Anel got in contact with us after the building collapse to tell her experience of visiting SCOAN 10 years ago. Her story is not a particularly dramatic one, but it mirrors the experience most people have when first exposed to SCOAN. People are intrigued, impressed (at certain things), but also deeply troubled about other things. We want to encourage people to follow those concerns, if something doesn’t sit right with you, that could be God’s spirit prompting you to stay away. Don’t listen to SCOAN telling you to “doubt your doubt” or calling their critics “blasphemers”, these are all tactics to prevent you from properly discerning what you have seen. Over to Anel.
I want to categorically state that this is my account of my own experience and impressions. I was there only once, for about an hour, and it was was from curiosity. However brief my visit was, I found great comfort in the testimonies – now I finally can define my experience in exact words, namely: I once observed distressingly cult-like behaviour.
The various posts and testimonies on your site answered many questions that I’ve subconsciously carried for 10 years after witnessing one of TB Joshua’s ‘healing’ services. For so long I had a deep sense of unrest and vague apprehension whenever someone mentioned TBJ, but could not state why. Thank you for taking the time to set out and make public this information. I now have peace that my impression to stay away was not wrong, and I am deeply grateful to the Lord for keeping me from any involvement with SCOAN.
I am fortunate not to have friends or relatives caught in SCOAN but it is a blessing to have this well thought through resource available. My impressions of a man making the Gospel about himself are confirmed and settled now – THANK you! May Jesus draw all hearts and minds to Himself: He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. John 14:6.
I am an Afrikaans-speaking 34-year-old South African woman who worked in Lagos for a total of about 7 months (3 separate stints) in 2004/2005. I was 24/25 at the time, and it was an office job on behalf of the company’s Cape Town head office.
As TB Joshua is a well known name in South Africa I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. So one Sunday towards the end of 2004 I went to visit SCOAN, accompanied by my company’s Nigerian driver and an SA acquaintance also living in Lagos. We got a bit lost on the way, so were rather late for the service. Being ignorant about any SCOAN rules or practices, we just pitched up like one would for any church service. I choose to see the Lord’s hand of protection here by not letting me see the service from the start. I cannot speak for the other two who went with me.
[Sidebar: I should add that this was not my first or only visit to a local church; I had previously gone with two lady colleagues to their respective Lagos churches and each time I was genuinely welcomed and warmly embraced.]
I don’t recall any security guards or gates at SCOAN; we just parked and walked into the building without attracting attention. (There did seem to be some construction on the property, so I could simply have missed or forgotten the gates.) As we were late we thought we could slip into a quieter side wing and watch the service on one of the screens. But the wing turned out to be the area where the healings and deliverances were to be filmed… So much for staying out of sight 🙂
We did not experience much of a service, as soon after we got there a camera crew arrived in the wing. There were maybe 40 people with paper signs like the ones in TBJ’s videos. Sometimes the afflicted person held his/her own sign, sometimes a helper stood behind the person and held the sign. I clearly remember being concerned with the nature of the ‘ailments’ – quite a few had ‘moving object’ written on their signs. Also, there seemed to be a lot of helpers, perhaps 25, but no-one engaged us or tried to explain the procedures. It felt like everyone except us got the script to the procedings. I eventually asked a European helper about the moving objects, and she said these are common – the afflicted person had a mysterious pain that appeared at intervals in different limbs or body parts. Many other ‘ailments’ left the impression that the people didn’t care about Jesus or a personal relationship with the Lord… they just wanted an inconvenience removed so they could go back to living for themselves – or why would a man ask for a larger member? Matt. 3:8. (I strongly stress that this was my impression, as I did not speak to any of the afflicted.) Many of the ailments related to sexual problems, fertility, or HIV. This seemed to me like private and potentially humiliating matters being paraded for the sake of a show.
(Not that sins should be covered of course. But what struck me was the lack of compassion or dignity.)
At no time was there any repentance or even acknowledgement of individual sinfulness, e.g. of any possible immorality that lead to a positive HIV status. Of course the repentance could have happened before the prayer in private, but why have private repentance and then public ‘curing’?
The onlookers (not sure if volunteers or staff) seemed to be expecting or even encouraging (touching them or approaching with sand buckets) those prayed for to have a physical reaction to the prayer. It was noisy and confusing, so my impression of encouraging retching could very well be wrong. Vomiting or spitting seemed to be widely accepted ‘proof’ of a demon leaving a person. But I saw no personal, individual attention or follow-up from Joshua (from the little I know about spiritual warfare, Matt. 12:43-45 is important). Appearing not to care about the deliveree, just concerned to get to the next one as quickly as possible. After the ‘healing’ people were sometimes whisked away by helpers. But not every time. At times there were loud shouts from the onlookers, not sure if these were confirmations of the prayer or praises to God for the healing, or random outbursts as the ‘prophet’ might have expected some feedback. I saw no loving support by fellow Christians after a person had been ‘healed’. I put healed in brackets as I remain unconvinced that true healing took place that day.
There were also a few helpers with sand buckets to cover the spit/vomit, and others right behind them with hand brushes and dust pans to sweep up the soiled sand. The ease with which they did this, and the many stains on the floor, made me think this is quite common in TB Joshua’s healing prayers.
Falling down was apparently another popular expectation after a prayer. One African lady was standing while Joshua prayed for her deliverance (I cannot remember of what), with Joshua’s hand resting on her head. Lightly at first, but then I clearly saw him push down hard on her head, and she dropped onto her knees. From her posture and face she seemed conflicted – eyes open, still kneeling but looking around as if unsure what to do next. She did not seem to be convinced of her healing at all.
We left the church after about an hour, without ever entering the main church hall. No-one knew who we were, we were not with any group, and no-one stopped us when we left.
I was emotionally and spiritually unsettled and confused, and had no idea what to make of what I had witnessed. What I knew for sure was that I had no peace about that experience, and I wanted no further contact with TB Joshua’s ministry.
One word to sum up my experience? Show. From his body’s positioning and direction, Joshua looked like he constantly performed for the camera. He always seemed to be very aware of where the camera was. He would at times look up exactly into the lens, or turn around if his back was to the camera. Mind you, the camera man seemed to be wonderfully well trained and in tune with Joshua. He looked about 20, with almost acrobatic skills in following Joshua around while jumping over or sidestepping cables and people.
I am not saying TB Joshua does not have an anointing, gift, or calling. However from what I’ve seen with my own eyes the blessing has apparently turned into a huge and well orchestrated media/publicity stunt that’s all about the ‘prophet’.