Inside a revival church

…How a charismatic young preacher captivates the souls of residents in the North

…Pastor said to perform ‘miracles’

…People leaving ‘traditional’ churches en-masse

• BY MARX ITAMALO

AS the time strikes 09h00, the service begins, gospel music starts blaring from large disco speakers at intervals as the pastor, dressed in a dotted white shirt, black paints and sharp brown shoes, with microphone in hand preaches the word of God.

The man of the cloth is hard at work, his subjects are listening attentively, bibles in hand and occasionally, an elderly woman ululates when the message being put across, touches her heart.

Confidente arrived at the church an hour prior, to get first-hand observation on the operation and preaching of pastor Johannes Wilbard in Okadiva village in the Ohangwena region.

The Key of Salvation International Ministry was established a year ago in September and has become popular with people in many parts of the north. Droves of people come from many parts of the north to attend sermons of the preacher who is said to have divine power and is believed to perform miracles such as healing the sick, making the crippled walk and is said to have the ability to destroy or drive out evil spirits.

At the arrival of the Confidente team, church ushers were busy arranging chairs mostly under the shade of trees on this sunny Sunday morning. The church is located in a bushy environment, less about 200 metres from the Namibian-Angolan border.

There is a clearing of about two hectares which forms the epicenter of church activities.

There is no formal structure, but a shelter where the pastor, church elders and invited guests seat. The rest of the church members sit under the surrounding trees.

As pastor Wilbard started his sermon, Confidente could observe the ambience getting tense. Some church members started weeping hysterically while others shook uncontrollably.

The youthful pastor paid no attention to this but continued preaching, whilst walking all over the venue with his three helpers in tow, like presidential guards. He preached about repentance, evil spirits, witchcraft and the need for the love of God.

DRIVING EVIL SPIRITS OUT

As the church service reached its climax, pastor Wilbard instructed his followers to raise open their hand in the air so that he could pray for them. At the first few sentences of his prayer, many people started dropping to the ground. Others started shouting in strange voices that only probably someone under the guide of the Holy Spirit can understand. The whole scene became chaotic but the pastor paid no attention only shouting ‘fire’ and ‘get out.

After a few minutes, some people were back on their feet. Many others were still lying on the ground in the hot sun like baby seals sun basking at Cape Cross.

As the service moved on, the sick were called to come and be prayed for.

Some still fell to the ground as the pastor touched their heads. Those who believed they had been bewitched or have evil spirits in them received the same treatment and attention. Soon, people offered their offerings, blessings were thrown and the church service came to an end at around 15h00 in the afternoon.

TESTIMONIES

Confidente was able to trace several people who said they were healed spiritually and physically by prayers conducted by pastor Wilbald. One of them, Michael Nghishekelwa who hails from nearby Edjundja village.

Nghishelekwa said his household used to be disturbed by a ghost which led him to almost committing suicide and had sought assistance from many people but to no avail.

“When pastor Wilbard prayed for me, the suffering stopped. He is really a man of God,” he said.

Albertina Naiyuma’s son had a light mental disorder and like Nghishelekwa, the boy is said to have been suicidal. According to Naiyuma, when she visited the Key of Salvation International Ministry Church, her son’s mental wellbeing normalised.

Jaasa Josef from Ondjiva had a sick daughter who was suffering from a chronic illness.

“She believed in witchdoctors a lot and she wasted a lot of money including cattle on witchdoctors but they could not help her.
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I have told her many times to come and be prayed for here but she refused. One day she called me from Windhoek where she works and told me, she was tired of suffering and that she wanted to see the pastor. She is now healed and is back to work,” she informed this publication on Sunday.

Another church member who declined to be named informed Confidente how her house was haunted by a spirit that defecated in their mahangu flour basket each night but the spirit disappeared after prayers from pastor Wilbard.

“Each morning we would wake up to human faeces in the basket.
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We knew it was an evil spirit and we tried going to so many people for help but it did not the needed help. I came to this church and the pastor went to pray at our house. From that day the demon disappeared into thin air. He is really a man of God,” she said.

THE PASTOR

Three days prior to attending the church service, Confidente had an opportunity to interview pastor Wilbard at his homestead at Okadiva village. We asked him about his background, pastoral journey, his church, his views on revival churches and his take on the criticism faced by revival churches and their leaders.

Born in Tsumeb 32 years ago, he grew up at Okadiva doing chores like any other boy. A few years ago, he went to live with relatives in Eenhana and that was where he began to be haunted by evil spirits.

“I suffered a lot my brother. Each night a ghost came to disturb me. My parents tried to get help from traditional doctors but it did not help.

As a result, I got into alcohol and smoking so that I could sleep and forget my suffering. But that only made matters worse,” he told Confidente under a shelter of a guava tree whilst gospel songs play on a portable music player.

According to him, in 2016, as a result of his suffering, he started attending the Key to Jesus Ministry at Eenhana. There, pastor Colnelius Tavali prayed for him and the spirits departed and was freed of his suffering.

FOR MORE: GRAB A COPY OF THE CONFIDENTE NEWSPAPER