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My ‘kesha’ service experience at El-Shaddai Church

By | April 15th 2012

By Joseph Maina

On Friday evening, the comptroller and I attended a kesha at the El-Shaddai Redeemed Evangelical Church of Holy African Saints. Now that’s my comptroller’s church. Sometimes back, she was a Baptist. She then converted to some new denomination, which spawned yet another church with an even longer name.

The said denomination eventually disintegrated even more, which is how El-Shaddai came about. Now I hate to say this but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure whether to call it a church, a denomination, a sect, a splinter, a sub-splinter...

Predictably, my mboys categorically declined to join us.

"Ah, mimi sijiskii kwenda church," said Jimmy, the High Priest of crunk and loud music.

"Why?" the comptroller gasped.

"You guys go. I’m too tired," he sounded out while stretching on the couch, looking visibly disinterested. At least Russell was more diplomatic:

"We can’t go today, mum" he quipped. "We have headaches," he lied. So we left the mboys behind and made a beeline for El-Shaddai. The music was deeply spiritual, the worshippers brotherly and the ambience paradisiacal. The sermon may have been prewritten, rehearsed or extemporaneous, but it hit where it mattered. Moments after we got in, the choir delivered a salsa/mwomboko/mugithi/ndombolo ya solo hymn in the most ethereal coloratura you ever heard.

Afterwards, the debonair, charismatic pastor grabbed the mike:

"Raise your hands and clap for Jesus!" he screeched after the hymn. He then paused to swab the shiny beads of sweat off his brow, sipped water from a glass that was conveniently laid on the lectern and read a verse from the Good Book. I think it was the Book of Habakkuk or something like that. This was followed by a sermon. Now, my friend Odhiambo says a sermon should be modeled like a skirt – long enough to cover the subject, short enough to remain ‘relevant’. But as you might have guessed, the time the reverend took on that lectern can only be measured in terms of terms – presidential terms.

"Somebody say halleluiah!" he thunderously proclaimed after his ultra-long sermon.

Well, he got exactly what he wanted: "Halleluiah!" the crowd roared back. "Now turn to your neighbour and say ‘Jesus loves you,’" he said. So, I turned to the comptroller, and she turned to me, and we obediently exchanged these words. But alas, the spiritual gymnastics did not end there!

"Now turn to your other neighbour and say ‘Fire!’" he thundered. Meekly, I turned to the fellow on my right and immediately regretted it. Lo! The last time the gentleman had tasted toothpaste must have been during the State of Emergency. Still, I relayed the Reverend’s message and quickly turned back to listen as the Man of Cloth opened his mouth and said unto us:

"Shuda mashuda na matonda na damunda!" he seemed to say, leaving me tremendously flabbergasted. Happily, the comptroller saw the dazed look on my face and relayed that he was speaking in tongues.

"Oh, shantali mapolopolo!" he tongued once more. Moments later, an usher instructed everybody to "let the spirit take over" and before long, everybody was speaking in one foreign language or other. Now we were officially in the Tower of Babel. Behold, Mama Jimmy was not left behind.

"Shantala mabosola!" she screamed as she rolled on the floor along with other believers. "Tela shaloboshala, talalaba sashmusosh!" she chanted. Without wasting time I immediately flung myself on the floor and engaged in a verbal sparring match with the devil, after which I wanted to go home! Of course, she’d hear none of it.

"Don’t be a queen, Baba Jimmy. Ngojea ibada iishe," she hissed from her position on the floor. Thankfully, the service eventually wound up towards dawn, at which the brethren trooped out of the tin-roofed Basilica. Incredibly, Mama Jimmy tried to woo me to yet another spiritual regimen.

"Friday tuko na kesha ingine, Baba Jim," she relayed as we hopped into our prehistoric chariot for the journey back to the hacienda. "Hiyo kwanza ndiyo moto," she enthused.

Friend, how do you spell the word ‘nay’ in your mother tongue? Clearly, she was on fire. Me, I felt like I’d spent the night at the gym. I’ve never spent a session with my hands in the air like I did that night. I never shook so many hands either. Verily verily I say unto thee, dear reader, all I wanted was to go home. But the comptroller appears to have made her up mind, and El-Shaddai it is. Somehow, folks in my neighborhood have even taken to calling us "Dada Beatrice" and "Ndugu Baba Jimmy."

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