They come to church in imported handmade suits creased on the soft leather seats of their latest fuel guzzlers that any equally flashy member of the 11th Parliament would break a bank to own.
Their expensive colognes waft luxuriant scents on the pulpit where jewellery from gold and ruby chains to diamond rings are just a peek into what ‘prosperity gospel’ means in manifest opulence.
Here are our flashiest pastors in flesh and blood:
BISHOP MARGARET WANJIRU
The immediate former assistant Housing Minister and Starehe MP and founder of Jesus is Alive Ministries is now breaking the ground to build the ultramodern twin towers along Haile Selassie Avenue, Nairobi. The twin towers-on opposite sides of the road-will connected by an overhead tunnel.
The building-whose budget will nearly peck the billion shilling lips- will be a near replica of the American twin tower and will change landscape of down town Nairobi. The stylish bishop, who started off as a janitor (euphemism for cleaner) in Industrial Area before becoming a street preacher restocks her wardrobe on trips abroad. I wear “golden sandals in the morning, changes to silver in the afternoon and retires in bronze in the evening,” she once told a congregation.
Bishop Wanjiru’s ministry grew in leaps and bounds. Shortly, she relocated it from Mang’ Building toGodowns across the road. Bishop Wanjiru now plays in the financial ‘Champions’ League and pretty far from the Third Division of her early beginnings. Her son, Steven Kariuki unsuccessfully ran for the Mathare Constituency seat in the last General Election.
Allan and Kathy Kiuna were mentored by Pastor Teresia Wairimu before starting their own church at Temus Restaurant then owned by Terry Mungai of Ashley’s Hair Salon. Rent was a subsidised Sh3,700 a month. But what started with a congregation of six is now the 5,000 strong Jubilee Christian Church.
Kathy plays golf alongside her husband Allan (who is a columnist for The Nairobian) who apparently convinced her to start teeing off to earn a handicap on the greens.
The couple plays golf on Mondays, their off day.
The Kiunas are blessed with three children: Vanessa, 21, a Law student in Australia, Stephanie, 16, who is in high school, and Jeremy, 11.
The Kiunas are no stranger to happy controversies. Recently, pictures of their affluent pad made rounds on the social media, followed by a string of comments about serving God and its place in earthly extravagance. And what of their rumoured ‘hanging swimming pool’ for them?
That has not been confirmed.
Kathy has no apologies. “Those who talk only know the ‘after’; they should have seen the ‘before’ to appreciate the work of God,” she explained in an interview. “God has raised us up in the church and the church is as good as its flock — if the flock is walking in poverty, so will the church.”
Kathy adds: “Many in our congregation are living well; this is just the tip of the iceberg, we are only warming up, we are coming. We were called by God to raise leaders and that is exactly what we are doing — raising people to be the best they can be, and as they grow, so do we. Besides, you can never pay a pastor enough.”
In a previous interview Kathy was quoted saying: “God wants us to be prosperous in every single way. His desire for us is to walk in abundance. I am praying for church people to show the likes of Bill Gates dust!”
PROPHET DR DAVID OWUOR
He arrived in a presidential-style convoy comprising sleek black Mercedes cars accompanied by siren blaring police outriders taking the lead, clearing the way. No traffic snarl-ups here as Prophet David Owuor was chauffeured to Kenyatta University’s annual student’s conference where thousands thronged to hear him preach last month.
It is not clear how this prophet coins his pretty penny. He has severally claimed that he never accepts church offering. Remember when senior pastors of his Ministry of Repentance and Holiness bought him a Mercedes S500 as a gift? Well, that gift cost Sh25 million.
Prophet Owuor globe trots, preaching in Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, USA, Finland, China, Korea, Australia, UK, Burundi, Brazil and Holland.
He is known for his shiny white suits, even along court corridors where Bishop Wahome has been fighting his ex-wife, Leah Mueni who demands that he should pay child support for their three children, despite Bishop Wahome also demanding a DNA test to prove their paternity. He also carries a Bible but has a licensed gun hid on his side.
The wife was demanding Sh300,000 but Bishop Wahome – of Helicopter Church Ministries – was willing to part with Sh5,000 as monthly upkeep for her and the children.
Wahome, whose sermons are aired on local TV stations, denies earning Sh500,000 as salary as Meuni claimed. Bishop Wahome once accused Mueni of retaining and refusing to hand over a Mercedes Benz he used to hire out for private functions at Sh15,000 a month to supplement his income.
Mueni, a customs shop attendant at JKIA, says Wahome earns millions in church tithe.
