The Sunday Mail
THE life story of Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Chaplain Christine Phiri tells of a woman made of steel.
Aged 40, she has experienced life as an orphan, a widow and a sex worker. She has suffered a mild stroke and has survived a brain tumour.
She is now facing a divorce.
It has been a long and painful road but the courageous chaplain takes it all in her stride. In fact, she uses her life experiences to add depth in her sermons.
The chaplain’s sermons, which have gone viral on social media, are spiced with popular Zimdancehall lyrics. They are pregnant with life lessons. In one clip, she fervently dishes out the gospel before borrowing Enzo Ishall’s ‘Kanjiva’ to drive her point home.
“I am a pencil in the hand of God, scribbling a love letter to the world,” said the Rusape born preacher.
She took The Sunday Mail Society down her life’s memory lane.
Her first encounter with divorce was in 1991 when her parents decided to go their separate ways. Young Phiri, who is the first of four children, was aged 12 years then.
“For us to be able to attend school, our mother became a housemaid and I had to watch over my siblings while she was working,” said the Masvingo based prison officer.
This is when Phiri’s mother turned to prostitution. On certain occasions, the children had to sleep outside the house so that their mother could accommodate clients.
Five years later, the mother passed on, leaving 17-year-old Phiri as the head of the family.
“Despite the difficult situation, I continued with my school studies.
“After three sittings, I finally attained five Ordinary Level subjects but before I could find a career for myself, I got married to a pastor at the age of 21,” she said.
“After marriage, my siblings had to be taken in by other relatives.”
However, as fate would have it, four months on, her husband got involved in a car accident in Harare and died.
She was three months pregnant at the time.
As a widow, her in-laws accused her of bewitching her husband. To make matters worse, the church at which her husband had been pastoring repossessed their property and the young widow was left stranded.
The chaplain faced the humiliation of giving birth to her first born son months later without any preparation for the child’s birth.
“I turned to prostitution to provide for the baby. However, I later received Christ through a friend,” she said.
A timely intervention by a Zaoga pastor saw her being assisted under the church’s wing of Widows, Singles, Mothers Conference. She also acquired entrepreneurial skills.
In 2003, she was recruited at the penal services as a prison officer. It is during her early days as a prison officer that she met her current husband. She later trained as a chaplain.
Sadly, due to irreconcilable differences several years later, the couple is going through a divorce.
“I have experienced life as an orphan, as a widow, as a sex worker, a mother, a prison officer and a wife. I believe God took me through all that in preparation for ministry,” said Chaplain Phiri with great conviction.
She has since penned her first book ‘My life, a great testimony’, which is set to hit the shelves in June.