Mathew 7:15 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?…
Hey, do you know the pain and trauma associated with raising a child with disability? Many people often say, “I understand” when a parent of a child with disability tries to explain the struggles they are undergoing . Don’t say that unless you have had a similar experience in your life or you REALLY do understand. Instead, be compassionate and listen empathetically (I have learned this with time.) Just shut up and listen. Follow through in the conversation and say things like, “I may never understand what you are going through ,but if there’s anything I can do to ease….”
Don’t pity me either, it’s an equivalent of throwing me into a pit and shoving some warm crap to bury me alive. I’ll rot in there! Sympathy is pathetic and helpless. Empathy is trying to fit into my shoes.
Dealing with autism at first, is like walking bare-feet on hot coal, before you can reach the cold water. We were going through a season of madness, dealing with the challenges that come with the condition. Pendo had difficulties with gross motor skills. At two and a half years, she still could not walk or hold a cup to feed herself despite weekly physiotherapy sessions at KNH. She was non verbal and made no effort to speak either. Crying and yelling was the most common form of communication she could use to express herself. She literally spent sleepless nights in a row due to insomnia. I sat up most of these nights and rocked her on my laps and chest. She just couldn’t sleep. Then there were food allergies: ; no dairy products, no red meat(white meat only-you know the cost in Nairobi), nothing with soya, nothing with wheat, honey for sugar,no spices in food,only specific fruits would be eaten…the list kept growing while alternatives kept shrinking. Anytime she developed an allergy, we rushed to the hospital and withdrew the food from her diet. Her stomach was so sensitive I combed Githurai market for varieties of local foods,fruits and vegetables . I became a frequent customer at the poshomills and learned how to mix different types of flours for her porridge. Her young body needed proper nutrition and I had to be the nutritionist. I don’t know how I’d have managed without my siblings’ support.
It was not easy juggling between studies and nursing Pendo. Sometimes I thought I was sleep walking in broad daylight while in K.U and began hallucinating due to lack of sufficient sleep. I could hear her cry during lectures. Crossing Thika road from Kahawa Wendani to head to K.U for classes became a difficult task. Once I heard a lorry hoot as I tried to cross and almost stopped midway to confirm where the sound was coming from when someone held my hand and pulled me from the road. It took me some minutes to discover how narrowly I had escaped the wheels of death. While the son of a gun numbed his pain with alcohol and excuses, I took it raw and drank plenty of water. I did my sports activities(skill development) like a pro and wore a smile on my face. Sometimes I thought I had turned into a robot. My system adopted certain patterns of doing things to cope with the stress. My daughter was suffering and she needed some form of divine intervention- so I thought. The stress was accumulating and I needed a touch from heaven too!
I began watching TV programs that preached about healing. There was plenty of healing happening in different places. There was the likes of Pastor Muiru (now Bishop) of maximum miracles…I needed that miracle. Then I watched the miracles performed by the ‘powerful’ Pastor Maina Ng’ang’a and made up my mind to visit his church. I would take Pendo to his pulpit and with a touch…she would be healed. The year was 2006.
Do you ever get this ‘funny’ feeling when you are about to do something you are not sure about? A little silent voice that keeps asking you to stay away? Some people call it intuition, others call it the holy spirit, others say it’s the subconscious mind. Well, I had one of those moments when I felt I shouldn’t bother my little girl with the drama of perhaps rolling on the floor and getting demons slapped out of her tiny body. I instead, would go and pilot the church and witness how painful exorcism could get (that's what they do to demons right?), before bringing in my Pendo. If the Pastor would agree to heal her through me,I would gladly take the slaps for her and walk home smiling. I shared my thoughts with the son of a gun, who, after days of thinking, agreed to accompany me to the centre. We both agreed the little needed some sleep at night and a variety of foods on her plate. I allowed my intuition to guide me and left Pendo behind. I was not going to take chances with her. I was going for a go-and-see-first session. I wanted the healing by faith experience.