BISHOP DAVID OYEDEPO
Nigerian billionaire Pastor Dr David Oyedepo’s visit to officially open Winners’ Chapel Likoni Road did not go unnoticed. After all, it is East and Central Africa’s largest church, if its auditorium is any measure of grandness.
He made his grand entry aboard a private jet at the JKIA, where a motorcade of Range Rover Sports cars in tow whisked him to the sanctuary. By the way, the jet is one of four.
On this day, Deputy President William Ruto was the chief guest at the event. Winners’ Chapel International, also known as Living Faith Church, has a presence in 34 countries, with its headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria. Faith Tabernacle (the name of the headquarters), is a 50,000-sitter auditorium, and was in 2008 named the world’s largest church auditorium by Guinness Book. It is outside overflow capacity is 250,000.
The newly opened Winners’ Chapel Likoni Road Nairobi can sit 15,000 people.
Pastor Oyedepo is Nigeria’s richest pastor, with Forbes magazine estimating his wealth to kiss the Sh14 billion ceiling. Among his businesses is an airline and a publishing house.
BROTHER PAUL KAMLESH PATTNI
He first shot into the national limelight with the Sh60 billion plus Goldenberg scandal. That he was dealing in gemstones meant wearing a Sh160,000 sapphire ring was no big deal.
Tribulations of biblical Jacob proportions came fast and furious. Pattni was jailed, accused of murder and the court cases never seemed to end, even after he gave the state the Sh4 billion Grand Regency Hotel (now Laico Regency)
He then joined politics through his party Kenya National Democratic Alliance, but lost the Westlands constituency seat in 2002. The man who quotes biblical verses to stress every point changed religions. From Hindu, Pattni got saved and was baptised as Brother Paul Pattni. He thereafter started his own church.
Maina Njenga is the founder of Hope International Ministries Church in Kasarani Estate. The former Mungiki leader of the outlawed Mungiki sect and Cord coalition sympathiser commands a huge following where he charges to perform miracles.
Maina Njenga once asked politicians and wealthy businessmen who have been funding and supporting the sect to stop. Njenga, who has bodyguards, has occasionally hosted parties at his palatial residence in Kitengela.
PASTOR JAMES MAINA NG’ANG’A
He walks around with a gun, and has been photographed drinking something more bitter than peppered soup. A while back, social media went ablaze with accusations that the pastor had bribed policemen to release his dented Prado after a hit and run incident. His miracles are said to cost between Sh3,000 to Sh50,000.
Pastor Ng’ang’a of Neno Evangelism ministries is rich and sometimes comes off as arrogant.
Forget his well cut designer suits and shoes. Just know that to reach the former deputy head teacher of Kenyatta Primary School, your call first goes to his Personal Assistant. Forget that too and consider one highlight of Bishop Mark Kariuki’s life- his glamorous wedding to Pastor Joyce Wacera Kariuki (after his first wife, Joyce Wangui Kariuki passed on in 2007) in May.
The invite-only event was held at the Kasarani Gymnasium in Nairobi. So big was it that it was dubbed ‘Bishop Mark Kariuki’s Grand Wedding’ and featured as the closing episode of the Samantha Bridal Wedding TV show.
The seven-hour wedding was attended by around 6,000 people, equivalent to 12 weddings at a go! Bishop Kariuki sported a charcoal black suit, lilac shirt and purple-stripped tie while Joyce radiated elegance in a white mermaid bustier gown with glass bead work and a bolero under elbow-length veil.
Pastor Wacera, a church usher, chose eggplant purple and baby yellow as her décor colour regimes punctuated by lime green. Two flower and flower and décor companies were required to pull off the feat!
Five catering outfits were divided to feed 1,200 attendant’s each while 300 VVIPs were taken care of via the Safari Park Hotel’s outside catering unit.
The Kenya Police, a private security concern and the church’s own ‘bouncers’ took care of security for the 300 VVIPs. The least one can pay at the gymnasium for a wedding is Sh20,000 per hour, with an additional 30,000 for catering which also depends on the magnitude of the event. The stadium also charges for photography and videography. The couple later flew out to Tanzania for their honeymoon.
Besides the 10,000-seater sanctuary that is the Life Celebration Centre, Bishop Kariuki is the General Overseer of Deliverance Church for which he provides guidance to pastors in over 700 churches. Among his interests includes King’s Academy School, King’s Medical Centre and Homologeo Industries that comprises Homologeo Detergents & Body Products, Homologeo Tailoring and Poultry projects.
The Bishop’s lifestyle is markedly different from his childhood years when he walked barefoot with a long shirt doubling as a pair of shorts and trousers until one Christmas he will never forget: Bishop Mark Kariuki was given a pair of shorts as an X-Mas present!