The from- rags- to riches story of many church leaders

Sunday January 21 2007

In a 2000 interview with a reporter from the Associated Press, Pastor Lucy Muiru stated “We are not about politics, we are about Jesus.” Obviously with his statement on Wednesday, her husband Pastor Pius Muiru has changed all that.

The 2000 quote was made to underline the AP writer’s statement to the effect that “While many of the more established Christian churches in Africa have taken strong political stances in support of human rights and against oppressive regimes, most of the independent churches have remained silent. Their concerns are often more basic, offering their followers a way to cope with daily issues: Will I get a job? How can I feed my family? How can I be cured of my pains?”

Pastor Muiru this week declared that not only would he be in the running for the Kamkunji parliamentary seat currently held by the government chief-whip Mr Norman Nyagah, but that he would be gunning for the presidency of Kenya.

Already the self-declared presidential candidate has faced his first major hitch. The Republican Alliance Party (Rap-Kenya) on whose ticket he said he would be standing for both the parliamentary and presidential races, has disowned him.

Rap-K officials led by party secretary general Alfred Njoroge told journalists on Thursday that they were not party to the decision announced by the party’s chairman, Mr Francis Parsimei, an acolyte of Pastor Muiru’s, and that they had in fact turned down a previous request by Mr Parsimei to accept Pastor Muiru as the party’s presidential flag-bearer at the forthcoming General Election.

Mr Njoroge said the party would take legal action “against anyone using the party’s name for his/her political ambitions without the mandate of the party members.”

It will be interesting to see how the man handles this set-back to his ambitions which he claims are God ordained.

It is very difficult to find any personal information on Pastor Pius Muiru, the latest entrant into Kenya’s presidential race.

The man appears to have kept details of his personal and public life from the media and off the internet. Even on his web site, his bio-data cannot be found and neither can his testimony.

However, from the few snippets available on the internet, it is possible to build a slight profile of the charismatic preacher who began his church, the Maximum Miracles Centre in the 1990s after spending a fair bit of the 1980s as an itinerant preacher in Nairobi’s Jevanjee Gardens.

For instance, on the Maximum Miracles web site Pastor Muiru and his wife Lucy publish their core beliefs for all to see. These beliefs include an enthusiastic nod to the prosperity doctrine that is so pervasive amongst the modern evangelical movement inspired and led by the US based “charismatic church” represented by the likes of one time contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the Rev Pat Robertson and his counterpart Morris Cerullo.

This trend was recorded in a 2005 From Our Own Correspondent report on the BBC World Service. The report read in part: “Next there is instruction in the art of giving. A pastor describes how he gave so much to the church that people told him he was crazy. But he ended up with an expensive car, he explained, such was the grace of God. 

As people crowd forward, he calls on them to give whatever Jesus is telling them to give, but then suggests 200 shillings, about a day’s pay for the average Kenyan. 

As hands come up clutching notes to be put on the stage, stewards adroitly scoop them back from the edge. 

The whole thing has a practised air, but Pastor Pius Muiru, a podgy man in a tent-like robe, tells me later that he had not intended to ask for money that evening. 

He says that he suddenly thought how appropriate it would be for people to have the chance to thank God for nurturing them through the year.”

Like all good evangelicals one of the Pastor’s articles of faith is the belief that “those who have not accepted the redemptive work of Christ” will burn in the fires of hell. This simply means that people of faiths other than Christianity are damned for eternity.

But Pastor Muiru is not all about hell-fire and damnation; he has a sense of humour and an appreciation of music too. His son Andrew Young Muiru leads the Kora award nominated Christian music group, Maximum Melodies. This group’s mission is to reach out to young people through dance, music, drama and straightforward preaching.

The gospel group was founded in 1997 by pastors Pius and Lucy Muiru. It had 37 members to start with but now only consists of 17 members.

The leader of the group, Andrew Young Muiru wrote some of the group’s songs for their first album Mwamba which was released in December 2004. The group was nominated for the annual Kisima Award in May 2005. In July, the same year the group was nominated for the Groove Awards in four categories. 

The US-based Christian music group Milele recorded the following observation of Pastor Muiru and his wife Lucy on their 2006 tour blog: “This Friday after thanksgiving we got to spend time with a ministry that we have become good friends. Maximum Miracle Center is a ministry of Pius and Lucy Muiru. We connected with them sometime back and we have grown to know each other. 

"Among many other great things, they have a children’s home they started after they noticed that so many kids attending their meetings did not have a place to stay. We were glad to be a part of their fund raiser on this day. We had a great time though it was in real ‘Kenyan time’ fashion. We were there from 6pm all the way to 11pm. Great time though with lots of laughs.”

On Wednesday the pastor promised he would be unveiling his vision for the country.