Church conventions help heal COVID-19 scars

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Key points:

  • “Healing Conventions” in the Zimbabwe East and West annual conferences in October brought together thousands of clergy and laity for a time of worship and fellowship. The meetings followed a four-year hiatus of in-person conventions.
  • “COVID-19 damaged people’s confidence in life,” Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa said. “People were not sure they would ever congregate again, but God said it was a thing in passing, and now we are back to worship.”

  • Despite challenges including the availability of water, similar conventions are planned for 2024. 

Thousands of people gathered at two separate events in the Zimbabwe East and West annual conferences for prayer, worship and spiritual healing.

The COVID-19 pandemic left many scars, and the need for healing was paramount, said Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa.

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa (second from right) and members of his cabinet dance during a musical performance at the United Methodist Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. A similar convention was held in the Zimbabwe West Conference to help people heal after the COVID-19 pandemic. The bishop called the gatherings marvelous and said people were healed spiritually and holistically. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa (second from right) and members of his cabinet dance during a musical performance at the United Methodist Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. A similar convention was held in the Zimbabwe West Conference to help people heal after the COVID-19 pandemic. The bishop called the gatherings marvelous and said people were healed spiritually and holistically. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Two new campsites at Mufusire and Drummond farms in the Zimbabwe East and West conferences, respectively, hosted the Healing Conventions Oct. 12-15. The meetings followed a four-year hiatus of in-person conventions.

“The conventions were so marvelous,” Nhiwatiwa said, adding that in August 2024, the events will be repeated. “The COVID-19 pandemic damaged people’s confidence in life. People were not sure they would ever congregate again, but God said it was a thing in passing, and now we are back to worship.”

People were healed both spiritually and holistically, he said. 

Greater Taremeredzwa Nhiwatiwa, president of Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai, the church’s women’s organization, said the gatherings were inspiring.

“We are the survivors. People were thirsty for the Word. Every time, they would rush to the pulpit to pray. People were uplifted and healed.”

She noted that a major challenge during the events was adequate water availability for those gathered.

“Despite this challenge,” Greater Nhiwatiwa said, “I thank God for being the pillar of my strength. I salute the hosting team members from both conferences for putting all the resources together and making the event a success.”

Women sing and dance during the United Methodist Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. The gathering, along with one held in the Zimbabwe West Conference, followed a four-year hiatus of in-person conventions. The events were sponsored by The United Methodist Church’s men’s organization, Mubvuwi we United Methodist Church, and women’s group Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Women sing and dance during the United Methodist Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. The gathering, along with one held in the Zimbabwe West Conference, followed a four-year hiatus of in-person conventions. The events were sponsored by The United Methodist Church’s men’s organization, Mubvuwi we United Methodist Church, and women’s group Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Anesu Mironga, Zimbabwe East women’s secretary, said it took nine months to organize the joint events.

“In Zimbabwe East, we had more than 13,000 people,” Mironga said. “Congregants at Mufusire Campsite were engulfed in a mood of exaltation.”

Liberty Muziti, vice chair of Zimbabwe East men’s organization, Mubvuwi we United Methodist Church, said the joint healing convention between the women’s and men’s groups proved that people were hungry to congregate and worship together.

“After a powerful sermon, the prayer and deliverance areas were always packed, and many people were delivered, prayed for and healed,” Muziti said.

The Rev. Henry Chareka, Murewa Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe District superintendent and cabinet representative for Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai in the Zimbabwe West Conference, said the events offered many benefits to the clergy and laity in attendance.

“Gathering together has its own therapeutic effects, even before preaching takes place,” he said.

“Sermons were quite helpful and healthy for our church.”

Gift Kufazvineyi, a fourth-year student at United Theological College, preaches during the Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Gift Kufazvineyi, a fourth-year student at United Theological College, preaches during the Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

The Rev. Sophirina Sign, Zimbabwe East connectional ministries director, said it was a one-of-a-kind experience.

“It was Holy Spirit led. So many souls were healed, delivered, uplifted and saved. We were divinely inspired. The presence of God was really felt. The attendance itself was overwhelming. How great is God Almighty!”

