Prayers and patients

Clem Oluwole

The media space has been awash with the news of the firing and eventual deportation of a Nigerian nurse serving in a United Kingdom hospital. Her offence? She resorted to mixing (unsolicited) Christian science with medical science. Christian science refers to dispensing prayers to treat medical conditions of sick persons.

The Nigerian nurse under reference is one Rakel Morenike, who ‘japaed’ to the United Kingdom about a decade ago to practise her profession. A couple of days after she was assigned to an end-of-life ward in the hospital where she worked, a 95-year-old woman was put in her care. On that fateful day, she burst into the room of the nonagenarian and began to declare, probably in full-throated tongues, that she would not die and that the prognosis of the doctors would not come to pass. In the end, her name failed her.

By the way, Morenike, in Yoruba, means “I have found someone to care for”. She actually found someone to care for but in a way that does not conform to the laid down rules of the hospital.

The dying patient was said to have reported the encounter to her daughter who came over to the facility to speak with the Nigerian nurse’s supervisor. The frail-looking patient was asked to finger Morenike. She did, repeating what the caregiver did. The nurse turned one-woman prayer warrior was accused of lack of professionalism and was promptly sacked, to be followed by a compulsory ‘japada’. Here, ‘japada’ means someone who has returned from ‘japa’.

But Rakel Morenike is not the first to fall victim of mixing medical science with Christian science. In December 2016, another nurse named Sarah Kuteh (country not indicated) was given the boot for offering Christian support to the patients under her care at the Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent. Sarah was in the habit of praying for patients on their way to surgery, in the belief that it could be a distressing time for them. But some patients complained about her offers of supplications and she was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The Trust running the hospital had said: “We have a duty to our patients that when they are at their most vulnerable moments, they are not exposed to unsolicited beliefs and/or views, religious or otherwise.”

Opinions are divided among Nigerian netizens about the sack of Morenike. While some condemned the hospital authorities for her sack for offering prayers to her patient, others felt she ought not to have mixed religion with medical science as both are immiscible like oil and water in a medically advanced country like Britain. But Morenike was oblivious of that.

Back home in Nigeria, many people, especially Christians, believe or are made to believe in healing through prayers. The practice is also fueled by poverty and high costs of medicare even in public health facilities. Thousands of Nigerians pour into churches on daily basis or crusade grounds in search of cure or healing for the myriads of health conditions afflicting them. These range from common ailments like headache, toothache, cold, cough and catarrh to serious ones like stroke, cancer, diabetes and blindness… or such situations like barrenness, etc.

In this clime, we mix both the medical and Christian sciences together to the extent that some of our medics often declare that “We treat but God heals.” There are instances where many trained medical doctors have abandoned their stethoscopes for the pulpits. Unfortunately, not many of them have the anointing to heal the sick. Not too long ago, a prominent gospel singer died of an ailment in Abuja while her high-profile Pentecostal pastor flew to a neighbouring country where miracles and healings reportedly took place on a crusade ground!

There is hardly any new generation pastor who does not lay claim to an anointing to heal the sick. Some even claim they can raise the dead. One is said to have built a pool of Bethesda in his Abuja church premises where all kinds of ailments are cured after immersion for a fee though.

Many believers in Christian science have thrown away their lives under the watch of their pastors. There was an Abuja-based wealthy woman who had complications during the delivery of her baby. Everything pointed to a Caesarian Section or CS according to her personal doctor but her pastor told her he did not see her going under the knife. The woman, apparently scared of surgery, tagged along with the pastor. So, she joined him in prayers. To shorten a long story, she gave up the ghost while attempting to give birth on her own.

One family friend of ours seemed to have learnt a lesson from the wealthy woman’s folly. When her delivery date was due and CS starred her in the face, she ignored her pastor’s admonition against it. Up till the moment she was being prepared for the operation, the pastor was still calling and telling her not to go under the knife because of the danger involved, insisting that God told him she would deliver by herself. But the woman responded thus: “Pastor, which God are you talking about? I am about to be taken to the theatre and you are still saying God said otherwise.” Then, she switched off her phone and followed it up with a hiss.

The woman knew that if God had truly spoken to the pastor as he claimed, she would have been able to deliver that baby before that time. But after trying unsuccessfully, she was asked to take the CS option. The operation was a huge success. The mother and child are alive till this moment to the shame of the pastor. That was about seven or so years ago. She eventually abandoned the church and the so-called pastor for good.
Nigerians are deeply religious people… more Catholic than the Pope. Those who imported the Christian faith to the country must be convulsing with laughter seeing the ridiculous extent we have come in the belief in and practice of our faith.

The fate that befell Morenike was brought about by the mentality of the average Nigerian Pentecostal churchgoer who has been made to believe that virtually everything under the sun has to be prayed through even when actions are needed. But the Bible, which many of them do not care to read except what their pastors feed them with, tells us that faith without works is dead. Because many Nigerians are gullible, a weakness most so-called new generation pastors are quick to explore, they troop to the church in droves in search of big blessings even at the time they are supposed to be at their work stations making money.

Some years ago, I went to a shop where I bought some blinds for my sitting room on a Saturday. It happened that I underestimated the length of the materials I needed. So, I went back to the shop by noon of the following Monday to buy more, but discovered it was under lock and key. I dialed the number of the shop owner only to be told that he was at a church programme. I wondered what a shop owner would be doing in the church on Monday, a day after Sunday meant for Christians to observe, when he was supposed to be selling his wares. He would have lost the sale if not that the materials were exclusive to his shop.

I have no quarrel with churchmanship which does not guarantee Paradise anyway, but your relationship with God. Overdramatisation of religious belief is our bane. Britain, Germany, Japan, China, the United States and even Russia have shown us that a nation can develop outside religious spheres. A Nigerian pastor/journalist with a Lagos-based newspaper was in Germany on official duties. However, he forgot to take his Bible along. He combed the City of Berlin in search of a copy of the Holy Book. Everywhere he went, the shop owners looked at him curiously, wondering what he needed it for. After literally turning the city inside out, he finally got a copy in one obscure bookshop covered by layers of dust.

In Nigeria, Christians go to church on daily basis. This is because our pastors/miracle workers need to earn incomes on daily basis and not only on Sundays through tithes and offerings, seed sowing, pledges, etc. Morenike should join the prayer warrior band of any of those Pentecostal churches swarming all over the country. But she must examine herself to see if she actually has the anointing to heal the sick through the application of Christian science. Prayers for the are good for them spiritually. Morenike did the right thing in a wrong environment. It is said that when you are in Rome, you behave as a Roman. In this case she should have behaved as a Briton. Period.