Garikai Mazara Extra Editor
Speaking on the eve of Good Friday, Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi – the leader of what is probably the largest indigenous church in Zimbabwe, the Zion Christian Church – hinted for the first time at the succession plan for his flock.
The bishop turns 78 this year. Quoting Jeremiah 3:15, he said: “And I will give you leaders who will be faithful to me, they will lead you with knowledge and insight”, he said the person who would take over from him would come from the lineage of Samuel Mutendi, the church’s founding bishop.
It has been 40 years since the younger Mutendi took over from his father, and quite tellingly the themes for celebration in the church this year have centred on inheritance.
Founded in 1913, the church faced several challenges in its early years of conception, particularly from the colonial establishment, which burnt a number of their schools because they were “spreading demonic spirituality”.
“The difference between the colonial regime and our Government is how much we have been supported by our Government in spreading education across the country.
“From the initial six schools, some of which were burnt down, we now have 13 schools,” he said.
A teacher by training and practice, Bishop Nehemiah said the church was simply carrying forward the vision of the late Bishop Samuel in building as many schools as possible.
“We have not stopped building schools, many more are coming, and we are even planning on universities. We believe everyone has a skill and that skill needs to be developed and nurtured, hence our emphasis on education.
“We are going to open at least two vocational technical colleges this year, one in Bikita and the other in Gokwe.”
Turning to this year’s Easter message, Bishop Nehemiah said the season was all about suffering and sacrifice.
“Some have been on sacrifice for two weeks and others started this week, but the message is about sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed his life for us, so why should we not sacrifice for just one week? We should all appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice, that spirit of dying for us,” he said.
He went on to encourage his congregants in particular and the nation in general, saying there was no gain without pain.
“We are a blessed nation, and we must work hard in order for us to enjoy the benefits of our country.
“I just arrived from China and we should draw lessons from the Chinese work ethic. The Chinese do not finish work at a given hour but only stop working when the work that needs to be done has been done.
“That is the work culture that we need to adopt. If we suffer that much, will enjoy the fruits of our country that much as well.”
Addressing a ZCC women in leadership conference on Wednesday, Bishop Nehemiah spoke largely on why inheritance should be worked for, and not just passed on.
He emphasised that inheritance was not a mere rite of passage, using Matthew 20:20 to illustrate that the Lord would reign only with those he worked with.
Estimated to have with a membership of half-a-million, and the oldest indigenous church in Zimbabwe, ZCC draws its spiritual teachings from the life, times and history of Bishop Samuel Mutendi, who survived surprising birth circumstances around the 1880s.
It is said that after giving birth to a premature baby, Samuel’s mother, not sure how her community would accept her or the baby, is said to have dumped the new-born in a goat pen.
Baby Samuel survived a night in the pen, only to be found by his grandmother the following morning.
That was to be the start of his journey of miracles, faith healing and spirituality.
According to ZCC doctrine, Bishop Samuel predicted that three days after his death, there would be a manifestation that he had risen to Heaven.
The church’s history says that after dying on July 20 1976, on the night of July 23 – three days later – an image of Bishop Samuel was visible in the skies, a phenomenon which was largely dismissed as a UFO by meteorologists at the time.
The image is said to have been seen across the region.
Whereas Bishop Samuel is largely credited with miraculous healings, his son, Bishop Nehemiah’s miraculous hand can be seen in the manner in which he has transformed the church.
ZCC now boasts of a multi-million dollar church building at Mbungo.
What is more is that the church was built between 2005 and 2010, when Zimbabwe was going through one of its worst economic crises of the post-Independence era.
To the ZCC fellowship, the completion of the church was a miracle in itself.
President Mugabe commissioned the building on April 24 2011, and the Tourism Ministry has hailed it as leading centre for international religious tourism.
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