Conversion of an African ‘Nazirite’

Conversion of an African ‘Nazirite’


He is known as Marcus Ondato, a man from one of the many tribes living in Kenya, a Luo. He was baptised a Catholic at the age of 17. Lateron he decided to change from being a Catholic to becoming a Protestant while he was in Uganda. There, he joined the Full Gospel Church. After worshipping in the Full Gospel for some time, he again decided to join another Church. This Church is known in the Luo language as “Roho Menyo”, in Kiswahili as “Roho Mwangaza”- “The Bright Spirit” in English. In this Church they have a tradition of growing long hair. Even his father used to let his hair grow long though he was not a member of that Church. The long hair of the father gave Marcus the idea also to grow long hair.

Mzee (Senior) Marcus Ondato has been worshiping at this Church for about 42 years (1975-2018). It was in 2017 that he decided to come back to the Catholic Church. One day he approached one of the priests in Witu-Kipini and explained to him his state of mind and expressed his desire of coming back to the Catholic Church. On his persistence, the priest decided to welcome him back. As a sign of re-entry to the Catholic Church, Marcus was requested by the priest to have his hair cut which he agreed to.

When asked why he had let his hair  grow long, he said that first of all he admired the hair of his father; secondly, he had read about Samson in the book of Judges who was not allowed to cut his hair from early childhood, and due to not cutting his hair had become a very strong hero. It so happened that after some time he became the bishop of this Church since he wished to have powers like Samson. Thirdly, the Church tradition demands that he cover his long hair always with a red piece of cloth and wear a scapular round the neck.

“When did you develop this interest of growing long hair?”

He answered: “ I started growing long hair in 1982-2018. The hair became very long during all these years”.  Within this time range, he had a haircut thrice and the last one was this year 2018 and it marked his full return back to the Catholic Church.  He said he had no interest of letting his hair grown long anymore. Because he had the hope of having a lot of strength like Samson but it never happened as he expected. Eventually, he realised that he was being cheated about the usefulness of growing long hair, hence he decided to re-join the Catholic Church. The occasion became a feast, he invited a priest and a brother from the parish to come to his home and surrounded by family members he requested that his long hair be cut in the presence of the priest. And thereafter burnt in his own residence. His long hair was very shiny because of covering it and preventing air from entering all those years. His hair was about a metre long and even the children were surprised to see the father without his long hair or the red cloth.

For this reason, he invited one of the priests in Witu/Kipin parish, Diocese of Malindi, our Mill Hill priest, Fr. Anthony Emeka, to shave his hair in testimony of his conversion. I accompanied him and I had this experience. It had a very pungent smell when he took off the red piece of cloth covering it. It was not an easy smell for us to bear. After praying and blessing the hair Fr. Emeka shaved the hair and took it outside with the rest of his episcopal vestments and burned them while we were praying.  After that Fr. Emeka said a prayer which Marcus repeated after him. We had Holy Mass in his house. At the Mass Fr. Emeka explained how “Christ’s resurrection has set us free from fear and from carrying such burdens that we ourselves will not be comfortable with”.  And after Mass he accompanied us to the parish house where he was given a crucifix to place in his house. Lateron we had a celebration of welcoming him back to the Catholic Church.

Since then I have been visiting, he is a committed member of the Church and he told me that he has been to the barber’s studio thrice from that day.

Ndifor Collins MHM (MEP student)

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