Lately, he’s been favouring a crisp, ill-fitting white suit complete with matching patent leather shoes, a dark tie and pocket handkerchief. With a shiny bald rungu-shaped head, bushy eyebrows, blunt nose and black fish-lips that part in an easy smile, he is the jokester. A flamboyant orator who (when fired up) speaks of witchcraft, financial and marital deliverance in a rapid fire cadence. Cradling a cordless microphone, he struts up and down a raised dais set against a wall crawling with bright green leaves–ala plastic jungle. Occasionally, he stops short at the glass pulpit embellished with the golden lettering spelling out his one-of-a-kind, “Miu Jiza usiyokuwa wa kawaida”, religious ministry– Helicopter of Christ Church.
He is a televangelist with a difference, if you send him a donation using mobile money transfer system, M-Pesa; he shall immediately state the names of your enemies by name and telephone number. All through the service, his account number and an ever changing direct line to his appointment desk, flashes across the screen in attention-grabbing fonts and hues. There are also cut-aways of past crusades jam-packed with dancing, fainting and praying folk–a scene often depicted in tiny, multiplied windows that shiver, split then roll up into a ball before careening off the screen.
A male narrator’s voice also states simple directions to the church, “We are located opposite Kampala booking station, next to Bata Mini-Price, behind Odeon…” This voice floats over images of long snaking queues and the reckless elbowing — that even a mountainous bouncer and a police officer who smartly salutes cannot control– that tends to occur at the church’s entrance.
Like a good minister, he encourages a little show-and-tell. Weaving in and out of his theatrical quoting of scripture and condemnation of his flocks’ enemies are the testimonials and prayer requests from the same. For testimonials, the speaker stands in front of the congregation and gushes over how one day they were home watching the service when Pastor/DJ/ Prophecy Commander/ Mtumishi wa Mungu Thomas Wahome Njuguna, spoke directly to them. They felt that he stated their trouble explicitly and it surely must have been them that he spoke of. Convinced that it was his words to God on their behalf–after they had sent a donation–that brought the change into their lives, they decided to come to the church and share their story. Halleluiah.
Prayer requests on the other hand require a different tactic. Seemingly reading the mind of a troubled congregant, the pastor often rattles off the person’s medical, financial, emotional history to a T. Asking probing questions, parroting the answers then flipping them into rhetorical statements, he uses the woes of the soul before him to bring deliverance to the lives of his entire flock. He starts the prayer session once the problem has been dissected and diagnosed as having being orchestrated by one’s enemies–who, in his experience, often use witchcraft to bring you down.
“Baba na ni katika jina la Yesu…”
Signing off the show, pardon me, service, is always a daunting task when you constantly want to outdo yourself. You cannot continue selling an “anointed broom that will sweep away your troubles out of 2010”, that is a one-time only offer. The holy water (one bottle ordained for regular people and another for business people) is also a small fry operation. There is also an unfortunate time stamp on that one video of you walking through a busy construction site appealing for bags of cement, boxes of nails and trucks of timber to build a bigger, bolder church. People may start to request to visit the site and see what progress you’ve made since they sent that ten thousand last month.
No, it is now time for a new strategy—giving indirect testimonies of God’s work in your life. For instance, say the final prayer and words of encouragement while seated on a plush sofa in your house. Wait, better yet, do this while linking hands with your young, supple new wife. Or why not just go all out and have her drive a blue convertible with jet black leather interiors into a compound which surely the viewers will assume is your home. She should then urge the viewers to listen to the words of her husband, Pastor/DJ/ Prophecy Commander/ Mtumishi wa Mungu Thomas Wahome Njuguna.
Alternatively, if you run out of rabbits to pull out of your hat, why not let your sister host her own service recorded at your former ‘hovel’ located at the Central Bus Station? Ah, the intrigues of the HBN (Helicopter Broadcasting Network) Productions Copyright 2011.