It was a weekday when we visited the popular Neno Angelism Centre on Haile Selassie Avenue. I was seeking divine intervention for my daughter so I could heal too. There were a number of expensive vehicles parked in the compound. Judging from the cool land cruiser parked on one corner of the compound, I knew the ‘man of God ‘ was already in the church. The church was filling up very fast, so we sought to sit in the area around the front rows so we could grab a chance to reach the Pastor and catch a miracle or book an appointment- whichever would come first. Women flocked in numbers, many I noticed, carried children with disabilities on their backs. I could tell most of the conditions were cerebral palsy, down syndrome and autism. The women looked exhausted and desperate and looking at their general appearance, they came from humble backgrounds. Perhaps I should have brought Pendo with me, I thought to myself.
When the church was three quarters-full, the service began and Pastor Ng’ang’a took to the pulpit with his guitar. He is good with the instrument and strums it passionately like a pro. The crowd was ecstatic and sang along the praise and worship songs that filled the air ,dancing and whirling around the little available space. We (son of a gun and I) were raised in churches that kneel more than dance so we clapped and sang along, as I swayed diligently to the words of the song. With the majority of the congregation consisting of women (I have never understood why women make the biggest population in churches. Is it that we are always spiritual or always possessed?). It sounded like a deep-voiced man (Pastor) inciting women to scream. The guitar wizard kept strumming the instrument and leading the songs while the sopranos drowned the rest of the tones in response. I looked around for the cameramen that covered his sessions-none was present. I thought they always had coverage for all days and seasons. I felt glad that my miracle would not be broadcasted to the world (I don't like the attention) .
The session began by warming the hearts to get into the mood for the spiritual session. Ushers started preparing the offertory baskets as the music slowed down before the Pastor stopped playing the guitar and only the pianist played a few keys to go with the ongoing activities. There was a pile of small books on a table just in front of the pulpit. Pastor Ng’ang’a welcomed his flock and gave a testimony of his journey from a sinner to a saint, prisoner to saviour. He told the congregation to prepare their pockets and support the work of God before we could get into prayer and healing. His little books were being sold at a minimum of 50 bob ($ 0.5) and the congregation was encouraged to buy at a higher price. It was more of an auction.
“I will look at you and know how much you can contribute to this word of God. Only a few poor people here will get this at 50 bob. No coins please.” He said. At first, people were slow at reaching into their pockets. Most held the fifty shilling note in their hands and stretched their hands so that they could get the book and a blessing. On noticing the amount in their hands, Pastor Ng’ang’a posed and decided to lecture his flock. He did it in Swahili, but I’ll do the honour of translating into English, so I don’t have to repeat the entire conversation.
“Listen here you people. I do not want to see that little money you are holding in your hands. I am a powerful man of God and you cannot come here to embarrass me and your God. Look at me, look at how I'm dressed.Do I look cheap? Have you looked at the car I drive? Will that amount fuel it? I need to move and spread the word. Stop joking around with me.” His holy smile had vanished and replaced by a smirk. People dug into their pockets and produced a second similar note. I pretended not to notice the disappointment on his face. I didn’t take out any money either. I was going to give an offertory, not buy a book.
“Haraka haraka ndio tuendelee!”(Quickly, quickly so we proceed!)He said as he continued auctioning. The flock dug dipper and dipper to get the little book of 'miracles.' I wanted my miracle to be air borne, not carried in a book, so I watched the sheep buy from the shepherd.
He sold the books, demanding for more money from those who looked ‘able’ as the money was being thrown into a basket in exchange. I could hear the sound of coins fall into the basket too. He was good at expediting his religion business activities. I pitied the women with children on their backs as they struggled to calm their children. When he was through with the books the offertory baskets were brought forward.
