Prior to June 2017, Zimbabwe was nothing more to me than a fun word to pronounce. I knew nothing of its history, culture or spiritual life.
During a trip to South Africa with my sons to experience our first “Apostolic Adventure,” the opportunity first arose to visit this great country. My good friend, Jan Nel asked me to consider going to Zimbabwe to better utilize the gifts and calling he witnessed during our times together.
I said yes, and he put me in touch with Jean-Regis Doorgah, pastor of New Life Church in Chiredzi (Cheer–ed’–zi) Zimbabwe. When I contacted him, he thanked me for my inquiry, but due to the nation’s economic problems said he could neither sponsor my journey nor provide an offering to remunerate me in any way.
I was already prepared for this contingency and assured him that this made no difference to me, so we both made the necessary arrangements.
From that time until I left 4 months later, I began to raise funds for the journey while asking God about His specific mission for the trip. As a pastor who has preached over 6,000 times, I have no shortage of sermons in my arsenal, but none of that matters to me. People can access sermons from every kind of media without taking a plane ride. I sought to know what God had in mind for me to contribute.
A Brief History Of Zimbabwe
Before I continue, it is necessary for what follows to lay out the political situation in Zimbabwe. When I boarded the plane on November 12, 2017, Robert Mugabe served as President of Zimbabwe. For his 37 years in office, he has been a polarizing figure.
Zimbabwe was once called Southern Rhodesia and the current country of Zambia was Northern Rhodesia, colonized by the British in 1898. A very long and involved story, Southern Rhodesia rebelled against the British crown who was intent on turning both nations towards a more democratic society.
In 1965, Ian Smith became the president of Southern Rhodesia and white minority populations essentially held all the levers of governmental power.
Enter Robert Mugabe. Born into a poor Shona family, Mugabe served time in prison for his verbal attacks against the government. When released, he formed an army and declared war that eventually prevailed. In 1980, he became prime minister, changing the name of Southern Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.
Mugabe was seen as a hero of the revolution, similar to Nelson Mandela of South Africa but with one crucial difference: Mugabe was willing to use violent means to achieve his objectives. After becoming Prime Minister, he authorized assaults on the Ndebele tribe and some estimate that 20,000 fellow Africans were slaughtered.
Initially, Mugabe’s reforms suggested peaceful coexistence with white populations. He instituted a process for white farmers and businesses to sell their lands to native Zimbabweans. As time went on, Mugabe instituted more aggressive measures, whereby white properties were confiscated by squads that forced them from their lands.
This crashed the economy since those who took the lands did not know how to manage them. Industries collapsed, farms decreased in production and jobs were lost in the thousands. Meanwhile, Mugabe increased his own personal wealth into the billions.
While people revered him as the hero of the revolution, they also resented him for the widespread poverty that gripped the country. The U.S. imposed economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and the country descended more and more into isolation as it fully embraced communism.
Ironically, Mugabe also embraced religious freedom, unparalleled in other communist countries. Catholics and protestant alike enjoyed noninterference in their practices. By contrast, witchcraft and the occult also flourished under his leadership.
After Mugabe’s wife died in 1992, he remarried his secretary in 1996. Grace was more than 40 years younger and developed a reputation for ambition and arrogance.
Approximately a week before I arrived in the country, Grace made her move and influenced her aging husband to remove his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa (Non-gag-wa). She immediately became the new vice president, positioning herself to assume the presidency when Mugabe died. Since he was 93 at the time, most thought this could happen any day.
The nation as a whole was outraged. This power grab would prove to become her undoing. Back to my story.
During the time between committing to travel to Zimbabwe and the time of my departure, I sought the Lord as to my purpose. As previously mentioned, going to another country to preach holds no fascination for me. I desired to go in an apostolic capacity.
What I mean by that is related to the term, apostle. It literally means, “sent one.” I strongly desired to be one sent by God to accomplish His predetermined mission. Jumping on a plane to simply pad my international ministry credentials held no fascination for me.
