Co-workers mourn victim of church ritualThursday, October 21, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James - Co-workers of Taneka Gardner have been plunged into mourning following her untimely death during Sunday's human sacrifice ritual at Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in Albion, St James.
Some have been receiving counselling as they try to come to terms with the tragedy.
Gardner, an office attendant at Appliance Traders Ltd in Montego Bay, was one of three people killed at the church in the bizarre ritual.
Forty-two members of the church were arrested after the police, on their approach to the building, were reportedly fired upon.
Among them were 31 women who were later charged with breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act, and subsequently given bail, while 14 children who were at the church at the time of the incident are being held in State care.
“She [Gardner] just never deserved to die like this,” one woman who did not want to be named, told the Jamaica Observer West, adding that she had worked with Gardner, of whom she has many fond memories, for five years.
“The Taneka that I knew, and would want to remember, is the Taneka who was always helpful and willing to try,” she said.
The woman shared that Gardner, who oftentimes encouraged her colleagues to visit the church, was very committed to the faith and believed the leader was “next to God”.
“Thinking now, she was committed and she truly believed in the faith. If the pastor said to her, 'I want you to get 10 quarts of oil', she is going to get it. No matter where she gets it from, she is going to get it,” she said. “It was where her heart was, whether or not it's a cult or whatever.”
She recalled an incident in which Gardner encouraged her to journey to the Albion premises with her ailing mother for a prayer session.
“I remember once when my mother was sick. She said she wanted me to bring my mother come up to the church. So mi tell her [that at] my church, what we do is, if you want prayer we put your name in the prayer basket. So when you go up there, you put her name. She said a nuh suh it work. So the very minute she told me those things... she couldn't convince me, so we didn't really talk about [anymore] her church,” she explained.
Weeks leading up to her death, the co-worker shared, Gardner had been stocking up on “essentials” because her pastor had informed the congregants that a flood was coming and they would all leave on an ark.
“Even recently, she has been stocking up on kerosene oil and cooking oil. She told me that the pastor said that they must buy brown rice because something is going to happen. Every time she comes to work she says, 'You know seh I bought a case of this and this.' So she has been stocking up on food. The pastor says that dem must sell them television and refrigerator because dem [other people] can watch them through their TV, so she put it on her status seh she a sell her TV and fridge,” said the woman.
She shared that Gardner, who blindly followed the leader of the religious group, was an anti-vaxxer.
“Her pastor preached anti-vaccine so this thing that was going around about how she got the vaccine, nothing nuh go suh. She was anti-vaccine because that's what the pastor preached. She told me that she called her daughter and cried with her then she wished her goodbye because that vaccine that the daughter took, she said that would be her daughter's demise,” she told the Observer West.
Another co-worker, who also requested anonymity, told the Observer West that he saw Gardner stocking up on kerosene oil and tinned food.
“I saw her getting the jugs so I was thinking she was going to sell kerosene oil, but I wasn't sure. She was always saying that something is going to happen, so we must buy up tin foods and all of those things. So, she was always buying up things, mi never know a did ark she did a prepare fi go pon,” he said.
He added that he believes Gardner's life revolved around the church as that was all she would talk about.
“It's like the church was a sanctuary for her and the pastor was next to God. So everything that she did, or everything that she spoke about was always about the church and the pastor,” said the man.
A co-worker who had obliged Gardner's request to visit the church, shared that she realised something was amiss from the very moment she entered the gates of the premises.
“She invited me to the church on a Friday and I went. The first thing that struck me was that when 'the excellency' or the pastor as they called him, was coming out of his vehicle, you had three little young boys run, tek out his bag, his guitar and tek out everything out of his car so I was like, 'What is happening here?' because why would everybody run towards this man's vehicle taking out his stuff? So I was shocked. I was like, 'Nothing 'bout this nuh look real',” she said.
She added that after the service began, she noticed that congregants lined up for prayers. This, she said, took a turn when they all began to fall and cry.
“I was sitting there, people go up to get them prayers all of a sudden mi see everybody a drop. Him rub some olive oil on their head and a pray for them and everybody start drop so mi a seh 'No sah, hold on, what is happening?'
“I was very curious so I decided to join the line for the prayer, so I went and joined the line to go up there but I think after he rubbed my forehead with the olive oil and he saw that I wasn't falling like everybody else, he just moved on,” she said.