We Treat, He Heals

Photo by Sergey Orlov

A Kenyan Ministry Experience

In the 1920s, a woman named Martiat Kebebe in the Kenyan village of Bukuga became so ill that those around her expected her to die. When information reached missionary Emory Rees at the Vihiga Friends Mission around two miles away, he went to Kebebe’s home and prayed for her. After two days, she was back to life with a revelation song, which she sang repeatedly. Rees became so interested in the song’s lyrics that he included it in the Luhya-language hymnal Tsinyimbu Tsya Nyasaye. Titled “Yesu Mwami Wange” (Jesus My Lord), it is one of the very few hymns written from an African viewpoint.

I heard this story from pastor emeritus Joash Ambale of Chavakali Yearly Meeting. It is insightful testimony about healing and prayer.

While on mission work in Serengeti, Tanzania, in 2012, Daniel M’masi and I received inspiring testimony about healing ministry from Paul Mtatiro, the former presiding clerk of Tanzania Yearly Meeting. He testified that while on their visit to Mwanza, one lady came and begged them to visit her house and pray for her sick girl. The girl had been bedridden for three years. During this time, the family had spent a lot to make her well. The parents had taken the girl to many specialists, prominent servants of God in Tanzania, and even to magicians, but there was no positive response. When Mtatiro’s group visited the girl’s home, they found Pentecostal Christians who ridiculed them, saying that God would never listen to the prayers of quiet people like the Quakers. Mtatiro took hold of the girl’s hand, and they remained silent for a long while before concluding with prayer. They assured the family that the girl was going to be healed in Jesus’s name. Surprisingly the following day the girl was able to walk; glory and honor was directed to the Lord.

These two examples connect the underlying truth about experience of healing and prayer among the East African Friends. This gift of healing and prayer is not new to African Friends. Healing ministry has been with Friends since the time of George Fox, who is said to have performed many miracles to the glory of God. In 1964, Edmund Goerke, a Friend from New Jersey, wrote an essay about the miracles that Fox performed (it’s reprinted on Quakerinfo.com), excerpting passages from Fox’s writings. While visiting the Carolinas in 1672, Fox recounted:

And many people of the world did receive us gladly and they came to us at one Nathaniel Batts, formerly governor of Roanoke, who goeth by the name of Captain Batts; who hath been a rude desperate man. He came to us and said that a captain told him that in Cumberland, George Fox bid one of his friends to go to a woman that had been sick a long time, and all the physicians had left her, and could not heal her. And George Fox bid his friend to lay his hands upon her and pray for her, and that George Fox’s friend did go to the woman, and did as he bade him, and the woman was healed at that time. And thus Captain Batts told me, and spread it up and down the country among the people. And he asked of it, and I said many things had been done by the power of Christ.

Healing and prayer play a central role in establishing faith in Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ embraced healing as part of his ministry, and so did the apostles. Healing brought joy and hope to the believers. In the book of Matthew 4:23–25, as Jesus went about in Galilee preaching and teaching, he also healed all sorts of sickness. In Matthew 8:14–17, when Jesus entered the house of Peter, he found Peter’s mother-in-law lying down sick; he laid his hand on her and prayed, and she was healed immediately. In the book of Acts of Apostles 8:4–8, Philip preached in Samaria where unclean spirits were cast out from many, and the paralyzed and the lame were healed. There are so many incidents of healing that took place during the time of Jesus and the apostles. The blind were able to see; the lame were able to walk; the sick were healed of various ailments; and many more. In the same manner, God is using his servants to heal many who are in need. This is what is taking place among East African Friends.

Sabatia Eye Hospital in Vihiga County, Kenya, was founded in 1996 through the efforts of the local community, including the Friends Church. Photo by Samuel Tsimbwela.

Commercial Healing in Africa

In Kenya, many of the prosperity gospel ministers have made healing ministry the source of personal power, and commercialized it. People’s daily lives are full of accounts of the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, the mute speaking, and even the dead being risen back to life by bishops, apostles, or prophets. Many who are weak in the spirit seek those servants who make claims of healing. Many of those who claim to heal use it as a money-making business, requiring consultation fees for their services and payments for the miracles performed. This situation has led to the rise of many televangelists whose aim is to be rich at the expense of the weak in spirit.

The issue of magicians is a well-known phenomenon in Africa. Magicians are believed to give solutions to the immediate problems of humanity. Those who feel hopeless turn to the magicians for help, as do those so ill that doctors say they can no longer be helped by medical care. Getting magicians’ help is not that easy, as they demand a lot in return for healing; if their demands are not met, the healing process will not be completed. As you walk on the streets, you are greeted with placards written with mganga (“healer”) and a town name and phone contact. Many professing Christians turn to these magicians when they feel they are not receiving help from the religious and medical fields.

The Prayer Ministry of Kenyan Friends

The book of Acts of the Apostles 19:11–23 tells of God’s use of the apostle Paul to perform miracles so that the sick were healed, the evil spirits were cast out, and the magicians were able to surrender their lives to God.

Kenyan Quakers acknowledge the importance of healing and prayer ministry; it is a gift from God that needs to be used in accordance to the leading of the Spirit. The example of Emory Rees being used by God to heal Marita Kebebe is a manifestation of God’s presence to his people: God used His own way to bring hope to the hopeless. The fame and the spread of the Word was the result of Friends’ ability to perform miracles through God’s Spirit.

This phenomenon is still going on at present, although it seems to be not as active. Many Kenyan Friends don’t really anticipate the ministry of healing, and they don’t feel it is to the glory of God to parade a humanly manifested gift, as do the Pentecostals and those in charismatic movements.

When a Friend is sick, either at home or hospitalized, Quakers from the meeting visit their home, offering prayers and encouragement to the family. If one is hospitalized, others visit the hospital and pray with the sick person and offer encouragement and hope. The pastor and the clerk of the meeting are the first to visit and offer support to the sick and their family. Through such visits, many healings are witnessed.

During worship services on Sundays, there is a time for testimonies and prayer requests. Among Friends of Tanzania, the worship service includes a time for reporting on the whereabouts of Friends who are not attending the worship service. During this session, those Friends who have sick relatives at home or in hospitals let the church know. Prayers led by the pastor for the sick are given, and miraculously many are healed though they are away from the pulpit. One of the motivational writings at Friends Sabatia Eye Hospital in Vihiga County is this: “We treat; He heals.” This brief statement shows the medical caregivers trust in the Lord, that He is the healer, more than human professionalism. It is a connection to the Spirit and an acknowledgement of the miraculous workings of God. Many who read this statement as they enter the hospital come out of the hospital believing they have been healed by God’s glory.

I have been reflecting on how healing and prayer ministry is experienced among Quakers in East Africa. The Friends Church is not generally known for encompassing the charismatic healing gifts, yet the gift has been there and is here with us. Many are surprised to learn that George Fox performed miracles and healed many. Healing and prayer is directed by the Spirit and not by humans, as many professing Christians believe.

George Busolo Lukalo

George Busolo Lukalo is a pastor with Friends Church (Quakers) Nairobi Yearly Meeting, serving Friends Bura Mission in Tana River under Mombasa Meeting. He loves to research and mentor others about African Quakerism. He is also serving Christ as vice-chairperson of Bura Pastors Fellowship.

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