Approximately 3 weeks prior to my trip, I spoke with a minister friend who ended the phone conversation by praying for me. At that time, he prophesied this word:
“You will sow into this nation and the seed you sow will bear fruit; not all immediately but over time.”
Herein lies the value of the spiritual gift of prophecy. It encourages, edifies or comforts fellow believers. In my case, this prophecy accomplished all three.
I continued to pray and seek the Lord further. What did He desire for me to bring to this church and nation I never visited? As I studied Zimbabwe’s history, it became obvious that that nation suffered under very difficult economic circumstances. I understood more deeply why the pastor could not help sponsor my trip.
While driving around doing errands for an upcoming event at our own church, the Holy Spirit dropped something significant into my understanding. This was the gist:
Zimbabwe was once known as the Bread Basket of Africa. I (God) gave it that name, not man and I will once again make it the breadbasket of Africa. Further, Zimbabwe will also be the spiritual breadbasket of Africa nourishing the entire continent with my manna from heaven.
From that point forward, I became convinced that my mission was to deliver this message to whoever would listen once I arrived.
Meeting My Hosts
I boarded the South African Airways flight on November 12, 2017. After an 18-hour flight, the plane landed in the capital city of Harare. Two men from the church picked me up and we traveled 268 miles to finally arrive at my destination: the pastor’s home in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe.
After an introductory meal and some rest, the pastor (Jean-Regis Doorgah) and I sat down to chat. He shared his spiritual journey with me. The pastor and his wife Gisele originally hailed from the Mauritius islands off the island of Madagascar where the main language is French.
The pastor’s father is of Pakistani descent, so I was the guest of a man who appeared Indian. He and his wife spoke English with a French accent among Zimbabweans who speak Shona with English as a second language. Somehow we all communicated well with each other!
Along with their son Paul, they lived in a modest home in what I would describe as a compound surrounded by cement walls. The grounds were neatly landscapes with a variety of plants, flowers, and trees that made it their own little oasis.
The church was built many years earlier by another denomination who decided for unspecified reasons to abandon the project. They offered it to the church now known as New Life Church International. Over the years, several additions were added when the economy was good.
Pastor Doorgah became Sr. Pastor 20 years ago. By then, they had built a day school housing more than 20 children each morning. They also added a bookstore and several offices.
As we sat and talked the pastor wanted to get some idea of who I was and what I planned to share with his church. I then shared with him the prophetic words God had entrusted to me.
He sat in silent amazement.
He then related that during a trip to Toronto, Canada twenty years earlier. A nationally- known speaker prophesied over him using the exact words. She warned that the country would go through difficult times, but would once again become the breadbasket of Zimbabwe. My words confirmed a prophecy given to him so many years ago.
At this same time, massive change was underway in the country. In response to the aforementioned Grace Mugabe’s plans to assume power, the military arrived with tanks and troops on the streets of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. They surrounded the residence of the President and many became terrified.
Zimbabwe’s history of violence left everyone wondering what was going on. Journalists tried to make sense of it all as the military confined the police to their barracks and established military control over the nation.
I received a text message from the American embassy warning me to stay inside and avoid both the capital and any city. Before I came to Zimbabwe, I had a sense – not sure it was the Holy Spirit – that a change in government was coming. While this news alarmed the church back home, I felt confident God was working.
No shots were ever fired. No one was attacked. Initial reports indicated that the military was there to protect the president from enemies. Very odd. Naturally, all this was not welcome news at home and many in my church increased their prayers on my behalf.
Teaching About The Holy Spirit
On Wednesday the 15th, the pastor introduced me to his congregation. The heat of the day had given way to extreme rain. He feared no one would come, but those fears turned out to be unfounded. When we arrived at the church, the power went out – a constant occurrence throughout the country. So, I preached to a congregation of approximately 70 in complete darkness using a flashlight and relaying the message I felt God gave me for their country.
Towards the end, the power returned and after the pastor finished with some encouragement the service ended.
