Innocent Mwangi

Return to Me: A Wake-up Call from God

We are staring down at a pandemic that continues to kill hundreds of people every day. Everywhere you turn, online and offline, you won’t read a paragraph or listen to a conversation that doesn’t have the word ‘coronavirus’ or ‘COVID-19.’

Today, there’s more reference to these words than there is of ‘God’ or ‘Jesus Christ.’ Caught up in this crisis is a Church that’s struggling to regain its identity as the voice of God in a world bent on insisting that God doesn’t exist.

The pandemic appears to be extremely pervasive (invasive even) to the extent that even those living in palaces and presidential homes are not spared. From Prince Charles and UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson to celebrities all over the world, the coronavirus doesn’t spare race, class, religion or colour.

The world’s so-called superpowers such as the USA and China have so far been some of the hardest hit. Italy as well, despite hosting the leader of the most popular denomination, the Pope, and having one of the most sophisticated healthcare systems, appear to have borne the brunt of this disease.

Some people warn that Africa is a time-bomb waiting to blow up. The levels of poverty and weak institutions on the continent appear to inform this view. However, in my humble opinion, despite weak institutions, Africa could be just what God wants to use to prove He is still in control.

The Bible says that God chose “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise”, and “the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (2 Cor 1: 27). Could it be that God is reminding us that the only system that works is the heavenly system? Could it be He is going to spare Africa from the brunt of this pandemic to remind us all that He is the only one in control and not sophisticated, highly advanced worldly governments?

But that’s beside my point. I feel strongly that the current pandemic is a wake-up call to both the Church and the secular world.

At a time when the Church has started embracing secular traditions such as same-sex unions, God is reminding us that He can wipe out this world with one blow. That there’s nothing in the world that’s worth living for or dying for.

God is pointing our attention to the fact that this world can come to an end abruptly. He is calling the Church back to Himself. Like a manufacturer who recalls a faulty product, God is recalling His product, the Church, to Himself so He can reconfigure and re-conform it back to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 29).

God is reminding us that our destiny is not of this world. It’s a heavenly destiny that’s far more superior than this world can claim to offer.

To the secular world, and those who say there’s no God (you know what the Bible calls them), God is reminding us that even the most advanced governments of the world are nothing without Him. At the end of the day, without God, it’s becoming evident that science is completely inept. Whether one lives in a palace or a slum, God is our equalizer.

And this brings me to the conclusion of this matter. It’s time to return to God and He will return to us (Mal 3: 7). It’s time to seek God until he rains righteousness on us (Hos 10:12).

The coronavirus will pass, and like the plagues of the past, it will be relegated to historical accounts. What will not change is the fact that God is calling both the Church and the world to Himself, and He won’t relent until we repent and return to Him.

Innocent Mwangi | Breakthrough Victory Church, Utawala, Kenya

Innocent Mwangi

Should the Churches be closed over COVID-19?

We are living in interesting times. Never in my life have I ever imagined we would be forced to close churches. 

As my daughter, son, and I heed the government’s order to stay at home, I’m sometimes feeling as though this is the time the church needs to stand stronger in faith; go to church and pray instead of staying at home.

Well, of course, we have to heed our governments’ directives. However, I wonder if Paul would have obeyed his government of the day. Or whether Corona would have stopped him (remember the story in Acts 28:3 where a viper bite his hand?)

Paul considered the only life worth living for as that lived for Christ; and death as gain rather than loss. In other words, whether he lived or died, it was gain all the way.

I feel we need to be of the same spirit as Paul during this time. If worldly essential government services haven’t stopped, why should the heavenly essential services stop (which includes going to church to pray)?

As long as we maintain social distancing and observe the highest levels of hygiene, it’s my contention that churches should remain open. Only those flouting the laid down hygiene regulations should be closed, in my opinion.

I understand that, as believers, we are the church; and that it doesn’t matter whether we worship and pray at home or wherever.

Wait a minute!

It actually does matter! Remember how God was excited after Solomon built and dedicated a temple for Him in 2 Chronicles 7? In fact, in verse 2, the Bible says that after Solomon prayed, the glory of God filled the temple such that even the priest could not go in. There was simply no place for anyone else in the temple but the glory of God.

God’s excitement and joy for what Solomon had done peaks in verse 13 to 14 when He makes a poignant promise to Solomon: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague [Corona Virus] among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.

 Yes, the most important thing is that we are all praying; but I feel a time is soon coming when things will get harder than they are today. A time is coming when we will be called to lay our lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel.

The end times are not going to be easy times. These are times when Christians will be forced to congregate in caves for prayer and fellowship. As the one world order takes shape (and it is starting to take shape), our freedom of worship will be curtailed, and in some instances, stifled.

What is happening today foreshadows what’s coming. These are the distant signs of an end that’s rapidly approaching.

Perhaps it’s time to petition governments to allow us back in Church. Meeting online is good, but it’s a comfortable and easy thing to do.

The message we are sending out is that we don’t have to physically meet to fellowship, which is true to a great extent. However, I see some restrictive governments taking advantage of this experiment to close churches in the future. Ostensibly because we “don’t have to meet in physical spaces” to worship.

