Gender Gender

Beware of wolves in sheep skin

Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
THAT we have a lot of wolves in sheep skin, masquerading as pastors, is not a matter of debate anymore.
When the going gets tough, some people will do anything to earn a living, even if it means using the sacred pastoral office to swindle people out of their hard-earned money.
Some clerics, calling themselves prophets or papas, are using pastoral offices to solicit gifts from easy-to-fool church members, who have no sense of questioning ungodly demands by spiritual leaders.
For goodness’ sake, how could a person with normal functioning mental faculties surrender an ATM card to their ‘spiritual father’, and only to cry foul when the papa loots the bank account?
Other gullible or easy-to-fool church-goers would surrender their terminal benefits or lump sum payment from a good deal to the Papa to bless it.
What surprises me is that women are the most gullible church members who are often swindled out of their money, and sometimes sexually harassed by their ‘spiritual fathers’.
So many stories have been told of how people fall into the trap of dishonest pastors, and it’s unbelievable to hear narratives of some of the tricks people fall prey to.
For example, last week, John Simfukwe, a pastor of Interdenominational Jesus Ministries in Lusaka’s Chipata township, was jailed for five years for swindling a widow out of K260,000.
The story is that Mildred Chikato, a widow, trusted Pastor Simfukwe with K260,000 from her late husband’s benefits to help her buy a house.
According to evidence adduced before a Lusaka Magistrate’s Court, on August 16, 2016, the widow surrendered K170,000 to her pastor to buy a house on her behalf and K90,000 to help her start a business.
However, three years down the line, the pastor has only paid K65,000 against K170,000, for the house he found for the poor widow.
This compelled the widow to sue Pastor Simfukwe for theft by agent and the court ruled in her favour, throwing the shrewd pastor in jail.
I would like to believe that the pastor in question solicited for the money from the poor widow, but what beats me is how she fell for his lies.
And suppose he did not solicit, why should a woman entrust her pastor with the responsibility of buying her a house and helping her start a business?
From what I know, a pastor’s job ends at preaching the word of God and he or she should have no business with the congregants’ personal errands such as buying property or keeping money on their behalf.
It seems some church members make themselves vulnerable for abuse because they can’t stick to their lane.
Congregants should set boundaries in their relationship with pastors, especially if such a relationship involves people of the opposite sex.
What shocks me is that while stories of church members being exploited in all sorts of ways abound, more people still fall into the trap of dishonest pastors.
A story is told of a man who entrusted his pastor with his retirement package.
This man had been waiting for his retirement package for quite sometime, during which time his pastor had been praying and believing with him for a breakthrough.
When the money was finally paid to the retiree, the pastor demanded that the retirement pension needed to be taken to his house for an overnight blessing session.
The man bought into the pastor’s ploy and surrendered his entire retirement package to him, apparently desperate to have his money blessed so that he could succeed in his future endeavours.
In a sad turn of events, the pastor, of foreign descent, bolted with the man’s retirement package, leaving no trace of his whereabouts.
The following morning, the man went back to the pastor’s house, only to be told by neighbours that the man and his family had vacated the house in the night.
In a similar tale, a Lusaka widow was swindled out of thousands of Kwacha after she gave her pastor and his wife access to her bank account.
The woman was somehow convinced to give the couple access to her bank account after receiving payment for a family property she was selling.
Didn’t they sweep the account clean? The woman only discovered this when she wanted to draw some money from her account.
It seems in most of the cases I heard of, the victims find themselves dangling money to the crooked pastors who pose as financial advisors.
Perhaps, the victims are vulnerable people who genuinely need the services of a financial advisor when they come across large sums of money they have never handled before.
Sadly, some of the clerics take advantage of the gullibility of such people to milk them.
Apparently, it’s very rare that male church members would fall prey to the schemes of crooked pastors.
Talk of sexual harassment of church members and commodified church miracles, the victims are often female.
A man told me that it is hard for a fake prophet to swindle a fellow man because men normally take ‘pastoral orders’ with a pinch of salt. No man/woman’s wish is their command, even if one is a pastor.
He observed that women find it very easy to trust anyone who comes in the name of God, and I somewhat concur.
From my observation, women are more likely than men to idolise their pastors to a point where they don’t measure their conduct against the word of God.
As Christians, the Bible must be our model for any church activity and any Christian should read it to make it their daily guide.
Many are being cheated because they are mere church-goers who don’t read their Bibles.
Hosea 4:6 says that: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
For example, some people will pay money to see a pastor, or rather some pastors are charging church members for an appointment or any pastoral service such as counselling and prayer.
Strangely, some people oblige to such demands, which have no biblical backing.
Sometimes people are so desperate for miracles that they cease to reason. For instance, why should a pastor take a woman to a secluded place for prayer?
And some women would accept to have sex with ‘prophets’ in the name of ‘spiritual healing’ for barrenness, while other women would allow the ‘papa’ to touch them inappropriately in the pretext of exorcising demons.
My piece of advice is, no one should be so desperate for a miracle that one allows oneself to be abused by the wolves in sheep skin.
Remember, fake prophets often prey on people’s ignorance and desperation.
And lastly, any church activity should be measured against the word of God. To do so, congregants need to have intimate knowledge of the Bible.
Email: Phone: 0211- 221364/227793.

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