Months of maneuvering undercover work has unmasked a major, murky and maddening case of a magnanimous mission gone amiss; of a missionary mandate misapplied and muddled up, resulting in a merciless manipulation of man by man and the exploitation of the marginalized by the mighty messiah of Mentukwa, thus making a mockery of the mission. A telling tale of tyrannical teachings and tutelage that has seen teenagers of our time traded into untimely matrimony under the pretext of an imminent Armageddon, a rapture as has been repeatedly read in the revered and redeeming book of Revelation.
By ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS, April 10, 2013, New Crusading Guide
It isn’t that the horrors of the place instantly strike you upon arrival at the camp. No, on the contrary, it looks a fairly normal, sometimes solemn environment. But, as Shakespeare will observe, “…. every look is not the same..” – Julius Caesar (Act II Scene II); “O! what a goodly outside falsehood hath!” – Merchant of Venice (Act I Scene III) So, having picked up prior intelligence about gross human rights abuses at the camp, the New Crusading GUIDE‟s investigative team led by investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas went undercover as Joseph Christ in the temple.
After two and half months of monitoring activities at the worship camp, got a startling insight into the character and modus operandi of the shepherd prophetess whose flock have no right whatsoever to question her „prophetic‟ authority and decrees. Somewhere in the middle of Mentukwa‟s forest, surrounded by lush green forested hills is the Adventist Pilgrim Prayer Camp. Children in the camp are flogged for the least offence; most of them are denied any form of education and training.
The girls amongst them are forced into marrying men because the „almighty‟ prophetess so prophesized. Their failure to adhere to prophecies could result in demonic accusations, ceaseless insults and physical, often violent abuse. Beyond all the beating and accusations, members are not willing to abscond for any reason whatsoever and the reason is simple; the fear that the end time is nigh and that when Jesus Christ comes the second time, they would miss out on the rapture if they happen to be out of the camp. Once they are in the camp, their heavenly salvation is assured.
From the prophetess [Ellen Jesus Christ] through to pastors, elders, women and children in the camp, the basis of the doctrine at the Adventist Pilgrim Prayer Camp, is that, they are all being prepared as worthy ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ as the end time approaches, and that the end time must not meet them in the other world of sins (modern life) and that the rapture must meet them in their camp (Mentukwa) of righteousness where there is no sin.
GROWING IN THE GRACE: HOW IT ALL BEGUN
The story of Adventist Pilgrim Camp started from Ghana‟s eastern border town of Aflao. An elder with the group recounts how they worshipped back then as members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The church had organized a crusade, during which‟s deliverance session one Veronica Agbo (now prophetess Hellen Jesus Christ) was labeled a „witch.‟ After the particular devil in her had been exorcised, she was repossessed by a „divine spirit‟, which made her do one miracle to the other. She was also known to have pronounced others as witches and wizards. According to the elder Lucien Anane, some of Helen Jesus Christ‟s prophecies came to pass, leading to some members of the church believing in her „powers.‟ This led to a rift between her and the leaders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church (Aflao) following which she broke off from the main church and set up the Adventist Pilgrim Camp in the same Aflao. From Aflao she and her flock moved to Bibiani in the Western Region, after a while there she finally settled at Mentukwa in the Ashanti Region. She surrounded herself with her disciples namely Pastor Paul Jesus Christ (JohnAgbo), John the Revelator Jesus Christ (Kabode Reynold), Abraham Jesus Christ (Alvins Bluvi), Aaron Christ (Sampson Toto).
Elder Lucien Anane of the [CE] of the Seventh Day Adventist Church that prophetess Ellen broke off from, tells the story to the New Crusading GUIDE [NCG.] NCG: SO tell me what‟s the name of the church, how did it all happen? CE: Okay, we are SDA [Seventh Day Adventist Church], in actual fact we believe that Jesus Christ would come. But for a specific date that Jesus is coming, the church is not in agreement with that. It happened that we were having a crusade at Abor, during the crusade the team had fasting and prayer before they go to the meeting. One time they were saying a prayer and all of a sudden, the spirit fell on the woman. She started chanting about Antoa Nyama deity being in her, saying a lot of things, all this while they were praying for her. After the prayer she claimed shehad been delivered and the spirit of God was in her. She started seeing visions and gathered people around her seeing visions for others. So we started doing corporate worship and she started pointing at people as witches and wizards in the church.