The events were a milestone despite some of the obstacles organizers faced, said the Rev. Richmond Mauwa, hosting Harare Central District connectional ministries director.

“Our major challenge was scarce resources to construct standard buildings. Boreholes yielded inadequate water due to low water table. We had to outsource water to (meet) expected standards of hygiene,” he said. “We were overjoyed at the end of the revival, despite being anxious during the preparatory stages.”

Mauwa said the Zimbabwe West convention had more than 10,000 people in attendance. Because of that success, he said, the church has entrusted the next convention to be hosted at the same venue in 2024.

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Margret Ganda, Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai board of trustees chair, said God was at work during the events.

“At Mufusire Campsite, we drilled five boreholes, and four were dry holes. When all hope was lost, the fifth borehole yielded some water just four days before the convention. God answered our prayers and fasting,” she said.

The Rev. Preston Majoni, Zimbabwe East connectional ministries chair, also gave glory to God.

“As a guest preacher, it was a humbling experience. I give all the glory and honor to God for enabling me to accomplish his task. I had a dream about preaching on this big occasion.

“God will not start what he is not able to finish,” Majoni said. “Storms are inevitable, but our God is unconquerable. The presence of the storms does not indicate the absence of God. Storms can either make you bitter or better.”

Enviolator Kudakwashe Kamupunga, a first-year student pastor at United Theological College, was one of the preachers.

“Given such an opportunity to preach at that convention was very important to me,” she said. “I was filled with a sense of purpose and responsibility. 

“The church is counting on us because our words have the potential to impact and evoke a mixture of emotions on the lives of those listening. As pastors, we have to remain faithful, honest and humble as what we saw in our bishop, church leaders and people being healed.”

Rose Magara, the only female lay preacher in the Zimbabwe West Conference, said when she received the invitation to be one of eight guest preachers, she felt honored.

“God was preaching through me. However, being a woman preacher alone takes the grace of God. It teaches you to balance roles and responsibilities as wife, mother and employee. I thank God for giving me a supportive family.”

Participants and preachers also were moved by the music and performances during the conventions.

“We took time to prepare to sing at this convention knowing well that music evokes the Holy Spirit. It heals and enables people to gain strength,” said Sheller Mangwanda, Harare East District Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai guest choir member.

Musicians sang to invite the preacher to the podium, Majoni said, bringing “anticipation, zeal and eagerness of the congregants to listen to the sermon.”

Little drummer boy

Watch video of 8-year-old Kupakwashe Mberi drumming during the United Methodist Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm. “I worship my God through drum beating,” Kupakwashe said.

One performance that stood out was that of Kupakwashe Mberi, 8, who demonstrated his prowess in drum beating.

The Rev. Martha Mberi, the young drummer’s mother, said, Kupakwashe started to be interested in drumming when he was a toddler.

“He used to beat my dishes, buckets, anything that produced sound,” she said. “When he was 5 years old, I started to notice that when we were in church, he would ask for a drum to beat. These are the works of God.”

Kupakwashe said he was moved by the reactions to his drumming.

“I worship my God through drum beating. When I saw my bishop walking from the pulpit, I did not know that he was coming to appreciate my efforts. He gave me a token of appreciation and words of encouragement and wisdom. It touched me, and I found myself crying.”

Eight-year-old Kupakwashe Mberi shows his prowess on the drums during the Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. More than 13,000 people attended the gathering and another 10,000 attended a similar convention in the Zimbabwe West Conference. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Eight-year-old Kupakwashe Mberi shows his prowess on the drums during the Zimbabwe East Conference Healing Convention at Mufusire Farm in October. More than 13,000 people attended the gathering and another 10,000 attended a similar convention in the Zimbabwe West Conference. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

One area that organizers are looking to improve for future conventions is connectivity, as poor network coverage was a challenge.

Still, the conventions offered hope for the future of the church in Zimbabwe, said the Rev. Taurai Maforo, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area communications director.

“The 2023 conventions were a great success and a sign that the church is alive beyond the COVID-19 challenges.”

Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.

News media contact: Julie Dwyer at [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.



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