What you need to know:
- African Divine Church was the loudest, most vibrant and colourful.
Elkana also started selling anti-Covid anointing oil for Sh100 a bottle.
For years, going to church every other Sunday in Mwisho wa Lami, just like in many other villages, has been a tradition.
Growing up, Christianity and church-going was something we took seriously. In fact, every Monday during school parade, a list of those who had not attended church service on Sunday would be read out, and punishment meted out.
It was easy to get the list of church goers since all Mwisho wa Lami people went to one of the four churches in the village: The Anglican Church, Church of God, Salvation Army and African Divine Church.
African Divine Church was the loudest, most vibrant and colourful. The faithful would begin by moving around villages beating drums as they sang loudly and danced excitedly, carrying their white, red and green flags. Everyone wore long white robes and white turbans, which also had red and green stripes.
By the time they settled for service, the number would have grown bigger as many villagers, particularly children, and the idle, would have followed them, attracted by the festival mood.
My family was Anglian. Or rather let me say my mother was Anglican. For I have never seen my father go to church, expect when he went there for work.
When I was in primary school, Elkana was an assistant pastor in African Divine Church, and also served as the lead drummist and choir master. He was quite popular and always donned the turban every day. The robes were only for Sundays.
Later on, Elkana was entangled with a lady member of the choir, a wife to one of the congregants. The man swore to kill Elkana and as such he disappeared. It is said that he went to Kawangware in Nairobi, where he grew spiritually in one of the churches there.
A few years later, with the small matter of his entanglement forgotten, Elkana returned and set up a new church right in the middle of Mwisho wa Lami village — the Holiest of All Ghosts (THOAG) Tabernacle Assembly.
He started off as overseer Elkana, but over the years, he has been adding himself titles. He is now Senior-most Overseer Apostle Bishop Elkana, the Revered Spiritual Superintend of THOAG Tabernacle Assembly. All was going well in his church until Covid happened. Initially, the pandemic was a godsend to him as he invited many people to go to church for prayers. He also started selling anti-Covid anointing oil for Sh100 a bottle.
Then boom! The government closed churches. It has been a rough time for Apostle Elkana. As you know, other than the sadaka he collects every Sunday, his other sources of income are small payments that he gets during funerals, schools functions, weddings, and other events. All gone.
“Things are bad,” Apostle Elkana told me some time back, “Hakuna sadaka, hakuna chochote,” That same week, he started fasting, asking God to talk to the President to reopen churches. “Look at Tanzania, which relied on God,” he said. “Hakuna Corona. If the President had allowed we pastors to lead the fight against Corona with prayers, things would be okay. We would have exorcised the virus!”
I asked him how this would have been done: “The government should have appointed renowned men of God to cover different regions, and I would have happily covered Mwisho wa Lami in the blood of Jesus. We would not be seeing any death.”
“But we haven’t seen any death here, have we?” I asked. “Or even anyone who is sick.”
“That’s exactly my point,” he said. “No one has died yet we are forced to close schools and churches, where we would have prayed.” “But no one has stopped you from praying,” I told him “You can still pray from home and God will hear your prayers.”
“When you close churches and open bars, even the prayers that pastors make do not go far,” he said. “THOAG is closed but even if I pray, those prayers are blocked by the drunkards at Hitler’s and Cosmos Bar. That is why the virus continues to spread.”
So, two weeks ago when my contacts in Nairobi told me that churches would be reopened, I called Apostle Elkana to give him the good news. He was so elated and declared that if churches are reopened, Kenya would be Corona-free in 100 days.
“My prayers and fasting have done wonders,” he added.
But his happiness was dampened when he heard the strict restrictions imposed for churches to reopen. “I wonder who advises the President,” he said. “He must be surrounded by un-Godly people.”
“A majority of my church members or those I am interested in are old people, above 58 years, and they have been refrained from coming to church. That is as good as keeping the churches closed,” he said, reminding me that all the young people left villages and are in towns. “The rule only favours churches in towns, not us.”
I took him through more restrictions.
“How can you say we should not have healing miracles in church? Or that we should not admit the sick? So why does the church exist?” He wondered, visibly upset.
“The book of Mathew 11:28 says: ‘Come to me all yee that are sick and weary, and I will give you healing and rest’. So, when the government bans the sick from coming to church, and discourages them from going to hospital, where do they want them to go to? To the bars?”
I tried to explain to him the reasoning behind the government’s rules, but he would hear none of it. He vehemently opposed the directive that, as a pastor, he should not touch a congregant while praying for them. “Does the government know how miraculous my hand is? Many people have been healed just from my touch.”
“I now understand why there is no Corona in Tanzania, yet inatumaliza hapa” he said. “We have abandoned God.”
He declared that he was considering migrating to Tanzania. “Looks like Tanzania is a good place to spread the word of God, not Kenya!” He said.