By AT News Team, May 22, 2015: Sunday evening a massive evangelism campaign began in the cities of Zimbabwe with the goal of baptizing 30,000 converts to the Adventist faith, stated the Adventist Review. On Monday leaders of the Adventist denomination met with Phelekezela Mphoko, vice president of the central African country, and he thanked Adventists for building and renovating public schools and community health clinics in many places, The Herald daily newspaper in the city.
Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the denomination’s General Conference (GC), is preaching each evening at a huge outdoor venue in Chitungwiza, a suburb of 365,000 in the southern part of Harare. A free clinic began operation at the site last week and by yesterday had treated 13,000 patients and involved 180 professional volunteers, according to the Adventist Review.
The two-week “reaping campaign” is the culmination of an outreach strategy that began with more than 5,000 small Bible study groups several months ago, Pastor Duane McKey, project coordinator, told the Adventist Review. McKey is on loan to the denomination in Zimbabwe from his regular job as a vice president of the Southwestern Union Conference in the United States. Evangelists are preaching this week and next at 87 locations throughout the country, with 61 of these sites in the Harare region and the rest in 17 other cities.
The campaign is part of the denomination’s worldwide focus on reaching the cities. It uses a relatively new approach to outreach “that seeks to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the community,” reported the Adventist Review. For example, this week as the evangelism campaign was launched, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) open 12 community wells around the country, including one in Chitungwiza.
“Building new wells can completely transform a village by bringing safe, clean water close to home,” Jason Brooks, an ADRA worker, was quoted by the Adventist Review. “Women and children don’t have to walk for miles to get water, so they can spend their days in meaningful work or stay in school.” He also pointed out that a clean water supply drastically reduces chronic disease in a community. When community development teams open new wells they also provide public health and sanitation training.
“The government of Zimbabwe is grateful with the programs that the church is undertaking in this country, we really appreciate that,” Mphoko was quoted by the newspaper. “I have learnt that the church is currently building schools, refurbishing hospitals and clinics … and all these facilities will be handed over to the government of Zimbabwe to benefit the communities.”
Mphoko is himself an Adventist. The delegation of Adventist leaders that met with him was led by Wilson and included Pastor Paul Ratsara, president of the denomination’s Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division and the officers of the denomination in Zimbabwe.
Wilson expressed gratitude for the freedom of religion in Zimbabwe and praised the country for being peaceful, according to the newspaper. The evangelism campaign “shows that there is freedom of worship in this country, and … I want to laud the government of Zimbabwe for that,” he was quoted as stating.
The denomination ended 2014 with more than 800,000 members on record, according to the GC Office of Archives, Statistics and Research. The membership grew at a rate of nearly five percent last year with an increase of over 37,000. It is estimated that the total of Adventist adherents in Zimbabwe, including children too young to be baptized members and non-members who attend regularly, approaches two million.