Visiting televangelist and controversial “miracle healer” Benny Hinn is expected to raise the biggest crowds at any single event this year and perhaps even set a record for all time.
Organisers say they expect to host up to 300,000 people during the two-day meet at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole. “These are conservative estimates,” Isaac Rucci, the Production Coordinator for the event set for May 18-19 said. ” When he visited Nairobi, Pastor Hinn attracted a crowd of 1 million people at Uhuru Park and another million lingering in the vicinity.”
Uganda’s born again Christians have in the past filled up Namboole’s stadium to an estimated 100,000 people, counting those who hung outside the packed venue. This time round, Benny Hinn, one of the most watched preachers of his generation, organiser’s say will shame them all.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
One of the attractions at the Benny Hinn crusade will be a 5000-member choir contributed by various churches, another record for the number of Ugandans singing in the same group.
The crusade will also use 1,000 ushers and millions of dollars in production equipment. ” We have contracted five different companies to work on the production because no single company in the region can handle a concert this size,” Mr Rucci said. Indeed for Benny Hinn, big is simply the way business is done.
The controversial healer projects a larger than life image in his television shows and appearances at crusades, a trait that has been roundly condemned by his critics.
For his Uganda visit, Benny Hinn will be travelling in a private jet, accompanied by a large entourage of over 100 aides and a 10-man security detail, according to sources close to the event.
An advance security team has already visited the country to map out his itinerary complete with an evacuation plan. The team was apparently delighted that Kampala Serena Hotel has a helipad and reportedly demanded one in Namboole stadium. An armoured car will be on standby for his ground travel but it is likely he will fly to and from Entebbe Airport and possibly to Namboole as well.
According to Mr Rucci, massive events like Benny Hinn crusades cost a lot of money but it is not clear what the exact amount will be. ” It’s certainly in millions of dollars. The saying in the church is that the gospel is free but it takes money to make it happen,” he said.
However, while some legitimate ministries and teachers (those who adhere to the orthodox teachings and practices of historical Christianity) appear on TBN, the network promotes such an incredible amount of heretical material – including extremist Word-Faith teachings – that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”
Mr Rucci, himself a member of the former gospel sensation Limit X, says part of the cost is the “feature film quality” that is gleaned from the event. The crusades are then showed to a global audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) where Benny Hinn’s show “This is Your Day” airs every day.
“People will be blessed,” Mr Rucci said. Pastor Benny Hinn’s miracle crusades, TV show and lifestyle have for long been a cause of concern for Christian groups.
Two years ago, American Television reported that there were no medical reports to show that the miracles that the pastor performs were real.
Benny Hinn’s lifestyle has, however, been the most criticised. The pastor reportedly lives on a church allowance of over $10 million (about Shs17 billion) a year and sometimes spends up to $3,000 (about Shs5 million) a night at hotels during his crusades. His Ministry reportedly wants to buy him a new Gulf Stream jet, G4SP (the same that President Yoweri Museveni currently uses) at an estimated $36 million (about Shs63 billion).
While in Uganda, Benny Hinn will be the guest of Light House Television but powerful patrons like First Lady Janet Museveni are already working on the pastor’s visit. Odrek Rwabwogo, President Museveni’s son-in-law, met with the advance team and is reportedly arranging a private audience between the pastor and the First Family.