Members of Legio Maria sect pray at Mberere shrine. Hundreds of villagers walk long distances to collect ‘healing’ waters from the shrine. [Peter Ochieng,Standard]
Deep inside rolling sugar plantations in Chemelil hills flows the Mberere stream.
Its waters softly bubbling beneath heavy boughs of indigenous trees, this stream is not your ordinary water mass.
It is revered by members of the Legio Maria sect who claim that its waters contain supernatural healing and cleansing powers.
Sect members believe the stream’s waters contain power to heal diseases, cleanse them from sin and take away curses.
The list of ailments that the waters are believed to cure is long. It includes barrenness, mental problems, ulcers, general body illness and HIV and Aids.
All a patient has to do is faithfully take the waters in the morning and in the evening, when their healing powers are at their peak.
Reverend Willis Odhiambo, from the Dak-etipo Legio shrine in Manyatta Koyango in Kisumu is a regular visitor to the stream. He says he is a living testimony of the stream’s healing powers.
“I visited this stream for the first time seven years ago; I was suffering from stomach ulcers but I have since been healed,” he said.
Odhiambo has now made it his duty to ferry litres of ‘healing’ water to his church members in Kisumu twice a month.
Tales of the stream’s mythical healing powers have spread far and wide, attracting thousands of believers and non-believers to its banks-from politicians seeking divine blessings for their budding political ambitions to curious visitors eager to watch the endless drama that unfolds every day.
But the banks are not to be tread on by every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Sect members believe that the ground next to the stream is hallowed, and as such, one must seek divine permission before venturing into the healing waters.
Non-sect members are required to remove their shoes and wash their hands and feet to be let anywhere near the stream
For first time visitors, watching sect members praying on the stream’s banks can be spell-bounding. The men and women shout, yell and scream out names in strange voices. Some tremble and roll on the ground in fits like possessed souls.
“It is indeed captivating to see hundreds of Legio Maria sect members during their prayers and rituals,” said Jacob Kipchumba Rop, a resident.
The Standard team visited the mythical stream, and found Jennifer Adhiambo who had travelled from Siaya leading a small group of Legio Maria followers in prayer.
Somewhere in between the chanting and gentle crooning, the priestess let out a blood-curdling shriek and started running in circles screaming: Maria gi Josef! Maria gi Josef (Mary and Joseph! Mary and Joseph!)
After calming down, Ms Adhiambo was at pains to explain her sudden seizure. She said that it was not her voice that was screaming, but that of a spirit that suddenly seized her.
“I was suddenly visited by a strange spirit who made me act in that manner,” she said.
Although there is no way to corroborate their claims members of the sect hold the stream in awe and swear by its healing and cleansing powers.
Judith Adongo, 37, from Kapsabet, an ardent Legio Maria believer, claims that her barrenness was “cured” after she visited the mythical stream.
Adongo, now a happy mother of a two-year-old boy, believes the stream’s waters cured her barrenness. Childless, she visited the stream in 2014 and camped on its banks for two days pleading for a child.
A year later, she was pregnant.
“I fasted, prayed, I survived on the holy water the entire two days I was there,” she said.
Jane Andayi, 40, from Chepkumia in Nandi County says she visited the stream four years ago.
“I was going through serious issues in almost all spheres of my life,” she said.
A visit to the stream and a couple of litres of water later, she says things are looking up.
Next to the stream stands a shrine dedicated to the sect’s first Pope, the late Melkio Simeo Ondeto.
Sect members credit Ondeto with the stream’s discovery back in 1966.