To us, that was not of the spirit of God, because we know even Jesus who knew every body‟s status in this life never pointed at anybody being a witch or wizard. One of the pioneers of our church is Ellen G. White. She also had this kind of prophecy and revelation, we studied and saw that in her as true but she never openly accused anybody openly. They were called and cautioned by the church leaders to stop. That kind of prophecy was seen as wrong as per SDA, so they were „disfellowshipped‟ – sacked from the church – and they packed their things out into the wilderness. This is how the broke off from the church. NCG: Do you hear what‟s happening in the church and how do you feel? CE: Yes, and we feel very bad. They were once brought and we thought that was the end of it but no … NCG: What is it about the church that makes you uncomfortable?
CE: Some of us in the church, the „visioneering‟ her claims that she has visions is something that we see as devilish. So we feel uncomfortable more so the way she kept mentioning people in the church brought a lot of confusion in the church. NCG: So elder when is Christ coming? CE: Christ didn‟t put a date or specific time but he asked us to repent especially when we see some signs. Even the angels do not know.
NCG: What do you think about what is happening there
CE: In fact it is truly a headache [the church] when they left us, it is our wish that they‟d all come back.
NCG: I thought you were also waiting for the coming of Christ?
CE: Yes we are but that is not how Christ asks that we expect him, he did not state any stipulated time for his coming.
THE YOUNG DISCIPLES OF MENTUKWA
There are a number of young people that we came across during our time in the camp. There are nine minors in the camp; four boys and three girls, who are all steeped in the belief that Jesus Christ is coming and their sure bet for salvation is to stay in the camp when the rapture comes. This belief is so much entrenched that, Noah Jesus Christ and his twin brother Job Jesus Christ, refused to follow their father back to Aflao some years back for fear that they would end up in hell when Jesus Christ came to earth for the second time and they were not living in the camp. For them salvation was the ultimate thing to seek, even if it meant being deprived of the love and care of a parent.
The minors in the camp were: Ruth Jesus Christ, 14 years; Priscilla Jesus Christ, 14 year; Racheal Christ, 1 year Emmanuel Jesus Christ, 1 and half years, Martha Jesus Christ, 11 years, Noah Jesus Christ, 17 years, Job Jesus Christ, 17 years, Alexander Jesus Christ, 9 years, Timothy Jesus Christ, 13 years. Three of them were enrolled into Mmofra Mentukwa DA Primary School as a result of Police caution.
However, the headmaster of the school Mr. Hubert Thomas Manu (Chief of Poku krom) says that the kids do not enjoy parental support and guidance towards their education. “I will be happy if these poor kids can be taken away from this bondage” he said. Noah Jesus Christ, Job Jesus Christ and John the Baptist Jesus Christ. have now expressed the desire to quit the camp that their parents had dumped them into far away from their homes, but they are not allowed to leave the camp as the elders consistently spied on them and their activities to ensure that they do not ran away. Another hurdle left to scale for them is how to secure salvation if they leave the camp before the rapture occurs. Also if they work for people in the community they are expected to bring their money back to the church They confided in us that they had to leave their education behind in Aflao and come to Mentukwato worship the Lord. They tell us that they are able to step out of the camp only when the leader and other members have left for the farm. That is the only time they are able to leave the camp and loiter in the Mentukwa „mainland,‟ here; as they watch kids in Mmofra Mentukwa DA Primary School, they cannot but help reminisce about their days in school
Below is one such interaction we had with them on why they did not attend school and how they were brought to Mentukwa:
NCG: But why are you not going to school here?
Noah: The elders said that, the Christ second coming has arrive so it is too late that we should go to school NCG: Is that true?
NCG: What about you, why are you not going to school? Ooh, feel free and talk to me eh Job: John, John
NCG: I‟m your brother why, eh feel free, I‟m your brother, or you don‟t see me as a brother, hm. why are you not going to school?
John: The coming of Christ has arrive that is why we‟re not going to school NCG: Now, who said the coming of Christ, if Christ comes and you‟re going to school, Christ won‟t stop you from going to school. You can help me, I want to understand
John: The one who said we should stay in the house and think about God and choose the good choice and, that‟s it!
