Zimbabwe is abuzz about Jesus as the Seventh-day Adventist Church enters its final week of evangelistic meetings and the health minister, overwhelmed at the sight of thousands of people receiving free healthcare at an Adventist-organized clinic, asked the church to consider building a hospital.
Tens of thousands of people are gathering nightly for a two-week evangelistic series in several hundred churches and other venues. Most of the speakers at the sites are from Zimbabwe, but 76 are from North America, including 30 young adults, and one is from Malawi.
Scores of people are being baptized nightly, and the number is expected to swell to 30,000 by the close of the series on Sabbath, May 30.
The Adventist Church’s implementation of its “comprehensive health ministry” initiative — which seeks to follow Jesus’ example by meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs at the same time — has captured nationwide attention through reports on national television and radio and in major newspapers.
Word has spread quickly about an Adventist-organized free clinic operating beside a field in Chitungwiza, near the capital, Harare, where more than 20,000 people are attending nightly meetings, many after receiving medical treatment.
“The whole country is talking about what is happening in the meetings,” a Zimbabwean woman told Duane McKey, coordinator of the two-week series, at one of the meetings on Monday night.
Zimbabwe’s vice president has praised the Adventist Church’s work publicly, and acting Health and Child Welfare Minister Douglas Mombeshora has asked for an Adventist hospital, said Innocent Gwizo, coordinator of the free clinic and the Adventist Church’s director of AIDS and health ministries in Zimbabwe.
“Overwhelmed by the success and impact of the health expo, the minister called on the global church leadership … to establish a mission hospital in Zimbabwe,” Gwizo said.
The Adventist Church in Zimbabwe was exploring the possibilities. Leaders said that the local church, as evidenced by the free clinic, was committed to improving people’s health and would do all it could to provide healthcare through similar events, clinics, health education, members sharing simple health tips with neighbors and, if possible, some type of new medical facility.
Zimbabweans are not the only ones talking about the impact of the Adventist events, said McKey, vice president for evangelism at the Adventist Church’s Southwestern Union in Texas.
“Our speakers from North America are having incredible experiences. Many say their lives are changed forever,” he told the Adventist Review.
One young woman told him after making her first call for baptism, “I was a basket case.” A man said, “I have preached at home many times, but nothing I have done has changed me like this!”
“Thirty of our speakers are young adults, and many have committed to preach evangelistic series when they return home,” McKey said.
Also among the speakers is Adventist Review associate editor Lael Caesar, a native of Guyana who is preaching in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo.Caesar is “tag-teaming” the second half of an evangelistic series begun by Anthony Kent, associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference.
Paul Ratsara, president of the church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, which includes Zimbabwe, said he was thrilled to see members, pastors, and church leaders working together to influence their communities in significant ways.
“Praise God our division is working together to share our means, our lives, and the love of God to make a visible difference in our communities both now and for eternity,” Ratsara said.
As an example of this work, he pointed to church members in the town of Darby who raised a church in six days last week, building during the day and holding evangelistic meetings at night.
“The achievement of the Darby team is refreshing and inspiring,” he said. “They have built a church from the dry ground up in only six days using their own local resources.”
The church members held Bible studies in the community for weeks before the evangelistic meetings, and 101 people were baptized after the church building’s dedication last Sabbath.
Ratsara said the Darby outreach represented an integration of a number of strategic initiatives in his division. “Prayer and revival, training, comprehensive evangelism, a wise use of resources, and sacrificial giving have all combined to create this wonderful result,” he said.
The integration can also be seen at the free clinic, called a Health Expo, that is operating in a shopping center in Chitungwiza. The clinic, staffed by more than 550 volunteers, has treated 24,167 patients since opening on May 13 and plans to see thousands more this week, Gwizo said.
“The Zimbabwe Union Conference’s health ministries department had planned to reach about 15,000 persons with this expo,” he said. “However, this goal is now history. God has stepped in to accomplish His mission in the lives of the needy communities of Chitungwiza and now Zimbabwe at large.”
He noted that the clinic has drawn strong national interest among Zimbabwe’s leadership, with government ministers, members of parliament, the deputy attorney general, and many others attending the official opening, and more expected this week.
A health ministry official, Dorcas Sithole, has remarked that the clinic is the biggest community health outreach that the country has ever witnessed.
The clinic’s dental-care department is booked through the end of the event, while about 100 people are waiting for free surgeries from a team of volunteer surgeons led by David Chumuka at the government’s Chitungwiza Central Hospital.
“It is very clear that the surgeries will continue after” the evangelistic series ends, Gwizo said.
Surgeons are performing about 18 operations daily and have been forced to stop taking more cases because people are coming from all over the country.
Gwizo said the church was looking for funds to cover the surgeries of all those who had already shown up.
“We know the Lord will provide,” he said.
Meanwhile, church members are contacting all 24,167 patients who have received treatment with offers of Bible studies.
“Already more than 1,000 members from our witnessing teams are visiting homes and giving Bible studies during the day,” Gwizo said.
Several patients who previously received Bible studies have been baptized, including four former drug addicts.
The Voice of Prophecy Bible school is also enrolling thousands of patients from the expo.
“This will continue for months after the preaching ends,” Gwizo said. “In the process, the people will be connected with local churches, and we expect that each person will receive at least four visits in six months.”