To combat some of those problems, The United Methodist Church has helped to establish and support churches on two farms in the region. The owners of Pagejo Rarubi Farm in Harare East District and Brooklands Farm in Mutasa Nyanga District have planted preaching points on their properties.
“My husband (retired Army General Happyton Bonyongwe) and I always wanted land to call ours,” said Willia Bonyongwe. “We saved up enough money, spent almost two years looking for a farm and got one about 8 kilometers from Old Mutare Mission.”
She said as devout United Methodists, they would attend services and revivals at Old Mutare Mission or Inner City Mutare circuits. “That meant taking our family and leaving the farm workers to the farm life of voodoo (rituals) and other denominations,” she said.
“As our farm grew into a full commercial enterprise, we employed more than 500 workers and had a population of 1,500 people on the farm. We could not ignore the duty to share the Gospel with them. We started with monthly all-night prayers inviting speakers from all over The United Methodist Church family.”
Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa said taking the Gospel to farms is in harmony with the denomination’s mission.
“(The farm churches) came up as a result of a convergence of interest between the owners and the interest of the church collectively. The owners of these farms are our United Methodist Church members, and by establishing churches at their farms, they are indeed evangelists in their own right.”
The Rev. Tiriwanhu Stephen Magomo is the first pastor at Brooklands Farm. He was appointed in 1999. “Then, there were only two members,” he said. “The church has grown with a total of 600 people being baptized and 40 confirmed since then.”
He said the United Methodist farm owners felt guilty to know God while their workers were unaware of the goodness of the Lord.
“People were physically abusing each other and killing one another. They had no formal marriages but would exchange wives. There were high divorce rates, high prevalence rates of HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. Children were not going to school and there were early marriages. The farm was a rendezvous for voodoo religion.”
He said he began door-to-door evangelism to preach the word of God.
“Demons were cast out and some would testify all the ills they were doing. Through that, weddings were held, the cults disappeared, children started to go to school and there was a complete overhaul in the transformation of lives.”