The most outstanding feature of Got Abiero Village in Bondo District is a fancy bungalow. This homeowner’s dream house has a master sitting room, two living rooms, a gym, three toilets, two dining rooms adjoining a matching number of kitchens, a master bedroom and four ordinary bedrooms.
It is tastefully furnished with imported furniture and stands in sharp contrast to the neighbouring buildings, many of which are mud-walled and thatch-roofed.
Two months ago the bungalow’s owner caused a sensation in the area when he landed in a helicopter to inspect his property.
There was talk that the distinguished visitor was a wealthy man who even owned two private jets.
Pastor Gilbert Ajuma Deya, Got Abiero’s best-known son, is a man of surprises and, currently, a highly controversial figure.
But not to his mother, whose faith in the man at the centre of the ‘miracle babies’ saga, is simple and unwavering.
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Sitting under a tree next to her crumbling tin-roof house, which stands incongruously near her son’s splendid bungalow, she insists that Deya is indeed specially gifted.
“It is true that my son has the power to perform miracles, including resurrecting people from the dead. He got the powers from me,” says Monica Nono Deya, 78.
“I am his mother. I know who he is. I know it is true that he can perform miracles. He prays for people. Even in London and Nairobi he prays for people and they are healed.”
She was speaking near the tin-roof house that was, until October last year, Deya’s home.
A grass-thatch hut and another mud-and-wattle tin-roof structure flanks the mother’s leaning house, which is ringed by bricks, indicating that at some point Deya had intended to build a proper house for his mother. The grave of his father, Mr Samwel Deya Oyanda, who died at 84 on December 12, 1993, lies between the houses.
Deya’s mother said she last saw Deya two months ago when he visited home in style – flying in a helicopter accompanied by a cameraman — and that she knew nothing about her son’s wealth or the two private jets he is said to own.
Deya flew to Bondo to assess the on-going construction of the bungalow he has erected a stone’s throw away from his mother’s house.
It stands in sharp contrast to his mother’s lean-to with its broken, threadbare seats. Monica said her son’s divine calling was noticed by villagers on the day he was born, a Sunday, in the 1950s.
“On the day Gilbert was born, I was preaching in church and I felt labour pains at the pulpit. I was taken to a house where I gave birth.
“People who saw the baby told me I had given birth to a messiah.” She could not pinpoint the witnesses, or provide the names of those who made the proclamation.
Because Deya was born on a Sunday, she said, he was named Juma, and it is from there that his mother started noticing that God had vested her son with the powers of a prophet.
She said when he returned from baptism as a youth in a year she can’t remember, he saw the apparition of Jesus holding a key in his hands.
“Mama, look at Jesus … look at Jesus with keys in his hands,” she quotes him as saying, while looking at the sky. But she herself could not see Jesus.
“Then he turned in my direction and said, ‘Mama, the world is coming to an end … the world is coming to an end.’ But I could not see the world ending. Then he fell unconscious.”
She panicked, thinking that Christianity was killing her son, she said, until she realised that Deya was not dead, but it was the God working in him.
“When he came to, he started speaking in tongues, and that is when he started his miracles.”
Describing her son as one who led a chaste and Spartan life, she said: “He never indulged in the vices of the world. He never danced to music, he never smoked cigarettes, he never slept around with girls, he never drank alcohol. Those are things he never did from childhood.”
He was so chaste, his mother says, that when he married in Uganda, he wrote a letter home saying: “I am marrying and am about to commit a sin.”
She advised him to go ahead and get married because he could still sin even if he did not marry.
Her account is at odds with Deya’s, which says he lived his early years as a beggar, conman, truant and thief. The account of his life does not contain information on how he became a ‘bishop’.
Describing the anointing of her son to ‘Bishop’, she said it happened under a tree in the rural home on a date she could not recollect when he visited with a group of people from Nairobi.
Led by a preacher called Mbata wuod Owino (Mbata son of Owino) of United Life Ministry of Churches, she said Deya was anointed “bishop at home here, not in Nairobi”.
