The name Lazarus Boora, is not one that many in Zimbabwe associate with religion but 42 year old Lazarus Boora popularly known as Gringo for his role in the Popular Gringo drama series is a very proud member of the Johanne Masowe Church.
Speaking in an interview with the Sunday News, Boora said He said he was a proud member of the Johane Masowe church, and his greatest possession was his family.
Onward Christian Radio went deeper to find out more about Johane Masowe
In 2014 members of the Johane Masowe grabbed media attention when their Budiriro high-density suburb branch ran riot, beating up anti-riot police officers, a ZBC journalist and officials from the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) this was after the police and the officials from the ACCZ tried to arrest some of their leaders at their place of worship.
However, apart from the negative media and the jokes about these ‘Vapositori’ as they are called a few know about the genesis of this church, which is actually one on Zimbabwe’s biggest churches today.
Of the many churches in Zimbabwe initiated by Africans, the Johane Masowe church is the most studied by academics (Anthropologists, Historians, religionists and missiologists) alike.
The Johane Masowe church has been described by some as a movement primarily among the Shona people of Zimbabwe, however, its spread through the whole of southern and central African region has been of even greater interest not only to the academics but the Christian circles in that part of the world.
The church was founded in the 1930s by a man called Shonhiwa Mtunyane, also known as “Sixpence” from Gandanzara in Makoni district in Zimbabwe.
He became popularly known by his religious titles of Johane Masowe (meaning John the Baptist). He died in 1973 and at the time of his death it was estimated that his church had an active membership of half a million people in nine different countries of east, central and southern Africa.
Police records from the white colonial regime of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) indicate that Johane Masowe first got the attention of the authorities when he was arrested in 1932 for travelling around preaching without proper documents. In the police interrogation, he explained that he began having severe pains in the head that culminated in a dream that he had died. After that, he heard voices saying that his name was now John, which he interpreted to mean John the Baptist.
This new name carried a mandate to preach to the African people. His commission came from spending forty days in prayer on Marimba Hill, near the town of Norton, during which time he did not sleep and survived only on wild honey. A voice from a burning bush told him, “I have blessed you. Carry on with the good work. Tell the natives to throw away their witchcraft medicines, not to commit adultery or rape.” After these experiences, his headaches ceased.
He told police, “I really do believe that I have been sent from heaven to carry out religious work among the natives. I think that I am ‘John the Baptist,’ as the voice told me so. No human being has guided me in my teachings”. Masowe’s commission, as described in his own words, resembled that of Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus in spending time alone in the wilderness, hence the name Johane Masowe, meaning “John of the wilderness”.
Contrary to the commonly held belief that Johane Masowe was anti-Bible, he actually had a favourite verse was Revelation 4:5: “And before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God”?
Legend also has it that once instructed assistants to “Take four bibles of different languages, put one on my head, one at my feet, the other at my right hand, and the last at my left hand.” Afterwards he is said to have gone into a three hour trance. When he came around he cheerfully announced: “Today my eyes have been opened for although I was illiterate, now I can read.” He then proceeded to read each of the four Bibles in turn with face lit by great joy.
When Johane Masowe accepted the Bible, he still objected to how Europeans used it. This was because white missionaries tended to discount the possibility of miracles even though they occurred in the Bible. This was Masowe’s basic objection to white Christianity: it was too academic and therefore failed to touch the Africans’ deepest needs. He preferred to do what people in the Bible did rather than only read about it. This meant supernatural healings, prophetic utterances, exorcisms, and ecstatic worship.
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