NCG: But let me ask you, do you think it is good not to go to school? John: I think the idea is good, when we go to school in this time, we cannot take God, we will not think perfectly
NCG: Hmm, aaah, so if you go to school, the school will take too much of your time, you‟ll not be able to concentrate on God?
NCG: Hmmm, but what about if God doesn‟t come?
John: He promised, so he will come
NCG: But when he comes, you can be in school and he will come or when you‟re in school, he won‟t come to the school?
John: When we‟re in school, and we don‟t know the good choice, he‟ll leave us and go
NCG: What is the good choice? John: That is why they said that we should stay in the house and think about God
NCG: So the good choice is to be in the house?
John: No, to think about the lord Jesus Christ
NCG: Why don‟t you go to school?
Job: I have come to show you my brother and you‟re not talking meanwhile I speak with you very well. Are you feeling shy, Joe, are you feeling shy?
NCG: Joe, I said why is it that you don‟t go to school? Joe: The pastors said, if we go to school, they don‟t teach school now, can‟t hear, we should stay in the house and think about God. Can‟t hear
NCG: They‟re making a little noise so wait ok. Have you told them to minimize the noise?
NCG: Why are you not having a phone?
Job: They don‟t allow us to use phones.
NCG: Why are they not allowing you to use a phone?
Job: They say when we start using a phone, all our attention will be on the phone and we will forget God
NCG: is that so?
Job: Yes NCG: OkJob, you were talking, why are not attending school?
Job: My mum said the pastor told them that nowadays, they don‟t teach better things in school so we will stay in the house and study the word of God the way Christ came and died for us, then we will study good life in order to attain Heaven. That is why they don‟t allow us to go to school.
NCG: But have you told the pastor that you want to go to school?
Job: At first, we were at Aflao when our aunt brought us here. They told us we will go to school but when we came, they said we would not attend school anymore.
NCG: As you are not attending again, what do you do; what do you do there? Job: We only worship.
NCG: worship and what? Do you work?
Job: we do farming
NCG: whom do you farm for?
Job: for ourselves
NCG: do you always do? Is this Noah?
NCG: Noah, what do you always do?
Job: we don‟t do anything. We just go to our farms and come and worship.
NCG: so what does the pastor always tells you?
Job: He says Christ will come again. So we should lead a good life.
NCG: so you don‟t go to school because Christ is coming again?
NCG: will Christ not be happy when he comes and see you in school?
Job: They say when we go to school right now, our attention will be drawn away from the word of God and we will follow worldly things so it is when we stay in the house that we will get time for the word of God.
NCG: when you get the opportunity, will you go to school?
Job: please no.
NCG: you won‟t go school? Why?
Job: we have agreed on what they have told us.
NCG: what of you, when you get the opportunity, will you go to school?
Job: I have to think about it.
NCG: You have to think about? What of Job?Job?
NCG: Will you go to school when you get the opportunity?
Job: Everyone has said his, you too say yours. He says will you go to school when given the opportunity?
Noah: Yes I will go.
ABUSE IN THE NAME OF YAWEH: HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES
Physical abuse is the order of the day, and but for the prophetess and prophet, all members of the church are potential victims of this abuse. It usually takes the form of lashes using whips and has more often than not left scars on the disciples. Even the financier of the church, Mary Jesus Christ; Aflao based business woman is not spared one such session when she dared to tell prophetess Hellen Jesus Christ that she could not fulfill one of her prophecies to bring money immediately, “I didn‟t have any money on me so I could not fulfill that prophecy and for not giving the church the money i was whipped”.
Mary Jesus Christ‟s 13 year – old daughter [name withheld] in the wake of her refusal to consent to an arranged marriage inspired by the „Holy Spirit‟ had her fair share of the beating and an elder (Michael Jesus Christ) as well. The young disciples are victims who on one occasion showed us the scars that they sustained in the process. The kids are denied education or any kind of training. And are given reasons that they are better off concentrating on the Lord Jesus Christ‟s second coming and that education and other worldly interactions would disrupt their march towards salvation. The judgment they say would come like a thief and he who is not prepared for it would suffer the wrath of God.
