After three weeks in Nairobi during which nothing seemed to be going my way, my college roommate told me that things would turn around if I went to church and repented my sins. I also needed God’s miracles to pass my exams having missed almost all the lessons.
But I did not know where the Nairobi branch of our local church was. I didn’t want to go to any church as I had been warned that I could be arrested for attending some churches in Nairobi.
So when I told my roommate on Saturday evening that I intended to go to church the next day but was not sure where to go, he eagerly told me that I could join him to his church. I asked him the name of the church but he only said that I would see it when we got there.
“Don’t worry, I will pay your fare to town,” he said when I complained that I could not afford fare to town just to attend a church service.
So early Sunday morning, after taking breakfast comprising “strong tea” and kangumu, we boarded a matatu to town. I had expected that we would enter a big compound, with a huge well-constructed cathedral.
I was surprised when in the middle of the streets; my friend led me into the church. The place was so full there was no sitting or standing space inside so we joined the many congregants at the door who were struggling to follow the service.
We pushed and shoved, trying to make our way into the full church.
Outside and inside was the name of the church inscribed on big banners: THE HELICOPTER OF OUR GOD MINISTRIES. Below the name was the church’s motto: “Many missed Noah’s Ark; Don’t Miss the Helicopter Today”.
With no windows on the building, the place was quite hot, and everyone was sweating; but for a good cause!
After moving a few inches inside, I was able to see the flashily dressed pastor – in a red suit, white shoes and “fried” hair – frantically moving up and down the altar as he delivered the sermon – sweating profusely.
“All Aircraft are grounded the world over,” he said. “But do you know what? Do you know what?” he asked. “Halleluiah! Helicopters are able to fly. Glory to God!”
“Amen,” the congregants answered in unison.
“Brother, sister, come and board my Helicopter today, we shall take off any time, Halleluiah! Our flight is direct to heaven! Praise God!”
“Amen, Amen,” we answered.
“No stopovers, no refuelling. Only this Helicopter will save the world. Glory to God!”
The pushing and shoving at the entrance was getting intense, as more and more people struggled to get into the church – to catch their flight to heaven.
There was practically no space and if you lifted one leg, it would be impossible to get it back down. Suddenly, someone shouted: “My wallet!”
This made everyone around to check theirs. Another one found their phone missing.
“Kaeni chonjo, kuna magondi hapa,” one of the security men said. Luckily my wallet and phone were intact – I believe because there was nothing in the wallet anyway!
“Stop pushing and fighting behind there,” the pastor shouted as the noise from behind increased. “Please wait for the second service which will start soon.”
He then ordered the security people to move all the people who were standing outside the church and close the church doors.
The security guys moved us out after which the doors to the church were closed. “Queue here and wait for the second service,” we were told.
We queued on either side of the entrance, pouring into the streets as we waited the next flight, as the ushers called it. That was at around 9.30 a.m.
As we waited, the church’s officials moved around selling to us CDs and VCDs with songs sung by the Ministry’s choir. At around 11.00 a.m., a church usher moved around collecting sadaka, before some of us could get impatient and leave.
By 11.30 a.m. we were so many of us waiting that they mounted a rope to prevent us from interfering with vehicular traffic on the street.
Most of us waited patiently and quietly, except for one man who kept asking when the second service would begin. At last, one of the ushers answered him: “People have been sleeping in airports for several days waiting for flights to other countries. Can’t you wait for a few hours for a flight to heaven?”
It wasn’t until 12.30 p.m. that the first service ended. There was commotion at the small door as the first group left while our group struggled to enter. A few people lost their personal effects during the melee.
We took our seats and the service soon began with a long and loud praise and worship session. It was very hot and a little dark inside the church and this got worse when they closed the doors.
As the other congregants sang and danced, I was heavily panting and even had a headache. I had to stay outside for most of the service due to the heat inside.
“That’s the Holy Spirit at work,” my friend told me regarding the headache. May be he was right, for God seems to have answered my prayers. The exam we did on Wednesday only had questions from the topics I had read about. But I won’t be celebrating until the results are out.