Raphael Mthombeni

Raphael Mthombeni was the conference minister of the Brethren in Christ Church for the Gwayi District in Zimbabwe. He had just spent a week sleeping inside the ceiling of the mission house, because word had spread that he the next in line to be killed because of his involvement with dissidents.

A group of five other pastors were coming from the city to help run a church workshop at the beginning of the year. After the workshop was over, he packed his bag to try and escape from the area in the company of his colleagues. On the way back to the city, they ran into a roadblock. The soldiers accused one of the pastors, from North America, of coming to sponsor dissidents. They said they would detain him and release the other. Realizing what was about to happen, Raphael stepped forward and told the army that he was the one who had called these pastors to his district.

The moment Rafael identified himself and the others as pastors, they took him aside. They stripped him of his shirt and they took his identity card, which was usually a sign that they planned to kill you. They told him that pastors were the ones spreading information from one place to the other and promoting dissent. They asked him to denounce the church and admit that he was not working for the church, but rather for the opposition party. The soldiers promised that f he did as they asked, they would forgive him and let him go.

Rafael told them that he worked for the church and not a political party. One of the soldiers said that since he was a pastor, he should take a few steps and pray before they kill him. Meanwhile the other soldiers were still interrogating the other pastors and searching their vehicle. In their search they found a receipt book that was used to collect offerings from the congregations. They claimed it was evidence that these pastors were part of a network supporting the opposition party and that they were collecting funds as membership to their party.

When the other pastors were asked about the receipt book, they said Raphael was the one who was responsible for it. Rafael had just finished praying that God would spare their lives, and at that moment he was summoned to come back and explain the receipt book. He tried to explain as best as he could, and after a while the soldiers agreed to let them go. But they threatened to follow the group and kill them before they reached the city.

The pastors left. Since it was already past curfew time, when they drove into the nearest police post, they explained their ordeal. They requested to sleep at the charge office, but one of the police officers came to them after the others had gone and told them that the police could not protect them, as even the police did not have the power to refuse the army.

So they asked to see the officer in charge, a man who knew Raphael personally. He agreed to give them police escort, so that the army would not pursue and kill them along the way. They were given word to drive as fast as they could while the police truck followed slowly behind to delay the army truck pursuing them. Since their route was along a narrow one-lane road, it would be impossible for the army truck to pass. They group of pastors miraculously passed through two other road blocks and found their way to the city where it was safe.

Submitted by Ronald L. Moyo. Edited by Elizabeth Miller.

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