He was shaved and oil applied on his body before prayers were conducted, after which he was declared a bishop by the visitors from Nairobi.
“He became a bishop before the death of his father. He was anointed by another pastor called Bata wuon Owino, his colleague in Nairobi.
“I slaughtered a huge bull to celebrate his anointing,” she said.
Stressing that she too was a miracle healer, Monica claimed she had brought people back to life, and prayed for a woman who gave birth to a miracle baby – the same powers she says Deya possesses.
“One day with our pastor, we visited a funeral of a young boy and we prayed for him and he came back to life. Isn’t that a miracle?” she asked.
She also said that through prayers, she had saved a boy from death after all hospitals failed to find a cure for his ailment.
Saying she wanted to prove that her son was not a liar, she detailed how students from the local primary school, Got Abiero, fainted en-mass when she and another preacher called Wuod Nyabuda (son of Nyabuda) were exorcising spirits that had invaded the school.
“All the children in the school fell down as the spirits escaped from them,” she said.
“I prayed for another child who had been to every hospital and was about to die. I prayed for him and he got well. His name was Wuod Abunde (son of Abunde).
Pressed to lead us to the beneficiaries of her miracles, she said all of her patients, including the boy she had raised from the dead, the miracle baby woman, the ailing boy and the preacher she worked with were all dead.
“Even here at home, people who are sick would get well after Gilbert’s prayers,” she said.
But there is no individual in the village she can pinpoint anyone who had been healed by Deya’s miracle power.
She also said she could not recollect the years she healed these people because she is illiterate. She also did not know the precise location of those healed by her powers because she never bothered with people’s addresses once healed.
Members of the local community interviewed denied ever seeing any miracle or knowledge of the mass fainting in school.
They also denied ever witnessing a miracle birth or healing by Deya.
Monica reacted angrily to claims that her son could be involved in an elaborate syndicate to traffic children and demanded to be told how the operation was carried out.
“These are lies. Those children they say he steals, does he carry them in his pocket, briefcase or in his socks?
“Who gives him the visas when he carries those children? Don’t they travel using their visas? How can they get visas if he is stealing them? Or are there some women complaining that their children have disappeared and been taken abroad?” she angrily demanded to know.
“You must carefully separate lie from truth. Don’t just take lies and publish them. Nobody can steal a child and disappear. The parents must definitely make noise. These are lies.”
She said Deya was a chaste person who had never stolen anything, not even money from a bank.
In an article he wrote recently, Deya said he hailed from a family of thieves, and that he too was a thief in his childhood years.
“I am from a family of thieves. My father was one. It was in our blood,” Deya wrote for the publication.
She also differed with her son’s account of his teenage years in the city, saying her son was a cobbler based in Kayole, and not a homeless street urchin as has been reported.
How can a man of God be a street boy? That is a lie. That is not true. Whoever is saying that is tarnishing his name.
“My son, whom I gave birth to, who went to the city before marrying, when did he become a chokora?
“I told you he entered into religion as a young man. How can he leave his religion to become a street boy?”
She said in her village, there was nobody Deya had performed miracles on, neither had he ever held a convention for the community. “He started praying in Nairobi. He only comes here for visits. He has never held a convention at home, only prayed for people upon invitation in a local church.
“Even here at home, people who are sick would get well after Gilbert’s prayers.”
But there was no individual in the village she could pinpoint who was healed by Deya’s miracle power.
Deya went to Kadero Primary School, a rural school, before moving to Kambari Secondary School. He later moved to a school in Miwani, which his mother cannot remember. He dropped out of that school in Form Two.
He moved to Nairobi, still a bachelor, where he became a cobbler in Kayole Estate.
The mother says despite the meagre income earned from repairing shoes, Deya bought a car from his savings.
Then he started moving around with people organising conventions in Nairobi, before they travelled home and anointed him bishop.
Shortly after that, still on a date she cannot remember, Deya started offering miracle healing before he moved to Britain.
She says a farewell party was organised for him at his rural home before he moved abroad.