Kenyans Who Sought Divine Intervention From TB Joshua

Kenya to Nigeria. At least Sh70,000 spent on a return ticket. More spent on accommodation and meals. All this in a bid to attend the synagogue of Temitope Balogun (TB) Joshua, the controversial Nigerian preacher who died last week.

And you didn't just show up in the synagogue. Because there were long queues of people from all over the world seeking to enter the Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) -- as the late cleric's church is called -- you had to book well in advance.

A number of Kenyans made this trip, seeking divine intervention on a number of issues. They include top athlete Mercy Cherono who made her second visit to the church in 2017, drawing huge publicity in the process, and former Kilifi MCA Lawrence Kazungu Kilabo, who made a jaw-dropping confession about using magic to prosper in elections while there in 2018. Mr Kazungu even confessed that he had had a one-on-one conversation with evil spirits in the bush in Tanzania.

On the website of Emmanuel TV, the media arm of TB Joshua's church, a number of Kenyans are mentioned regarding their visits to the church. They include Kenneth Kimani, who made a confession about becoming an alcoholic at 13.

"The solution finally came when the Kenyan was introduced to Emmanuel TV and subsequently given morning water from the Scoan," a post on the Emmanuel TV website claims.

There is also a Geoffrey, who claimed to have been cured of HIV after attending a sermon at the synagogue.

"Desperation prompted the Kenyan to visit a renowned church in Nigeria. Given a small bottle of water, he returned home and later retook the same test in the same hospital. The results were staggering," another post on the website claims.

On the website, there are also a number of "prophecies" TB Joshua apparently made regarding Kenya.

The administrators of the website would wait for a major occurrence in Kenya then pull a video from back in the day, claiming he had foreseen it.

In one such post, they claim that TB Joshua had predicted the outcome of the August 2017 General Election in Kenya seven months prior.

"On Sunday January 1, 2017, Prophet TB Joshua spoke prophetically to a Kenyan lady concerning the elections in her country," it reads.

It adds: "This is what he said: 'It will be very, very close, and it will be difficult to call. It will be very close [between] the opposition and the ruling. It will be very, very difficult to call.'"

The post was made after the Supreme Court had annulled the election.

The TB Joshua establishment claimed he predicted the 2015 terror attack at Garissa University College three years in advance.

"On Sunday March 11, 2012, Prophet TB Joshua warned the nation of Kenya that students would soon be targeted for an attack. These were his words: 'I have a message for the same Kenya now. It is not yet over because I am seeing school children being targeted ... I am seeing school children attacked in a school."

The post was made after the April 2, 2015 attack that claimed 148 lives.

Whether or not he was accurate in his predictions is debatable, but TB Joshua's well-publicised prophecies are one of the reasons Kibwezi-based preacher Peter Muthama holds the fallen preacher in high regard.

"We have lost a leader, a key prophet of our time. You (non-believers) might not understand but the prophet was a different person. And for those who are Christians, the prophet is a mouthpiece of God. He used to offer direction," Mr Muthama, who heads the Shiloh Ministry in Kibwezi, told Lifestyle.

He claimed that TB Joshua had predicted the Covid-19 pandemic in 2008.

"The scenario of aeroplanes not flying anywhere, he used to talk about it since 2008," said Mr Muthama. "The protests all over the world, he spoke about protests five years ago."

He added: "This one was a major prophet not only for Africa but also all over the world. So, with his death, people are in the dark. They don't know what lies ahead."

Mr Muthama said he travelled to Nigeria in 2012 and left with even more reverence for TB Joshua.

"You first apply, like what people do when going to Jerusalem or Mecca," he said.

He did that and got an invite. He had to pay his bills and accommodation while there but that was a small price to pay.

"You get a chance to be with him, going to a mountain to pray or to church, also getting daily trainings and getting to attend his ministry. And being in his service on Sunday," said the preacher.

"He was the pastor of pastors. You know, God's servants need a pastor to pastor them," he added. "He was the Moses of our generation and so pastors, many prophets, apostles, had him as their mentor. So, you would go there for mentorship, especially those who had been called for a prophetic calling."

Mr Muthama was introduced to TB Joshua through watching Emmanuel TV at a friend's house.

"From the moment I saw him, the Holy Spirit told me to look at the man and to trust him; not to doubt him as many have been doing," he said.

He added that his church, Shiloh Ministry, supports TB Joshua's church financially to fund the airing of Emmanuel TV all over the world and also to "support his outreach trips".

Unlike most church founders, TB Joshua had no branches of the Scoan church outside Nigeria. Rather, churches from other countries forged partnerships with his establishment, and remitting cash to support him. This contributed to the wealth amassed by TB Joshua, who had a fleet of cars and a private jet.

"He had no branch but partners all over the world," said Mr Muthama.

We also spoke with Mombasa-based businessman-cum-politician Philip Nyakwaka, who first visited the church in 2008 and returned in 2010, 2013 and 2018. He was planning another visit this year but TB Joshua died before he could get enough finances for the trip.

