|Prophetess Mary Sinaida Akatsa presents ‘Jesus’ to her congregation at the Jerusalem Church of Christ in Kawangware in 1988. (Photo:File/Standard)|
By Njonjo Kihuria
Nairobi, Kenya: From a house help to ‘high priestess’, Mama ‘Prophetess’ Mary Sinaida Akatsa was as controversial as her sermons, revelations and healing marvels at the Jerusalem Church of Christ in Kawangware.
She prayed and miraculously healed the sick and it is rumoured that she whipped those who disobeyed her. Her flock believed in her powers unquestioningly.
Akatsa’s profile would become larger than life when on June 11, 1988 as worshipers sang ‘Mungu ni Mwema’ (God is good), the priestess interjected announcing to the congregation that “an important guest would be coming to give me a very vital message.”
And a few minutes later, a tall bearded and bare-foot ‘Jesus’ dressed in white robes and his head covered in a turban appeared ‘from nowhere’ before the congregation, with Akatsa by his side. Convinced that the coming of the saviour they had been promised by the prophetess had really come to pass, the followers were beyond themselves and fervently and repeatedly, shouted, “Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of Nazareth.”
As the ‘messiah’ walked side by side with Akatsa, the worshippers in frenzy shouted in prayer, “Jesus! Jesus! you have come. Welcome Jeesus! Wash our sins. Help us Jeesus!”
Apparently, the son of man had come back to earth as promised in the scriptures and the worshippers frantically said their last prayers, hoping to save their souls. Even as some of those in attendance claimed to have seen sporadic light wafting on top of the ‘saviour’s’ turbaned head, his feet and body, others went down on the floor in praise and worship.
When the ‘holy’ man finally addressed the crowd, he announced in Kiswahili that the people of Kenya were blessed, especially those who had gathered at Kawangware that afternoon. He was full of praise for Akatsa and as he announced the imminent end of the world, he asked the congregation to respect the prophetess since she was a true representative of The Most High.
Later, the ‘Christ’ was given a lift by an Asian man, but a few minutes later decided to alight at the Route 56 terminus and “head to heaven”. Once out of the car, he practically “vanished into thin air”, giving some sort of credence to the ‘son of God’ theory.
Addressing the congregation in the presence of the ‘Christ’ earlier, Akatsa said the light drizzle that was being experienced then was to signify the presence of Jesus, but revealed that there would be a heavy downpour later to indicate that he was back on his Heavenly Throne. And apparently, once the strange man in a white turban ‘returned’ to heaven, it poured heavily.
Although at that time Akatsa asserted that, “This (the strange man) was Our Lord, who promised in the Bible to come back in different forms”, she would later deny that she had displayed Jesus at her church, accusing her detractors of spreading the rumour to tarnish her name and that of her church. She explained that the Indian man who was being confused for Jesus had only come to the church for prayers.
Ten years later, Akatsa was in the news again, this time performing a bizarre wedding ceremony between a man and his dead wife.
On March 17, 1998, the sleepy village of Ma ya Ihii in Kikuyu was stirred into an uneasy wakefulness when Mwalimu Francis Muiruri Amos ‘exchanged’ vows with his departed wife Rosemary Wambui. The ceremony was conducted in respect of the wishes of Prophetess Akatsa, of the Jerusalem Church of Christ, where the couple had worshipped for years.
Wambui had joined the church in 1985 and rose through its ranks to become ‘Mama Assembly’, which was some sort of deputy to Akatsa and an ‘ambassador at large’ for the high priestess. In 1990, Muiruri joined his wife at the Church and the two became ardent followers of Akatsa.
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Before her rise to fame, Akatsa had for years been employed as a house girl by the Muiruris, hence the close association.
When Wambui became sick in early 1998, it was decided that the couple would have a church wedding and arrangements were immediately put in place. However, before Muiruri and his wife could say I do, Wambui succumbed to her illness on March 5, 1998.
Speaking to The Standard at that time, Muiruri said the “will of God (as dictated by Akatsa) had to be done” thus the wedding ceremony between him and his dead wife would still go on.
Immediately, Muiruri with assistance from the high priestess and other followers of the church started making arrangements for a wedding. Clothes were fitted, rings were bought, the maid of honour and best man were identified and the couple’s children were settled on as bride’s maids and groom’s men.
Then came March 17 and a procession of cars carrying the faithful collected Wambui’s body from the Kenyatta National Hospital mortuary and proceeded to Jerusalem Church for the wedding ceremony. Here, a well attended service led by Prophetess Akatsa was conducted in the afternoon, with someone holding the bride’s hand so that she could ‘slide’ a ring on her husband’s finger.
A few days later however, the Registrar of Marriages at the Attorney General’s Chambers noted that marriage was a contract between two people and since a dead person could not be party to an agreement, the marriage was a nullity in law.
Thereafter, a funeral service was conducted and at nine in the evening, the ‘bridal/funeral’ party left Kawangware for the couple’s home in Ma ya Ihii. Wambui’s remains were then taken to her home where they lay overnight and villagers allowed viewing of the body from eleven that night to the next afternoon.
Muiruri allowed this extended viewing of the body to deflate rumours that followers of the Akatsa church ate their dead.
Material assistance from those who came to console with the Muiruri family was not accepted, as
“Mama takes care of everything including hospital bills, funeral expenses and the food that is consumed at this time”.
Akatsa’s church had banned tithing and offerings. She was at one time quoted saying that she spent Sunday in church and the rest of the week at her various farms. She claimed that she used the harvests from the farms to cater for the needs of her church members and the needy.
Prophetess Akatsa came to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s through her fervent prayer sessions and apparent healing of the sick.