ZIMBABWE – The Bible says that once people heard of Jesus’ ability to perform miracles, crowds started gathering wherever he would be preaching. Most of them were people with physical and mental ailments who either came under their own steam or were brought by their caregivers. The phenomena appears to be alive today in Zimbabwe as people gather around those who are said to have the power to perform miracles.
Paul Mwazha, Emmanuel Makandiwa, the Mutendis of Mbungu and other church leaders have also gathered large crowds at their various key activities over the years. Church gatherings are a magnet for those seeking answers to social ills as well as those who believe in the ability of the spirit realm for healing.
In what could be described as a doctor and a patient affair, this was the scenario as hundreds of thousands of people thronged Prophetic Healing and Deliverances (PHD) premises in Waterfalls on Friday in the hope of finding a formula to their troubles.
PHD front-man and popular televangelist Walter Magaya attracted thousands of people from all social persuasions including politicians across the divide to his Night of Turnaround 4 gathering last Friday.
The exact number of people who turned out may be subject to debate, but no one would argue that they certainly made up one of the largest religious gatherings to be found in the country.
The Night of Turn Around event came after Prophet Magaya had travelled to Nigeria where he reportedly spent time with his spiritual father TB Joshua in preparation for the day.
The visit seemed to have been overshadowed by reports of a public spat between him and “rival” Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International Church (UFIC) over a survey that reportedly pitted the two against each other regarding popularity.
Prophet Magaya reportedly scooped the honours after being nominated as the most influential Zimbabwean under 40 years of age beating Prophet Makandiwa who came third.
But the crowds that thronged his Waterfalls premises seemed to have dwarfed all the negativity as Zimbabweans sought solace in what seems as a hopeless situation.
Thousands of congregants came from different cities as far as Hwange, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Manicaland, Gwanda and beyond the country’s borders. International visitors from Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia could supposedly be identified by flags and regalia representing their countries.
Some of the visitors had to be accommodated at the church premises after the church’s guest house was filled to capacity. What is it that pushes one to turn to faith in this very practical world that we live in?
Congregants interviewed said they had turned up for the promised opportunity to find inner peace and answers to economic and social problems.
Calvin Kahuni a truck driver from Messina said he had travelled all the way from the South African border town because of faith that the night will turn around his economic fortunes.
“I specifically came from Messina for this crusade. I do not have any health complications. I need an upgrade in my work and a change in my lifestyle,” he said.
Another foreign based Zimbabwean who preferred anonymity said, “My wife was barren for the past eleven years but when she was delivered here at PHD, she is now four months pregnant so l have to come here and praise God.”
“I lost my job as our company downsized so this is an opportunity for me to turnaround my life,” said a Kuwadzana resident.
On the premised day, the scorching heat in the early hours of Friday and the sudden drop in temperatures the following morning did nothing to deter the massive whistle, vuvuzela blowing and flag waving crowd.
Other followers invaded Highfield residential areas with others stood in open trucks peeping over the PHD’s perimeter precast concrete walls to get a glimpse of Prophet Magaya.
While ordinary followers jostled for a better view, it was all smiles for the VVIP and the VIP who had reserved places. Ushers were readily available to give them a tour of the premises and to locate allocated sitting areas.
Among those who attended from the country’s political scene were Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Christopher Mushohwe, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira, Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Deputy Minister Abigail Damasane, and foreign diplomats.
As the event commenced, legendary musician Oliver Mtukudzi belted out his hits, with dancehall musician Shinsoman, real name is Romeo Anthony also proved that he was a force to reckon with in the dancehall industry.
Gospel music couple Pastor Charles and Amai Olivia Charamba, South African Benjamin Dube and Zimpraise all entertained the bumper crowd.
It was close to midnight that Prophet Magaya arrived at the scene. The hundreds of thousands of followers went into frenzy upon seeing “The Man of God” as they hoped that their moment had come.
“My life has just not been going well. Illness, family problems, money challenges. So I came here hoping to be blessed. I have faith that this will be my night,” said Tapfuma Ngwasho of Gweru.
“My marriage is falling apart. My husband is now more interested in his small house. He does not care about the children. I know that if the prophet blesses me, it will be well in my life. I travelled from Beitbridge. I had to scrimp to put together the money for transport and to remain here for three nights,” said a young woman in her twenties who requested anonymity.
Magaya’s authority and power was amplified by the phone-call exchange which happened between him and Temitope Balogun Joshua, commonly referred to as T B Joshua, a Nigerian preacher who commands a huge following.
The Nigerian preacher and founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations pronounced a “new dawn” for PHD members and congratulated Prophet Magaya as the event coincided with his birthday.
Prophet Magaya’s sermon of that day proclaimed a turnaround to social, economic aspects of lives to all the attendees.
He said because of “faith”, his followers lives will never be the same again. After his preaching, the night was then characterised by people being delivered from spiritual attacks, and other ills.
The Night of Turn Around spilled to Sunday where thousands of followers had an opportunity to enter into the “holy ground”. The holy ground is a fenced place at the church premises full of sand where people are said to be delivered. One man who could not get a chance to get onto the space begged a woman who was inside to hand him some sand.
“Just let me have some sand to take back home. I live in Kwekwe and I cannot come back to Harare soon for a chance to go on the holy ground. So if I take some of this sand, I will be blessed,” said a young man.
The event also witnessed a brisk business for Commuter Omnibuses and vendors who had a good income throughout the week.
Most wished the event could have prolonged for more than a week to make a huge profit out of the event while other were disgruntled by the confusion caused by the bumper crowd along Simon Mazorodze road. Motorists had to find other alternatives to pass through the highway along the church premises.
For the pilgrims it is back to their ordinary lives to see if their faith has served them truly and their dreams are coming true.