Mr Nyakwaka was also introduced to TB Joshua through Emmanuel TV.

No accommodation

"I came to know TB Joshua in 2007 or 2008 via satellite dish," he said. "With a satellite dish, you had many free-to-air channels. Then I started liking the way he was teaching; his humility. He was humble and yet certain miracles were happening. You know, mankind likes following miracles. A guy becomes curious."

In 2008, he made his first trip to Nigeria. Visiting TB Joshua usually happened through agents but he did not use that route, choosing to go on his own.

He flew from Nairobi to Lagos then travelled by road to a place called Ikotun, the location of the church.

"I reached there, walked to the church compound and was told there was no accommodation. It was limited and you had to book in advance. Since I didn't book and I wasn't invited, I was told to look for a place to lodge nearby," said Mr Nyakwaka.

He went on: "So, I asked the cab guy to take me to some guest house nearby. I paid and stayed for about 10 days. I would attend weekday services. Those days, we were registering for a prayer line. The prayer line registration was free, unlike many other churches whereby for you to attend a prayer line you need to pay."

"There are some spiritual items you needed to buy before you attended the prayer line. And there is a particular book for prayer line which a person had to buy. I think it was 'A Step to My Miracle'. You'd buy the book, they would register you on the prayer line and then they booked you for the prayer line. Those days, prayers used to happen on Saturdays and you had to register on Thursday for the Saturday's prayer line," he narrated.

He returned in 2010. When he made another trip three years later, he said, things had changed.

"By 2013, you would wake up at 4am, because the queue was so long, for you to be booked to register to enter church. You couldn't just go in -- you had to book an appointment to go there," narrated Mr Nyakwaka. "By then, accommodation had expanded a lot in the church compound; they had big accommodation, good quality places."

Mr Nakwaka says it became increasingly difficult to enter TB Joshua's church as time went by.

"In 2013 I was staying around 10km from where he was, at a friends' place. And the friends used to drive me as early as 4am to the church compound, so that you book to get a chance to enter the church," he said.

From his visits and his watching of Emmanuel TV -- a station that is broadcast on virtually every available platform in Kenya -- he got to learn a number of things about TB Joshua.

"He was a short, stout guy. Very simple one-on-one," he said. "He was also strict."

The visits to TB Joshua's synagogue made him earn recognition as one of the top contributors to religious tourism in Nigeria.

But there were missteps. In 2014, a church guest house collapsed, killing 116 people and drawing lawsuits and outrage.

It saw a drop in the number of people visiting TB Joshua and as reported by the New Telegraph Online (a Nigerian publication), two years later, the drop in guests left hoteliers worried.

The publication once quoted a cleric defending TB Joshua and his contribution to the tourism industry in Nigeria.

"Prophet TB Joshua is the greatest tourist attraction that Nigeria currently boasts of and he has done great for the country and the tourism industry and so he should not be destroyed but rather helped by the government," reads part of the publication's March 2016 report.

The church collapse was one of the many controversies around TB Joshua. He had his YouTube channel shut in April because of alleged hate speech about lesbians, gays, the bisexual, transgender and the questioning, popularly known as the LGBTQ community. He also categorically predicted that Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump in the 2016 General Election in the US, which did not happen. He would later defend his prediction based on the popular vote.

Injuries

Despite the controversies, there are many who believed in him unequivocally. Athlete Mercy Cherono visited him in 2017 and later told Lifestyle that she had gone to seek intervention on injuries among other issues.

She had had persistent injuries before major races, including the 2016 Olympics.

"It is so stressful when you have trained for a major race and a few days to the event you get an injury and you miss out or perform poorly. There is nothing more stressful than that. I do not believe in witchcraft; so the only place I could seek spiritual assistance was in a church," she said then.

Former Manchester United academy player Angel Gomes also visited the church in 2016.

"I was having injuries around my hip and groin, and I also suffered an ankle injury which was affecting me playing and kept me out for a long time," he told TB Joshua as video cameras rolled.

Gomes -- a 20-year-old now signed to French club Lille and on loan to Portuguese club Boavista after leaving United last year -- later explained that he visited the church on the encouragement of his mother.

"I am from a Christian family and at the time, my mum was a fan of the pastor, and she really wanted me to go," the former England Under-17 captain tweeted. "I was young at the time and if my parents thought something was best for me, I would do it."

When TB Joshua's history will be written, numerous pages will be dedicated to how the use of mass media -- Emmanuel TV in his case -- has the power to get a preacher a legion of supporters from far and wide.

The channel, which broadcasts in many languages, is a hit among many people not just in Africa but from as far as Asia, South America and part of Europe.

Last week, the station kept airing clips from TB Joshua's preaching on his final day on earth, which was last Saturday. He was preaching when he took a break to go to his apartment and never came back. The station has also been airing a clip of the preacher speaking about the inevitability of death. And his Kenyan followers are mourning.

"I couldn't believe it. We know we are all mortal human beings but this was a shocker," said Mr Nyakwaka.

Mr Muthama said: "God's servants are now without a father. They are without a leader."

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