By Tendai Chara
In the midst of Unit “A”, a sprawling suburb in Chitungwiza, lies a monumental structure, a tourist gem that, however, remains largely untapped.
A massive complex with stone walls that has a resemblance of the biblical Walls of Jericho, the untapped tourist potential site has many curious features, chief among them the uniqueness of having a church which was built inside a cave.
Added to the unique church architecture are pre-historic rock and cave paintings, a maze of underground caves and a granite outcrop which stands out like sentinels looking over the expanding town.
The peak of the granite outcrop is a source of refreshingly cool air and excellent panoramic views.
This unusual place of worship, which has left many visitors bemused, is the Deliverance Centre, the headquarters of a Pentecostal church — the Power of the Holy Spirit Ministry International Church (POTHS).
Under brick and stone, the massive man-made complex, which lies hidden from public glare, takes visitors on a religious, historical, cultural and ecological sojourn.
Without doubt a heritage sight, the Deliverance Centre is a potential tourist attraction that will certainly boost both domestic and international religious tourism in the dormitory town.
The Sunday Mail Society recently took a pilgrimage to this sight, which houses probably the only properly-built and biggest cave church in the country.
With Apostle Farai Rukweza, the POTHS founder and the main architect of this iconic structure as the tour guide, we embarked on a breath-taking journey that began in a maze of underground caves, through the unique and dazzling church structure and ended at the summit of the cool granite outcrop.
When approaching the Deliverance Centre, one might be tempted to conclude that the complex is either derelict or has since been abandoned.
Partly hidden from public view by a banana grove, those that visit the place are pleasantly surprised when they further explore the site.
Upon entering the inner courtyard, which is in the middle of granite outcrops, well-manicured lawns suddenly springs into view.
Fountains, man-made waterfalls and a natural pool are some of the features that often mesmerise visitors.
Garden plants blends well with both indigenous and exotic trees, making the site appear like the biblical Paradise.
From the courtyard, carefully designed stone and tile pavements lead to several locations that are dotted around the huge complex.
Our guide first took us to a large open space with a huge, well-decorated performance stage.
A huge granite rock, lingers tall in the background.
“This is our holy ground. Many miracles take place here,” explained Apostle Rukweza.
From the open space, we headed for the nearby hillock.
A flight of stone and tile stairs led us to into the church’s main reception area, which we discovered is located inside a cave.
The reception area is just like any other, with a desk, some files and books neatly tucked in a corner.
From the reception area another flight of stairs took us to an upper chamber and we were ushered into the office of the church leader’s wife.
As we further ascended the hill, we were led into a small office with a brick wall.
This room houses Mr Winter Fungai, the church’s vice president and personal assistant to Apostle Rukweza.
From this office, we made our way up using the stone stairs and our next stop Apostle Rukweza’s simple office.
Like the other offices, the church leader’s office has a simple desk which was sculptured out of stone.
Going further up the hill we found ourselves on a flat open space at the summit of the granite outcrop.
With a shade, a stone desk, chairs and a television set, the open space boast stunning panoramic views and serves as an entertainment area.
After taking a deserved break as we enjoyed the cool breeze, we then made the long way down the hill to the bottom of the granite outcrop and into the underground caves.
Squeezing through narrow crevices, we finally burst into a big cave which can house as many as 20 people.
The cave was surprisingly well-lit and squeaky clean.
We gathered that the cave is used as a prayer room and by those that will be meditating and, therefore, seeking privacy.
Our biggest surprise came when we were ushered into a large space, which was seemingly hidden in a corner of the granite outcrop.
A stage, a pulpit and a sitting area which can accommodate as many as a thousand people suddenly sprang into view.
The church can accommodate more than a thousand congregants.
The biggest part of the church was built under the cave, with a small portion being under an iron roof.
The benches are made of stones, with the floor being made of either tiles or stones.
A cubicle, which is carved out of solid rock, houses the church’s media department.
In the middle of the church is a perennial spring from which the congregants drink refreshingly cool water.
From the spring, the water is pumped into a tank which is on the summit of the granite and it then flows to different areas.
Among some of the features in this labyrinth is a canteen and storerooms.
Basing on the improvements, it is abundantly clear that a lot human effort and financial resources have been poured into this structure.
According to the church, work on the structure has so far gobbled more than $50 000.
Despite the uniqueness and grandeur, this unusual phenomenon remain largely unknown.
“Apart from the congregants, few visitors come here. Those that come will always make it a point to come back,” said Apostle Rukweza.
Born in Rusape, Apostle Rukweza dropped out of school when he was in Form 2 before making the long journey to Bulawayo where he worked as a coal merchant for eight years. In 2010, he founded POTHS before moving to the present site.
Apostle Rukweza explained how he ended up at the church.
“After visiting Baba Guti’s shrine in Bindura, the holy spirit led me to this place. I am not an architect or builder. All these unique ideas and designs are inspired by the Holy Spirit,” said Rukweza.
Churches that are built in caves are found in many countries. Egyptian cave churches attract millions of visitors each year. Sunday Mail.