“ You will remove money from where you are hiding it. I am not a beggar. I am a powerful man of God. I should be living like a President, not like a beggar. With all the miracles that I perform here, I deserve more from you than what I am getting. I heal people from all over this country because I have the power. I need to have more body guards and good security around me. Money is needed for all these things. ” He spoke in an arrogant businesslike tone, with a flare of anger in his voice. “I do not want coins! Do not bring me coins!” He yelled, looking among his flock and pointing at one of the poor women with a child on her back.”
“You woman, where have you come from?” He asked her.
“Busia.” She fearfully replied.
“You bring me a mad kid possessed by demons from Busia for deliverance and what do I get in return? Fifty shillings. have you bought the book?" He challenged her. She shook her head to say no.
"How much does it cost you to travel from Busia?” Hecontinued.
“ I spent one thousand shillings on the bus.” She looked down and replied. She looked sad and ashamed.
“And that is only one way. So you spend more than two thousand shillings to get to Pastor Ng’ang’a with a possessed child and only give him a few coins in return. Is that fair?” He asked her smirkingly.
“Bring that fifty shillings so I can help you with the book for free.” He said sarcastically as the woman untied a little knot on her lesso and pulled out a badly crumbled fifty-shilling note. She handed over the money and was given the little book. My guess-she couldn’t read at all, leave alone in English.
He turned back to the sheep “I know there are many of you who have traveled across the country to get here, why don’t you go to those other churches for free healing? I’m not asking for payment. I am asking you to support the work of a servant of God.” He went on. The congregation clapped and laughed. I sat in my chair as if in prayer and froze my thoughts. I just covered my face with my open palms and stared between my fingers at my feet. This was absurd. That woman did not deserve to be embarrassed for seeking divine intervention. What Pastor Ng'ang'a was doing was humiliating. This place felt like a robber’s den!
He picked his guitar and the music began to play again. I stood up as the offertory song was sung, the basket passing around in rows, with the ushers monitoring its movement. I looked behind and noticed a bunch of street kids in the extreme back row. They had walked in, sniffing their bottles of glue. They seemed to be following the proceedings. I still wondered to myself; where’s the damn camera crew? Someone needed to cover this session from start to finish. When everyone was done, all the little bags were emptied into the main basket. There was the sound of coins.
“This is noise!” he shouted. “This coins are making a lot of noise to God!” he went on, digging his hands into the basket and fishing out the ‘noisy’ coins. He threw them through the crowd towards the entrance. That is when I understood why the street kids had come in numbers. The dived for the coins,frantically pushing each other to collect as much as they could.
“I don’t want coins in God’s basket! This is poverty! God saved me from poverty many years ago. Do not try to take me back. I serve him now at a higher level. Coins are poverty.” His arrogant tone vibrated with the violent shove of his hand as he fetched the coins from the basket and threw to entrance. When he was sure that the coins were gone, he blessed the notes and prepared for his next session. The street kids picked all the coins and excitedly ran out of the church . They had received their blessings for the day.
“Some of you want me to visit you in your homes to pray for your households. How will my convoy manage to access some of those poor places without good roads for my vehicles. You must know I have greater power that attracts masses when I woke in public. I will cause unnecessary traffic jam if I have to get to your small houses and flats. If you want prayers, make your own arrangement to get here. You should come to the servant of God. You cannot afford me in your little houses” He morosely stated. The women cheered and clapped. Who bewitched us women!?
He picked his guitar for a few more songs. The prayer and worship session was approaching. The flock sang from their hearts some crying from what seemed to be anger and disappointment. My concentration span had been interrupted by the coin saga. I was astonished at how people remained calm and helpless; I can almost swear there was tension in the congregation. They sang solemnly with their heads bowed and eyes closed. I felt an uneasy air around me every time I closed my eyes. People were already praying but I felt some kind of darkness surround me. The son of a gun was seated with his head bowed; maybe he was praying, or maybe he felt the same tension I did.
“We are going into prayers and I want all those with problems to come forth. If it is your body, touch the part that is ailing and believe. If it is a child, touch that child and believe. If it is….”
A young woman screamed, interrupting the man of God. She was crying hysterically with her hands in the air. The Pastor walked from the pulpit and went to her.
