Whether it’s addressing contentious issues on Facebook, prophesying world calamities or witnessing celebrity ‘deliverances’ in his Lagos-based church, the name of controversial Nigerian Pastor T.B. Joshua can’t seem to leave the news of late.
The events of his church service broadcast live via Emmanuel TV on Sunday 23rd March 2014 proved to be no different as The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) witnessed the confession of two lesbians who said ‘demons’ were behind their lifestyle.
Maria Terese George from Delta State, Nigeria explained to the congregation that her poverty-stricken background pushed her to seek help from an older lady. However, she had ulterior motives in promising to help the attractive 19 year old. “She took me to a club where we went drinking,” Maria explained while speaking in the packed church. “She took me to her house and started touching me. Because I was drunk, I responded.”
The day after this drunken encounter, Maria (pictured above) had an unusual dream. “A half-naked lady came to me in the dream and fed me with rice, stew and meat.” Upon waking up, Maria’s affection for men disappeared and she began to admire her fellow females. “That was how the spirit of lesbianism entered me. I noticed that whenever I saw a female that was busty and curvy, I would always admire their features… I became a chronic lesbian,” she admitted.
The same lady who introduced her to lesbianism brought her into a local prostitution ring, assuring her that the riches she desired could easily be attained. “If I needed money, I would go to meet men who were very rich – politicians and businessmen – but if I wanted to enjoy sex or feel ‘real’ love, I would go for a woman.”
Prostitution led Maria to a neighbouring African country where her immoral lifestyle seemed only to worsen. However, resources disappeared as readily as they arrived. After several years of frustration, she decided it was time to return to Nigeria.
“When I came back, I called some of my old partners for connections,” Maria explained. “They started laughing at me and told me they are now married with kids.” Maria was perplexed. She never thought it possible for one to leave lesbianism after tasting it.
“I was confused and asked them what they meant. All four of them independently told me they went to T.B. Joshua’s church for deliverance,” much to the delight of the crowd. “Maybe The SCOAN doesn’t know that they have delivered a lot of lesbians,” she added.
Making up her mind to visit the church based in Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos, her resolve was immediately followed by a terrible nightmare. “That half-naked woman came to me in the dream and said, ‘Look – you think you can leave me! Go and pick up a knife and kill yourself.’ ” Upon waking, Maria immediately packed her bags and left for The SCOAN that morning.
During the church service on Sunday 16th March 2014, one of T.B. Joshua’s ‘Wise Men’ prayed for Maria and she experienced the ‘deliverance’ her friends had spoken of. “I have never experienced that type of thing before! I had gone to other places for ‘deliverance’ but it didn’t go. That is when I found myself even craving more for women.” According to her, when prayed for, she began ‘manifesting’ and a strange voice spoke through her.
After the ‘deliverance’, Maria testified to a total transformation. “I no longer have affection for women. When I see any woman, I don’t feel it again – I see you as a sister or as my mother. I am seeing myself now as a woman that will settle with a man.” Advising people, the former lesbian told the congregation, “This lesbian spirit is a very stubborn spirit – it takes the grace of God for it to leave you.”
In his comments, T.B. Joshua said, “Don’t hate the people; hate the act. Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin. Now you are delivered, it is time to live in the Word,” he warned Maria. “Because of Christ, you are delivered – for the salvation of your soul.”
The story of Nneoma Onyema was not so dissimilar. Running away from home aged 18 and becoming a hair stylist in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, a rich lady approached her in the salon one day. After complimenting her appearance, she gave Nneoma extra money and invited her to a high profile club. Intoxicating the teen with alcohol, she awoke the next morning in bed with the lady carousing her. “She changed my name to Jennifer and took me to a man who put tattoo of love on my back,” she explained to the church. Immediately after this encounter, Nneoma’s affection and attention turned only to females.
Dancing in a club to make a living, she had no contact whatsoever with her family who hadn’t heard from her in three years. However, after being viciously attacked by a girl who claimed she ‘took’ her girlfriend, a friend advised Nneoma, whose life was clearly in a mess, to visit T.B. Joshua’s church in Lagos for help.
“When the Wise Man prayed for me, I felt an electric shock pulsating through my entire body” Nneoma recounted her experience. The ‘demon’ that spoke through the young Nigerian said it was ‘a great lesbian’and had tormented her life.
In a remarkable twist of fate, Nneoma’s brother Emmanuel who had not seen her for three years was in The SCOAN congregation that very day. “I always used to put Nneoma’s picture on the screen of Emmanuel TV when T.B. Joshua prayed. I was so shocked to see her in the church that day,” Emmanuel explained, adding that he was hearing this confession from Nneoma for the very first time. T.B. Joshua pledged to support Nneoma in her education so as to enable her to start a new life.
In the wake of Nigeria’s recent anti-gay law, T.B. Joshua courted controversy in January 2014 when he declared that homosexuals should not be condemned.
“Judge not, so that you will not be judged. We should talk to people to be saved and not to die. I mean, we should talk salvation, not condemnation. The Bible is my standard,” he said in a Facebook post.
“God hates sin, not sinners. When I say, ‘Do not judge so that you will not be judged’, I mean we should hate sin, not the sinner because sinners can change. If you have killed a sinner by judging him, there will be no opportunity for change. Sinners can be delivered. We should hate the act, not the people because our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the ‘spirit beings’ that cause all these acts.”
He clearly distanced himself however from the nation that he supported a homosexual lifestyle, saying, “If my parents were one, I would not have been given birth to. Those that are asking this question – if your parents were one, you would not have been given birth to. You that are reading me – if your parents were one, you would not be reading this today. God bless the reader and the hearer.”
Ihechukwu Njoku is a freelance Nigerian journalist currently in London, United Kingdom.