All I wanted was to see his face live live. On the day he was to visit Kisumu, Kondele Market vendors closed their stalls early to make space for Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, because the crusade was to start from 4pm onwards. My entire family was to attend, that is what Mother Karua insisted on. We had to make time to go and see the pastor from Amerka (Luos can never say America. The i is silent).
My father was sick. He spent his last couple of years in and out of hospitals. Mother Karua said we needed spiritual intervention, so we took my father to Reinhard Bonnke, hoping that he would lay his hands on my father. You know, from watching a lot of Pastor Pius Muiru on telly every Sunday afternoon, I had this childish idea that it was as easy as a man of God touching a sick man, and voila! My father’s kidneys would go back to doing their job.
We arrived at Kondele at 4pm, when the crusade was set to begin, only to find the whole market full. Turns out, people had started arriving from as early as 8 am. In fact, there were whispers that some people came all the way from Narobi, and slept around the vicinity, waiting on God’s messenger to deliver them from the troubles of their lives.
Hours later, the sun was dipping, and this jamaa had not laid hands on my father. At the back, we were being told that the sick people at the front were getting healed. So we had to move, lest the Lord overlooked us while handing out His graces. Reverend Bonnke’s basket of blessings would be empty by the time it got to us.
We started moving in front. My father was slow. Mother Karua helped him. But I elbowed my way through. I wanted to see his face – this odiero from Amerka who had these magical healing powers; powers more powerful than those of our jarateng’ Pius Muiru.
I was what, eleven? And I was small. People let me through. All the time in my head, I thought I was making way for Mother Karua and my father. Until I stopped to take a breather when I looked back and could not see Karua. All around me I was surrounded by strangers, most of whom were lifting their hands towards Bonnke’s podium, others crying, others talking hysterically. I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of chaos.
So I walked on. Towards Reinhard Bonnke. By the time I got to the front, it was dark, and it was raining. I could not see his face properly. Wishful thinking led me to hope that at some point in his sermon, he would look my way, and I would wave and get his attention. Then I would remind him that there is a very sick man at the back who needs some touching. Then he would ask for Karua’s husband to be brought up to the podium, lay hands on his stomach and send us on our way.
I mean come on. How long would that take? Si that is like two minutes tops?
Well, he never saw me. The drizzle turned into a slight downpour. I had to get back to Karua and the rest. So I began my way back to the point I last saw them. Only that they were not there.
It’s not like I was lost. I knew my way home. I just got a taxi guy to take me to Migosi Estate. My father would pay. He was sick, not poor.
“Did you get healed?” I asked him, full of eager expectation.
“No. We had to leave. Maybe next time.” My father said, switching channels from Nation TV news to Citizen.
It was a little after 9pm. My brothers had been sent to go back and look for me at the crusade grounds. Mother Karua fusses over very small things. Aki women!
One day, coming back from yet another doctor’s appointment in Narobi, Karua and her husband arrived with hospital things (boxes of water bags, disinfectants, syringes and some other funny looking stuff).
“We are opening a clinic in our house,” Karua told me when we went to pick them up at Akamba Bus Station.
I would later learn that these hospital things were home care for my father. His kidneys had grown horns. They quit. So my father could not pee vizuri. They put tubes into his belly which connected to some bags. His urine went directly to these bags. When they filled up, Karua (and sometimes my eldest brother) would remove the used bag and put a clean one.
The house always smelled of methylated spirit and medicine.
Omera, kidney failure is a bitch.
Soon afterwards, Karua would come back from Narobi with a Sony three CD changer. You must remember them. Very big stereo, just the right size to suit a Luo man’s pride. They played cassettes at the bottom and had a CD deck at the top and huge knob at the centre for volume. It only played VCDs and some DVDs. And when she came with it, the first VCD she came with was a Don Moen album.
For many days, our house was filled with Don Moen’s songs. My favorite being Celebrate Jesus Celebrate. My father rarely left his bedroom when he was around. So I played the music at high volume and went to chill with my old man. He had stories about how his father put him on a train and sent him to Narobi to meet his uncle.
I listened. The rich timbre of his voice rose above Don Moen’s. I listened. And on more than one occasion, I fell asleep next to him.
I have never been a good listener.
“Do you know who the thief is? Any leads?” I asked Karua over the phone.
“To donge! It is Oricho. That stupid useless baboon. Nyathi ma dhoge odhiek.Gwok piere tar.” Karua has always been creative with insults. And this time she had every right to be angry. “En ma okwalo thumba. He has stolen my music.”
Mother Karua is no musician. It was the 3CD changer that had been stolen. The chief suspect being a guy called Oricho; whose brother was a staunch SDA church deacon in the area, who always walked around the neighborhood carrying a black bible the way professors carry files and big books that make their hair turn grey.
Oricho was the black sheep in the family that had refused his mothers eyes. He would later be killed in a robbery with violence operation by CID operatives – much to the relief of every person in the neighbourhood, especially Mother Karua.
As I write this today, it has been well over a decade since that wet evening in Kondele Grounds. I have forgotten what Bonnke’s face looks like. I hear he has been coming to Nairobi, but I am no longer fascinated with his face. I only wanted to see him simply because I wanted him to heal my father. But my father gave up his ghost kitambo sana. So what’s the point?
