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The sick continue to throng pastor Ezekiel's prayer centre in Mavueni

 A man on a stretcher among worshippers during a holy communion service at the Newlife Prayer Centre and Church in Mavueni, Kilifi County. [Robert Menza, Standard]

The sick flocked to embattled Pastor Ezekiel Odero's Newlife Prayer Centre and Church in Mavueni, Kilifi County, seeking healing despite the State's attempts to close the church.

On Saturday, faithful from as far as Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Dubai and Australia attended a service at the church.

Pastor Ezekiel is under probe over money laundering claims after his church was linked to controversial preacher Paul Makenzi, who ran a cult-like church in Shakahola.

Among those who attended the service was a sick elderly man who had travelled from upcountry.

Lying on a stretcher, the man and his family patiently waited for their turn as Ezekiel preached and counselled the congregations in his 45,000-capacity church.

Patients accompanied by relatives waited at various points for Ezekiel's prayers for healing.

There were at least seven people said to be mentally ill who had been accompanied to the church by relatives.

The cases were varied; diabetics, ulcers and HIV.

Usually, the patients are grouped, depending on sickness, and then the pastor prays for each group. The very sick ones on hospital beds are prayed for at the altar.

Pastor Ezekiel spoke of faith and hope and the need to dedicate one's life to Jesus.

There were many women looking for marriage partners.

Mothers prayed and sought stars for their children to perform well in school and desist from drugs.

Others sought stars to help them succeed in their businesses while some prayed to quit alcoholic addiction.

In his sermons, Pastor Ezekiel said that coming to the higher altar to seek a change in life for success comes with a high responsibility that requires patience.

 Pastor Ezekiel Odero. [Robert Menza, Standard]

"Serve the lord first and the rest shall follow. Patience is very important. Higher altar is where we come to change our lives and it comes with high responsibility and challenges," said Ezekiel.

Negative talk

He said parents should stop talking negatively about their children because they will become what you say about them.

According to Josephine Mwatela, who flew from Dubai, her mission was to look for a partner who will marry her and settle down.

Mwatela, 33, who works as a senior administration official at a Dubai bank, said she has dated several men but she ends the relationships at the proposal stage.

She claimed to have gotten saved recently and quit her drinking habits after attending Ezekiel's church having followed him for a while from abroad.

"I believe I will be able to get a husband after coming here. I believe God can do it all. I have been dating but I always get out when it gets to a point of marriage and when I realised age is catching up, I decided to come and seek my star," said Mwatela.

Dorcas Wanjala from Western Kenya said she struggled to get her sickly diabetic mother to the church and was healed after weeks of prayers.

Seriously ill

"I came from Western Kenya with my sick mother who was seriously ill and even the vehicles declined to carry us because she was like already dead. But when she arrived and received prayers she has been able to see, talk and eat," said Wanjala. The Standard however could not ascertain that her claims were true.

Willam Welt, an evangelist based in Ghana, said Ezekiel has a good following in Ghana and they are preparing an altar for him in Ghana.

"Ezekiel has been a good pastor and we represent him from Ghana and the altar is already set there. He is anointed by God. Let the government and all give support to him and as he helps many including young ministers in West Africa," said Welt.

 A section of Pastor Ezekiel Odero's Newlife Prayer Centre and Church in Mavueni, Kilifi County. [Joackim Bwana, Standard]

According to Janet Kinyanjui who flew from Australia to attend the holy communion with Sudanese husband and children, they have been blessed with lucrative jobs through praying with pastor Ezekiel.

"We are here for prayers and holy communion. Although there are churches back in Australia, they don't do these miracles. We have got better paying jobs," said Kinyanjui.

Yesterday, Ezekiel's lawyers Cliff Ombeta, Danstan Omari and Sam Nyaberi who were also present at the service said there was no radicalisation in the pastor's preaching as alleged by state.

"Today we are here to witness what goes on daily at his premises. We have participated in the masses and listened to his sermons and we have heard no radicalised preaching. The OCPD and his officers have also been present," said Omari.

Ombeta said the ministry has transparency in the church operations with 3,000 employees going home with money.

"When they talk about regulating churches what standards will they use if not Ezekiel? He has two dams, an international school, an upcoming airstrip, and 26 acres of the church with malls, banks, and restaurants. Giving back to society is what it is. They should come and benchmark here," said Ombeta.

He faulted the Attorney General for accusing Ezekiel's church of failure to file taxes since 2013, a fact that was later confirmed to be wrong by Kenya Revenue Authority.

"The registrar says the church hasn't been filing returns for 12 years yet KRA says he has filed returns. And they are planning to jail him at ICC over genocide and terrorism so they can take his property. Stop linking him to pastor Makenzi," said Ombeta.

Nyaberi said a Nairobi court had issued an order freezing Ezekiel's bank accounts and those of the church and international school, affecting a massive workforce.

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