Eniye Kanari looks back at her life ten years ago and says everything around her was falling apart.
At that time, her marriage was unstable, and even though her friends constantly advised her to seek God who breathes life into dying marriages, she couldn’t find His voice through the chaos and constant differences she had with her husband.
“I tried different churches; from Anglican, Presbyterian and several Pentecostal assemblies in pursuit of God’s message, but there was still a void inside me,” she says.
One day as she was listening to the radio, she heard a message that spoke to her. On Hope FM, a man was talking about a “God who wanted people to do things differently…”
Eniye was hooked.
The message seemed to reinforce the need for believers to go back to the original language that the Bible had been written in, because the current version was seriously ‘mutilated’ in the process of translation by countries in the West.
The man on the radio was Antoine Zeigler aka Yeshaia. A black American from Los Angeles who went to Bible college in the 80s to become a conventional preacher. But Ziegler says that God himself appeared to him and gave him a deeper dimension in the direction of his work.
Zeigler claims that Yahweh appeared to him and revealed that he needed to read the Bible in its original text if he wanted to understand His word. So he immediately dropped out of Bible school and embarked on earnestly studying biblical languages in fulfillment of what the Almighty had commanded him to do.
When he felt that he had sufficiently learned the languages of the Bible, he came to Kenya in 2005 to start teaching people Hebrew and to nudge them toward the path that he says God wants them to follow.
On the day Eniye heard about him, he was looking for people interested in learning Hebrew so that he could reveal to them just where the translators had gone wrong, and possibly open their eyes to the reality of God’s intended message to mankind.
Eniye was among the first lot that registered to be members of the assembly. She joined almost 100 other new members in the Tanakh Assembly started by Yeshaia (Zeiglar), and says she that immediately a sense of peace descending on her.
When SUNDAY interviewed Zeigler on his stand on polygamy, he said that polygamy is biblical since it supports God’s original plan to multiply and fill the earth.
“The Creator of heaven and earth never rescinded the first command to be fruitful and multiply. Europeans legislated monogamy for colonial reasons – basically to control populations,” he says.
He is married to two wives, and believes in creating a large family for the expansion of God’s kingdom. He also says he has ‘covered’ several other women who needed a man’s protection and care.
He encourages his members to let their hair flow in dreadlocks, saying the Bible was written by black men who wore dreadlocks because black hair locks when left to grow unhindered.
The teachings of his assembly also state that the whole family should subscribe to one belief, and thus he encourages members to convince their families to subscribe to Tanakh so that the whole house can serve Yahweh.
He says that God wants all mankind to call Him Yahweh, and perhaps the reason why God does not answer prayers is because people call unto Him using names He does not recognise.
Within a short time of creating the Tanakh assembly, most of his members were growing locks and converting their family members to his doctrine.
Eniye, who proudly locks her hair, says she lost many friends when she subscribed to Yeshaia’s teachings but that it doesn’t bother her at all. What matters is the fact that she is on the right path, and has found the happiness that was once so elusive.
When Eniye’s husband showed hesitation in joining the church, she divorced him and followed Yeshaia into a new world where her eyes were opened to what had been missing in her life for years.
With Yeshaia they left Nairobi and moved to a bigger house in Limuru because they also believe in eating food from the soil. In the polluted city of Nairobi they were unable to find enough land to grow and harvest their own crops. Limuru was a more suitable place to till and plough the land as Yahwe commanded man to do.
Later, Yeshaia married one of Eniye’s daughter, and they lived as a big, happy family that had found and understood God’s original message. When the family got bigger, they moved to Mombasa where Yeshaia continues with his Bible translation but occasionally comes to Nairobi to meet and guide the members he left behind.
In an interview with SUNDAY, Eniye clarified that their assembly does things differently only because Yeshaia has taught them Hebrew and they are able to read the original Bible and understand it as it was written before white people ‘corrupted’ it to suit their own needs.
Zeigler’s coming to Kenya and setting up his assembly is shrouded in mystery. Most members of the Tanakh assembly who were interviewed by SUNDAY say they first heard about him on Hope FM, a radio station run by Christ is The Answer Ministries (CITAM) which owns the Nairobi Pentecostal churches.
However, CITAM Bishop David Oginde says when Zeiglar and his team came to Kenya and approached Citam, they accessed the church through fraudulent means.
Bishop Oginde says that they told him that they simply wanted to teach people Hebrew, and needed a platform that would reach a larger Christian audience.
“We allowed them to teach and even gave them a room, but we realised they had another agenda. They were even claiming that Christ is not the messiah, so we asked them to leave,” says Oginde.
Zeigler left the premises, but carried his beliefs with him. He maintains that his teachings are in line with Christianity, and that they only sound different because he has a deeper understanding of the original Hebrew, which most preachers don’t.
He claims that he gets visions from God who guides him on what he should do. He changed his name from Zeigler to Yeshaia in 2009 when God appeared to him and told him to take up the new name which means “Yahweh is salvation,” and that is the name his members identify him with.
One of the initial members who has since left the assembly accuses Zeigler of misleading them and planting the seeds of fear in their hearts.
“When I was in his assembly, he would tell us that going to hospital was defying Yahweh and we would face His wrath if we consulted medical doctors,” he says.
Zeigler disputed the claims, saying that even though he has always suggested to believers to seek first their healer Yahshua (Jesus in Hebrew), he doesn’t forbid them from going to hospital if necessary.
Another member says that when he walked into the Tanakh assembly, he had hopes that it would open up possibilities of financial growth. He says he was hoping that by learning the Hebrew that Zeigler was teaching, he would use it not only to grow God’s kingdom but to make some money.