Also, I do not attend church. It is too much for me. I have tried, yes. Sometime ago while still in campus, I gave this salvation thing a shot. I joined the Christian Union. I attended keshas and what have you. In hindsight, many people would like to think that I joined the CU because I was vying for Vice Chairperson of the student’s council. But I am no William Ruto. I honestly wanted to see what makes Christians tick. And if I also stood a chance with them.
Salvation is scary bwana. Eh! Church folk always talk about finding inner peace. But that was not the case here. I was constantly looking over my shoulder. Walking on egg shells. I had to mind myself a lot. And very many times I sinned just after church. There was always a deal to close. There was always K1 and Club RnB that needed turning up every Tuesday and Friday respectively. There was always a girl. I could not keep up, so I gave up on it.
I could not keep both worlds. Something had to give.
But the scariest part of my short lived salvation was when I attended a particular kesha. That preacher was fiery. He came with his team from the Main Campus of the University of Nairobi. Wuuueeeh! Those people worshipped another God omera. The preacher was talking about the story of Samson, how he tied the tailed of foxes together and let them loose into the Philistine compound.
I do not know why, but his entire sermon was composed of him saying these same words. “He tied them tail-to-tail and set them on fire! He set them on fire!” The word fire seemed to excite the people in the congregation.
“Fire! He tied them tail to tail and set them on fire! FIRE!”
Then people started praying loudly. The lady who was sitting next to me stood up and launched into this monologue of incomprehensible ramblings. “Shikarabababbamndiuldkshkda Raaaa. Roooabbsha.” With one hand on her chest and the other one lifted to the heavens she closed her eyes and continued speaking in Holy Ghostese. Then tears rolled down her face. She looked like she was in pain.
“TAIL TO TAIL! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!”
Others simply shouted “Fire!” and they ran around the hall. When the hall could not contain the fire in these folks any longer, some of them stormed out and ran around the campus, jumping over the trimmed green hedges, hugging trees, hugging the City Clock. All the while shouting “Fire!” It was as if some invisible force had doused them in petrol and set in deed them on fire. They burned. They screamed. They rolled on the ground. They scared me.
Me of little faith did not feel the heat. I just sat and watched at the spectacle. I was the only one who seemed not to be thrown into a spiritual trance. In front, the once organized choir had disintegrated. Everyone for himself, and God for us all. People lifted their hands. Girls cried.
“TAIL TO TAIL. AND SET THEM ON FIRE!” the enthusiastic man of God kept on. He screeched these same words. I never knew words as banal as tails and fire could ignite such hallowed madness.
There is no denying that I envied the people who had received their flaming anointing. So I sat, waiting for my share, staring at the Man of God in confusion; the way he glistened with sweat when light leaned on his face.
By 3am it seemed like perhaps God had not put me in his budget of fiery blessings. I felt out of place. Clearly I did not belong here. I walked out and never went back.
Jana I went to church again. I had not planned on it. I was doing my daily rounds on the Internet all thanks to Zuku fiber. It is amazing what someone can do with unlimited supply of internet running at a speed of 10mbps. Countless tabs on my browser. Downloading movies and music and streaming from YouTube, blog updates running alongside all of my social media pages. Zuku is God’s reminder that He still loves us.
Then I switched to Twitter, just in time for me to see Esther Passaris’ tweet. Don Moen was in town, and she had bought tickets to go see him perform live at Nairobi Baptist Church. Unfortunately, her tooth had other things in mind. She could not go. This is how our short conversation went.
I sent her my number. She sent me an MPESA message showing that she has paid for the concert. VIP no less. The moment I saw the amount paid, my jaw found the floor. The Word of God drives a hard bargain siku hizi. Enyewe it was VIP.
For that amount, I better get some First Class, Grade-A revelations, I said to myself. I took jaber along with me.
Getting to the VIP section was no wahalla. All I had to do was say the name Esther Passaris, and the G4S gentlemen let us through into the church. We got the third row seats. Williams Ruto’s wife was in the congregation not so far away.
The moment we sat down, I sent a message to Esther Passaris saying, Thank you very much. I grew up listening to Don Moen. To watch him perform live will be a blessing. Sorry about the toothache.
She replied; You welcome. Enjoy. God wants you there.
I wanted to text back and say; LOL We both know that’s not true. So let’s not get carried away. I am just here for the music. *insert smiley and two monkey emojis*
I did not. It would be unfair. It would be out of context. She would not understand because she does not know how badly I wanted God to want me at Reinhard Bonnke’s crusade, and how desperately I wanted Him to want me when He was setting other people’s tails on fire.
Instead, I put up a Facebook update; If you ever told me that my first ever concert would be a Christian concert, I would have laughed so hard. But then here I am at Nairobi Baptist Church courtesy of Esther Passaris, jamming to Don Moen…all the while wondering what this weird lifting of hands business is all about. But still enjoying myself immensely. The band is amazing and Don Moen’s performance is divine.
That was before I heard Lenny LeBlanc sing.