Giles, who was disciple of TB Joshua between 2005-2006, talks about why he finally left SCOAN and how he readjusted to ‘normal’ life. He also discusses the culture of secrecy that pervades SCOAN, and the mysterious deaths and suicide attempts that were ‘hushed up’ by the church. As usual, all opinions expressed are those of the author.
The second, and final time I left SCOAN was a year after the stupid ‘water bottle incident’ I wrote about earlier. After leaving, I spent a couple of months in the UK before asking to come back. I had mentioned before how disciples feel that SCOAN is the only place to get close to God, and more importantly, how it’s God’s will for you to be there if you’re a disciple. So it doesn’t take a theologian to conclude that I was outside of God’s will for my life. I had given it a while for the disciples to cool down over the last incident before asking TB Joshua if I could return as a disciple. He said yes, he would like that.
And so continued my Nigerian adventure. For the next 6 months, I changed game plan. I knew where I had gone wrong the first time, which had led to not getting work and being bored crazy all day. So this time I made it a point to throw around some quotable quotes, start talking TB Joshua messages, etc. It wasn’t long til I was involved in the youth and newcomers’ departments.
Later on that year, I asked if I could take a leave of absence for a couple of weeks to visit my family. My family are spread out across the world and it’s not often we’re in one place. TB Joshua said yes, no problem, and I left soon after. I had asked the disciples for a letter of invitation before I left, so I could show the Nigerian embassy, but they said no, we’ll email it to you. Maybe I was too trusting, cos it was the last time I ever heard from them. Two weeks later, I emailed saying I was ready to get back. No answer. I never would get a reply. Over the next few weeks, I had called, even the private numbers I knew, and emailed several times. After two months of waiting I finally gave up when I saw a certain disciple on Emmanuel TV back at the church. He had left Nigeria at the same time as me, yet he was back there and I was not.
Families are seen by disciples as a hindrance. When you go there as a disciple, you are strongly encouraged to cut all links with your family and friends. They will tell you that you are here in the first place shows that your family was unable to help you in what you are looking for, and that maintaining contact with family would only hinder you and make you lose your focus. I managed to get away with emailing about once a week or two, but alot of people – especially the female disciples – cut themselves off completely, only contacting or visiting their families on TB Joshua’s instructions. Some (again, females) had even forsaken their surnames and adopted the surname “Joshua”. I found that particularly disturbing, and usually got really angry when listening to how my family had failed me, how only TB Joshua could help, and how that was why I was there. So when I asked to go off to see my family on our reunion, it just showed to them how “unserious” I was.
In those few weeks afterwards, I was well and truly devastated. I quickly forgot about all my belongings I had left there. The rejection was a lot worse. Eventually I travelled back to the UK to try get my life on track, even though I had no idea what to do. When you go as a disciple, in a way you’re shooting yourself in the foot. You’ve left your job, your friends, and if you do things right, you have estranged yourself from your family. I had a year long gap in my work references, and no money of my own. I was living in the south of London in a flat share where everyone seemed to get drunk and high all the time, working in a minimal wage job. So, I ended up doing what most guys would have done if they didn’t know what to do with their lives. I joined the the Army.
At first, I had gone to the SCOAN UK branch for church. It seemed the best way to still get “the message”. I was still brainwashed in thinking that TB Joshua’s sermons were unique and no one else’s preaching would do. But Sundays just made me sad for the rest of the week, so I stopped and went to another one, where I got a bit of a pleasant surprise. The sermons weren’t all that bad; in fact, some of the messages taught the same things that TB Joshua’s messages did. It went a long way to show that TB Joshua wasn’t as unique as I had been taught. Disciples depend on TB Joshua’s message, and I’ve been told by a few that their personal fear in leaving was that they wouldn’t get such quality stuff anymore, that they’ll “shrivel up and die” spiritually. It’s just not true.
I have never, not once, heard anything positive about a single other ministry from disciples.
It wasn’t easy starting your life again, getting a bank account when you’re in your 20s and have no credit history for a year, or any references or even proof of what you were doing in West Africa. But it was definitely a good thing. Disciples live in a cut off social environment, where permission to do anything comes from just one person. To use the treadmill, I had to get written permission from TB Joshua. To call or email my family, permission. To get my hair cut, permission. Disciples are not allowed to read books written by anyone else like Joyce Meyers or Benny Hinn. They live in a Big Brother environment where they are encouraged to watch and report on each other to TB Joshua. The success stories like deliverances or miracles are shown again and again, but the untold stories of failures are hushed up. There are many secrets about SCOAN. For instance a pretty prominent disciple, a “junior prophet” died. That was hushed up. The Austrian branch got closed down, that too was kept from me when I asked how it was going. When I asked why a couple more junior prophets had left, I was told to just focus on why I was there. Another disciple tried to commit suicide by throwing himself off the roof, and that got hushed up real quick. There is so much secrecy about the place.