“It is not as if all children in Mentukwa, Ghana and even the whole of Africa are in school, the problem is when the stumbling block to academic pursuit is as a result of a doctrine. And a doctrine steeply ingrained that these children remain in a trance,” Stella Appiah, a retired educationist told the New Crusading GUIDE. At Aflao, when we met the now 15-year- old girl forced into marrying a 19 – year – old two years ago, she had refused to send her daughter to the hospital for an ailment for the reason that the doctrinal position of the church was against orthodox medication. Auntie Mary Jesus Christ [AM] in an interview with the the New Crusading GUIDE [NCG] narrates to some of the human rights abuses in the church.
NCG What are some of the things you can recall in the church that you do not like?
AM: If you do little mistake, they‟ll beat you. Whether you are small or big, they insult you. Because whatever you read is from the bible what you do, the least mistake they‟ll insult you, they‟ll slap you.
NCG: Who beats you?
NCG: How do they beat you?
AM: first they used cane, later they use hand on you. And they started pointing at everybody as witch, wizard. Now it‟s left with one Prophet, initially they were five. But two of them dropped; it remained three, they said we all were witches and wizards, only one remained who the woman said was not a witch, so … first it was not like that.
NCG: Have they beaten you before?
AM: Yes, they beat me.
NCG: What did they use to beat you?
AM: Cane, and other things I don‟t remember but they beat me.
NCG: So what about the children?
AM: Ah! They beat everybody, they beat everybody only the pastor. Michael Jesus Christ – father of four boys within the camp, tells us that there were times he had to receive canes from the church leaders, “it was not a nice experience receiving canes for an offence that i had not committed but who was i to challenge the prophetess,” he said in an interview. On one occasion, he was forced to roll on the ground whiles being beaten for a sin that they had not committed: „at times they‟ll ask you to roll on the floor. They plant yam, they asked that we uproot it after some time, then they asked that everybody boils it so that we eat. We finished eating by 10 am and had to wake up at 4, then they said the Lord rather asked that they plant the yam but did not add that the planted yam should be uprooted and eaten.
THE PROPHETESS, WITCH CRAFT AND ATONEMENT OF SINS
Like most prophetic church leaders, prophetess Hellen is undoubtedly a very influential person, whose words are seen as gospel commandments; adherents have to go all lengths to obey her dictates even if it encourages persons to go as far as end their lives. Adherents are virtually psychologically enslaved to her. Prophetess Ellen is a leader whose words could not under any circumstance be challenged. Every action of the group is based first and foremost on her ideals and thoughts. So what are her ideals? She strongly believes and has indoctrinated same into all members of the group that they are in their last days on earth and the most important thing is to attain salvation which effectively means to cut oneself off from the worldly possessions. The first accusation that is usually leveled against any member whose actions go against the dictates of the camp, is that he or she has been possessed by „evil spirits.‟ This accusation paves the way for deliverance from the hands of the evil forces. Her influence is so entrenched that when members for whatever reason are unable to fulfill some religious obligations, they risk being whipped after they are accused of being witches or wizards. Another thing that we observed whiles in the camp was the mode of atonement of sins. Individuals are whipped for over stepping boundaries be it in the scripture or as per strict camp rules.
However, when the leader commits an unbiblical offence also, the punishment for his sin is shared amongst the members especially the leaders of the church. When a leader also commits a crime, the church may decide to choose a member to be whipped to cleanse him of that offence. Auntie Mary narrated to us the mode of atonement for sins commited by the leaders. The members and elders are made to take the beatings when the prophetess goes wrong, so that it serves as a warning to the prophetess not to sin again; “even the pastor, when it happens that he should be beaten, they beat the elders in place of the pastor.”
Auntie Mary [AM], confirms the beatings in her own story: „we went to the farm and my load was too heavy so I asked one of them to help me, when we returned they said I should carry my own cross and that no one would carry it or me. Why should I let somebody help me?”
NCG: What did they use to beat you?
AM: Cane, I don‟t remember but they beat me.
NCG: So what about the children?
AM: Ah! They beat everybody, they beat everybody only the pastor. Even the pastor, when it happens that he should be beaten, they beat the elders in place of the pastor.‟ Prophetess Helen Jesus Christ‟s powers according to Job Jesus Christ, Noah Jesus Christ and John Jesus Christ
Job: As for being a pastor, when God calls you, you cannot.
