“Turn your wheel, sir.”
“I said, turn your wheel. Your front wheel is out of treads. I’m going to have to take you in.”
I stepped out of the car and looked at the wheel. Indeed, Raul did need new feet. I was asked to park the car of the side of the road. I knew the drill. Kenya’s police do not fine you on the spot. They get into your car. They direct you to the police station as they repeatedly state how serious the charges will be for the offence. As the mention of charges make you flaccid with worry, fear and anxiety, they solicit a bribe before you get to the station. The bribe, normally way less than the charges, is painted as merciful aid to your sorry condition. Your compliance through the bribe saves you the trip to the station and the offence is swept under the rug. However, your defiance though silence and all those nouns that bespeak Truth, Justice and Patriotism lands you the following: a car impounding, a verbal mocking from the police officer, an indemnity only paid in cash at the station and four hours with a throng of petty offenders before a court magistrate who cannot take “not guilty” for an answer.
The police officer asked to sit at the front and have my wife move behind. I insisted politely that she sit at the rear instead. She did. I changed my route from work and headed to the police station. I stopped by the ATM and withdrew the amount to settle the offence in court. I requested to drop my wife at work, which the police officer obliged to. As soon as my wife dropped off, the games began. The police officer assumed co-driver position and played good cop. I prayed in my heart for the Lord to grant me favour with her. I knew the breaking point was the bribe soliciting. However, my faith in Christ Jesus was totally against it. My studies of Mkenya Halisi by Eda Esilaba had given me new convictions. My position as a professing Christian was at the brink of compromise.
“You know the fine is 10,000 kes, right?”
“And the economy is very tough…”
Just as the sky is blue, I thought. We turned into the street leading to the police station. She was fishing but the bait wasn’t attractive to me. She figured I was either daft not to catch her drift or stubborn to the core. She cut to the chase. The gloves were off.
“If you give me 500 KES we can forget this little incident.”
No hints. No gestures. No false aid. I prayed hard for a way out of this mess.
“Look,” I said, “I know I need to change that tire. But I’m asking for your pardon. I hardly use the car except on weekends.”
“Yes, let’s forget it with that 500 kes.” I paused for a moment but eventually said what my heart believed.
“Ma’am this is hard for me as it is. I am a Christian…”
“And Christians don’t give bribes,” she finished for me sarcastically. I felt like a mouse in a cage.
“Yes, they don’t,” I managed.
That almost made her laugh. If it wasn’t for the sorry look on my face, she would have guffawed with an haven’t-I-heard-that-one-before.
“I’m also a Christian, young man, but we all need to survive. If I don’t get extra cash, I won’t meet all the needs I have.”
We got to the police station gate. The thought of 500 versus 10,000 made me despise my faith for a minute. Did my convictions have to be so darn expensive! What would Jesus do? Jesus never had to drive! I was torn apart. She didn’t understand my dilemma. Just as I am sure many reading this may not understand the dilemma. It’s a no-brainer, right? Give the lady the 500 kes and confess your sin later at the altar. We’re talking common sense here! Surely God will understand. Let’s not be too radical about this Jesus thing. Let’s just be reasonable human beings for a start. Let’s give the lady what she wants and be on our way, Ernest! How are you even debating this? What is wrong with you? Yet in the midst of all that noise, I could hear Christ quietly impress in me, “Honour me, Beloved, and I will honour you before many.” I responded to the officer and I was surprised at the words that came out of my mouth.
“If I have offended you, then I will pay the due, but do not let me offend my God. I am a Christian and I cannot bribe you.”
Beloved, I don’t have the gift of prophecy but I foresaw how all this would turn out. I foresaw the cuffs, the retorts, the shut-up-and-drive. I foresaw the mean judge with the mean mallet. I foresaw my monthly budget dented by 10,000 kes. Beloved, I did confirm that I do NOT have the gift of prophecy. All I thought would happen did not happen.
“Stop the car,” she said. “Reverse.”
I obeyed. She directed me to drive away from the Police Station. I remained quiet, afraid to rock the boat. What just happened? Was I resisting police directives? The date was April 1st. Was this an April fool’s joke? If it was, I was definitely the fool. The police officer was quiet for about a full five count. Then she spoke.
“I’m also a Christian. I just don’t work out the faith the way you do. But I know this, God forgives so I can forgive you for this offence too.”
The only words that my lips could elicit were “Thank you!”
“Where do you go to church?” she asked.
“CITAM Valley Road.”
“CITAM, er? Many people I meet also claim to be Christians but easily part with the 500 kes. The reason I have forgiven you is because you have not wavered in your stand. Drop me at the round-about and ensure you have your tires changed.”
Joyfully, I changed course towards her post. We talked about her life in the Police force and the kinds of troubles that come with the job. In the ten minute drive to her post, I also shared with her a word of encouragement from the scriptures. As I did, I could sense relief from that refreshing word. She needed it. I was glad that I received favour out of the situation. I have learned a few things from this: Always check that you are within the law of the land. If you obey the law, you will not have trouble. Secondly, it is better to stand for something than to fall for anything. Thirdly, it is a small world. Three weeks later, I would be preaching in my church Tuesday service. If the police officer came to the congregation and found that the preacher of the day was the same chap who offered the bribe, she would not only doubt his character but his faith as well. So, would you bribe 500 KES to avoid paying 10,000 KES? My answer comes from Luke 14:27:
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”