Fraud Through the Church
My Nigerian husband and I worship at different churches. Why, I will tell you. I am an Evangelist, and my husband’s church (where he is an Evangelist), is the Celestrial Church of Christ; and it has standards that I, as a recently called minister, cannot abide by. The Celestrial Church of Christ’s standards do not recognize nor allow women to preach in their pulpits in the sanctuary. Matter fact, there are some geographical locations within the sanctuary where women are “not” allowed to walk, women cannot make church announcements, women cannot read bible scriptures in front of the congregation in the sanctuary, women cannot come to church for seven days during their menstruation— they must go through a sanctification ritual after their menstruation goes off by kneeing down before one of the male ministers in the church and then go home and wash with the sanctified water before returning to church for service; women cannot come to church 40 days after giving birth, and women must sit on one side of the church together (usually the left side upon entering) with their heads completely wrapped up. Males sit on the right side of the church. The only exception to women sitting in another location, other than the left side of the church upon entering the sanctuary, is if she is on the choir and sings during the service. You do not sit together as a family (husband, wife, and children) in a Celestrial Church of Christ. In essence, the Celestrial Church of Christ, in my opinion and through my brief four (4) month’s (too long) experience of “trying” to worship there with my husband, is that it is male dominated and degrading to women!
The Celestrial Church of Christ practices an Old Testament ritualistic way of worship. The worship service consist mainly of kneeling down and doing many (I mean many) prayers that are read out of a book by the male who is presiding over the service. Males wave incense throughout the sanctuary before service begins, which to me, makes it hard to breathe in fresh air, for they use a piece of charcoal that is heated, placed in an incense holder, and water is sprinkled on it to give off smoke (much smoke). I hated the way the charcoal smelled (not a pleasant aroma), and I personally do not think it is healthy breathing in those fumes in a closed sanctuary where no fresh air can circulate throughout. There is also an altar that is positioned at the front of the church with candles on it, and only a male can light the candles during the service. I often wondered during the services when I attended with my husband if the Celestrials realized that Jesus Christ had come and died, and that having a geographical separation between the altar and its female members had been done away with on the “cross” a long time ago! What surprised me the most was that the African women accepted the male domination, and they seemed to be content to just come to church every Sunday (if they were not menstruating or giving birth) and simply look and listen—without ever being an active participant in its service. After four months of trying to fit into my husband’s church, I left seeking God’s direction for a church where I could worship freely and fulfill the calling of God on my life. By the way, since I left my husband’s church, as a way of compromising, he worships with me at my church on the 4th Sunday of every month.
I said all of the above before I want to talk about Fraud Through the Church in order to give you a background of my experience with the Celestrial Church of Christ, which I had never heard of before I married my husband.
After my husband joined me in the United States on June 19, 2008 (after 17 months of going through the immigration process), he sought employment in his field without much success. My husband was a Chief Environment Health Officer in Lagos, Nigeria; and he supervised about 35 people. Having completed a three year degree in Nigeria, he was recruited into the Environment Ministry in Lagos—being elevated to a higher rank over the past 20 years. However, he discovered when he came to the United States, which I explained to him prior to coming, that his degree from Africa would not be accepted here, and therefore, he would have to go back to college to work in the environmental field here. In addition to not being able to find, what he felt was an honorable job, he wanted to relocate to the closest state that had a Celestrial Church of Christ in it, for he felt that his world wide church would be a support to him. The small town where I lived did not have an African store, and we had to travel over an hour (one way) to purchase his African food. In addition, there were very few Africans there—hardy any in fact. My husband was unhappy where we lived for several reasons, and he decided we should relocate to a better area.
My husband, therefore, was assisted with our relocation process by the shepherd (which is what the pastors are called in the Celestrial Church of Christ) in North Carolina. Because my husband had been in the Celestrial Church of Christ in Lagos since 1974, he was happy to worship in the style in which he was accustomed to. In addition, there are many Nigerians who live here and several African stores where we can quickly drive to and purchase his African food that he eats (he does not eat American food).
Let me give you our timeline. My husband joined me on June 19, 2008, and we resided in South Carolina. My husband moved to our present location (in North Carolina) at the end of September 2008, and I joined him there at the end of October 2008—having made two visits prior to my move.
