When Martha Nyakairu’s husband left home one morning in November 2019, she did not know the day’s events would mark the start of a series of problems that would ruin their union.
Her 39-year-old marriage to Dr Kavin Wakoli, a doctor and lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Dental School, was about to get sour.
That day, Dr Wakoli had left home to run family errands in Bungoma town.
He met a man who identified himself as pastor Johnson Pius, who reportedly told him that he had been sent by God to look for him.
“Our meeting was no coincidence. I had just come out of 64-day prayer retreat and had a calling that a man with prophetic anointment would meet me,” recalls Dr Wakoli. “We had met two years prior, when I had gone to dedicate my land to the Lord.”
An indefinite guest
After the meeting, the errands were put on hold, and the pastor was invited home. He would be an indefinite guest.
Now, Ms Nyakairu says she does not recognise her husband any more.
“My husband gave out part of our ancestral land to a stranger, sent him Sh100,000 monthly to build a church on it, and following the pastor’s order, stopped taking our son, who has epilepsy, to his clinic appointments, claiming he has been demonically attacked,” she laments. “I wish that pastor never came into our lives. He has brainwashed my husband.”
Disputed source of money
According to Dr Wakoli, the church, an iron sheet structure with a cemented floor, can accommodate about 100 people.
However, the source of finances used to construct the church is disputed. Ms Nyakairu says her husband used his salary, and part of the family’s savings. But her husband disagrees. “When the lord sets up a ministry, he provides the finances. I did not use my money. I cannot say more than that,” Dr Wakoli explains.
When the church was completed and had congregants, the doctor was named its overseer.
“He preaches in the church even though he has not gone to any theological school,” his wife says.
But her husband counters that he is no stranger to biblical teachings as he had started giving sermons to travellers in matatus.
“I know my husband is so passionate about religion and all, but I started getting worried when he believed his ‘prophet’, who told him that I had been going to Tanzania to consult dark powers,” Ms Nyakairu claims.
“We have lived together for more than 20 years without any problems, and even built our matrimonial home in Kitengela, Kajiado County. However, since the meeting with the pastor, my husband has never been the same again,” she laments.
How they met
The couple met about 40 years ago in Nairobi. Ms Nyakairu, from Nyandarua, was 25-years-old -- just two years younger than her soon to be fiancé from Kakamega. Then he was working at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
A year later, they had their baby girl, Christine Wambui Wakoli. Ten years later, their second born, Allan George Mandu Wakoli was born when they were in Saudi Arabia where Dr Wakoli had gone for work. Ms Nyakairu was then a business woman.
When her only son was diagnosed with epilepsy, she stayed home to tend to him.
“We have been taking our son for monthly clinical appointments for as long as I can remember. His father mainly handled this responsibility. When the pastor came into his life, he told him that our son had been attacked by demons and needed prayers and deliverance instead. In November and December 2020, he did not take our son for his appointments, yet he knows how fatal that can be. He also forbade me from seeing my son. It was a helpless feeling,” says the mother.
But Dr Wakoli claims the side effects of the drugs the boy was taking had made his son gain too much weight.
When probed on whether he considered taking his son to see a different specialist, he retorted: “The lord told me that he had cured my son at birth. What need was there to do that? The boy had demons!”
A newsletter of the church released between November and December 2020 includes a testimony by Allan, which his mother claims was crafted.
It reads: “ALLAN.G.M.W -- I was delivered from demonic oppression that often made me feel tired and sick everywhere in my body…”
As far as keeping medical appointments is concerned, specialists say that failing to show up on scheduled dates has negative consequences.
“If you are supposed to see a doctor after a certain period of time, then fail to do so, then that could slow the patient down mentally. Failing to take drugs will make the patient convulse, and if he /she drives, they could endanger other road users,” says Dr Sylvia Mbugua, a neurologist at Aga Khan University Hospital.
Allan had his injection on January 25, almost three months after his last one.