“Sema jina lako!” (Say your name!) He commanded.
She said her name.
“What is your problem.”He asked
Young woman: “Nimeshindwa kuoleka.” (how do you say it in English…I haven’t been married? Marriage is impossible?) In short, she narrated how every time she was about to get married, something nasty happened to her fiances. It had happened four times and she couldn’t date any more. The pastor touched her and prayed. I will not describe how he touched her but perhaps the words that followed could confirm what was being exorcised from her. “Nakemea Pepo ya usherati! Nakemea Pepo ya usherati! Nakemea Pepo ya usherati ipate kushindwa” he rebuked the demon of prostitution.
The young woman fell to the floor and rolled around screaming and yelling. She received a good spanking and when she couldn't bare it anymore, the demon flew out of her.
The women with their children stepped forth to stand at the front of the church for prayers. I took a step of courage and followed. All this time, the little voice kept asking me to retreat and leave. I ignored it and matched forward. I needed a miracle.
When I first stepped into this centre, I knew I wanted to be touched directly so that the power could flow throw me and heal my daughter at home. After the series of events, I wanted to be very far away from Pastor Ng’ang’a's hand. He could as well wave his hand and let the power fly across to me. I let the women scramble for the front space and found myself a place a little far from the ‘man of God.’ I wanted 'my space'... just in case.
I am strong believer in worshiping in truth and in spirit. When you ask for the spirit of discernment from God, He gives you exactly that. God protects His own and watches over them even in the darkest of hours and moments. I closed my eyes and believed as the congregation continued singing worship songs. I started going into the presence of God, humbling myself and asking Him to reveal Himself to me and see inside my heart and heal my daughter. I felt my spirit go into the spiritual realm. Something strange was happening around me. People were falling on the floor and screaming. Some were speaking in strange tongues as they prayed. Pastor Ng’ang’a was moving in the small crowd and touching people who I felt dropping down to the floor. The closer he got to where I was, the denser the air around me felt. There was a presence of something very dark. I expected to have an experience of mystic self-transcendence so I kept my eyes closed and asked for God’s power to cover me.
A dark human-like form stood behind Pastor Ng’ang’a like a body guard. I can almost swear I saw an undertaker-like human form in a black hooded cloak towing over him as he reached out to touch people. I sank on my knees and hands crawled back, rebuking the demon and asking God to cover me and protect me. The Pastor left my place immediately and moved to the extreme end, the dark form in tow. Everyone was laying on the floor, saying strange things as he went on with his exorcism. I was on my knees and asking God to hide me from him!
Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me, maybe I was hallucinating- but i know what I saw was not an angel of God. A spirit from the underworld was walking with Maina Ng’ang’a in the crowd. I couldn't distinguish features such as eyes, the face or limbs. It was just a human like figure in a black hooded cloak. It must be what was causing hysteria and strange tongues.
When everything finally calmed down and returned to normalcy, I tip toed to a chair closest to me and sat. I did not want any more of the devil’s share. This was not the spirit of God and I hadn't been watching any horror movies. I never watch horrors of any form. This man was using dark powers and they trailed behind him.
When I returned home after what seemed to be a dramatic morning and strange encounter; I opened my Bible and read: Jeremiah 23:16
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.
This was a false prophet in sheep’s clothing. He is a revonous wolf that I encountered on my journey through the valley of shadows of madness.
That night, I knelt beside my bed and prayed for my daughter. Pendo was not going anywhere for anything. I had the spirit of God in me that guided me and protected us. I made it a habit to pray and that God for everything, including the challenges I was facing.
On 25th April 2008, after more than three years of physio and occupational therapy, Pendo alighted from the sofa set in the living room and walked to my bedroom, unassisted. She had never crawled, or walked on her own. It was the Easter weekend-on a Good Friday. A miracle had just happened before my very eyes! I was going to hold Pendo's hand and together; we would walk out of the season of madness.