The “miracle-babies” saga put him in huge trouble in Kenya and abroad, but self-styled Archbishop Gilbert Deya still believes in miracles.
Stubborn, resolute and raring to go, the man who spent close to a year behind the cold concrete walls of Kamiti Maximum Security Prison is now winning fresh adherents after a small break with the law.
Three months ago, he walked out of prison on a Sh10 million bail after a nine-month sojourn following deportation from the United Kingdom. His brand new followers, one could say miraculous adherents, have since surpassed 100.
“Miracles work through me via Jesus Christ,” he states without blinking.
His Gilbert Deya Ministries/United Evangelical Churches of Kenya in Nairobi has acquired space measuring 2,250 square feet at the imposing, all-blue Pili Trade Centre opposite Hilton Gardens on Mombasa Road where the aggressive Man of God meet his bulging flock.
He says his Gilbert Deya Ministries in Britain remains intact under the able stewardship of his son, Amos Deya, who is also a pilot.
“Amos is a British citizen and the ministry there is fairing even better under him,” he says.
“In my vision for Kenya is a 24-hour church, a centre for training church leaders and a 24-hour television station to help spread the gospel,” he divulges, adding that his calling is directly from God. “I was never ordained by anybody. Mine was a direct call,” he brags.
Archbishop Deya purports to enjoy more following in West Africa and contemplates setting up his African headquarters in Nigeria once he is done with his case.
In his words, what caused his extradition? “The advocates I engaged to represent me locally gave me a fake order, hence the loss of my extradition case and three-month incarceration (between May and August 2017) at Woolworth Prison in West London prior to my extradition,” Deya says, pensively.
He says he believes God used the mess to bring him back home because he had sworn never to return to Kenya. “That was foolish of me. God used the advocates to destroy the foolishness. I am grateful to Him because coming back home was a blessing in disguise.”
He is reluctant to comment on matters before the court, but exudes confidence that he will win his case as his wife was acquitted in 2011 on a case of stealing five babies and forging their birth certificates.
On reflection, Bishop Deya says God’s spirit came to him when he was barely 10. “I was seated with my mother when a bright light came on me. I remember exclaiming thus: ‘Mama see Jesus is coming!’”.
He was a weak learner who dropped out of school at Class Seven with D minus in all the three subjects -- English, mathematics and the General Paper. His talent was in business, selling sweets to his classmates and preparing charcoal.
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“No sooner was I out of school than I started buying and selling bananas and sugarcane for a profit,” he recalls.
During our sitting for this interview at a slap-up Nairobi hotel, Deya relives the poverty in his early life, recalling how his first child, Peter, succumbed to complications of malnutrition while he earned six shillings per week as a stone cutter at a quarry in Njiru.
“I worked as a stone cutter for two years upon landing in Nairobi from a brief stay in Uganda visiting my married sister. I met my wife Mary there,” he says.
Deya was to get a better-paying job as a toilet cleaner at a garment factory in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, upon which he moved to Kibera where he paid Sh80 monthly rent for a wooden shack. He was paid Sh240 per month for the stench-saturated job, Sh20 of which went to ‘Pay as You Earn’ (PAYE) Government tax. That was in 1974.
As fate would have it, says Deya, the toilet cleaning job that he did diligently served as the launch pad to a more prosperous, albeit controversy laden future. The latter-day millionaire would walk several kilometres from Kibera to the Industrial Area.
“I was made the chairman of Lindi Village in Kibera where four of my children, all grown up and responsible citizens of the world now, were born. I built rental houses that I later sold to buy a matatu,” he remembers.
“After Amos who lives in Birmingham, came my daughter Jane (United States) and son Daniel (businessman, Scotland). Behind them are daughters Rebecca (Britain) and Deborah (Dubai). David and Sarah who are pursuing their university education in the United Kingdom were born while I lived in Dandora,” he says.
A year into cleaning the toilets, he was upgraded into an office messenger.
“I saw an opening to augment my income via a 120-day credit window to pay for garments taken by low cadre employees. I opened my own garment shop in Ngara to sell clothes that I took on credit and paid for after 120 days. The shop flourished because it was located in a high population area where many Africans and rich Indians lived.
Deya’s star was to shine even brighter when the company’s salesman retired and they picked him to take his place because of his charisma. He started earning Sh3,000 per month. All along, the non-ordained Man of God was a preacher under the United Evangelical Churches of Kenya and in Chrisco Church.
“I soon had enough money and I sold the matatu to start a shoe manufacturing company in Kariobangi. As money flowed, I quit the garment factory,” he narrates.
Again, as fate would have it, things changed abruptly when the factory caught fire. Everything went up in smoke even though there were several fire fighters. He says the fire reduced him to zero. “I held huge crusades at Uhuru Park that drew the envy of pastors who accused me of being un-ordained and without education,” recounts Deya.
“I had returned from a trip to the US with a lot of vim that pricked my competitors,” he recalls.
He says the complaints prompted an inquiry on him chaired by Apostle Harry Das who found nothing wrong.
“I subsequently packed my things and left for Britain in keeping with God’s voice that I had heard before the fire, telling me to sell everything and leave for the UK,” he says.
He remained there until his extradition on August 8, 2017.