Jabula New Life Ministries International senior pastor Bishop Tudor Bismark is chair of the Council of African Apostles, “a wholly African initiative to bring the key apostolic voices of the African church to bear on uniquely African issues.” Tendai Manzvanzvike (TM) spoke with Bishop Bismark (TB) about his worldwide ministry, the church in Africa and his pan-African passion.
TM: You have been described as one of the greatest prophets of our time. Who is Bishop Bismark?
TB: My wife Pastor Chichi and I are committed to Africa. We’re more committed to Zimbabwe. There have been opportunities to leave this nation and go abroad, but we’ve made a covenant to be here and to speak a positive message and contribute and uplift in every way, not just in prayer, but by being strong and positive ambassadors for our nation.
We really believe that Zimbabwe’s best days are now coming to fulfilment and strongly appeal to all the players in the political, private and social sectors, and civic society to work together to build a strong and positive Zimbabwe.
Friends that participate with us in Africa have the same sentiment. That’s why many of them continue to come to Zimbabwe and fly the Zimbabwean flag.
We also have a very strong Biblical view on the way a nation should be and many of our colleagues in this nation attest and adhere to those views as well. And we do believe that the best of our days are coming. We peg 2020 to be the fulfilment of that renaissance.
TM: What does the future hold for Zimbabwe and the continent in 2015 and beyond?
TB: 2014 was a very interesting year. There were lots of changes and transitions. But, we’ve also seen a number of significant movements begin to develop.
And, within the confines of these movements, of course referring to the church here, there was more significant unity of the church in its role as it pertains to the socio-economic, political events in Zimbabwe and the continent.
We feel very strongly that for Zimbabwe, many transitional issues are being resolved, putting Zimbabwe’s position in a unique way to be key to economic development, growth and empowerment because by the year 2020, some of the issues that South Africa is facing and will be going through, Zimbabwe will already have gone through.
Many of the challenges that have been faced economically, those milestones will have been transitioned and we’ll have gone through all those.
Of course, there is need to address some of the policies to make it more attractive for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to come home and for investors to invest both within the region and at an international level.
There also has to be reform of the taxation system to make it easier for upcoming businesspeople to not just start businesses, but for those businesses to have a longer life span where jobs are created to alleviate the high levels of unemployment.
TM: What role is the church playing in all this?
TB: The church through its ministries has had a very positive message in what could be called in apologetics, black liberation gospel, which is the gospel of empowerment where prosperity is pushed and advocated.
We’re pushing empowerment, for unemployment is very high not only in Zimbabwe but also in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa.
Churches are telling people to start their own businesses and providing the tools and ways of how that can be done.
We’re also seeing that the churches in Africa are pushing people in informal sectors to move to a more formal business type and also that for those that are in subsistence, to move to commercial so that there is a stronger base for long-term business where it’s not just short term, but where you have a significant volume of individuals participating.
And we see that in 2015 and beyond, it’s going to increase even more because by 2020, Africa’s population will be way over a billion, and 65 percent of that population will be under the age of 25, that’s going to provide, arguably, some of the most incredible potential for markets. We will be the most desired continent and the church is acting as a compass to bring balance to social and political challenges that we have seen in different countries.
TM: How has the church leadership been collaborating to steer Africa’s future?
TB: A number of years ago, we felt that it was important that we get together for several reasons. First, so that we could be accountable to one another because on the backdrop of emerging churches and ministries.
We felt very strongly that we be accountable for the people that we have in our care and for the revenues that are generated so that they can be directed into significant projects so that we alleviate pressure on our governments.
We also felt that by getting together, we could inspire one another and expect our respective countries to do that.
TM: What drives your strong pan-African sentiments?
TB: As Africans, we’re not looking for handouts. What we’re looking for and I believe from governments even all the way to the church world, are equal opportunities even as they pertain to issues of trade.
The World Trade Organisation does not treat Africa fairly. It has to grant us equal opportunities for trade in diamonds, platinum, chrome, gold you name the commodity.
We have some of the best arable land, and recognisably some of the best agricultural produce, but we are undercut in our tobacco, cotton and maize sales and some markets in the European Union and in North Americas are shut tight.
As a result, instead of having an opportunity to export quality goods, we’re exporting to Europe people with problems, people full of need because of lack of these opportunities.
If we were given opportunities, then we’d be able to move Africa beyond the poverty line. And instead of exporting need Africa would export innovation, ideas, quality products that would compete with Asia’s emerging markets.
So, we’re not asking President Obama for green cards or visas. We’re asking for opportunities. Give us a chance to compete.
That’s true even within the church realm. We need to be treated in a way that’s fair.
Granted, we need to improve our institutions and we need to bring greater credibility to our business dealings, and we also need to deal with issues like corruption, but as long as we have areas of sanctions, it will foster antagonism and there are going to be challenges that we inevitably have to deal with.
TM: Is this why you are coming together as the Council of African Apostles?
TB: Indeed! We want to address African issues, and begin to speak positively into areas that we can provide solutions. We want to be part of the think tank, the solution toolbox for the African Union and for other initiatives.
Everyone around the CAA table is a very strong pan-Africanist with a very strong African agenda, and we all adhere to the same values to see Africa rise up and be counted.
The CAA is also designed to provide a tool to mentor individuals on several levels. We have also identified a certain group of leaders that are emerging from within our continent and in Zimbabwe. We want to bring them in so that they become part of a collective programme on the spiritual and physical agenda for the nation. And that means we will have various generations being schooled, mentored and being energised.
TM: The Council will be meeting soon. When and where?
TB: This year we are hosting the CAA here in Harare. It will be our 10th meeting.
In 2014, we were in Nigeria where the theme was “Organising people, organising money”. We thought it was necessary to organise on that level so that we can be impactful.
This year’s theme is “Build” – building on what we have organised, and to bring into our orbit gifted people from every sector so that they can contribute meaningfully. The whole idea of giving back has become very important and a backdrop of our success.
TM: Plans are underway to build a state of the art 21st Century church building – the Kingdom Cathedral…
TB: The building we’re putting up is based on our ministry’s journey – with God’s speaking, concerning the building.
We looked at the top 20 best church buildings in the world and the largest church buildings in the world – from St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to St Paul’s in London, and more.
We looked at all these and told ourselves that we have one chance to build, let’s make something iconic that will make us a generation that was proud to have contributed to something meaningful. We also want Zimbabwe to be put on the map for something that is elaborate and iconic. So, that’s why Kingdom Cathedral is going up in Eastlea, and we’re close to having that project released.
TM: Final remarks…
TB: We have a number of followers from around the world. Jabula New Life Ministries is in 35 countries. We’re on a number of significant websites. There is a website that deals with top ten preachers in Africa, and we’re on that list. And the fact that we are is amazing. And the fact that this is from Zimbabwe also makes us very proud.
In August 2014, we celebrated 40 years in ministry. It was a major milestone where we put together a book: 40 Things We Learnt in 40 Years.
Our prayer as a ministry is that God will bless our great country Zimbabwe – grant us peace, give us prosperity and bless our posterity because we really believe that Zimbabwe is the bread basket of this continent and of the world.
I reiterate the fact that we are very optimistic that every sector of this nation is going to rise, and the blessing of the Lord will come upon it.
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