NCG: ask him whether God has spoken to him before?
Job: When the Holy Spirit descends unto his servant and he speaks.
NCG: Why, are you also not a servant of God?
NCG: So who always talks to you through God?
Job: She is there NCG: he is there, doesn‟t she has a name?
Job: She is called Ellen.
NCG: Ellen. Joe, my brother asked you of a school, what are you doing, will you go? No, let him talk about Ellen, He say someone is…. Ellen, Ellen, who is Ellen? Is she a lady?
NCG: Did she come to work yesterday?
NCG: Because I don‟t even know her. So what some of things God reveals to Ellen that she always tells you?
Job: She tells us that heaven is sweet so we should fight for it and stop all the worldly things that are sins and follow Christ so that on His second coming, he will take all of us away.
THE TOWN MENTUWA & ADVENTIST PILGRIMS‟ CULTURE
Mentukwa, is a small village far removed from the capital of the Ashanti region, right in the middle of Pokukrom and Bechem on the Kumasi – Sunyani road. Like many other such areas in the country, it has a very serene atmosphere on any day. The typical farming society is with only a few brick buildings, most structures are made of mud and thatch. Rural electrification has yet to reach Mentukwa even though Pokukrom, the closest town is with electricity.
A typical day in the village is of people waking up to cock crows shortly after which people set out to go to their farms that are in some cases miles into the thick bush that lies beyond Mentukwa „mainland.‟ One would see a few old folks seated in open compounds with the few kids who are not yet enrolled in schools loitering at home, whiles long distance travelers are seen waiting or arrive just in time to catch the very dusty and rugged commercial vehicles that ply the very bumpy, untarred and rough Mentukwa road.
In the Adventist Pilgrims Prayer Camp; they live a life seclusion, with little or no interaction with the Mentukwa people. Prayer is a big deal as adherents have to pray several times each day with a duration pegged at not less than 5 minutes each session. The point of reference is a tree, which is personalized for each person to pray on.
General worship sessions can take very long and each member is supposed to actively participate every time. At the center of the message of each sermon; the imminent Armageddon and that the best place when that time comes is in the camp, the salvation center. Every day except Sunday is a day to worship twice, mornings, evening and several other times in-between; the main worship day is on Saturdays 7: 00 am – 10 am and 5 pm to 6: 00 pm for first and second service respectively. They wear footwear made of wood with leather made flap. They do not take meat and pepper; members are always dressed shabbily and are disheveled for most of the time. Their belief is that all other people are sinners, it is wrong to leave the camp because salvation would elude all who do so.
A striking feature about them is that that every member is given a new name with the surname; Jesus Christ. Their belief is that, surely on the day of the rapture, a high calling would bear their name hence the change of name closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples.
THE GOOD SIDES OF THE MENTUKWA MISSION
Our undercover reporter (Joseph Jesus Christ) says that the people are generally nice and calm always preaching the word of God and they share with everybody whatever they have. Again, Auntie Mary Jesus Christ is generous enough to tell us some good sides despite the harsh ordeal that she and her family had gone through in the Adventist Pilgrims Prayer Camp. She enumerates amongst others how prayer was very important within the camp.
The fact that they went to preach the word of God, they read and learnt the bible a lot amongst others: “we pray a lot, you can pray more than 15 – 20 times a day, you study the bible, morning, afternoon, evening; you do worship morning , evening, you have your own time to pray, if they clap, you go to your tree and pray. And whatever you read in the bible, that‟s what they expect you to do, if you do otherwise, the beating would come. That‟s what I like about the church.”
“They make it a point to teach the children to read the bible, so once a while they teach them, they say you should speak our local language and we should learn the twi. So when we are going, we can effectively preach to the people,” she added.
