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Somebody say Amen: Headache to heaven

By Charles Chanchori | August 5th 2018


They get set up barely 50 metres from my bedroom. They have three huge speakers, the kind that you would use to yell at the builders on top of the Tower of Babel.

They set up a platform on which to jump for the Lord. They say “one-two, one-two, microphone testing, one-two, one-two.” The microphones are ready.

I have had a long week and all I want to do is lie in bed, in my vest and boxers and drool on the pillow as I dream about swimming with long legged girls in the Maldives.

“Hallelujah,” the battle has begun. A man in a bright green suit and a leather-bound bible with a zip around it stands on the middle of the stage. “Hallelujah,” he says again.

There is a cat on my bedroom window. It looks into my room, meows softly and runs off, not wanting the third hallelujah to find it there. It must be one of those smart pussies that has an owner. The dumb ones in this neighborhood have been reduced to scavengers that scrap and dig and fight for their daily bread.

There is a young boy at the corner of the makeshift stage. He is in charge of the piano and playing a soft tune as the pastor in the green suit says dreamily, “Hallelujah. Somebody say amen.”

The piano player ekes out an endearing tune. The pastor sings softly, “Kama sio wewe, ningekua wapi mimi…”(If it weren’t for you (God), where would I be?) A female voice joins his.

The piano player decides to mess things up. He presses a button on the piano, set for “autopilot” where the piano plays an automatically set tune that isn’t in tune with the song.

A prayer is said and three people holding microphones, standing within inches of each other, break into a song. In a minute, they are all screaming at the top of their lungs into their respective microphones. “Shangwe na vigelegele kwa Yesuuuuuuu!” (Make a joyful noise to Jesus!) They scream. And scream. And scream.

I’m starting to get a headache. They get to the part where they all say, “Shabrashabrasaikakakakakakkak akakakak!” The battle against the Evil One is getting bloody. Nobody in this entire estate will be getting any peace for hours.

And another pastor takes the microphone and screams into it for about 30 minutes. Because God is too far and you have to put your microphone real close to your lips and scream into it for Him to hear you.

Day two, the same orgy of chaos and mayhem is repeated. Crusaders coming to your home and screaming into your ear and giving you a headache. In the name of spreading the Gospel. They scream into their microphones until they lose their voices. Hallelujah.

Day three is here and I decide I must talk to them. I ask the lead pastor why he brought the crusade to the neighbourhood. Doesn’t he know my bed is only a few metres away? Doesn’t he know that if I wanted to go to church, I’d go to church? And if I wanted a screaming session I’d go to a madhouse? I get that David sang for God until his clothes fell off, but he didn’t do it two metres from my bedroom, did he? And even if he did, he wasn’t screaming into my ears with a microphone, was he?

And he said that it is called a crusade because they are bringing the church to the people. And if their noise wasn’t giving me a headache inside my own house, then it wouldn’t be a crusade. I suggested taking it to the nearby public field and we would join them there if we wanted and he chuckled, rubbed his nose impatiently in a manner to ask, “What is this boy telling me now, eh? What does he know?” and said people don’t go to fields.

Maybe the reason why people don’t go to their crusades is because we get our headaches from other places in our lives. From our bosses, our relationships and marriages, from our landlords/ladies, from the bus conductors and Githurai matatu drivers, do we need them from our pastors too?

I get that people can and should preach but must they scream into the microphone? Wouldn’t it be easier on their throats and our ears if they were real smooth about it? And if they have to make joyful noises for the Lord, need they do it next to my bedroom?

Somebody say Amen.

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