If the economy was that bad, the church would be full. Poverty brings people to church, not away from it
“I am so glad that we have you in this church,” Apostle Elkana, The Revered Spiritual Superintendent of THOAG (The Holiest Of All Ghosts) Tabernacle Assembly, told me over a week ago when I went to see him in church. He went on: “The church is not growing, even the few members we have do not attend regularly; hata sadaka hawatoi.”
“It must be the economy,” I said. “People are really struggling out there. You are not alone.”
“No,” he said. “If the economy was that bad, the church would be full. Poverty brings people to church, not away from it.”
“That is why I am so happy to have you back,” he answered when I asked him what the problem was if not poverty. “You are a creative and clever person and I am sure you will come up with ideas that will see the congregation grow, attendance increase; and therefore more collections.”
I had wished to return to THOAG just as a congregant, and not to hold any office.
“Usijali,” he said. “It will not be for free. In fact, if we do it well, it may fetch you more than what Amina pays you.”
Just as I was growing in faith, I heard an announcement on radio that had the ability to return me to Misri. It was about Valentine’s. As you know, I am one of the few people, if not the only one, who celebrates Valentine’s in Mwisho wa Lami by showering Fiolina, the laugh of my life, with love and gifts.
I now considered Valentine’s Satanic. So as to grow my spirituality, I stopped listening to Radio Ingo and In’ginin’gini Radio, and started listening to Christian radio stations. It came as a shocker to me last Saturday when I heard a certain Christian radio station talking about Valentine’s — and how we are all supposed to show love on that day. I couldn’t believe my ears.
The presenters went on talking about how their church had organised a Valentine’s evening and were inviting all. My mind started actively thinking and I asked myself what was wrong if we did a Valentine’s kesha at Apostle Elkana’s church.
Apostle Elkana initially opposed the idea when I mooted it. “What is Valentine’s?” he asked me. The only Valentine’s he knew was a choir member. “Vile nimesikia, hiyo ni usherati sitakubali hapa,” he later said after making a few calls.
“No really,” I argued. “If we want to attract the youth to this church, these are things we should consider.” He still said no.
Last Sunday morning, he called me aside just before the service began. “I have been reading the Bible and nowhere does it oppose Valentine’s,” he started. “I think we should proceed with your plan.’
“This Thursday you are all invited for a Valentine kesha here,” Apostle Elkana announced during the church service.
I was in church on Wednesday evening for preparations. Due to the dry weather, we could not get flowers, so we bought two metres of red cloth and cut it into pieces to be given to the attendees.
Thursday. I arrived in church at 3pm to ensure everything was well. As we waited, we discussed the programme with Apostle Elkana. It would be very simple: the choir will sing, then he would deliver a short sermon on love, then the programme would be handed back to the choir for an hour before we played Christian music till late.
By 6pm, other than the choir, only a few people had arrived, mostly staunch church members. For those who were not dressed in red, we sold to them the red pieces of cloth at Sh10. As soon as darkness started setting in, the attendance started growing as many young people came. We doubled the price of the piece of cloth to Sh20 but this did not deter people. It was a carnival mood with almost everyone dancing to the music.
“Halleluyah,” Apostle Elkana said at around 8pm and asked for the music to be stopped. He welcomed everyone and announced that it was time for the word.
“Fanya haraka,” one impatient young man shouted. I told the Apostle that he needed to preach very fast or else he would bore people.
“In the book of Corinthians, we are told that love is patient, love is kind …” said Apostle Elkana.
I could not listen more as I was called outside to go talk to the chief.
“Do you have a permit for this?” he asked me when I met him. “Hii ni kama Disco Matanga, which Matiang’i banned.” I told him it was not Disco Matanga and that the church was licensed. “Do you know what is happening around the church?” he asked me. I told him we were only responsible for what was happening inside.
“Wacha nilete polisi,” he said as he left. People were still arriving. By then Apostle Elkana had finished preaching and the choir was leading everyone in song and dance. I told Apostle Elkana to quickly collect sadaka as the police may come anytime. He interrupted the song and dance and invited everyone to give sadaka.
No sooner had we finished collecting sadaka than the police arrived. They did not talk to anyone, they grabbed the microphone and ordered everyone to leave within 10 minutes. Even Apostle Elkana was not allowed to talk. The people may have left angry but I am told most young people praised the church.