By Anthony Akaeze
I spent much of the day before my visit to Firepower Ministries, Katy, Houston, Sunday, October 18, thinking about the founder, Dr. Stella Immanuel. Having not previously contacted or met her, I wondered how she might react to the visit. Would she turn down my request for an interview? Would I even meet her? What if she’s out of town? I kept thinking.
My state of mind was not helped by my earlier failed attempt to reach her by phone as a call I made to her Houston clinic called Rehoboth Medical Center, yielded nothing as the responder told me she wasn’t available and would not be drawn into divulging any more information on her whereabout. She advised instead, that I should visit the clinic and get to meet other doctors if Dr Immanuel wasn’t available. I’m not a patient but a journalist, I told her. She shifted no ground, and that ended our conversation. I then decided to contact Firepower Ministries, but there was no response even though the call went through. So I decided to visit the church to try my luck.
Having confirmed from the church website that the Sunday service begins by 11.am, I arrived Firepower Ministries premises from my Houston base at 10.23. Dr Immanuel wasn’t there yet, I learnt from a young woman, so I decided to wait. Though I was asked to go inside the church where voices of singing people could be heard, and wait for her, I chose to stay outside, so as to spot and introduce myself to the preacher on her way in. That afforded me the time to view some books in the lobby, authored by some faith leaders, including Dr Immanuel. Afterward, I went outside and got to appreciate the church’s serene and green environment.
Immanuel soon drove in. As she walked in, wearing a green/white stripes outfit amid pink dress and scarf with no make-up, I introduced myself, telling her I wanted to interview her, and that I would be joining the church service. She welcomed me and said she would grant me an interview after the service and asked whether I’m a Christian. I replied in the affirmative even though, I said, I had not been to church in a long time. She wasn’t impressed with my church record as the look on her face showed. I would later learn that she arrived the church from the airport, straight from a trip outside Houston.
The service began at 11.03, and in attendance were white and black people. The preacher took to the pulpit. Later, in the midst of the singing, using my phone camera, I decided to take a snap of her. She noticed it, walked to where I stood and asked me to delete the picture. “That’s disrespectful. You are not even praising God. Hasn’t God been good to you,” she asked me. I apologized and she returned to the pulpit.
Though embarrassed, as I noticed one or two eyes focusing on us as she spoke, I was relieved she didn’t shout, walk me out of the premises or change her mind about granting me an interview.
As part of my research on Immanuel before arriving the church, I learnt that the doctor-preacher, sometime ago, prayed 7 hours a day for three days. Now standing before her, she told the congregation that “we pray here everyday from 7pm except Sunday, and that if you are desperate for God, some of you will be here before the prayer hour.” The prayer, she said, had been on for the past 70 days, making that Sunday’s the 71st. Probably not satisfied with the effort, she declared, “Next week, we are doing a 7-day lock in (prayer) to God in the church…I’m not coming out of this compound. We are going to pray 24/7.”
Growing up in my country, Nigeria, ‘prayer warrior’ is a term I occasionally heard, used often to describe some “wild” Christians. Here indeed, is one, I thought. Of the three-hour church service that October 18, almost two hours were spent standing and singing. I soon found out, I was one of only six persons, including the preacher at a point, who remained standing. Others, probably exhausted, were sitting. In the course of the singing, I noted the change in the preacher’s tone.
Though Immanuel had initially exhorted that “salvation is not an emotional thing,” emotion, at some point, got the better of her on the pulpit. And a constant supplication of her was America, a country she has lived in for nearly three decades. Several times, she called on God to come down and rescue America. In my interview with her after the church service, she pointed out that satanism thrives in America and that “the country is more bewitched than any country right now,” hence her determination to prayerfully intercede on behalf of the country.
At the end of the service, I was offered two pills of Hydroxychloroquine, the drug which Dr Immanuel insists, is the antidote for Coronavirus, the disease that has killed over 220,000 Americans so far and which in fact, was the basis for my seeking an interview with her.
In July, the preacher attracted global attention for her views about the drug. She spoke in Washington DC that day, on the floor of the Supreme Court, one of a number of medical experts who gave her opinion about hydroxychloroquine, the same drug that President Donald Trump had often touted as a possible cure for the novel coronavirus. I remember seeing on social media, news and comments about a Nigerian doctor who had spoken so forcefully in support of Hydroxychloroquine. It later turned out she’s Camerounian, not Nigerian, as she had only attended university in Nigeria. Immanuel is actually from Bali, in north west province of Cameroun. But she told me she now happily claims Nigeria and Cameroun as her countries. Receiving the hydroxychloroquine from her aide, I requested for water and gulped it down. For someone who hadn’t visited any hospital for check up or treatment since the outbreak of COVID-19, I mused that this had settled the matter.
Without a doubt, Immanuel’s impassioned defense of the drug in Washington DC, catapulted her to limelight, for good or bad. Many wondered who she is, and what her medical antecedents are. For all the inquiry or scrutiny unleashed on her person by fact checkers, none was able to dispute her claim of being a qualified medical doctor who graduated from the University of Calabar, Southern Nigeria, in the 90s before travelling to London from where she relocated to the United States, US, and has practised her profession since. Not just is she a practising doctor but an employer of labour as well as she owns the Rehoboth Medical Center in South Houston. You only wonder how she combines both functions, each of which is considerably demanding.
No matter the alternative view out there about Hydroxychloroquine, Immanuel rates it very effective. She feels the death toll from the virus, would not have risen so alarmingly in America and elsewhere, had the drug been administered on people in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and now. If it worked for her, and some doctors that she knows, it should work for others. She claimed, during her Washington speech, to have successfully treated over 300 patients with the drug, and the figure has risen since.
“Everybody should be on hydroxychloroquine. It’s two pills a month. It doesn’t take that much,” she told me, adding that early treatment and prevention of the disease is key to saving lives.
From the passion Immanuel displayed at the church service and my conversation with her, I found her to be outspoken and fearless, a straight shooting doctor. Whether it’s about gay, abortion, politics or Christianity, she minces no word and exhibits no fear in her choice of words or views, however controversial they may appear to some people. Yet she considers herself a conservative. Her combative attitude comes as no surprise, given her description of herself in one of her works entitled Sustained Fire, as a “trench fighter, a warrior in the kingdom of God.”
Her medical colleagues, some of who also spoke in Washington DC about Hydroxychloroquine, might testify to this, as she revealed that she resisted attempts by some of them to stop her from stating her case as she sought to.
It’s the stuff of warriors, who hardly take no for an answer.
Anthony Akaeze, an award-winning freelance investigative journalist, is an author of four books. He is currently working on a new book with the tentative title, “Where Strangers Dwell,” a story of hope, pain, accomplishments, migration, love and discovery.
– Oct. 23, 2020 @ 16:38 GMT |