THE MENTUKWA MISSION: LESSONS FROM THE WORLD
The most famous religious sect that went bad „Jonestown‟ Massacre of November 1978, when as many as 918 members of the People‟s Temple in Guyana were killed after drinking cyanide laced „kool aid‟ on the instructions of leader of the temple Jim Jones. Experts have posited amongst others that adherents of certain cult churches are coerced into obeisance by psychological trickery and such people become alienated from their family and circle of friends. In the case of Africa, the Ugandan story of how 500 followers of one Joseph Kibwetere under the group African Movement for the Restoration of the 10 commandments committed mass suicide, when they set their small church ablaze from within. Once a staunch roman catholic, Kibwetere anointed himself a „bishop‟ claiming to be privy to correspondence between Jesus and the Virgin Mary and that he had been commanded to announce the coming apocalypse of 2000. All leaders that came to join him began to exploit the followers by fleecing well to do members, Kibwetere in his last days sent a letter to the Ugandan government about the imminent end of the world after which the sad act of burning himself and his followers followed.
The paper promises to tell the full story from Aflao of how Auntie Mary Jesus Christ‟s 13 – year – old daughter was forcibly married to one of the church members. She narrates how she resisted sexual advances and how she was eventually overpowered as she holds her one year old baby who was made as a result of the prophecy in its next edition.
Mentukwa: 13-Year-Old Forced Into Marriage Through Prophecy
Visibly shy and sad faced Ajovi [not her real name] is seated in a couch in her mother‟s sitting room. She remains tensed up even though we have told her to keep calm and trust us. We had to reassure her throughout the interview that we meant no harm. Two years ago, she was forced to leave her home in Aflao for the camp at Mentukwa near Pokukrom, Kumasi, a place that was far away from everything and everyone she knew. As if this was not enough, she was forced, at a young age 13-years, into marrying a 19 year old „partner‟ in the camp: the reason being that Prophetess Helen Jesus Christ had seen their union in one of her several ‘divine’ prophecies.
Though she has been out of the camp for sometime after her mother took her away, the memories of her life there are still fresh. She would not only have to live with them for the rest of her life, she would have to see it every day – in the eyes of her daughter. Sitting next to her on the same couch is her mother, the former financier of the church, Auntie Mary Jesus Christ. She is holding and cuddling the product of that moment of madness in Mentukwa when Adjovi‟s ‘husband’ forced himself on her. Her barely one year old daughter (name withheld), did not want to be left out of this interview, so she announced her presence after sometime with a shrill cry. Adjovi in a shaky voice told us she would rather not talk about that episode of her life. But after reassuring her several times, she drew a trajectory of events leading to the forced marriage. It started when she was called by elders of the church to ask whether she would ever want to marry. Her answer was a simple, straightforward and bold NO!. “They called me and asked if I would marry, I said no; so they asked my mother and another elder to convince me but I refused till my mother brought the bride price and they said that day I was going to get married,” she recalls. Adjovi was however quick to add “but I was not happy.”
Although Auntie Mary Jesus Christ confirms her presence at the ceremony, she puts her acquiescence down to the insults and accusations that were going to be hurled at her. “I was in a tight corner at the time, if I stood behind my daughter, they would say I am filthy, they would insult and say very bad things about me. They always said that a lot of times, telling us that is what the Lord said.”
The Mentukwa type of marriage starts as a pairing process, where male and female disciples are paired as a couple irrespective of their ages. The young girls especially are told that they would marry so – and – so person in future, all from the prophetic grace revealed to Prophetess Helen Jesus Christ.
Auntie Mary Jesus Christ throws more light on the concept:
T: So can the prophetess arrange a marriage?
AM: That‟s what they do over there, all the children; they are attached to the boys.
T: Can you please explain this marriage thing?
AM: They say now that we are expecting the coming of Christ, even though the bible doesn‟t say when Christ is coming you should marry, they pair each boy and girl. So the two of you will be praying, everybody has their place of prayer [i.e. the tree] so if you are single, you go with your partner to go and pray that‟s what they do, even with the children that‟s what they do.
T: So what of those of you who have husbands?
AM: If you have a husband, they won‟t attach you.
T: So what about the kids?
AM: Even my children, the small one was 7 – 8 years, they attached the man to her and the other one, they married another one with her.
T: So it‟s just like an attachment, they‟d be married in future?
AM: Yes, when they grow up, they asked me to buy cloth for them so that they prepare the marriage rites.
T: In the church?
AM: They go to their parents and do it there, if the parents are not there the church does it for them, they return and the church blesses them.
