I recently called a plumber and asked him to come over the following day to fix a few things in my house.
He said he was not feeling well, but would come if his condition improved.
Happily surprised, I saw his faded black Japanese jalopy park outside on Tuesday just before noon.
He narrated that, for two days, he had been down with the mother of ailments, “fever”.
Was it malaria?
Well, most likely; but he had been to a clinic and got medication for both malaria and typhoid.
Yes; just in case!
So there was no blood test?
This morning, when his porter-cum-apprentice reported for work, the plumber’s wife told the apprentice that Sam was still too weak to get out of bed.
The apprentice suggested that they call Sam’s pastor for a special over-the-phone prayer.
Sam sat on his bed. The phone call went through and the request was granted.
The pastor instructed Sam to get up and place his hand over his chest, and the prayer went ahead; I suppose with the usual antics that pastors seem to give God an impression of total devotion.
Lo and behold! Sam felt much better. He washed, took a cup of porridge and drove with his assistant to my house.
Now, Sam believes that his pastor has special, divinely inspired diagnostic and healing power.
Why did he think so?
He said this was not the first experience. A few months back, the pastor had told Sam that there were people in his circle who were sending him demons to render him mentally disordered.
Yes; but the pastor had blocked those enemies or neutralised their effort.
Hm; why would these unnamed people want Sam to go mad?
It could be punishment for a disagreement he had had with his landlord. It could have been business rivals who wanted to disable him. Sam could only speculate about the culprits, but he believed the plot existed.
I asked Sam to look at other possibilities.
First, his treatment for malaria, typhoid or something else was entirely a hit-and-miss affair. The diagnosis was broad guesswork.
However, one (or some) of the drugs he received may have started working. But many people sometimes feel languid and not inclined to get up in the morning, even when they are not ill.
For Sam as a believer, the pastor was a figure of authority whose commands and assurances had effects a non-believer would probably not experience.
Getting on his feet and going through the exercise of his prayer was enough to reduce his morning languor. And his faith energised him for the next hour or so.
Indeed, his voice was thinning. The pastor’s effect was already wearing off. The power of whatever micro-organism was eating him was in ascendancy.
We mentioned the plumbing, but left the job for another day. It was his assistant who drove on their way back, possibly planning a visit to his pastor and anticipating another diagnosis of demons and witchcraft.
Sam’s story is typical. Before he relocated, someone had buried feathers and other paraphernalia outside his shop. It was the pastor who promptly identified the burial spot and later ceremonially burned the stuff.
Scared, Sam had in fact avoided running “mad” by shifting accommodation and his small-time hardware shop to another location. He had changed landlords and his immediate business rivals and thus removed the old friction, suspicion and fear.
Irresponsible health care practices
And now Sam’s “fever”; not properly clinically defined, it could drag on for a while; thanks to Uganda’s irresponsible healthcare practices.
Who stands to benefit most from Sam’s troubles?
Very probably, the pastor, who can exploit them to control Sam.
There are several stories of Pentecostal pastors and prophets locating and burning evil charms around the country. Listening to their radio broadcasts, there is hardly a Pentecostal sermon that does not drag in the occult; the forces of demons and witchdoctors in combat with Jesus’s counter-force. In this Christianised reinforcement of the pagan mindset, are some
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator firstname.lastname@example.org.