I must admit that though the message was seemingly well received, I felt somewhat unfulfilled in that I did not use the closing moments of the sermons to pray for people. Mindful of the time, I elected to end my remarks but returned to my room somewhat melancholy.
The next morning after breakfast, the pastor and I once again sat down to talk. The Holy Spirit dropped this word into my consciousness:
The pastor is a key man in what I will do in Africa.
Not two seconds later, the pastor began speaking about keys! I felt compelled to stop the conversation and relay what I believed God dropped into my spirit. Once again, he was quite amazed, since our mutual friend Jan Nel prophesied these exact words over him 15 years earlier.
Now it was I who was stunned.
We ate meals together, and once they learned of my fondness for rice, I could expect at least one meal to include a healthy portion. Most meals were brought in to the home by generous church members who wished to help out.
As things unfolded at the capital we all kept a close watch. Millions were soon to gather in Harare demanding the resignation of their once beloved leader. In spite of the crowds, violence never occurred. Television journalists argued each day whether this was a coup or not. Ultimately, everyone was grateful for one more day of peace.
Thursday, I met with different staff members and had the opportunity to pray for them. Once again, God gave me specific prophetic words to encourage people as I prayed. For the most part, my gifting is teaching and training leaders. However, during this trip, the Holy Spirit directed me in this new way.
On Friday, we traveled approximately 50 miles on dirt roads to the remote area known as Chingele. During our journey, we needed to cross a bridge that was often affected by the water table. If it rained too much, the bridge was impossible to cross forcing you to drive an additional 25 miles to arrive at the same destination.
Making it quite a lot more hazardous was that the river was chock full of crocodiles! Many cars have been swept away and lives lost crossing that same bridge. We all started praying needless to say.
As we approached, the water was running about two feet high. The driver thought we could make it, so plowed ahead and thankfully he was right! Still, we watched as some swam in that same river superstitiously believing that crocodiles would never bother them.
Chingele might be what Westerners refer to as “bush country.” There is no electricity or running water. Most of the houses you see are round huts with thatched roofs.
Our mission was to hold a conference for several area churches over several days. When we arrived, we were greeted by a dozen women all singing and dancing to celebrate our arrival. It was quite extraordinary.
The church building was brick with dirt floor and openings for windows. People sat on benches. At the rear of the building was a door opening to more benches outside under strips of corrugated roofing.
Upon our arrival, we were invited to lunch. The main staple for people Zimbabwe and many parts of Africa is “pop.” If you can envision a food made principally with corn maze that resembles mashed potatoes with a slightly harder texture. Pop tastes like the mashed potato version of cornbread.
Most people ate with their hands using pop to sop up gravy will eating goat meat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were primarily the same each day we stayed in Chingele.
The custom was for someone to pour water over your hands before and after you ate. Similar to our culture, meals were a time of laughter and fellowship.
We drove another ½ mile to where we would stay, a veritable hotel compared to most housing. I had a room and a comfortable bed to sleep in, though my sleep was often interrupted by roosters, chickens, pig and various noises.
In one case, some pigs thought they would visit with us in our living area, but we quickly showed them out. I was told later that scorpions were native to the area. Thankfully, I did not know that until after we left!
Bathrooms are cement outhouses with holes in the ground. One afternoon I entered to find an oversized beetle scurrying up the wall. I decided after careful consideration to exit quickly!
Daily “showers” took place by pouring cups of water over one’s head after applying soap. As I had experienced similar conditions in India more than 40 years ago, none of this mattered to me very much. I was grateful to have the daily opportunity to get clean.
Daily temperatures stayed in the high 80s and low 90s with an occasional breeze to make the heat bearable. No one seemed to notice or be affected.
The first meeting was Friday night. We were able to secure a generator from a nearby church to create some lighting. My theme throughout would be centered on the Holy Spirit.
Approximately 250 people came, many after walking miles in the dark with the families to participate in the conference. Worship was principally vocal with the aid of a drum. When the power worked just right, a borrowed keyboard also assisted.