My husband’s shepherd (pastor) of the Celestrial Church of Christ where we reside suggested that the church open a bank account for my husband solely in my husband’s name during the period when I had not yet joined him. The amount of the money placed in the bank account was below $100.00, but in addition to the checking account, a “credit card” was issued to my husband in his name—having a new social security number, it was easy for him to get the card. Now my husband told me about the checking account, however, he did not tell me about the credit card. My husband and I had already talked about how he must be very careful not to mess up his credit by making wise and careful financial decisions, and we should make all financial decisions together. Yet, because my husband had been in the Celestrial Church of Christ since 1974 (in Africa), he (foolishly) trusted this African shepherd of the Celestrial Church of Christ in North Carolina.
One day after my husband received his credit card (now remember I did not know he had a credit card, for he kept it a secret from me), the shepherd approached my husband in front of another church member and asked if he could use it. My husband, feeling obligated and grateful that the shepherd was assisting us in the relocation process, gave him his credit card and the pin number that was assigned with it. The shepherd charged over $2,000.00 between the dates of October 9 and October 21st (prior to me joining my husband permanently at our North Carolina residence). I do not know what my husband was thinking, for he “never” asked his shepherd what he wanted to do with the card, and he “never” asked him how much he was wanted to use on his card. The card had a $1,000 limit with an overdraft on it. Amazingly, the shepherd never told my husband he used the credit card nor the amount he charged against the card. This month (July 2009), the Solutions Department of the bank called my husband (I do not know why it took them that long to call him), and they demanded that the balance be paid or arrangements be made to pay the owed amount. Now this is the FIRST TIME I heard about my husband had a credit card—other than the credit card we have together through our joint bank account. Needless to say I was furious with my husband and especially at the shepherd of the Celestrial Church of Christ, which had charged that money on my husband’s card. The shepherd did not tell my husband he made those charges on his credit card, and more damaging; the shepherd did not pay one PENNY towards the charges he made on my husband’s credit card. The shepherd was very cunning in that he made the charges on my husband’s credit card prior to my joining him in North Carolina, which made my husband like a trusting lamb before a cunning religious wolf!
For the past two days, I must admit, I have had pure rage pouring out of me to the point where it was on the borderline of hatred! I know an Evangelist should not feel this way, but I do. Only yesterday I broke down crying before God asking him to take this “hate” away and create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me. This supposedly man of God, using the umbrella of the Celestrial Church of Christ scammed my husband.
I had explained the importance of establishing and maintaining a good credit record to my husband when he came to America (even before he got here), and I told him about the importance of protecting his social security number and any pin numbers associated with our joint bank accounts we would get together. I did not, however, warn him against his own beloved Celestrial Church of Christ’s fraudulent practices! I did not think there was a need to make such an explanation, for I, myself, have never been scammed by a church. Now I know!
The shepherd, however, first denied making the charges until the list was presented to him with the dates, places, and amounts. The shepherd rented cars with my husband’s credit card and did much more . . .! At the time my husband moved here, he did not have a job at first; so the shepherd knew my husband was unable to pay towards any charge he made on my husband’s credit card—yet he charged an amount over $2,000.00 and did not even mention what he had done—nor did he pay for what he charged!
Immigrants and non-immigrants BEWARE . . . .your new social security numbers and unspotted credit history is an opportunity to scam you when you come to the United States . . . . . . . .Protect yourself—EVEN FROM YOUR OWN CHURCH (pastor and members alike)!
Needless to say, my experience with the Celestrial Church of Christ has not been a positive one! Being defrauded through a church hurts worse to me! My husband’s messed up credit hurts us both when trying to make future purchases. His credit must be fixed now. Although I am my husband’s sponsor until he becomes an American citizen (he is a permanent resident now), the bank account that the Celestrial Church of Christ gave my husband money to open is solely in my husband’s name; therefore, my hands (from what I have been told) are legally tied from prosecuting the shepherd. Prayerfully, the shepherd will make financial restitution for what he has done and having been caught with “his pants down” or “in the cookie jar” as the phrases go!
I get my emotions out through words, so here are my words!