Conley said. “I’ll complete the job. I always finish what I start.”
“Make it quick and don’t get caught, ‘cause I can’t wait to be the new First Lady of All Star United Church.”