Bishop Dr Nehemiah Mutendi
BIKITA- Easter commemorations at the Zion Christian Church at Mbungo Estates in Bikita, just like any other Christian church, are a remembrance of what Jesus Christ represents.
As ZCC joins the rest of the Christian community in celebrating the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ, memories of the inaugural Mbungo Easter celebrations held back in 1981 are held dear.
This was at a time when the church came together to share communion for the first time at this venue.
The community had been used to a nomadic way of life, holding conferences in different villages and having Passover feasts interchangeably in areas like Mwenezi, Zaka and Gutu, among others.
This time around, the leader of the church, Bishop Dr Nehemiah Mutendi, had stepped up in faith to bid for a farm at an auction with the little money initially set aside by the women in the church for his house in Masvingo.
ZCC education secretary Mr Raymond Muringani said that despite having a small amount of money, Bishop Dr Mutendi went on to participate in the auction believing God was on his side.
“So he (Bishop Mutendi) went on to raise his hand until all the bidders gave up. And instead of paying the money he went to the bank and told them he didn’t have any money even though he still wanted the farm.
“He said he needed time to put the money together as he was not buying for himself but for the church,” Mr Muringani revealed.
From there, word was sent to the church members that Mbungo was to be bought at all costs.
The church bade families to bring cattle, goats, sheep and even chickens to Mbungo and in no time the livestock was brought from different provinces.
“So the Bishop called the bank manager to collect his money. The bank manager came ready to collect cash but the Bishop said, ‘we don’t have cash but kind’.
“He said church members would continue bringing more cattle as Mbungo was there to remain as their possession. On the other hand the bank manager couldn’t plan another auction, he looked at the church profile and agreed that the church could pay.
“He signed the contract and Mbungo was ours in that very fascinating way. Come Easter there was a big conference. It was a crowning moment for the church which had been used to a nomadic life of moving from Gutu to Zaka.
“And from Zaka to Bikita for its conferences whenever they needed to partake in communion,” added Mr Muringani.
Having achieved that, the next project was building a primary school.
“Him (Bishop Dr Mutendi) being a former teacher and his father (Reverend Samuel Mutendi) a builder of schools, the passion again was pursued. On the 5th of September 1982 there was a ground-breaking ceremony at Mutendi Primary School. By December the school was complete,” Mr Muringani said.
The church has now established 11 schools with five of them being located in Masvingo province.
Three of these are found in Gokwe South, another in the North. Another school is in Mashonaland West province while another is in Harare.
A church building was erected in 2005, this has since become the mission development and has been declared a tourism resort. It falls in the same category of religious attractive places like St Peter’s Basilica and Mecca.
The church received a certificate for the building from the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality.
As the ZCC members trickled into the church last Sunday, their sense of pride and love was vivid as they held their festivities.
They were celebrating Palm Sunday, a day signifying the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem as he rode on a donkey.
Following this, Wednesday was dedicated to women.
“People come from South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi among other nations. From children, traditional to political leaders attend these celebrations,” noted Mr Muringani.
Good Friday is set aside as a fasting day.
“Friday is special as we go into a retreat. We don’t eat in remembrance of the day Jesus died. People then come for a meal in the evening. On Saturday those who missed Good Friday also came through.
“Today (Sunday) is when we celebrate from sunrise to sunset. We have an Easter procession. In the past we used to line the streets but because of dangers of traffic on the roads we have since organized an internal procession where people create their own streets, the Bishop drive in greeting and blessing them.
“In celebration of Christ’s resurrection we have three brass bands and drum majorettes who will play in full force. Also because of the huge numbers of people the breaking of bread is done in the evenings and the practice of late has been to designate a number of days,” highlighted Mr Muringani.
One of the elders of the church, Mr Steven Moyo said Easter is important to them as Christ died for their sins and resurrected on the third day.
“During Easter we drink and eat bread to signify his blood and body respectively remembering the great works he did. Long back none of the prophets who came before like Isaiah and Malachi spoke of ascending to heaven. Moses did tit for tat but Christ died and we are forgiven. And our spirits have peace in heaven. So it’s a time people come and get healed, the mentally challenged are prayed for and you see them sane and begin to work again. Others who can’t have children are prayed for and they conceive. In some places (churches) people negotiate with demons but here the Bishop casts them out. So this is what people rush for as well,” Mr Moyo added.