Jane (not real name) was desperate for a miracle. The 46-year-old single mother was a regular at a popular Pentecostal church in Kampala, Uganda. After developing fully blown HIV/AIDS, her pastor promised her total healing through a miracle. All she needed to do was to generously please God through sowing. The pastor asked her not to bother with taking ARVs because the miracle would heal her.
The desperate women started with the sowing of her car to the church. To please God more, she also sold her house and gave the proceeds to the pastor. Six months down the road she was on her death bed and the miracle never came to pass.
Like Jane some people, especially those in desperate situations, fall victim to unscrupulous people who claim to perform miracles, only to end up being fleeced of their hard earned possessions like money, land and cars, among others.
At one point in life every one prays for a miracle or go through life experiences that they always call a ‘miraculous.’
You probably have seen thousands of posts on social media promising a miracle if you comment ‘Amen’ below and share with 100 people or friends. Such messages also make rounds on WhatsApp. “Share this message with 20 people including the person who sent it and you will receive a miracle tonight...” read one of the messages sent on my WhatsApp chat recently.
Some gullible people follow the instructions but none has ever come out to say they got a miracle after sharing the posts especially on social media.
In neighbouring countries like Kenya, and Uganda some people have lost everything in their lives in search of miracles. Such cases are not common in Rwanda though some people we talked to said many Rwandans travel out of the country in search of these miracles. “I know a couple that travels to Uganda regularly to beseech miracles from their pastor,” remarked a resident of Kimironko who preferred anonymity.
With all the mushrooming fake pastors, fake churches and specialists in miracle making across the world, how does one distinguish between fake and genuine miracle makers? Is it even possible that a human being can perform miracles?
Whether miracles really do happen or not depends on who you talk to.
Pastor Hassan Kibirango of Christian Life Assembly says that miracles do happen and that today they are much more prevalent than in the Biblical times.
He also emphasises that only God can perform miracles and that no person should claim they can perform miracles.
“The Bible has records of miracles happening and we believe they did happen if the Bible says they did. The Bible is a book whose authority and history we believe to be accurate,” he says.
According to Pastor Kibirango, a miracle is anything that happens to an individual or a group that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws, but it can only be attributed to divine or supernatural intervention.
This can be in the form of a sudden or progressive physical restoration of the body into health from a state of illness or defect. It can also be any other occurrence one never expected to get through their human endeavour but had faith in God for supernatural intervention.
On the issue of whether one can do something specific in order to receive a miracle, Pastor Kibirango points out that Jesus Christ often told his disciples, that the precursor to receiving miracles is faith.
“Now I know this is a mystery to some, but it is the only precursor. The ability to perform healing and work miracles on the other hand is a God given gift and God can give that gift to whoever He chooses according to 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. For as long as one is a believer in Christ, they can receive this or any other ability from the Holy Spirit as a gift,” he says.
Pastor Charles Niyongere of Anglican Church Rwamagana also affirms that miracles actually do happen, but people should understand that they are not performed by human beings, rather, by the Holy Spirit which works through people.
He believes it is guidance from the Holy Spirit; Jesus performed miracles and people believed because He was guided by the Holy Spirit.
The pastor says that unless a person has faith, one can never receive a miracle or notice that he or she received a miracle.
“It’s not like there is a button one has to press for it to come but for one to get a miracle it all starts with one’s faith,” he notes.
According to Niyongere, churches don’t perform miracles, they are performed by Christ and that churches only guide people on beliefs.
“God works through people. Even here in Rwanda miracles are performed because God said that you will heal, even the lame will walk if you believe, as long as people believe miracles can happen,” he says.
It’s not about the pastor ministering or the kind of church you go to, it’s all done through faith; you can pray from anywhere and experience miracles, he points out.
Bishop Onesphore Rwaje, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church, says that miracles from a Biblical point of view is a tangible event and is never sowed, it is accompanied by physical or spiritual manifestation.
Miracles happen by the grace of God but not from human beings, he says. And that even though he hasn’t seen any miracles being performed in Rwanda he believes that they actually do happen.
23-year-old Alice Uwase testifies to have experienced divine intervention a few years back in her life. She was suffering from tuberculosis and her chances of survival were slim to none, however, with the grace of God, she survived.
“I had TB for almost two years, I had lost weight and everyone who saw me doubted if I would survive. Treatment was failing to help and I had to seek for God’s intervention through prayer. I prayed, my mother prayed for me too and it wasn’t long before God heard us. He healed me and I will forever be grateful for that,” Uwase testifies.
