'God has not forgotten Zimbabwe'


ZIMBABWE — Ray Motsi knelt in prayer. His knee rested on the dirty, cold, concrete floor while one hand grabbed a steel bar. Two other pastors knelt beside him inside the jail cell. They prayed for revival in their country.

Arrested moments earlier at a prayer meeting, officials charged the Zimbabwean pastors with leading an anti-government meeting. Hundreds of Christians followed them to the jailhouse, continuing the prayer meeting asking God for revival.

"There was revival in Kadoma that weekend," the pastor said. "Fifty-two inmates and guards asked Jesus to be their Savior and many more heard the Gospel.

"Times may be tough, but God has not forgotten Zimbabwe," Motsi continued. Charges against the pastors were dropped in May 2007. "Disasters are often God's loudspeakers to His people. People hear better during these times."

In addition to political woes that continue to gather international headlines, the country is suffering from an economic meltdown that has most Zimbabweans struggling to meet day-to-day needs. A severe drought combined with the under-production of wheat and maize resulted in 4 million people needing food aid, according to the United Nations. HIV/AIDS, meanwhile, also wreaks havoc in the country.

Zimbabweans are learning to appreciate the simple things and live by faith, a pastor in Harare said.

"When we were comfortable and had everything we needed, people didn't stop to pay attention to God," the pastor said. "Now, we live simple lives and the focus is slowly turning back to God. People want to know about Him. The Lord, in an amazing way, is looking after His people."

Nhamo Chigohi remembers a time when he was persecuted for his faith, but now people stop him to ask questions about Jesus. Chigohi was among the first believers with the Shangaan people in eastern Zimbabwe. The Shangaan are known for their adherence to African traditional religions, such as following ancestral spirits and witchdoctors. When Chigohi turned away from the ancestors to follow Christ, his family and village ridiculed him.

After discussing it with his wife, Chigohi turned down a pastorate with a large church in Harare to minister among his own people.

"It takes a Shangaan to minister to a Shangaan," the pastor said nine years after returning home. "It was slow at first, no one wanted to believe. For the last two and a half years now, planting churches in Shangaan land is easy."

Around 20 churches have started in this area of Zimbabwe. Missionaries have described the area as "hungering after God." Chigohi said the difference in heart came as the Shangaan saw God's love and compassion shine through difficult times.

One village elder admitted he once regarded Christianity as a religion only for the Shona, the majority people group in Zimbabwe. But he stepped back and watched how God provided for the Shangaan through food, water and medicine -– not to mention caring for the orphans in their community. He knew Jesus came for the Shangaan as well.

"Life is not easy here. It's very difficult," Chigohi said. "The difficult times keep us challenged and turning to God. God is moving. He has now opened the Gospel to the Shangaan people and many others."



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