Jesus & the Messengers
Jesus declared, “The Kingdom of God has come near!”
That God has rescued humanity in and through his Son, Jesus, is the most extraordinary, life-impacting, life-transforming, life-giving news the world has ever known. Reading from Isaiah, Jesus proclaimed God's kingdom as “good news to the poor,” “freedom for the prisoners,” “recovery of sight for the blind,” “release for the oppressed,” and the “year of the Lord’s favor.”
And even though Jesus was God on earth, he did not bring this news to the world on his own. He ushered in the Kingdom of God in partnership with others, by calling a band of disciples to accompany him in his ministry of word and deed, and then sending them to share the gospel with the world—two by two, in groups, and as a community.
This power of partnership was never more visible to me and our small team from the U.S. than it was during the Mission Africa outreach to Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, in September 2010.
In connection and collaboration with Cape Town 2010, Mission Africa asked twenty-one international evangelists to engage in missions in various African countries in partnership with local African evangelists. I was paired with African Enterprise evangelist Orpheus Hove.
Our team of four (including Barclay Nelson, a young Presbyterian businessman from Dallas; Mary Ann Sherman, an Anglican woman in her 60s from Texas; and Jodie Collins, a young, non-denominational evangelist from England) began communicating with Orpheus via email beforehand.
Before we arrived, much groundwork had been laid in terms of organization and prayer. Orpheus and his team gathered forty churches from various denominations for the first ecumenical mission in Chitungwiza. The pastors and lay leaders prayed together and were equipped staff from the Navigators to run introductory Bible studies for those who would be committing their lives to Christ.
Before the mission started, the pastors gave testified to the power of meeting together: gathering Christians from various denominations tills the soil for an incredible harvest to come.
And our team in the U.S. began to meet and pray together as well. We already felt deeply connected to Orpheus and the forty churches of Chitungwiza before we met face to face.
God in Community in Zimbabwe
After a two-day journey, our team arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been through great trials in recent years with the suppressive (and at times brutal) government of President Mugabe. We never stopped at traffic lights due to the risk of being “car jumped.” During a recent food shortage some people were reduced to eating cow dung. In the midst of this environment our team found some of the most joyous, light-bearing Christians we had ever encountered.
Orpheus met us and shared the plan for the week. We were filled with anticipation. We bowed our heads while Orpheus prayed. As our heads lifted, I noticed tears were in the eyes of every team member. That night, our U.S. team discussed how we sensed the presence of God through Orpheus.
Ministering in Africa was very unique. For one thing, the concept of time was different. Thinking we were running two hours late, we found ourselves actually three hours early. Difficult roads and few cars presented the challenge of transportation. Additionally, there was always the risk of compromised electricity and unreliable generators for the lights and the sound system.
These difficulties, however, could not discourage the Christian leaders on mission. When challenges arose, Orpheus persevered in making sure the gospel was shared. He would say over and again, “We will not let the enemy get us down. The gospel will go forth.”
For a whole week the gospel was preached in schools and hospitals, on the streets, and in four preaching venues throughout the city. Our team shared the gospel alongside the local African team.
The Power of Diversity in Partnership
I have thought a good deal about why this kind of partnership is so essential for the cause of Christ.
- The testimony of different voices coming together. We demonstrated that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people and that God desires to transform the lives of each and every person on earth.
- The Body of Christ from working harmoniously throughout the world. Only for the sake of the cross of Christ do Christians from vastly different places and churches join hands and cooperate. And God, of course, is always able to do more than we could ask or imagine. Our love and unity serve as a visible testimony to God.
It was an honor to work alongside these pastors bringing the message of hope in Christ. Night after night, we all piled into Orpheus’ truck, picking up pastors and evangelists along the way. The African evangelists moved our team in their tireless delight to share the gospel with their community.
Stories of Transformation & Healing
We saw many people listen intently to the message of Christ and respond. By God's grace, over one thousand people committed their lives to Christ for the first time! We witnessed healings, the driving out of demons, and the repentance of sinners. God’s love, power, and grace were palpable. Along with the Apostle John we can say, “We have seen it and testify to it” (1 John).
Two stories especially stood out for our team.
1. Tremendous change in Unit D. We had the opportunity to preach the gospel in an area called Unit D, where the gospel had never been preached. Unit D is the most violent area of Chitungwiza, a place of cult practices, child sacrifices, tribal bloodshed, and more recently, mass robberies and killings.
After our team preached the gospel, many came forward and gave their lives to Christ, including young men in their 20s who, as they said, wanted to turn from “evil” and begin again with Jesus. Everyone involved in the mission acknowledged that the spiritual ground had shifted in that place. Peace broke into the chaos; light entered the darkness. And we have since received confirmation from the Zimbabwean pastors that great changes are taking place in the lives of these young men.
One woman came forward with great pain in her stomach, wailing in discomfort. We prayed for her and she fell to the ground moaning. Then, she rose up in perfect tranquility with the pain gone. I have never before seen God’s healing power so visibly.
2. Eternal life at a football game. A football match (which was really a gathering for the Christians who had been involved in the mission) was going on during the final day of preaching. After sharing the gospel message over the loud speakers, two young men who had come to watch the football game raised their hands to come forward. From almost a quarter of a mile away, the men began to run to the stage area. The Christians gathered began to cheer. These were the last two people who gave their lives to Christ that week. Having thought they were there to watch football, God had other plans.
I cannot thank God enough for the opportunity to work with Orpheus and the forty other churches in Zimbabwe, and to see God call so many people to himself. We saw the face of Jesus in each of our brothers and sisters in Africa. Indeed, the Kingdom of God came near. To him be glory, for there is power of partnership in the gospel of his Son.