A controversial church being investigated over child trafficking allegations is experiencing a renaissance in Liverpool, the Daily Post can reveal.
But the Daily Post has learned that the church is now growing again in Liverpool under new preacher Pastor Gabriel.
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Reporter Jessica Shaughnessy has spent two months undercover as a recruit to the church, discovering at first hand how it wins over new members. We can today reveal:
How members are told if they don’t give 10% of their earnings to the ministry, their families will be cursed for many generations to come.
The father of a “miracle baby” visits to inspire members to pray.
The congregation is tightly controlled by a charismatic leader, who demands daily visits to the church and wants to vet members’ friends and partners.
Church-goers are promised miracle cures of illnesses, prosperity and great wealth.
Mary Deya, the wife of its leader archbishop Gilbert Deya, is facing trial in Kenya charged with stealing a baby while Kenyan authorities are seeking extradition of her London-based husband over claims that he traffics children from the slums of Nairobi.
In the UK, Scotland Yard are investigating allegations the church recruits infertile couples who are then made to believe they have given birth.
The former Liverpool pastor of the church resigned when the scandal broke, moving to a new city church and taking most of his 400-strong congregation with him.
Last night, Rev David Johnston, director of communications for the Church of England in Liverpool, said practices at the church could be damaging to vulnerable people and warned churchgoers to beware of harmful sects.
What’s in it for Pastor Gabriel?
For two months, Daily Post reporter Jessica Shaughnessy joined the Liverpool branch of a church at the centre of child trafficking allegations
“You will love God and serve God – even if you have been sent here to investigate me.” It’s my first meeting with Pastor Gabriel and I wonder if my cover has already been blown, but it is not for another two months that he again expresses any doubt in me.
Until then, I am welcomed into the fold at the Liverpool branch of the Gilbert Deya Ministries with open arms.
“We are all as one here,” says Pastor Gabriel, who told me I could call him Pastor G.
Like most leaders, Pastor G is a charismatic man. He is small and stocky; one minute softly spoken, the next loud and imposing.
He can seem happy but this quickly changes to anger.
He tells me he came to Liverpool five months ago and had not always been a Christian.
It wasn’t until he was in prison in London that he turned to religion.
He said: “I was a bad man. Bravo, Alpha, Delta.
“I smoked drugs, I was addicted to drugs, hard drugs. I killed people. When you sell drugs to people, you kill them. “I carried a gun and I would rob people and I ended up in prison.
“In the night, the window in the door of my cell flew open and there was a bright light. I was terrified but Jesus spoke to me. He set me free. I was still in prison, but he set me free.”
Pastor G holds his services in a small upstairs room of a run-down church in Kensington, which is decorated in red and white with royal blue velvet drapes.
He likes to pace about the room and though there are usually only enough people to fill the first few rows, he shouts through a microphone, connected to a loud-speaker.
Right from the first service I attended, I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and welcoming attitude of everybody at the church.
People were hugging me, shaking my hand, taking my phone number and begging me to come again.
Over the next two months, I grew to like many of them and realised they were good people who wanted to worship among friends.
Many of them seemed vulnerable, they were either new to the country or were not working and for them the church was a saving grace.
I attended the church once, sometimes twice a week, but there was constant pressure to become more involved.
Once Pastor G shouted at me through his microphone: “Don’t just come here whenever you feel like it, you must come every day”.
Later he asked me to stay behind after every service and help with the accounts. He phoned my mobile almost every day, to find out where I was.
After a month, I became too busy with work commitments and I could not turn up more than once a week.
Sometimes he was annoyed when I couldn’t make it to a service, at others he was understanding.
It was plain that some of the church members’ lives revolved around the church and it was easy to see why.
Pastor G is adept at making you feel important and special. “God has a job for you, you are meant for higher things,” he would tell me.
On one message on my phone, he said: “You are beautiful, the room lights up when you are here.”
Pastor G liked to keep a firm hold on the congregation. He told me I was to bring any boyfriends to the church before I went out with them.
He crudely said: “Don’t just open your legs to just anyone.”
When I told him I lived with a female friend, he said: “Is she good? Be wary of her. People might seem like they are good on the surface but underneath they do not like you; they are jealous of you.”
The congregation are enthusiastic in their praying and singing. They speak in tongues and fall to the floor.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell what rituals and practices in the church are symptomatic of it being some sort of cult, and what is just extreme Christianity or part of African culture.
Sundy, a gentle smiling man who is a student of the church, tells the congregation that they have to give 10% of their income to it or their families will be cursed for many generations.
The 10% tithe is something that is common in many Christian churches. What is unusual is the threat behind it.
As I sit in the church office helping with the accounts, I wonder what is in all this for Gilbert Deya and Pastor G.
We are here in a run-down church and though there are now more than 80 people on the membership list, only a handful turn up every single night.
The total donations are counted up at the end of each service, but they do not amount to much.
