19 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Chiredzi Pastor Performs Wonders

A Chiredzi pastor, who claims to have been anointed by popular Nigerian pastor TB Joshua, is making waves in the south-eastern Lowveld town where he is said to be performing breathtaking "miracles".

The previously sleepy town is now a hive of activity with hundreds of people from all over the country flocking here to get "spiritual healing and deliverance" from pastor John Chibwe of the It Is Well Ministries.

The soft-spoken pastor uses his house along Marula Drive for healing and spiritual nurturing.

When The Standard visited the pastor's residence recently, scores of people were seated in the garden yard, waiting for him to arrive for an afternoon "devotion", which is part of his daily routine.

Most of the people said they had travelled from distant places after learning that Chibwe was performing healing wonders.

People from Chiredzi and other areas such as Gutu, Zaka, Chikombedzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge and Zvishavane come in droves every day to see the pastor.

Others travel all the way from Harare.

Mary Nyathi from Chikombedzi, several kilometres from the Lowveld town, said she had come to thank Chibwe for healing her 12-year-old daughter, who was paralysed.

The mother claimed the girl, who was wheelchair bound since birth, started walking last month after Chibwe prayed for her. Her daughter could now play with other "spiritual patients" in the pastor's garden.

Chibwe, who is employed at Hippo Valley Estates as finance director, comes home for a lunch time service, much to the delight of several people who would throng his homestead everyday.

To balance his professional job and his spiritual calling, Chibwe said he conducted healing sessions during lunch time and after working hours every day.

At times, he works odd hours to help people in fulfilment of his call.

"You cannot tire when you are called by God to do his work," said Chibwe. "A lot of people come here with different spiritual problems. I make it a point that I attend to all of them."

The pastor said some people come to him in critical conditions, but "the power of Heaven has not let me down since I began my ministry."

"God has never let me down. Even when seriously ill people come here, I always pray and trust that God will heal them," Chibwe said.

"Let me be clear here, that it is not me who heals these people. It is God who uses me as his tool to heal such people."

Chibwe said while some people went to him thinking that he could give them money, he only prayed so that God could open windows for them.

"They go without receiving a single cent from me, but they later come back thanking the Lord that they are now financially stable," he said.

"I give some money from my own pocket as directed by the Holy Spirit. Others I give food, clothing and blankets. But of interest is that all of them confirm the working hand of the Lord."

Chibwe, who claimed to have received the call to heal people three years ago, said his calling was mainly to help the less privileged and elderly people, in line with Jesus' ministry while on earth.

Asked how he started, Chibwe told The Standard that he was inspired by TB Joshua after "receiving a calling to serve the people".

He went to Nigeria to receive the anointing and TB Joshua is now his Godfather, claimed Chibwe.

He started as an evangelist preaching in different churches in Hippo Valley. In 2012, Chibwe started his own church: It Is Well Ministries, which has assemblies in Chiredzi and in Mt Pleasant, Harare.

His ministry is now called Divine Yard.

Chiredzi now resembles a place of religious pilgrimage due to Chibwe's popularity. Lodges and other accommodation facilities are always full with people seeking Chibwe's services.

Waiting rooms at the new bus terminus in Chiredzi have become a permanent shelter for many people who would have come to seek assistance from the man of cloth.

Some sleep in the open close to the bus terminus waiting for a chance to see Chibwe the following day while others have since constructed make-shift shelters behind the bus terminus where close to 20 families are staying.

Mothers can be seen holding newly born babies, a sign that they gave birth at the terminus.

Some of those that have erected structures at the terminus have no bus fare to travel back to their respective homes.

Jameson Tokwe (74) of Neshuro in Masvingo gets food and clothing from Chibwe every month.

"We are receiving maize-meal and other groceries from the pastor," said Tokwe. "We cannot afford bus fare back to our homes hence we have decided to stay here."

But Chibwe said he was not aware that there were people sleeping in the open.

It could not be independently verified if Chibwe was anointed by TB Joshua as he claimed.

'I AM DIRECTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO ASSIST'

Pastor John Chibwe, unlike many other church leaders, does not accept gifts of any kind from people he would have helped spiritually. Instead, he often provides food, clothing and money to some of those he would have "healed."

Chibwe was however quick to point out that he does not give such material benefits to everyone but only to those who would have been "identified by the holy spirit" that they needed assistance.

He said in some instances, the Holy Spirit directed him to assist the elderly with food and clothing or paying fees for underprivileged schoolchildren.

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