Americans could learn a few things about worship from the residents of Chingele. They needed no coaxing to let it all hang out in their worship of God. Nearly everyone down to 3-year-olds danced and sang often for an hour in praise and worship toward God.
Like in Chiredzi, I shared the message God gave me. As a preacher, you can tell oftentimes when your message hits the mark. God graced literally all my sermons while there. We saw God work powerfully in winning new people to Christ, healing those who were sick and encouraging believers in their faith.
Pastor Doorgah led most of the altar calls using his gift of evangelism to win many to Christ. The majority were preteens, teenagers, and young adults. In the end, we estimate approximately 50 gave their hearts to the Lord.
On Saturday, the chief of the region honored us by coming with his wife to the first meeting. This was unexpected by all, as his authority in that region is deemed significant.
He asked many questions after my preaching and during the second service responded to the altar call and gave his heart to Christ. In that region, this constituted a revival. Pastors became encouraged and strengthened in their faith.
During Saturday night’s altar call for healing, the pastor came to me and asked me for prayer. As I laid hands on him, the Holy Spirit revealed something important and I asked to defer praying for him at another time. Afterwards, he asked me if I would be willing to speak at their upcoming conference in August of 2018. I gladly accepted.
Sunday morning, the Pastor installed a new elder and his wife during the service. He also inducted a new deaconess. During the service, we shared communion together. They used a dozen plastic cups to serve so many. After each person drank from a cup, they brought it forward to be washed and reused until everyone was able to participate.
The three and a half hour service incorporated many things including an offering for me. The combined offering amounted to $55 for which I was grateful.
The chief brought a large bag of grain as his offering. In speaking with the pastor, I learned that this gesture and the amount of it constituted a great sacrifice by the chief and a tremendous honor that I also received with gratefulness.
By the end of the service, I felt like a member of the community. People were so welcoming and grateful that the lack of conveniences seemed irrelevant.
After the service, the whole community ate together – their version of a potluck. After saying our goodbye’s, we traveled back to Chiredzi. Thankfully, it had not rained at all while in Chingele so the bridge was less ominous.
Home and Then Home
When we returned to “civilization” we caught up on all the latest news regarding Mugabe. Evidently, a crowd of 2 million or more showed up in Harare to demand the president resign. At that time, their requests seemed to fall on deaf ears, but this protest remained non-violent.
The next day was just a time to hang out and fellowship while I prepared to leave for home.
In the evening hours, the pastor suggested we pray and I was called into action to obey what the Holy Spirit asked me to do days earlier. Collecting a tub of water, the Spirit told me to wash the pastor’s feet and pray off of him all the burdens that had accumulated over many, many years. God had shown me in prayer that this key man was under a spiritual assault that had taken place over many years.
I could only describe it as death by a thousand cuts. So many attacks gradually dampened his vision and resolve. Discouragement combined with poverty and disappointment became tools of the devil to suggest that his labors amounted to nothing.
As I washed his feet, the Holy Spirit came on me and we battled against every evil spirit that hindered this precious family. Our warfare Paul told us is not against flesh and blood, but against spirits and principalities in heavenly places. More than ever, I came to understand that my main purpose in coming to Zimbabwe was to encourage this pastor and his wife and play my part in helping to reestablish their calling and ministry.
In so doing, we became fast friends. I felt satisfied that I had accomplished all God ask me to do and readied myself for the long journey home.
The people of Zimbabwe are needy at this moment in history, but not lazy. I played a small role in attempting to set up website ideas to make giving from outside sources more possible until their economy can once again become self-sustaining.
Some of the projects that Pastor Doorgah has spearheaded is a program to help the blind, the lame and those without hope with needed resources. Because of their own lack, this program only operates once per quarter but they would like to increase this outreach to at least once per month or more. Lack of an automobile limits the pastor’s ministry of evangelism to other regions.
I’d like to help these fellow believers across the world fulfill the vision God has for not only their church but the nation. Drop me a line if you’d like to join me.
Pray for this nation and the believers that are there.