“My son was starting to get depressed. When his father finally allowed him to come and see me, I took him to hospital. My son is 30, but he is entirely dependent on me,” says the distraught mother.
Ms Nyakairu, who has since contacted a divorce lawyer, says that her marriage can no longer be saved.
“One day he told me that he had had a bad dream. In it, he had seen a woman stab me on the face with a knife. At some point, he started having violent dreams almost daily. He would wake up at 3am and start loudly reciting scriptures, then he would bang on the wall while shouting,” she says.
“Just before I moved out, my husband had started imposing rules on us, forbidding us from watching television and listening to the radio, claiming that the pastor said technological devices are demonic. Yet the pastor himself has a very big TV set and one of the latest sound systems.”
When doctors received their clinical allowances around June 2020, Dr Wakoli took his Sh1.9 million share and bought the pastor a grey Toyota Probox.
“We were supposed to use part of the money to complete the construction of our family home in Kitengela,” says Ms Nyakairu. “I remember I was handling the ceiling then. Just as we are finishing the ceiling, the pastor called and said ‘God has said you buy me a vehicle’,” she adds.
Dr Wakoli admits he did so. In fact, he says, the lord instructed him to buy two Toyota Probox vehicles.
“The grey one went to the church. I bought it from Yaya Centre. The lord had also instructed me to buy a white one for my family, but my wife refused. She instead told me to write her a cheque of Sh500,000,” says Dr Wakoli.
Behind her husband’s back, alleges Ms Nyakairu, his beloved pastor visited her at home in Kitengela, to “belittle me”.
“That pastor bragged to me about how he drives a car, yet I do not, and how he already knows about our other four plots of land on Kangundo road, which he says, he will convert to be churches,” Martha claims.
Her marriage, she says, has suffered so much. She wishes her husband had not met the pastor. She has even gone to the advocates to threaten the pastor to leave her husband alone, but he won’t budge.
On September 2, 2020, she walked into the offices of Solomon Mugo and Company advocates in Nairobi to report on the illegal deceit and brainwashing of her husband by the pastor.
The advocates drafted a letter to the pastor, and copied it to Dr Wakoli, area chief of Nalondo, Bungoma, and the Bungoma area OCS and OCPD.
Part of the letter reads: “He (Kevin Wakoli) took loans and diverted all family earnings towards the church, which did not benefit him but only served as a source for your livelihood.”
Another section goes: “you have even ordained our client’s husband as the church pastor and this has forced him to be travelling to Nalondo in Bungoma every week only to return on Monday, thus jeopardising his employment as a public university lecturer … also diverted all his salary … in the name of tithing, thanksgiving and construction of the church.”
Ms Nyakairu says her husband paid Sh300,000 as tithe, then paid Sh100,000 weekly for a month as a thanksgiving offering.
The letter also threatened the pastor that mandatory orders of a court of law would be sought if he did not desist from influencing Dr Wakoli. He did not respond.
Ms Nyakairu then wrote to the Registrar of Societies to confirm whether her husband’s church was legal and registered.
“I am writing this complaint to you so that you check the activities of this church so as to redeem my husband and other people who are in that situation,” reads the letter.
“The registrar told me it was not registered,” says Martha.
Dr Wakoli, however, insists that the church is operating on interim registration, and that it has taken longer than anticipated to finalise the registration of their church.
Registration of churches was halted in 2014 by the government, citing increased radicalisation among religious groups. There had been reports that several religious institutions and societies had devised morally unacceptable activities.
“I have had enough,” says Ms Nyakairu.
She has now approached a lawyer to help her file for divorce and obtain custody of her son, who cannot fend for himself.
“I have been trying to help my son to do farming, which he loves. Currently I am trying to teach him about rearing of fish, which I think will give him good income. But I am struggling because our money doesn’t help us, it goes out to the pastor as soon as it enters the account.”
“I reported this to our Noonkopir sub location chief, Mr James Kahiga Mwangi. The chief summoned the pastor, but he did not show up.”
The pastor neither responded to our calls or text messages.