Maureen Asiimwe says that in Rwanda, there are few pastors who perform miracles compared to other countries like Uganda, and that this is why some people travel to those countries in search of these miracles.
“I believe God answers prayers and it doesn’t necessarily have to be through miracles; however, in other countries miracles are the order of the day which is different from Rwanda,” she says.
She says that the constant pressure from believers to see miracles forces some pastors to resort to other means which leads to fake miracles. “However I haven’t seen such cases happen in Rwanda, she says.
What others say
Ntare Rwabugiri, an atheist, says that he doesn’t believe in miracles because they don’t exist.
‘I don’t believe in miracles. Believing in them would be shrouding my brain and preventing me from thinking rationally,” he says.
“What I know is that there are many subjects such as metaphysics that science is still exploring. In brief, science has solutions to everything, but there are no miracles,” he adds.
Rwabugiri wonders why miracles are performed by some and not others.
“As an atheist, I don’t know what is happening in churches because I don’t pray. But if they really perform miracles, why do we still have blind, deaf, poor, disabled people? Why can’t they perform those miracles in public and help the community?” he wonders.
For Joshua Tahinduka, a strong believer in Christ, miracles do happen.
He believes that the first miracle that happens to Christians is the total U-turn from living a life of irresponsibility to one with God’s presence, one that has meaning and a destination.
“Turning to Christ and living a life that conforms to the teaching of Christ is a miracle because if it was not for Jesus’ death on the cross, we would not get access to eternal life. This is my strong belief,” he says.
Other miracles, Tahinduka says, like healing from severe sicknesses do happen too and all this happens to reveal the power and the love of Jesus Christ.
Tahinduka says that it shouldn’t be an issue that some churches can perform miracles and others can’t because each minister is blessed with different gifts.
“It’s not that every pastor has to perform miracles, this can only be done if it’s a gift from God. I also think that one’s faith has a role to play and it’s true that different people have different levels of faith and so do pastors. It’s important to know that these miracles are not an avenue to showcase power, great ability or peculiar gifting. It’s for the Glory of God,” he says.
Creme Kantengwa agrees with Tahinduka saying that God still performs miracles through mankind.
“Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was aimed at bringing a closer connection and relationship between God and mankind. He handed over the keys of authority to mankind, including laying hands on the sick and commanding circumstances to happen,” she says.
Science versus miracles
In his article, The Science of Miracles: Perception Versus Reality, Deepak Chopra, a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, notes that modern science has sidestepped very few problems, some mysteries are so difficult that they defy the scientific method.
He notes that it’s hard to conceive of experiments that will tell us what happened before time and space emerged. Two mysteries have been consistently sidestepped for decades out of prejudice. One is the nature of consciousness, the other the reality of phenomena loosely categorised as mystical or supernatural.
“If you look upon the physical world as a given—what you see is what you get—governed by fixed mathematical laws of nature, the whole domain of wonders and miracles poses no problems. Levitation, bilocation, psychic healing, clairvoyance, near-death experiences, and all the miracles related in the Bible can be dismissed out of hand.”
Islamic views of miracles
Sheikh Yusuf Mugisha of Masjid Al Qudsi Mosque, Kacyiru, says that miracles do happen and that they mainly show the capability and power of God.
“Miracles happen because that way people are reminded about the ability of our creator. With them we also get to understand that God can use us at any time only that sometimes people can tend to forget about God even after witnessing a miracle so it all depends on one’s faith,” he says.
He cautions people about false miracles which are not from God and warns them to be attentive. “In the time of Moses there was use of magic and people’s eyes were bewitched, they saw that the field was full of snakes and they were all in fear but it was magic. God instructed Moses to throw his stick on the ground and it turned into a snake bigger than all that were in the field.”
YOUR VOICE: DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?
Alliance Isimbi, actress
Yes I believe in miracles because I believe in God. Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to earth and performed miracles. The Word of God also says that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you cannot tell a mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it moves. Nothing is impossible if you have faith.
Jamil Sentamu, business owner
If you believe in God you will believe in miracles. Miracles are real, if you look at the uniqueness of the world, how it works and the unique things that happen in it, you would believe unconditionally.
Madeleine Uwamahoro, communication officer
I believe in God and the God I believe in is a God of miracles. I do not, however, believe in magic. I have personally experienced a miracle in my life, it was a healing miracle. I was sick and I prayed to get better, it was an instant healing which I am sure science would not have been able to explain.
Nanyonga, office administrator
Yes I do and I think they happen all the time only that most of us don’t pay close attention to them. We wait for mostly bigger things to happen but even small things that are extraordinary can be miracles.