ACCRA – Another hot and sultry night in Ghana’s capital. In the city centre, people are gathering at Accra’s Independence Square, looking intently towards a man preaching from a stage set in front of a sprawling Atlantic Ocean.
Daniel Kolenda, in a voice evoking romantic notions of what fire and brimstone speeches must have sounded like, launches into a harangue as to why one cannot find God through any other religion but Christianity.
“Who is the man who can save you?” he asks his fellow Christians.
Reaching their hands up towards the heavens they proclaim, “Jesus”, before dropping their arms, awaiting Kolenda’s next epistle.
Kolenda is on a four day “crusade” to bring peace, miracles and healing to Ghana, if not the world. Represented on the first day of the crusade are 450 local churches from 50 different denominations, broadly defined as Pentecostal, Charismatic and Evangelical. They have come to listen to the incumbent chair of Christ for All Nations, an evangelist organization which has offices and members in five continents.
Kolenda is replacing Reinhard Bonnke as leader of the CfaN and this is his inauguration tour. Bonnke, a German national, has been growing his support base exponentially since his first sermon in a tent in Lesotho back in 1969. According to the website, Bonnke’s Christ for all Nations now boasts over 55 million members.
Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians make up 27 per cent of the world’s Christian population, of which 44 per cent and 17 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. A further 38 per cent of the world’s evangelical population resides in the same area. This makes for a vital market, and preachers and organizations respond in turn.
Young men and women dressed in white shirts and black pants wander through the crowds, passing out booklets with the title “Now that You are Saved.” I ask one young woman what the books are about. Emilia promptly opens up the book to the last page where there is a sign-up sheet.
“Do you want to bring God into your life?” she asks me.
“Yes,” I say, and proceed to fill out the form. Name, phone number, area of residence. Towards the bottom of the form are two boxes, one indicates that the signatory is spiritually deficient, the other that he or she has fallen from grace, and is living a life of sin. I put a big tick in the former.
Emilia tells me she will call me and wanders off into the masses, presumably to save souls by the tenfold.
Meanwhile, Kolenda’s sermon is reaching its climax. The healing ceremony is about to begin.
“If you have a tumour or a lump, I’m telling you to find it,” says Kolenda. Transfer the pain and the sickness to Jesus he tells the crowd.
I do as I am told, and hold hands with my neighbour, Bernard, a short man in his late fifties. He tells me he has a hernia, accentuating its presence by reaching towards his groin and wincing.
Along with thousands of others we engage in what can only be described as a vigorous attempt at an exorcism. Bernard prays intently for me, for what I don’t know, as I never told him where I am feeling pain. Bernard hurls out prayer after prayer, the gist of which is, “In the name of Jesus…”
I ask Jesus to take away Bernard’s hernia.
The prayers are heard. Miracles have been made. Kolenda brings those who have been cured up on stage. One of the most astonishing cases is that of Mohammed, a Muslim, who has been cured of his deafness. He had inadvertently wandered into Independence Square and found, after a short nap, that Jesus had cured him. His amazement is real enough, in fact so much so that he proclaims “…if anybody knows me…tell my wife, Jesus is the Son of God.”
As we walk out of the square, I ask Bernard if he feels any better after the healing ceremony.
He smiles, “They tell you to check it and see…my hernia is still here.”