T: So when that happens, they live apart from each other?
AM: No, it means now they are married so they live in one room. After the marriage ceremony between Adjovi and the 19 year old young man, Auntie Mary Jesus Christ was still being accused by the church members because her daughter would not give in to sexual advances by her husband. The young girl would also become the target of insults and abuse by Prophetess Helen and other leaders whenever the „husband‟ reported her refusal for intimacy. To them, she was wrong to deny her husband sex. Her punishment went as far as ostracism; she was asked not to join the church service. Auntie Mary Jesus Christ and her daughter, Adjovi however give separate accounts of what transpired in the prayer camp when it came to sex after marriage.
T: How old was your daughter?
AM: That time she was 13, when I protested they insulted me, they said I was filthy, I have forgotten the boy‟s age but he is still there. They forced her to marry him. When she got pregnant, I decided that she should stay at the camp till she gave birth. So as I was saying, I did not want to bring her, so I was waiting for her to deliver then bring her back, so after a week or two, when she delivered I used to go to them, waited for them at the gate and gave them what I had for them.
T: Did other children get pregnant in the church?
AM: There is a woman whose daughter was married to a boy and they have two children now – one when I was there and the other in my absence.
T: How do you feel about your 13 year old daughters‟ marriage?
AM: I feel bad, but when you protest, they‟d insult you. There‟s no understanding in what they are doing.
T: So was your daughter happy about the marriage?
AM: No, she was also not happy at all. For her part, Adjovi reveals how confused she was at the time because her mother was not in the camp when she was being forced to marry. She says she resisted at some point, but not for too long.
T: So what happened when the person married you?
S: I was not happy, so every night I fight with him, my mother had come here (meaning her mother had left the camp for Aflao), so during daybreak he reported me to the prophetess who heaped insults on me.
T: So in the evenings, what happens between the two of you?
S: Sometimes we fight or quarrel.
T: So what happens if he wants to sleep with you?
S: Sometimes I don‟t agree and sometimes he forces me. So if the prophetess insults me and my mother encourages me, I feel that it‟s God‟s will so I leave it like that.
T: You love the guy, right?
T: Would you want to go back to the church?
T: What is your husband‟s age?
S: I don‟t know his age
T: So is it your mother who asked you to marry him?
S: No, it was the prophetess
T: What is the prophet‟s name?
S: Her real name is sister Vero; in the church they call her Helen (Jesus Christ).
T: Did she get a prophecy or she just said you should marry?
S: She got a prophecy
T: Can you recall what happened?
S: The elders went to a meeting and they called me and told me
T: That what?
S: That the Lord says that now I should get married.
T: Did the Lord add who you should marry?
S: Yes Auntie Mary is ever ready to send her daughter back to school. Adjovi is also willing to start from the scratch at school in spite of the fact that her peers are currently in Senior High School. Whenever „school‟ is mentioned, she sits up and beams with smiles.
The father of her baby girl, according to Auntie Mary, calls her sometimes to ask about how his little girl is faring.
Mentukwa Closed Down! …
Amidst Tears From Some Disciples It was a Saturday morning with nothing unusual about it. Just another weekend for the indigenes of Mentukwa who were going about their normal duties. The force, having been drawn from the Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service led by Superintendent of Police, Patience Quaye and officers from the Ashanti Regional Command were on their way, lead investigator Anas Aremeyaw Anas (the newly discipled Joseph Jesus Christ) was in the camp giving directions and edicts to the force; Mentukwa was taking its last breath.
When the Police team numbering about 30, both plain clothed and uniformed men and women reached Mentukwa, people in the town were visibly wondering at what could be the reason for that unusual occurrence in their village. It did not take long for them to find out, that team tiger, led by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and the Ghana Police service, were there to close down the Adventist Pilgrims Prayer Camp. A majority of them expressed their joy at the idea, stating that the secrecy of the group was fishy and their beliefs were also weird.
The police team arrived at „mainland‟ Mentukwa in the forenoon but were awaiting a signal to cordon off the camp and then proceed with the raid. Within the camp it was a day of worship [the Holy Sabbath] and disciples were all in church. The church service begun as early as 7 am, the service had begun and as is normal with the church, we all had to be seated on pews and wait for the church leaders who were going to deliver the main sermon.