Pastor G does not live a luxurious lifestyle, far from it. He sleeps on the floor of his office. His mobile phone is ancient and he does not have a flash car.
But Sundy tells me that Gilbert Deya Ministries is a “millionaire church”.
He says it is Gilbert Deya who will be paying for the building to be refurbished.
Gilbert Deya is pictured on his website in front of a plane with his name on it, though he has publicly denied owning the plane.
But whenever I mention Gilbert Deya, Pastor G is defensive of his leader. He says Mr Deya has been persecuted. “Imagine how you would feel if all of your children had been taken away from you. He is a good man. He is my best friend.”
I told Pastor G that I was going to bring a friend who is unable to have children of her own to the church.
“Will you be able to help her?” I asked.
He said: “Jesus will help her, all she has to do is to ask Him. Bring her here and I will introduce her to Jesus.”
Pastor G said he had seen this type of miracle happen before and the power of prayer could cure many illnesses including cancer.
“This church is a hot-bed of miracles,” he added.
One of the church members tells me a man called Jonah who has had a miracle baby visits the church to inspire people on a regular basis.
I tell Pastor G about a long-standing stomach complaint I have. He says he will give me healing lotion and I think I have nothing to lose.
When I arrive at the church he takes me into his office and takes out a bottle of olive oil.
Then we begin to pray and he pours the olive oil into my hands, which I rub together.
He asks me if he can rub my stomach, but I think he can see I am uncomfortable with it so he tells me to do it myself.
He puts the bottle to my mouth and I have to swallow two mouthfuls of the oil, which makes me heave. The whole process does not seem to have done my condition any good.
One night Pastor G is walking me out of the church when a stranger comes in off the street.
He tells us he used to come to the church before Pastor G arrived, but left: “There were some strange things happening and I didn’t like it.”
Pastor G told the stranger to wait while he took me to my car. He didn’t want me to hear any more.
On another occasion, at about 10pm on a Sunday, I left the church while Pastor G and an elderly member of the church were having a blazing row.
I spoke to Pastor G on the phone the following day and he said the police had been called. I later found out Merseyside Police were called at 8am on Monday. The two women claimed they had been held against their will for eight hours.
They said they had been doing the accounts for the Archbishop (Gilbert Deya) and the Queen (who Gilbert Deya claims is a supporter of the church). It is understood that officers found no evidence that they had been held against their will, and they took the matter no further.
The last time I go to a service, Pastor G is annoyed that I have not spoken to him for a few days. Though he keeps telling me I am a child of God, it seems he is not quite sure.
“You never call me,” he said. For the second time he looks at me with suspicion, and says: “I don’t know which spirit you came from.
“I don’t know what brought you here.”
When I told him, he said: “I knew you had come here for a reason, God told me. I still love you. If people want answers, tell them to phone God. He is the one who makes all these miracles.”
Pastor G says it is written in the Bible that Christians have to give 10% and when I try to get him to address my other findings, he says: “Write whatever you have to write.
“The people will only read what God wants them to see.”
The Daily Post has tried to contact Gilbert Deya at the church’s London office, but he has not returned our calls.
Church faces allegations over child thefts in ‘miracle babies’ investigation
The Gilbert Deya Ministries are being investigated by authorities in the UK and abroad over allegations of child trafficking.
Critics of the church say that Deya recruits infertile couples to the church, makes them believe the woman has become pregnant through the power of prayer, and then takes them to Kenya for a “miracle birth”.
It is there that babies are stolen and taken back to the UK, passed off as the couple’s own, it is alleged.
Self-styled archbishop Deya’s wife Mary is facing trial in Kenya, accused of stealing a baby, which she denies.
A court in Nairobi heard that Mrs Deya claimed she gave birth outside an Odeon Cinema, but a Kenyan doctor said a clinical examination had shown that she had never given birth.
Twenty “miracle” babies have been taken into care in Kenya.
In the UK, there are women who claim to have given birth to “miracle babies” in London,, Manchester and Birmingham.
One London couple are to go to court in an attempt to win back their “miracle baby” which was taken into care.
Haringey council in north London, will resist the application.
Last year, Mr Justice Ryder rejected the couple’s claim to have conceived the child and ruled that the baby had been trafficked into the country.
Tests of the child’s DNA did not match that of either parent.
The woman said she had been pregnant for just 27 days.
Mr Deya was arrested by the Metropolitan Police earlier this year, but was released while the officers carried out more enquiries.
Last night, a Met spokesman said: “An investigation is still being carried out.”
A spokesman for the Charities Commission confirmed that they were still investigating the ministry, which is a registered charity.
The Gilbert Deya Ministries bank accounts are still frozen.
Kenya’s authorities say they will seek an extradition warrant for Mr Deya.
On his website, Mr Deya attacks the “persecution” of his family, particularly in Kenya.
The Gilbert Deya Ministries claims to be the UK’s fastest-growing religious movement with 36,000 members across the country.