GENERALLY, faith healing crusades attract huge crowds and the ‘Healing Jesus Campaign’ held at Oshakati from 17 to 19 July was no exception.
For three consecutive nights thousands of believers and curious residents gathered at the open space near University of Namibia’s Oshakati Campus where Ghanaian faith-healer Dag Heward-Mills was the main actor.
The event was well advertised in the print and electronic media. Big posters and banners announcing the coming of Heward-Mills was displayed practically everywhere and the crusade’s purpose was clearly stated: namely to preach the Gospel to the poor and to heal those afflicted by all kinds of health conditions.
During the three-day event there were several claims of healing which could not be independently confirmed because local pastors are mum on the identity and addresses of the people who were allegedly healed.
Informanté spoke to a number of local residents but none could identify anyone from their respective neighbourhoods who was suddenly healed.
Just like other healing crusades, the Healing Jesus Campaign followed a repetitious and predictable pattern every day.
People started arriving at the venue at around 16:00.
The gospel music continued to play followed by prayers and short speeches and sermons while awaiting the arrival of the “man of God” who only arrived at around 19:00.
Specific phrases are hammered in all the speeches and sermons, what faith-healing experts describe as a technique mean to produce a specific result in the audience.
“This is the night of healing and restoration and deliverance”.
“Get ready for a night of blessings.”
“Tonight is your night, a night of miracles and deliverance”.
“This is a powerful evening.”
“Your life will never be the same again”.
Heward-Mills finally arrives and addresses the crowd and the Ghanaian chief of protocol, Reverend Christian, becomes strict. Even media practitioners are no longer allowed anywhere near the stage and the taking of pictures is prohibited.
After a short sermon emphasising healing and the power of the Holy Spirit, Heward-Mills says: “Tonight is your night. You will be healed tonight. Do you believe that?”
The answer is an ear-deafening “yes”.
“Tonight is a special night. Your life will never be the same again. Jesus is here tonight. Miracles are happening right now,” he continues and asks everyone to put his or her hand on the ailing part of their body.
He suddenly announces what he sees. He sees strange creatures – a monkey, a long snake and even a 6-legged creature coming out of some unidentified people in the crowd.
Pandemonium breaks out. Individuals start screaming, falling and rolling on the ground, allegedly “slain in the spirit”.
While some attribute this phenomenon to the power of the Holy Spirit, critics say that the phenomenon is caused by hypnosis or autosuggestion and is common not only in Pentecostalism but also happens during African traditional healing rituals.
Ushers run up and down carrying those “slain in the spirit” to the area in front of the stage.
But Heward-Mills ignores them.
Instead, he calls on those in the crowd who feel that they were healed, inviting them to stand up and join him on the stage to give their testimonies.
Practically every night there were scores of people claiming that they were healed miraculously. Many handed their crutches to Heward-Mills claiming that they were healed even though they were visibly still walking with much difficulty.
However, while the crowd celebrated the healing of those who were testifying on the stage, something else went unnoticed and that was the fact that none of those who arrived on wheelchairs and the bed-ridden who were carried to the venue, were healed.
And many of those who were allegedly healed the first day of the crusade turned up the next day still with their crutches.
When asked to explain, a crusade counsellor said that they still needed prayers and counselling.