By Grace Kerongo and Pauline Odhiambo
Friends and family have been flocking to the home of ex-KTN presenter Esther Arunga's parents in Kileleshwa since news of her joining the Finger of God church was revealed.
Esther's father Bob Arunga, a retired consultant who once worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday told The Star that he would soon be speaking out on his daughter's recent affairs but asked the media to give his family time to deliberate over their next move.
"We're really suffering. It's a pity what is going on now with Esther and we're praying that it will all work out well eventually," he said.
"We are grateful for what The Star has highlighted so far on our daughter but we're not ready to speak to any media at the moment because we have to protect Esther. It's a very delicate issue and my wife and are willing to speak exclusively to The Star when we are ready," he said.
Two weeks ago the TV presenter broke her engagement to fiance Wilson Malaba, having resigned from her high-profile job at KTN in January and turned her back on most of her friends. She has distanced herself from her family since last week and even had a lawyer present when she met her mother for lunch on Wednesday.
Esther has been living fulltime since March last year at the house in the upmarket Nairobi Runda estate of the Apostle of The Finger Of God Church, saxophonist and Tusker Project Fame instructor Joseph Hello, and following his instructions.
The house is used for monthly entertainment events called Starry Jazz nights. But it is regularly frequented by Finger of God followers who go to consult Hellon.
A mysterious figure called Quincy Timberlake, who says he is half Kenyan and half South African, also lives in the Runda house. He was recently elevated to Apostle in the church by an email from "Benny Hinn".
Yesterday the deputy general secretary of the National Council of Churches, Oliver Kisaka Simiyu, said the Finger Of God is not one of the 600 churches registered under the NCCK. "It therefore cannot be classified as a church under Kenyan law "A cult is a group whose doctrine or teaching differs from the orthodox teaching of Christ," said Simiyu.
"There are five major warning signs that a church you are attending is a cult. One, it is often led by a very charismatic character who has the power to hire and fire. Two, they follow other spiritual material or word of a 'messenger from God' other than the Bible," Simiyu said.
"Three, they often look to convert the already 'saved' Christians. What they do is offering them a religion that makes them feel the faith they have is not sufficient. Four, a cult does not allow its members to criticise; the word of the spiritual leader is final. If they differ with the leader they are immediately excommunicated".
Simiyu added: "And finally, five, it is difficult for the members to leave. This is mainly because it isolates the members from the sober voices of their family and friends enabling an atmosphere where they can be brainwashed."
An inside source said the family is worried about Esther and have decided to change their approach.
"They have realised that she is not herself," the source said. "After the press conference outburst on Thursday, the family decided to go into prayer and have opted not to confront her because that won't help anymore."
At the press conference, Hellon said he was planning to stand for President in 2012 with Esther as his running mate.
A friend who worked with Esther at Capital FM said, "The girl I saw on TV is not the same one I worked with back then. She is different."
In the last two days there has reportedly been a mass exodus of members of the Finger of God after the church was exposed as a cult.
The members are currently on a 100-day fast and not attending church following instructions by email from "Benny Hinn".
Yesterday the Star exclusively revealed that the genuine Benny Hinn Ministries deny all knowledge of the cult.
"When word got out that Benny Hinn has disowned the said emails, the members decided to leave the church," a source said.
Many Finger Of God members come from the media and entertainment industry. They are mostly young females and upwardly mobile.
"It seems that he is targeting the finer class. If the church is promising to fill up a vacuum, I hope it is doing so in a Christ like way. But that is also a tell tale signs that it is a cult," said Simiyu.
Simuyu described the special communion of the Finger of God combining wine, bread and salt twice a day as "not alarming."
"But you should be aware that these practices lead to a culture where the followers develop a holier than thou attitude which effectively leads to them been brainwashed," he said.
In our headline story titled 'Benny Hinn Disowns Esther Cult', we quoted Cabinet Minister Njeru Githae complaining about the Finger of God house which neighbours him in Runda.
Unfortunately a second quote talking about attending jazz nights at the house erroneously was attributed to the minister. It actually came from a prominent Nairobi lawyer. We regret this misleading impression and apologise to the minister for any embarrassment caused.
HELL-On Earth for Arungas: The Star
By Grace Kerongo and Pauline Odhiambo