Soon we will have to make hard choices.

We may get to the point where we will be faced with the choice of obeying God or following what our governments are saying. I pray you’ll make the right choice when that time comes. For me, I’m with Paul on this: to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

 So, as we stay at home in obedient to worldly governments, let’s not forget that we are of a different government; the Kingdom of Heaven. Whether by a virus or any other cause, death will visit at one time or another. And at the end of the day, this world will come to an end. 

However, eternity with God, which is your portion, is forever! I leave you with this scripture from Matthew 11: 12 … “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”.

Innocent Mwangi | Breakthrough Victory Church, Utawala, Kenya

Dr Simon Masha

COVID-19: Evolution of the Diagnostics

Dr Simon Masha (PhD, Microbiologist) | Email: simon.masha@ymail.com

As I gather my thoughts around this disease (COVID-19), by the time of writing this piece, there are 387,742 cases, 16,782 deaths.

102,404 people have recovered.

Looking at these numbers, we can quickly say that majority of the people who will get the infection will recover.

These numbers are largely based on infections that have occurred in the Western world. Many developing countries have gone on lock down to reduce importation of the virus, which is very commendable, given the fragility of the health systems in developing countries.

Countries will now have to slow down local transmission by accurately diagnosing infected individuals, and proactively doing contact tracing of individuals who have potentially been exposed to the virus. This process can be made faster if the Government decides to publish the names of individuals who have the infection, as those who have been in contact with the infected persons can self-quarantine (but this is a discussion for another day).

Below I summarize my current knowledge with regards to diagnosis of the virus. It is important to note that knowledge about the disease is quickly evolving, and what we know now may quickly change over the current pandemic.

1. What happens if you get COVID-19? What diagnostic tools do we have? Good news is, we can use Nucleic Acid Amplification Technique Tests (NAATs). This detects whether patients actually have the coronavirus RNA. This may be used for individuals who are currently infected since it detects the SARS-CoV-2 itself.

These tests were available from January 2019 and have the ability to differentiate SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, from other coronaviruses circulating in humans.

By 28th January 2019, China’s National Medical Products Administration had approved diagnostic test kits from five companies, and the number of test kits has kept on going-up.

More good news is that Cepheid, an American company known for diagnostics using the GeneXpert platform, which utilize NAAT, have developed an automated molecular test for the qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

As of 2016, Kenya had installed over 70 GeneXpert machines and currently have slightly in excess of 200 GeneXpert machines distributed across the country, mostly in County and sub-County Hospitals. This unique platform can be used to detect various pathogens, including causative pathogens for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Trichomoniasis, TB, and HIV.

In Kenya, the GeneXpert machines are frequently used for the latter two infections. The new Xpert® Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test can provide rapid detection of the current pandemic, coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, in approximately 45 minutes with less than a minute of hands on time to prepare the sample.

Whilst this is good news, understandably, Cepheid may produce the test cartridges for its American market before it can export to any other country. The Kenyan government should be on the lookout on how they can utilize the wide network of the GeneXpert machines to perform diagnosis faster by engaging all facilities that have the GeneXperts.

NAATs testing will continue to be important to determine who still has the virus from individuals who have been cured. However, diagnosis is slightly more complicated than this.

If you have had COVID-19 and have recovered, the existing test for viral RNA will only tell us you are not infected. A different kind of test, called a serological test, that measures the antibodies your body makes against the virus is required.

The serological test tests our response to the virus rather than the presence of the virus. The serological tests became available in early February. This test will allow scientists to know who has or has had the infection since the antibodies will persist even after virus has been cleared.

What is known so far is all humans have not encountered this virus before, so we are all “immunologically naive,” i.e. we have no natural immunity. This in part explains why the virus has spread so quickly and has become pandemic.

Serological testing will quickly become important as we begin to turn the tide to determine who can go back to work, having already been exposed to the virus and recovered.

From a previous study of coronaviruses, we know that individuals can get re-infected. The difference is that the period of virus shedding is shorter, and fewer people will develop signs/symptoms to the disease.

In summary, there are several diagnostics options. However, in many developing countries, we will continue to rely on a long diagnostic NAAT assay, which take between 4-6 hours, and which requires batching of samples for efficiency. It also requires highly skilled personnel, and expensive equipment to perform the test.

This will slow down the time it takes to get diagnostic results and potentially impact on local transmission. Good news is, rapid NAATs and serological tests are becoming available, and with the potential for being scaled-up, more people will be accurately screened.

All countries that have been successful in combating COVID-19 have done this by scaling up testing, enabling identifying individuals who were mildly ill, as-well as asymptomatic people, and stopping them from spreading the virus.

We have to keep practicing social distancing (or physical distancing) to minimize potential contact with the pathogen, and more importantly increase our hygiene practices to slow down the spread of the virus.

Finally, many thanks to Jack Ma for the donation of various medical supplies. Maybe we should just start considering how “we” can donate financially to ensure more individuals can get tested. In the meantime, until this pandemic runs its course, #StayAtHome!

Dr Simon Masha (PhD) is a Kenyan Microbiologist | Email: simon.masha@ymail.com