Few individuals intrigue me like the Kiunas do.
I am referring to Bishop Allan and Pastor Kathy Kiuna of Jubilee Christian Church (JCC). They are Kenya’s top gospreneurs (gospel entrepreneurs), preaching Christ but mostly the prosperity gospel.
They are a spectacle to behold. The missus, in her swanky blueish weaves and towering heels, and the mister in his colourful, bespoke six-piece suits that, unless you are really into prosperity gospel manenos and know how its preachers roll, would give you the impression he was a butler in one of Baba Moi’s châteaus.
This week, in a long, heartfelt Instagram post, Mrs. Kiuna revealed that her husband spent the better part of last year battling cancer.
She shared how the chemotherapy had taken its toll on him, to the point where he could barely walk.
We are healed by His stripes (but most times through the application of modern medicine) and so Bishop Kiuna went from being bedridden to full health, walking with and dancing for the Lord.
To me, it was a deep story with the markings of what it means to be the proverbial (31) wife: a strong, solid woman who steels herself through the tough times, standing by her husband in his lowest moments. I admire Mrs Kiuna for that.
Cancer, by any measure, is a ravaging disease that strips you of your dignity, through what I am told are unbearable burning chemotherapy treatments that leave patients desperate to end the pain.
It is a disease that affects your family and those close to you, who put their lives on hold for the patient and act strong even when it is clear there is no coming back from the disease.
I am deeply in awe of Mrs Kiuna’s unbridled resilience and her capacity to stay the course and keep her business — church — afloat even when we would have understood if she decided to take a back seat and tend to her husband. Hats and fascinators off to you, Mummy Pastor.
But then as I continue to chew on that Instagram post, I am compelled to challenge the Kiunas to use this experience as an opportunity to do good for a community they have always purported to love and serve.
The Kiunas are the single most influential gosprenuers in this country, if not the region. They have thousands of followers both physically in their churches and online, on social media.
A lot of Kenyans, both young and old, look up to them for various reasons, including the fact that they have a beautiful and mushy grass-to-grace story that every Kenyan would relate to.
They have publicly shared their journey through the struggles of raising a family, keeping a marriage intact and working together to build a gospel empire.
Mrs Kiuna, to many upwardly mobile Kenyan girls, is the girl next door who ‘made it’. (I’m not in the mood to discuss what ‘success’ really means, hence the quotation marks.)
Bishop Kiuna’s cancer experience should be an opportunity for the gospel couple to not only raise awareness about the disease and the importance of early screening and tests, but also an opportunity for them to give back to a society that places a high premium on religion.
If anything, the Kiunas should use the same manipulative religious tactics that have got them thus far, to spread a message that will benefit the people who look up to them: that cancer is real, but you can beat it if you get tested early.
And they should not stop there. If the Kiuna’s are serious about this, they should invest a significant chunk of their money — which I now assume is spilling into the billions — to make a significant change in the lives of their church and community members who are struggling financially because of cancer.
I am thinking of a foundation to support cancer orphans or foot the medical bills of children with cancer. It is the least a couple who made a fortune on the backs of a desperate congregation can do.
In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, in chapter 8 verse 28, he tells them: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.
The Kiunas should let this experience work together for good — for the good of the community they purport to serve, for the good of many suffering with cancer and, who knows, even for the good of their brand.
Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications; [email protected]