After a while, Prophetess Helen Jesus Christ, Pastor Paul Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene Jesus Christ walked in and took their places in front of the congregation. The service began with singing of praises, tones kept at a very low tempo. At any given point, we had to kneel, bow, prostrate or respond to chants of „Maranatha,‟ whenever a leader required us to.
The sermon for the day was being delivered by prophetess Helen Jesus Christ when the police team were signalled to come in. The congregation remained seated in a nonchalant manner upon sighting the police. One could not tell whether they were surprised or confused. Their calmness in the face of policemen holding guns was both gripping and bizarre. To them, the presence of the police was a „rude‟ interruption of their church service. The only people who looked disturbed were the two blind members who wanted to know what was going on as interaction between some officers and the church members went on.
Acting as a spokesperson for the group, prophetess Helen Jesus Christ defended their actions as being of God and that they had done nothing against the law – not even when they were denying children education, beating members or forcibly marrying off a 13 year old girl. Asked whether they were waiting for the Lord, she answered in the affirmative and added that their seclusion was based on their resolve to better worship God and to await the coming of the savior- Jesus Christ. After initial exchanges, the police informed prophetess Helen and her disciples that they were going to be sent to the police station for further questioning, a position that they obliged to. They would however request that they are allowed to pack a few belongings to go with. Each person wrapped a few personal belongings in a cloth and headed for the exit of the camp amidst singing of church songs.
DESCRIPTION OF THE CAMP
The whole camp was built with mud with the roofing made of thatch. The doors were made of mat except for one room that had a wooden door.
A typical room had a mat and a basket that contained belongings of the inhabitants of the room, earthenware pots or plates, gourds and calabashes most of which were broken. In some rooms, you could see school uniforms and shoes littered all over. An inescapable sight in the room of the young disciples, Job Jesus Christ, Noah Jesus Christ and John Jesus Christ was giant wall posters of Jesus Christ.
The camp had a wooden door with thick foliage and green lush herbage serving as the demarcation. Beyond the demarcated area were their farms, from where everything they ate was harvested. Planted on a large scale were some leaves which according to prophetess Helen Jesus Christ were used normally to treat any ailment that members had. This accounted for the reason why they did not patronize orthodox medication.
LEAVING THE CAMP BEHIND
As the police team led them out of the camp into the waiting bus, people in Mentukwa gathered to watch members of the camp. Many expressing sentiments that; “Mentukwa is better off without strange people like this.”
Reality seemed to dawn on a number of the disciples as they got on board the waiting police bus, yet prophetess Helen Jesus Christ remained bullish and continued to raise the morale of the members by telling them intermittently not to worry. They started singing and continued it on their way to Kumasi and subsequently to Accra.
Occasionally, a member walked to the back of the bus, looked at the police convoy in which they were being led and returned to tell the others about how long the convoy was. At Kumasi, the regional commander, ACP Augustine Gyening and his team were present to ask a few questions of the group and throughout the questioning, the leadership of the camp maintained that they were only living the ideal life in waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in Kumasi that police took statements of the leaders of the church. Most male members wrote down their statements themselves.
REFUSAL TO EAT
The team arrived at the Police Headquarters in Accra at sunset. They were met on arrival by the Minister for Gender and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, who had received information on the issue. She was at the Police Headquarters with a team to get first hand information on the activities of the group and to also ensure that issues relative to their shelter were taken care of. But before that, the minister and the police team had the task of convincing members to eat.
With a background that they were vegetarians, food prepared for them was without pepper and meat, yet they refused to eat. According to the leaders „maggi cubes‟ that were used in the preparation of such foods were not good for their health, and no amount of coaxing could persuade either children or adults to back down on the refusal to eat. Eventually, the kids were separated from their parents. Away from the eyes of their parents, seven children ate 25 packs of rice and vegetables that had been prepared for the entire membership of the church. Meanwhile, their parents were still adamant about food.
They later relaxed their stand and asked for wheat bread which could not be provided due to the fact that it was quite late and most shops were closed. They were offered kenkey instead and they accepted to eat on condition that they wanted all ingredients to be brought for them to prepare the pepper themselves. The Minister subsequently arranged for separate shelters for the kids and adults.