Despite the allegations of child theft levelled against Archbishop Deya at home, his ministry in the UK seems to be growing by the day as Alex Chamwada found out.
In Kensington, located in the heart of Liverpool City, stands a red brick building with a conspicuous tower that is easily spotted from afar. At the entrance is a banner that boldly announces, ‘Gilbert Deya Ministries: More than Conqueror Christian Centre.’
This powerful slogan leads me to the dilapidated building that serves as a church for the embattled ministry. Its inside is almost depressing, with a leaking roof, several broken windowpanes and a few cracks in the walls.
And as the ground floor gets flooded during heavy rains, the building feels very damp. But on the first floor is a cleaner room that I’m informed is set aside for prayers.
As I walk into the building, the miracle babies saga, which earned Archbishop Gilbert Deya instant fame world-wide and is now the subject of a court battle between him and Kenyan authorities is at the back of my mind.
The small room, in which numerous sermons have been delivered over the last three years since the Gilbert Deya Ministries, a registered Charity in the UK, bought the building from a British businessman, can accommodate about 100 people. I’m told the building previously housed a furniture business.
However, its tattered state seems not to deter vibrant worship. I feel the wooden floor vibrate as the congregation rolls out choruses, belting out praises to God.
Today, the preacher is a Ugandan national by the name of Pastor Daniel Kavuma.
“We shall not allow this house to be a home of disgrace,” goes his message, delivered in an authoritative voice as he reads from the book of Nehemiah.
“We have to restore glory to this house and make it the seed from which our mission will spread across borders, across continents.”
To me, this message sounds like a cry for redemption, following the ‘miracle babies’ saga and the negative publicity it brought to Deya’s Ministry.
However, it later on becomes clear that Pastor Kavuma’s summon is about renovating the church. What he is seeking from the worshippers is commitment and willingness to give to the Lord.
“We need to clean our house before others can join us for the party,” he goes on, as the congregation yells their piercing response, “Hallelujah, Amen!” The pastor then proceeds to tell the congregation of a vision he had, which predicted that Deya Ministries would become so strong in Liverpool that there would not be enough room for everyone.
As I listen to Pastor Kavuma’s summon, I draw parallels between the tattered building that was once gutted by fire and the impact of the negative publicity that the ministry has been receiving.
Deya is under fire following allegations of child theft, but here is a congregation fired up to revamp a church reeling from the effects of a fire. What irony.
But throughout the summon Pastor Kavuma does not mention the miracle babies saga. Rather his message stresses that God blesses those who think ‘outside the box’. “This place is not for dull people, rejoice in the Lord and your enemies will fall. If you are dull then you are in the wrong place,” he asserts.
And blended with solemn tunes from the church’s organ, Kavuma’s message goes on, “People have been healed here, people have been blessed, the enemy has been defeated, don’t go away empty handed.”
The service lasts about three hours and remarkably, no testimonies of faith healing are told. At the end, those attending for the first time are invited to introduce themselves. We are five of us. The pastor invites other worshippers to greet and hug visitors from their country of origin, but surprisingly there is no Kenyan to welcome me.
As visitors from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Ghana and so on are hugged by their compatriots, I’m asked not to feel left out. Eventually, we all mix freely.
Pastor Kavuma assures me that two Kenyan families worship in this church, but are absent. He assures me that I will meet them later.
Evelyn Makotsa, who is from South Africa, tells me that she had never heard about the church before she came to Liverpool. “I came here to look for a job as a nurse and I just came across this church while walking around. It’s near my house and I like the way members of the church worship. You can feel the presence of God, ” she says.
Geoffrey Jackson, a Briton, approaches me and proceeds to testify how he was healed of cancer in this very church. “That is a miracle that I will always praise God for,” he says. “Miracles do happen here, it all depends on your faith. Gilbert Deya and his team of pastors are real men of God.”
When I ask him about the miracle babies saga, Jackson says those criticising the church are waging war against the work of God and that it’s normal for Satan to feel bad about the successes of the church. He says Deya should fight on and not let his wonderful work and gift from God wither away.
Deya during one of his rare appearances in Kenya.
“I hear it’s a big issue in Kenya and there is a court case. That only strengthens us. A Christian must receive temptations from Satan in order to grow spiritually. You must be tested,” he explains.
In an interview with Pastor Kavuma later, I gather that he is a Senior Pastor in Deya Ministries. Being in charge of the Liverpool branch, he reports to the church’s London headquarters. “I have worked with Archbishop Deya for years and he is really gifted,” he says.
Holding some design sketches in his hands, he tells me that the future is bright and once the church’s ground floor is renovated, the seating capacity will be increased to thousands of people.
“When we bought this building in November 2002, it was surrounded by a thick bush. With the guidance of Archbishop Deya and the help of a few committed people we worked hard to clean it up as it had been destroyed by fire and abandoned,” narrates Pastor Kavuma. “An old white woman who was passing by asked us what the place would be used for and when I told her it would be a church, she sneered and asked, ‘Do people go to church anymore?’”
Pastor Kavuma says that gave him the impetus to plant the seed that would see Liverpool worship God, and he believes that this is just the beginning.
I wouldn’t avoid the miracle babies saga. Pastor Kavuma is quick to interject that it’s not unusual for people to doubt spiritual healing and miracles from God. He says the on-going negative publicity about the Deya Ministries has had no major impact on the church and that they are prepared to fight Satan spiritually.
“Pastor Deya comes here occasionally but he has been kept away by the saga. But we believe he will emerge victorious from this spiritual war and be able to rejoin us. He means well for this world,” he says.
In a small bookshelf near Kavuma’s office are videotapes containing testimonies of people healed from cancer, HIV-Aids and other diseases. Titles such as Impossible becomes possible and Cancer healed in Jesus name sit on the shelf. Standing side by side with the tapes are book titles such as Destroying witches power, Sexual Sins, How to declare war against your problems and How to fight generations curses
In one of the magazines published by Deya Ministries, the lead story is that of a 52-year-old woman who gave birth after every two months, 14 years after her menopause.
It’s the story of the Oderas and their 13 miracle babies, a story now familiar to many Kenyans. All the babies’ pictures and their birth certificates have been reproduced in the magazine.
In the magazine is also a story of how Archbishop Deya and his wife Mary have rubbed shoulders with high-ranking politicians including former president Daniel arap Moi, whom they visited at State House, Nairobi.
The magazine also contains another story, complete with pictures, telling how the Queen of Swaziland received miracle healing in 2000. According to the publication, she had been seriously sick and had been treated in the US and other countries without success. Migraine headaches had made her weak and almost unable to walk. The queen’s healing prompted King Muswati II of Swaziland to invite Archbishop Deya to minister in his country.
Deya is also pictured conversing with her Majesty the Queen of England and Prince Phillip in London, and elsewhere with Kenya’s Minister for Environment Kalonzo Musyoka.
According to the story, Archbishop Deya has prayed for several Narc Government Ministers.
The late Vice President Michael Wamalwa and National Planning Ministers Anyang’ Nyong’o are among government officials who flew to London for prayers.
Deya also attended the inauguration of former Nairobi Mayor Joe Aketch. He is also pictured in conversation with MPs Reuben Ndolo, Norman Nyagah, Maina Kamanda and William Omondi at City Hall, Nairobi.