The Sunday night after Nana’s accident, before they realized that his addiction was taking hold, Gifty’s mother was working, and Gifty went alone to church. The sermon was short and dull, but this time when Pastor John made the altar call, she heard an undeniably “loud knocking on [her] heart’s door.” She was in fourth grade, and she raised her hand, walked to the altar, and felt God’s presence in Pastor John’s hand on her head and the hands of the congregation stretching out to her.
Gifty’s narration finally loops back around to something that she had mentioned in an earlier chapter, that she’d been saved and born again in the spirit. This refers to her experience on the night she finally felt drawn to the altar calls made weekly by Pastor John. In the Pentecostal tradition, a personal sense of conviction over one’s sins and a deeply-felt desire to make a personal commitment to following Jesus are the hallmarks of salvation. Gifty waited through years of her childhood, following the rules and accepting every belief that she was taught, for this night. This is a transcendent, transformative moment for her, and it divides her young life into a before and after. It foreshadows the transcendent feeling she will have when her scientific experiments succeed.